Interruption of Post Carbon Marin Web Site

As of Feb 1, we have been advised that the web site will no longer be active, which means the Post Carbon Marin web site - - will also no longer be active. We will be attempting to find a new server home for Post Carbon Marin, but in the meantime our web presence will be interrupted. We will keep our members advised as soon as we can provide updated information.

Eating Alaska-an Eating Local Challenge

Eating Alaska: What happens to a  vegetarian who moves to Alaska

I decided as a suburban teen, growing up in Upstate New York, to become a vegetarian. After all it seemed like eating industrially produced beef meant taking part in a cruel and inefficient system. I could eat meat, but at the same time millions starved or didn't get to eat healthy nutrition filled foods.

Then work as a filmmaker who does community projects, works with teens and produces social issue films took me to Alaska.I worked cross-culturally, sharing meals at local potlucks that included herring eggs, seal oil and fresh wild salmon. I met and then married a commercial fisherman, who is a conservationist and hunts for deer. I started to help him out and rethink what was on my plate. As the terms "sustainability" "food miles" and "carbon footprint, "became part of our vocabulary, I discovered to my surprise women friends who hunted and wondered if I could ever pull the trigger.

Flash forward three years and after lot of thinking, filmming, fundraising and editing and we've just returned from showing a new documentary called Eating Alaska ( at the Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival in Nevada City, CA. At the same time the 56 minute film screened at the Slow Food and Film Festival in Tucson, Arizona, Bob Berzok, one of the Slow Food coordinators describes the film as “Wonderfully unpredictable,” adding, “what a pleasure to have an hour long documentary about Alaska with no mention of Sarah Palin."

Eating Alaska uses my story of a vegetarian, who moves to Alaska, marries a fisherman and hunter and begins to wonder what the "right thing” to eat is on the last frontier as a thread to ask questions about the daily choices we make. It is set up as a humorous and enlightening journey as I head to the woods and mountains with women hunters, fish for wild salmon, commune with the vegans in Wasilla, talk moose meat with a group of Alaska Native teens in a high school in the Arctic and more, all in search of a meal that makes sense politically, socially, spiritually and tastefully. This wry look at what's on your plate explores ideas about eating healthy sustainable food from one's own backyard, either urban or wild, versus industrially produced food shipped thousands of miles.

February and March will include screenings at the Alaska Forum on the Environment, the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival in Northern California and community screenings in Haines, Talkeetna, Juneau and Nome, Alaska. We're aiming to set up screenings on campuses, in schools and living rooms and by community groups focused on local foods, sustainability and conservation. As Peter Forbes, Co-founder and Executive Director, Center for Whole Communities, writes, “Eating Alaska asks all the right questions and urges us to find our own answers. A useful and heartful tool for talking about food justice and food systems and to help all of us to create a new story about food.”

The film is set in Alaska, but the questions as a University of Alaska Public Health Professor, Rhonda Johnson writes, apply beyond state borders, like “What is the role of food in our lives? What is ‘good’ food? When is ‘fresh’ not best? Should all diets be local? Who decides? Who pays for our choices? Rhonda continues, “This engaging film provides plenty of ‘food for thought’ about some of the most important questions we can ask ourselves, both as individuals and as communities.”

Interested in hosting a screening? Want more information? Have an idea for who might want to use this film? Want to think about if you could pull the trigger to eat local? Go to, or e-mail info@eatingalaska,com.

Transition Training & Power of Community Film Sponsorships Requested

Transition Training & Power of Community Film Sponsorships Requested

Dear Friends,

Recently the town of Bloomington became the first city in Indiana to initiate a local Transition organization and begin the first round of associated training programs. Transition Bloomington
aims to be a powerful agent for local change and would be thrilled to
have your help in preparing the citizens of Bloomington for the
multiple challenges of Peak Oil, Climate Change and Economic

recently gave a brief presentation to the Bloomington Peak Oil Task
Force and members of the Sustainability Task Force and were encouraged
by the favorable response. More help, however, is needed to fully
empower the group to effective local action. The Training is
specifically intended to prepare those who will carry out the work of
local, regional and state organizations and is likely to have
participants from surrounding states attending. There have already been
three sold-out Trainings in the US and we expect this event to fill

The national organization, Transition US, recently partnered with the Post Carbon Institute / Relocalization Network
(already with 172 member organizations worldwide) to receive funding
and tax-exempt status to further the Transition work which is now
present in at least the formative stages in all 50 states and, at the
moment of composing this letter, has
645 members. (Post Carbon Institute conducts research, develops technical tools, educates the public,
and organizes leaders to help communities around the world understand
and respond to the challenges of fossil fuel depletion and climate
change. Read
Slo-mo Splat by Richard Heinberg and other commentaries.)

practical coping skills and adaptability to change will become more
valuable as the obvious need for further education of the many becomes
ever more essential. Be prepared to be called on to serve as educators
for the leaders of tomorrow. Toward that end Transition Bloomington
aims to create a regular schedule of events (conferences, public
presentations, classes and workshops) and we will need teachers and
foresighted people to stand up and lead. It might be you.....(
see this page for a sample of potential events)

Richard Heinberg wrote the following goad to action recently:

"Oil is by no means the only limit to growth—we are in the era of Peak Everything: topsoil, water, fish, minerals, you name it. But oil is the single limiting factor that will matter most, soonest.

if we have indeed hit the wall, should those of us who understand the
fact keep quiet in order to avoid being branded as alarmists,
doom-sayers, or worse?

That's a tactical question, and it
deserves some debate. There are those who would argue that we who do
"get it" should minimize the gloom and lead with positive messages,
visions of how we can all be better off in a low-flow world. We should
help people adapt to the, uh, downturn and not rub their noses in it.

general, that's good advice. And I intend to spend much more of my
writing time this year identifying and describing what some folks are
doing to help them get by in ever harder times.

If we
understand the historical moment and act intelligently, there is at
least a chance we can avoid the fate of the Easter Islanders, the Mayan
cities, the Roman Empire. But that's going to require quick learning
and adaptation—and a willingness to hear some bad news.

going to be a big adjustment for everyone. But we needn't end up
milling around aimlessly if we begin talking and negotiating about the
transition now, rather than waiting until our only option is to fight
over nuts and berries."

Please take Richard's words to heart and consider whether you or your
organization (or other organizations that you think might align with
us) would be willing to add your name(s) and support as cosponsors of
the following events and possibly join with us to add your energy and
commitment to the great task before us.

Use these links to join: Transition US, Transition Indiana, and / or Transition Bloomington.

Thank you for your attention.
Please bless us with a response (and if you are moved to do so, forward this letter to someone who's ears and heart are open).
If you are further moved to support this work with a donation you can use the Paypal button in the right hand column of the Transition Indiana Blog.

Keith Johnson and Zach Mermel, current facilitators for Transition Bloomington.
Call 812-335-0383 to register for the Training or for more info. You can also write keithdj [at] mindspring [dot] com


film is a lead in for the following weekend's (April 18-19) Transition
Training tentatively scheduled to take place in the City Hall Council
Chambers from 9-5. Also we will be scheduling a viewing of Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash, with a tentative venue at the
Trinity Episcopal Church,111 S Grant St. Date and time will be posted on the various Transition websites and blogs.

The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil
Sat, April 11, 2009 3:00-5:00 PM, Main Auditorium, Monroe County Public Library

Hosted (so far) by Transition Indiana / Transition Bloomington / Alliance for a Post-Petroleum Local Economy / Bloomington Permaculture Guild / Permaculture Activist / Indiana Forest Alliance (This occasion will also be a fund raiser for Transition Bloomington.)

the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990, Cuba's economy went into a
tailspin. With imports of oil cut by more than half – and food by 80
percent – people were desperate. This film tells of the hardships and
struggles as well as the community and creativity of the Cuban people
during this difficult time. Cubans share how they transitioned from a
highly mechanized, industrial agricultural system to one using organic
methods of farming and local, urban gardens. It is an unusual look into
the Cuban culture during this economic crisis, which they call "The
Special Period." The film opens with a short history of Peak Oil, a
term for the time in our history when world oil production will reach
its all-time peak and begin to decline forever. Cuba, the only country
that has faced such a crisis – the massive reduction of fossil fuels –
is an example of options and hope.

Sat / Sun , April 18-19, 9AM-5PM, Transition Training (tentative location: The City Hall Council Chambers) Fee $225

mission of the Transition Town movement is: to inspire, encourage,
network, support and train communities as they consider, adopt, adapt
and implement the transition model. The transition model emboldens
communities to look peak oil and climate change squarely in the eye and
unleash the collective genius of their own people to find the answers
to this big question:
For all those aspects of life that this community needs in order to sustain itself and thrive, how are we going to:

  • significantly rebuild economic and cultural resilience (in response to peak oil)
  • drastically reduce carbon emissions (in response to climate change)?

Curriculum: The course includes the "fundamentals" for those wishing to
know how to set up, run, and maintain a successful Transition
Initiative in their town or community. It is packed with imaginative
and inspiring ways to delve into both the theory and practice of
Transition, providing training in the basics of Transition for new
communities coming on board, as well as other skills necessary to
successfully set up and run a Transition Initiative.

For more info about the curriculum of the Training, please visit

Why There Will Be More Locally Produced Food in the Future

Recently, I have had some good conversation with a number of people over 65 years old who remember very clearly their experiences of working on dairy farms in Loudoun County, Virginia (USA). One man remembered that when he was in school, just about everyone else in his class lived on a dairy farm. That got me to wondering just how many dairy farms there were in Loudoun County when dairy farming was at its peak, so I went to the local library, to see what might be in the local history section. On this occasion, I found just the document I was looking for on my first visit: a spiral bound edition of “Dairy Farming in Loudoun County”.

The book “Dairy Farming in Loudoun County” had sections on the history of dairy farming, inspections, transportation of the milk, youth group activities, breeding for high levels of production, etc. I also found out that at the peak of dairy farming in Loudoun County, there were more than 400 dairy farms. There were three important reasons why there were so many dairy farms: 1) the land was excellent for growing feed for the cows 2) the landscape was mostly rolling hills, which were better for grazing cows than large scale monocropping and 3) there was a large market for the milk in nearby Washington D.C. (and a railroad line facilitated the process of shipping the milk in great quantities). The book also included a community by community list of the names of many of the farms, which provided an opportunity for me to ask people to see what farms they remembered.

Readers may be wondering now: how many of the dairy farms are still there? The answer may be difficult to believe: just one. Some of the reasons for this unprecedented transition from one way of life to another very different way of life: 1) expansion of housing developments and associated infrastructure from Washington D.C. outwards created many jobs which made it possible for people to make more money while working less hours 2) the above mentioned expansion caused parcels of land to increase in value 3) the combination of higher costs without a corresponding higher income left many dairy farmers with no choice but to change to another way of earning a living.

This unprecedented transition was, in part, made possible because in the last 60 years technology and energy cost accounting concepts have made it possible for energy costs to be very low in comparison with the perceived benefits. Recently, however, there are an increasing number of people with expertise associated with energy production who feel that energy costs were artificially low in the past, in relation to the actual costs associated with ecological sustainability (for some specific evidence of this, see references to “ecological footprints” in a document titled “1000Communities2”, which I wrote, at Furthermore, much of what we thought were positive outcomes of an energy intensive infrastructure do not seem to be serving us as well as we thought they might. As just one example of such a “perceived benefits vs. real benefits” view, I would suggest that 75% of the people who still remember what a farming community was like when much of the work was done by hand will say that it was a good life then, but they are not so sure about what is going on now… even though many of them worked 12 hour days then, and it was hard work. Are we really so sure about where we are going?

My feeling, expressed by the “1000Communities2” proposal (and in a number of shorter descriptions of the proposal—see the Fall, 2008 issue of The IPCR Journal/Newsletter at, is that more and more people, in more and more parts of the world, are coming to the conclusion that all of us have important responsibilities associated with resolving a significant number of very serious challenges in the years ahead. I also believe that overcoming these challenges will require problem solving on a scale most of us have never known before. And I believe there are more and more people, in more and more parts of the world, who understand that the unprecedented solutions required will include much more local food production than there is now.

In the context of this particular “journal entry”, I would like to identify some of the articles and excerpts from publications which have convinced me that there will be much more locally produced food in our future. Since this is really an informal “journal entry”, I will simply list these resources, without any commentary. Some readers may already be familiar with these sources. Others may find some very interesting reading, looking into the complete texts of the excerpts referred to here. The goal of a “journal entry” like this, as in the goal of the “1000Communities2” proposal, is to encourage a more comprehensive assessment, by each and every one of us, on the subject of 1) are we really well informed about the challenges ahead? 2) are we really as well prepared as we would like to be to meet and overcome the challenges ahead? I encourage readers to share their thoughts: a) on whether they also believe there will be more locally produced food in the future b) on whether what they understand as “the good life” includes a large percentage of people being able to earn a living producing food—and to share whatever other comments or experiences arise from considering the thoughts and resources shared here.

In the Spirit of Sharing and Learning,

Stefan Pasti

Some Resources Related to the Likelihood of More Locally Produced Food:

1) From “The View from Oils Peak” by Richard Heinberg at

“Agriculture: Here there are two primary categories of strategies:

a) Maximize local production of food in order to reduce the vulnerability implied by a fossil-fuel based food delivery system
b) Promote forms of agriculture that rely on fewer fossil-fuel inputs

“While efforts along these lines require support at the national level, some local polices could be extremely helpful, including the promotion of farmers’ markets and community-supported agriculture; promotion of gardening, including community gardens, rooftop gardens, and school gardens; and the favoring of local and organic production over conventional food for school food programs and other purposes that are under the control or influence of government.”

2) From “Energy Descent Action Plan (EDAP) Primer” by Adam Grubb at

“The phrase energy descent was first used by Australian permaculture co-orginator David Holmgren. He wrote in 2003 that ‘I use the term ‘descent’ as the least loaded word that honestly conveys the inevitable, radical reduction of material consumption and/or human numbers that will characterise the declining decades and centuries of fossil fuel abundance and availability.’”

3) From “Energy and Permaculture” by David Holmgren at

“The transition from an unsustainable fossil fuel-based economy back to a solar-based (agriculture and forestry) economy will involve the application of the embodied energy that we inherit from industrial culture: This embodied energy is contained within a vast array of things, infrastructure, cultural processes and ideas, mostly inappropriately configured for the "solar" economy. It is the task of our age to take this great wealth, reconfigure and apply it to the development of sustainable systems.”

4) From the FAO Newsroom section of The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United
Nations (FAO) website. In the “Focus on the Issues” subsection, see “High-level conference on world food security…”, and then see “Conference News” (6/6/2008). Specific article “Food
Summit Calls for More Investment in Agriculture” (paragraphs 1, 2, and 9) (at

“The Summit on soaring food prices, convened by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) (June 3-5, 2008), has concluded with the adoption by acclamation of a declaration calling on the international community to increase assistance for developing countries, in particular the least developed countries and those that are most negatively affected by high food prices.

“’There is an urgent need to help developing countries and countries in transition expand agriculture and food production, and to increase investment in agriculture, agribusiness and rural development, from both public and private sources,’ according to the declaration.”

….“On climate change, the Declaration said: ‘It is essential to address (the) question of how to increase the resilience of present food production systems to challenges posed by climate change... We urge governments to assign appropriate priority to the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors, in order to create opportunities to enable the world’s smallholder farmers and fishers, including indigenous people, in particular vulnerable areas, to participate in, and benefit from financial mechanisms and investment flows to support climate change adaptation, mitigation and technology development, transfer and dissemination. We support the establishment of agricultural systems and sustainable management practices that positively contribute to the mitigation of climate change and ecological balance.’”

5) From “A History of American Agriculture 1776-1990 (Farmers and the Land)” (first accessed at the website of the United States Department of Agriculture, in August, 2001) (currently accessible at, in the section titled “Inventors”-- web address

% of Total Labor Force working as Farmers, U.S., 1790-1990

1790—Farmers made up about 90% of labor force
1840—Farmers made up about 69% of labor force
1850—Farmers made up about 64% of labor force
1860—Farmers made up about 58% of labor force
1870—Farmers made up about 53% of labor force
1880—Farmers made up about 49% of labor force
1890—Farmers made up about 43% of labor force
1900—Farmers made up about 38% of labor force
1910—Farmers made up about 31% of labor force
1920—Farmers made up about 27% of labor force
1930—Farmers made up about 21% of labor force
1940—Farmers made up about 18% of labor force
1950—Farmers made up about 12.2% of labor force
1960—Farmers made up about 8.3% of labor force
1970—Farmers made up about 4.6% of labor force
1980—Farmers made up about 3.4% of labor force
1990—Farmers made up about 2.6% of labor force

6) From “Letter to the New Education Secretary” by Worldwatch Institute at

“American workers, managers, and professionals at all levels and in all sectors must understand the foundations of a green economy as represented in leading environmental and sustainability education programs. These foundations call for redesigning the human economy to emulate nature: operating on renewable energy, creating a circular production economy in which the concept of ‘"waste" is eliminated because all waste products are raw materials or nutrients for the industrial economy, and managing human activities in a way that uses natural resources only at the rate that they can self-regenerate (the ideas embodied in sustainable forestry, fishing, and agriculture).”

7) From “Fifty Million Farmers” by Richard Heinberg at

“One way or another, re-ruralization will be the dominant social trend of the 21st century. Thirty or forty years from now—again, one way or another—we will see a more historically normal ratio of rural to urban population, with the majority once again living in small, farming communities. More food will be produced in cities than is the case today, but cities will be smaller. Millions more people than today will be in the countryside growing food.

“They won’t be doing so the way farmers do it today, and perhaps not the way farmers did it in 1900. Indeed, we need perhaps to redefine the term farmer. We have come to think of a farmer as someone with 500 acres and a big tractor and other expensive machinery. But this is not what farmers looked like a hundred years ago, and it’s not an accurate picture of most current farmers in less-industrialized countries. Nor does it coincide with what will be needed in the coming decades. We should perhaps start thinking of a farmer as someone with 3 to 50 acres, who uses mostly hand labor and twice a year borrows a small tractor that she or he fuels with ethanol or biodiesel produced on-site.

“How many more farmers are we talking about? Currently the U.S. has three or four million of them, depending on how we define the term.

“Let’s again consider Cuba’s experience: in its transition away from fossil-fueled agriculture, that nation found that it required 15 to 25 percent of its population to become involved in food production. In America in 1900, nearly 40 percent of the population farmed; the current proportion is close to one percent.

“Do the math for yourself. Extrapolated to this country’s future requirements, this implies the need for a minimum of 40 to 50 million additional farmers as oil and gas availability declines. How soon will the need arise? Assuming that the peak of global oil production occurs within the next five years, and that North American natural gas is already in decline, we are looking at a transition that must occur over the next 20 to 30 years, and that must begin approximately now.”

8) From “The Food and Farming Transition” by Richard Heinberg at

“It is reasonable to expect that several million new farmers would be required—a number that is both unimaginable and unmanageable over the short term. These new farmers would have to include a broad mix of people, reflecting the UK’s increasing diversity. Already growing numbers of young adults are becoming organic or biodynamic farmers, and farmers’ markets and CSAs are also springing up across the country. These tentative trends must be supported and encouraged. In addition to Government policies that support sustainable farming systems based on smaller farming units, this will require:

a) Education: Universities and community colleges must quickly develop programs in small-scale ecological farming methods—programs that also include training in other skills that farmers will need, such as in marketing and formulating business plans.
b) Apprenticeships and other forms of direct knowledge transfer will also assist the transition.”
c) Financial Support: Since few if any farms are financially successful the first year or even the second or third, loans and grants will be needed to help farmers get started.
d) A revitalization of farming communities and farming culture: Over the past decades UK rural towns have seen their best and brightest young people flee first to distant colleges and then to cities. Farming communities must be interesting, attractive places if we expect people to inhabit them and for children to want to stay there. “

9) From p. 6 of the Fall, 2008 issue of The IPCR Journal/Newsletter at

“b) People can, one by one, decide to deliberately focus the way they spend their time, energy, and money so that their actions have positive repercussions on many or all of the action plans which emerge from Community Visioning Initiatives.
c) The result can be that there are countless ‘ways to earn a living’ which contribute to the peacebuilding, community revitalization, and ecological sustainability efforts necessary to overcome the challenges of our times.

“Furthermore, Community Visioning Initiatives can include “Job Fairs” in the final phases of the process, which summarize the knowledge accumulated during the Visioning process.

Here are some excerpts from “Step 12: Summary Presentations and Job Fairs” of the “15 Step” outline (see p. 22-42) provided in the “1000Communities2” proposal:

“Job Fairs will provide a forum for organizations and businesses working in solution oriented fields of activity to describe employment opportunities and future prospects, to discover local talent, to hire qualified prospects, and to build knowledge bases and skill sets for the future.” (from p. 39)

“Special Commentary: By now, there will have been sufficient public discourse for those people with understanding about high level shifts in investment portfolios to have learned something about what directions future shifts will be leaning towards. The job fairs which come at the end of the Community Visioning Initiative process provide opportunities for all key stakeholders in the community (businesses, organizations, institutions, government, etc.) to demonstrate their upgraded awareness—and their interest in the welfare of the community—by offering and facilitating new employment opportunities… and thus helping with a just transition from patterns of investment which in only limited ways represent solutions to prioritized challenges to patterns of investment which in many ways represent solutions to prioritized challenges.” (from p. 39)

“[Note: As mentioned on p. 125, one aspect of this just transition can be that people who do deliberately focus their investments of time, energy, and money towards solutions identified by the Community Visioning Initiative being carried out in their community may receive, as encouragement, local currency. And then such local currency can, in its turn, be redeemed in ways which will be particularly helpful to people transitioning from less solution-oriented employment to more solution-oriented employment.]” (from p. 39)

Concluding Note to Readers: I hope this information has been helpful in some way. (SP)

10th Continental Bioregional Congress


Oct 4-11, 2009 for the 10th Continental Congress at The Farm

The Farm logoBioregionalism
embraces the struggle to preserve, restore and enhance the life of the
places that constitute the planet. Since 1984 bioregionalists have been
gathering in congresses to envision and develop a realistic,
restorative way of life in the bioregions of the Americas. We set our
own agendas, operate by consensus and build a common commitment. Grand
times and good friendships are only the first fruits. At bioregional
congresses, we live in community, concern ourselves with the things
that matter, and return home informed and inspired. We earnestly invite
the participation of all, especially those actively employing
ecological precepts in the many movements and endeavors necessary for
the human species to reinhabit the bioregions of the Americas and of
the whole Earth.

Click here for more info


Congress Site

Continental Congress gatheringProposed Program


Pre- and Post- Congress Offerings


Planning for the Congress

Registration, Costs, and Contact Info


More Information?


Add another five months to your life and save money doing it.

Although somewhat of an abstract idea, most of us would jump at the chance of adding another five months to our lives. I know I would, especially if I can add it on to the additional five months of life-extension reported in today's Intelligencer. If I could do it in a way that won't cost me anything and, in fact, saves me money, I'd jump at the chance.

The study referred to was conducted by several prestigious colleges and reported in the January 22 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. It fingered fine particulate matter from burning coal and from motor vehicle tailpipes, among other sources. The health improvements were attributed to the 1970 Clean Air Act which reduced fine particulate matter from 21 micrograms per cubic meter of air to 14.

If you're wondering what the magic elixer is, it's a simple two-part solution of energy efficiency and conservation. The proportions aren't important and will vary according to your individual case. Energy costs and the environmental consequences are becoming increasingly expensive. And, more than half of all energy is wasted!

Making fiscally responsible choices in our purchasing, use, and operation of devices that cause excess fine particulate matter can eliminate another seven micrograms of needless pollution and presumably add another five months to our lives.

A lack of conservation is improved by measures like turning off all unneeded lights. Efficiency is improved by driving fuel-efficient cars and trucks, buying efficient appliances, and sealing air leaks in our homes. With a little more effort we could parlay this into a year. Of course, it helps if we all pitch in.

There are additional feel-good benefits like the health improvements associated with cleaner air reported in the NEJM. It might slow or reverse the epidemic of asthma noticed in our children and give them a longer, healthier life.

A wonderful byproduct of this plan would be a fifty percent decrease in our CO2 emissions, a leading cause of global climate change. We'd also have bragging rights to be beating current targets and goals for preventing climate change. It would be a really green thing to do. And, for those of us who care, green is the new Cool, you betcha!

New energy, new conservation will cost us a tiny fraction of the cost of not acting

New energy, new conservation will cost us a tiny fraction of the cost of not acting.

The lead editorial in the May 11, Sunday edition of the Intelligencer, "Nothing's for free: new energy, new conservation will cost us", takes issue with Governor Rendell's assertion that his $850 million Green Jobs, Energy Independence Strategy (SS HB-1) will not cost the taxpayers. This "straw man" debate ignores the real and very deadly issue of the costs of continued inaction to the economy of Pennsylvania, the nation, and the world.

The proven truth is that every dollar invested in energy conservation and renewable energy has been repeatedly shown to return $4 to $10, or more, in savings and benefits to taxpayers. As a trained energy auditor I see proof of that every day. Merely eliminating inefficient use and the ubiquitous waste of energy can save taxpayers billions of dollars.

Instead of haggling over what such programs will initially cost, and what they might return a little later, we do much better to look at the cost of inaction. The best work on that was the Review completed in October 2006 by Sir Nicholas Stern, head of the (UK) Government Economic Service.

"..The Review estimates that if we don’t act, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global GDP each year, now and forever. If a wider range of risks and impacts is taken into account, the estimates of damage could rise to 20% of GDP or more."

The editorial implies that the Governor's claim that his proposals won't cost the taxpayer anything is "nuts". What is really insane is Pennsylvania's continued failure to take meaningful local action to address global climate change. And since Pennsylvania is the third worst CO2 emitter in the United States, and twentieth worst emitter of any political jurisdiction in the world we have a lot of catching up to do. An $850 million down payment on a little overdue action is chickenfeed when compared to the alternative. The possibility of inaction costing 20% of Pennsylvania's GDP "now and forever" is the real risk and the real benchmark to watch. And it's a cost our children would pay.

And that is just the financial risk. What about the secondary costs? The report concludes: "Our actions now and over the coming decades could create risks of major disruption to economic and social activity, on a scale similar to those associated with the great wars and the depression of the first half of the 20th century. And it will be difficult or impossible to reverse these changes."

Is that the legacy we want to leave our children and grandchildren? Is this how our generation wants to be remembered? To deny that this could happen is the greatest insanity of all.

The original article:

The Intelligencer
Home / Opinions / Editorials

Nothing's for free

GOV. RENDELL has been making the rounds of the state, including a stop last week in Bucks County, to push legislation to promote the conservation of energy and the development of so-called clean energy sources. The governor is talking about spending nearly $1 billion to head off what he termed an impending disaster when legislative caps on utility bills expire next year.

Stop us if you've heard these gloom-and-doom predictions before. The truth is, the crisis in domestic energy usage has been building for at least 40 years. We've heard from presidents and governors, congresses and legislatures, about the need to use energy wisely and come up with new technologies that move us away from our heavy reliance on all fossil fuels and our dependence on the foreign producers of petroleum.

We have gotten nowhere fast. Now, in addition to bearing the unpleasantness of skyrocketing gasoline prices, we're hearing from the governor that we're about to get hammered by significantly higher costs for electricity.

One bill Rendell is touting would provide $850 million for rebates on solar cells, wind energy, home energy loans and “green buildings.” The other legislation sets energy conservation goals and requires electric companies to offer their customers the option of paying less if they use electricity at certain non-peak hours of the day.

Not everyone is convinced that Rendell's proposals go far enough. And they probably don't, since making up for decades of little or no progress in solving the energy problem won't be accomplished all at once. The governor's legislation is a start, and that's all it is.

What really defies belief is the governor's claim that his proposals won't cost taxpayers anything. Is he nuts? The hang-up in developing a sound energy policy for all these years has been the big lie that such a policy could be implemented with little or no pain to the consumer. Now Rendell is telling us that his $1 billion for clean energy grants and conservation programs will materialize without the need to raise taxes. How? The state will simply issue bonds to cover the cost. Well, guess what? Eventually, someone is going to have to pay off those bonds. Then we'll see what happens to taxes.

We're not saying that the energy crisis can be ignored. Continuing to do so is the height of irresponsibility. But it's disingenuous for the governor to say we can avert disaster and it won't cost us anything. That's ridiculous. We're all going to have to sacrifice to bring our energy situation under control, and some of that sacrifice will necessarily be financial.

Transiton info signature

Hi Folks-
I created a signature to use (I use a mac, so I used textpander) to use on emails
where I'm publicizing the Transition Town movement. Feel free to copy, paste, modify.
You'd want to localize your local bookstore/library info.
-- Jim Barton

You can learn more from
THE BOOK The Transition Handbook, by Rob Hopkins (~$25)
(at the West Asheville Library, Malaprops, or Firestorm Books)

Back Again

Hi All. More of the same. Days of pure contentment followed by days of meltdown. The work versus home lifestyle debate pops up just about every day. I feel that though I am earning money in a comparatively unfriendly financial environment, the time that I spend is not constructive (paper pushing) and many more constructive things can be done in the privacy of my own home.

Little daughter got her OP4 and is off to uni at Toowoomba to do something smart alecky concerning science. Big daughter has opted for plan B and gone to uni at the Sunshine Coast to do something which may never lead to a job but is infinitely better than being required to report to Centrelink every fortnight. And may be OK in the end.

Hopefully with at least 3 years at uni happening, the economy will pick up before they need to make any more decisions.

The garden cruises on with very little input as I've decided I don't have two lives to do two full time jobs. The fruit trees continue to amaze with hazelnuts and we picked a pear yesterday. We picked plums over christmas which was amazing considering neither of us remember planting any plum trees....

I want to build myself a yurt in your back yard

Permaculture/gardening enthusuast would like to find a large back yard in Eugene to build a 16'-20' diameter yurt. Garden space also desired. Will rent your space and pay share of utilities and limited use of house common areas. Former landowner/homesteader.

Greetings from South Central Wisconsin

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

We are a Community of four looking to get to know other Post Carbon thinking people, espcially those living in or considering relocating to,South Central Wisconsin. If there are interested people in the area, we would like to talk by email over winter, and then plan a meet up for spring. We are less than an hour from Madison. We have a good start toward a "self sufficient-ish" sustainable post peak oil production homestead: a small farm, some hand tools, horse equipment and buildings, Belgian work horses, milk goats, rabbits, chickens, sheep, rabbits, big dogs, gravity flow water, root cellar, garden, grain and beans, fruit and nut trees, sorghum press, and close friendships with many Amish families in our area. (Our local Amish community is over a thousand open-hearted people, with farms, a general store, metal shops, buggy shop, harness shops, woodworking shops, bakeries, and schools.) We are also overcommitted, cash poor, short on experience, and have too few hands for the work/security of the homestead if it had to try to stand alone. We believe that "self sufficient" is too narrow, we can only thrive in community with others. We are looking to network/communicate with like minded individuals (with or without their own homestead). We wish to learn, teach and share ideas with people who understand that our world is changing fast. Beyond that, we also hope to form an organized mutual support group here in South Central Wisconsin, and increase the number of members of our community. We believe that global climate change, peak everything, pandemic concerns, tyranny concerns, the world depression, and international tensions are each like locomotives arriving at a join in the tracks: each are huge, each are heading straight for us, and all are beginning to crowd onto one track. We believe in political and economic activism, but we are primarily focused on making changes through stewardship and community. We believe that humans should treat each other better, and use this planet more carefully, so we see the problems as also being opportunities for growth toward a more fulfilling life... so I guess you could say we are deeply concerned optimists. "We have a long way to go, and a short time to get there" from a song, but at the moment I can't recall which song.

Media fooled again by Inhofe propaganda; Intelligencer bites

Walter Williams fools Intelligencer with his Rope-A Dope propaganda.

The outrageously false "Minority View" contained in a widely syndicated Walter E. Williams Op Ed piece, "Global Warming Rope-A-Dope was based on a manufactured propaganda piece penned by James Inhoff's infamous toady, Marc Moreno at Poznan on, or about December 10th. Moreno was author of the now infamous Swift Boat Veterans for Truth attack on John Kerry.

I could excuse Williams for falling for it. After all he's an economist but couldn't predict the financial meltdown. I won't excuse him because he's a Cato Institute adjunct scholar. Cato was heavily involved in trying to debunk the tobacco-cancer link and delayed action on that long enough to kill many more smokers.

I can excuse the crew of Inhoff's propaganda factory because they are well known for the oil industry largess they pocket. And we all know what money can do to one's morals and ethics. What I find inexcusable is false information propagated by the fourth estate.

Any newspaper that falls for Moreno's lies must have fools or idiots for fact checkers. Barring that unlikely event, I hesitate to venture a guess as to why the intelligencer printed it.

It took me a few hours but I was able to trace the source of the "Minority Report" that Williams used to justify his opinion. If I hadn't been following the "climate" story for the last two decades, if I didn't personally know or study under some world-class climatologists, if I didn't know members of the IPCC, I too, might have been fooled… until I checked the source. Alas, the climate is changing, and there is no impending ice age to rescue us. It will be up to our grandchildren to cope with the consequences, and to pass judgment on our responses.

Global climate change is a very serious issue; too serious for any newspaper to lead the public astray. We have already lost valuable time for mitigation. There has been enough misinformation on climate change that the American public has an excuse for confusion and inaction. I find it telling that the so-called "climate debate" is rare outside of America, home of the "big oil propaganda machine".

If the Intelligencer is sincere about its commitment to the truth, i.e. "the facts" it will research that Rope-A-Dope article and expose its lying source. Barring that, I think another way to be accountable is to do a major piece on the psychology surrounding energy and climate issues. This is an emerging concern, and a fertile source for some original and meaningful journalism.

Travel Blog 2: Zipcar

Zipcar logo, photographed by Rakka on Flickr.

Now that we're all well on our way into 2009, I thought I'd continue the travel blog where I left off: leaving Europe for North America. For the most part, once you set foot in Canada or the USA you can forget about traveling by train or subway or metro: as I mentioned in my previous blog post, in North America, the car is king. But while visiting friends in Toronto we discovered Zipcar for the first time. Rather than car ownership or car rental, Zipcar is a car sharing program, with vehicles available in cities like Atlanta, Vancouver and London as well as over 100 universities throughout North America.

Our friends live in a very convenient part of Toronto that is in easy walking distance to many necessities, and Toronto also has a number of excellent public transport options (including old streetcars!), so our friends don't need to own their own vehicle. But for times when they need to go shopping, or pick up friends at the at the airport (like us!), they simply reserve a Zipcar. Through them we were able to use the car sharing program several times while in Toronto and were very impressed with how smoothly the system works. They really have thought of everything!

There are several different Zipcar rates and plans, all of which are significantly cheaper than owning and maintaining your own car for an entire year! Of course, in addition to saving money, car sharing programs are also much better for the environment. Read more about the green benefits of car sharing here.

True, the car share concept isn't for everyone. Car sharing is not as convenient as being able to walk out your front door, hop in your car and drive where ever you please- there's planning involved - and most times even a bit of exercise as you walk to and from the car pick up/drop off point! Also, you need to be in a large city or have a dense population (like at a university) for such a system to work. But it was great to see it in action, and to see big cities coming up with alternatives to individual car ownership!

Next up: A blog about a California residential development, permaculture style. Look for it in the next week or two.

Transition Indiana / Bloomington Launch on Cable Access

At the 7:00 PM Thursday Peak Oil Task Force meeting on Jan 8, Transition Indiana coordiators Zach Mermel
and Keith Johnson will introduce the Transition Movement to the task
force members and on the following evening the meeting will be
broadcast on the local Community Access Television Services on Channel
12 (dedicated to Bloomington City Government meetings and events). This
will be a more or less formal and public launch of both Transition
Indiana and Transition Bloomington.

anticipate that this could generate new members and co-participants in
the redesign process for a transition to a sustainable regional culture.

general plan is emerging to create alliances with other local groups to
create events and merge memberships for a broader outreach. For more
information and opportunities to get involved go to these websites:

Transition Indiana
Transition Indiana on Blogspot
Transition US
Alliance for a Post-Petroleum Local Economy
Permaculture and Regenerative Design News
Bloomington Permaculture Guild

Upcoming Jan'09 Study Circle: Concerned about the Economy?

Perhaps some of those connected to this relocalization network may be interested in a study circle I'm launching later this month... The aim of this study circle will be to examine issues and opinions related to the current economic situation, contributing factors and how people could respond.

What prompted me to start this study circle? Well, I've been involved with a local simplicity circle for the past couple of years and I've enjoyed the format so much that it got me researching about launching a similar format to try to engage people in my neighbourhood and community. My motivation? I'm hoping to find a way to get more people around me thinking, talking and learning to listen to others about major issues that affect our lives, such as the issue of our economy and what can we do about it.

You can find out more about it, and if interested register, at

Making Your Dreams Come True - What is Dragon Dreaming and Why is it Important


Why do only one in a thousand of our dreams ever achieve reality? Why do, when we succeed in creating organisations or projects to fulfil our dreams, we finish up so often feeling burned out, or else are caught up in power hierarchies, in which the organisation itself seems part of the problem?

Dragon Dreaming, an approach pioneered over the last 21 years in Australia, and now used in Africa, Egypt, Britain and the USA, makes the claim that it can make your dreams come true through the running of outrageously successful projects.

So we asked John Croft, one of the founders of the Dragon Dreaming method what it was all about. What exactly is Dragon Dreaming?

John Croft: Dragon Dreaming is a process pioneered in Western Australia, to assist individuals, community organisations, and ecologically responsible businesses develop, undertake and complete outrageously successful projects. With an experience of over 611 projects, it draws its inspiration from ecological living systems theory and Aboriginal Dreamtime wisdom. Using this method, it creates a game, which when played by a team of people, will make your dreams come true.

What are the dreams for and how does it work?

John Croft: The Dragon Dreaming Training works on three levels

1. Firstly it is to demonstrate the usefulness of the method and apply it to make your personal dreams of projects for the Great Turning of our culture more successful.

2. Secondly, it aims to be the beginning of a process of training Trainers, who can use the method for their own and for other’s projects, and who can pass on the skills, so that other’s dreams can come true.

3. Thirdly, all projects meet the three objectives of the Gaia Foundation of Australia, namely every project has to be

* A project of personal growth: - a commitment to your own healing and empowerment
* A project that builds community: - a project that works to strengthen important communities of which you are a part
* A project that works in service to the Earth: - that works for enhancing the wellbeing and flourishing of life generally.

What is “The Great Turning of our Culture”?

John Croft: The “Great Turning” is a term pioneered by the Deep Ecologist and Buddhist Scholar, Joanna Macy, and subsequently used by the development economist David Korten, in a book with the same name, to describe the shift from the militaristic unsustainable Empire of the Industrial Growth Society towards the life sustainable Earth Communities cultures we need for our future.

You say that the forms of organisation we use for our projects are often the source of our problems. What do you mean?

John Croft: So many of our organisations are based upon violence, and use militaristic command and control structures that may have been sufficient in the past but they are inappropriate in the 21st century. The scope of our problems we face; global warming, peak oil, economic insecurity, world hunger and the loss of biodiversity, means that win-lose games played in such circumstances produce lose-lose outcomes for everybody. Everybody suffers. We need to move beyond systems of education that are themselves incapable of learning and change, health care systems that are sick and diseased, criminal justice systems that are becoming criminally unjust, defence strategies that just perpetuate warfare, governments incapable of governing themselves, or economies like our own which is proving incapable of economising. Fortunately, based upon the latest organisation chaos and complexity and living systems theories, informed simultaneously with the New Physics and drawing inspiration from Aboriginal wisdom, we do have models that can produce win-win outcomes for us all.

You speak in Dragon Dreaming of the Aboriginal wisdom of the Dreamtime. What do you mean and why is this important?

John Croft: We live in a culture which has been greatly damaging its own life support systems and calling this progress. This is a form of insanity that is ultimately suicidal, and unfortunately for us such insanity has come to seem “normal”. This “Business as Usual” will lead inevitably to collapse. How do we recover our sanity?

We can do this only by looking outside ourselves and our way of life. Australian Aboriginal people developed through the concept of Songlines of the Dreamtime a fully sustainable culture that has lasted at least 70 thousand years and has much to teach us.

For example, our left brain activities of Planning and Organising, needs to be balanced by our right brain activities of Dreaming and Celebrating, if our planning and doing is not going to result in still further destruction and death. Aboriginal cultures have been based upon the recognition that the wisdom of the group is always greater than the experience of any one individual, and to make the best decisions we need deep egalitarian structures which capture the wisdom of the group, whilst supporting individuals in their activities. Finally, we look at the moment at our resources, our land, water and now even our air as the possession of private individuals or corporations. Aboriginal people know that this is insanity, and that we humans belong to the Earth, the Earth can never belong to us. Only when we build such realisations into all our activities and projects at a deep level will they have any chance of real success in the future. Dreamtime is in our culture seen as subjective fantasies, but Aboriginal people know it is the source of the collective consciousness of reality, and the source of all creativity and innovation. Dreamtime is not in the past, it is the 4th time, the “Everywhen”, where past, present and future coexist and interpenetrate, as Einstein showed in Relativity Theory for the Space-Time continuum.

You speak of a game that makes our dreams come true. What is this?

John Croft: Yes, once you have a project team, after the Dreaming or a Creation Circle, Dragon Dreaming leads to the creation of a Karabirrdt, a Nyungar Aboriginal word meaning “Spider’s Web”, a board game or art work on which your team plays the game. When the game is complete, your project is up and running. Dragon Dream also requires that you recognise your enemies as the source of the greatest assistance to your project, helping you discover what you don’t even know that you don’t know, and helps you run successful meetings, or raise large amounts of money for projects very quickly using an Empowered Fundraising technique.

This sounds almost too good to be true. What to do if I am interested and want further information?

John Croft:Contact myself, John Croft, either by email at or by telephone (International Call 0049 7553596, or in Germany on 07553 596).

What does the Training Require?

John Croft: Initially the Dragon Dreaming requires a minimum of a weekend residential course from a Friday evening to a Sunday afternoon, although shorter half day explanations are possible. You would need to bring your dreams or visions for a personal project, a sacred object (that could hold the energy of the Training when you return home), a journal or note book, and art materials or objects that can gratify the senses that can be shared with others in Celebration. To maximise your benefits from Dragon Dreaming, come with one or two partners who share the interest in your project and who would be prepared to be on your team.

For those interested in deepening their understanding and using it more for their own current and future projects, you may be interested in our week-long Dragon Dreaming Course that can be used either as a stand alone program, or can be the first part of a six month Certificate Program in Ecologically Sustainable Community Economic Development.

Can I come just by myself or for a weekend course?

John Croft:Yes, completely. Dragon Dreaming will benefit anyone who has a dream they would like to see come true. Many who have even half a day exposure find it really accelerates their vision into reality.

Can I get access to the material even if I cannot come to the courses in Tuefingen in Bodensee, in Munich, Sieben Linden or Berlin?

John Croft:Yes, if you have a dream for a project, and can build a team to support it of at least 5 other people and can arrange suitable time and can meet the minimal costs, a personalised Dragon Dreaming half day or two day workshop can be run that meets your needs, and will begin the process of making your dream a reality. Information can also be provided through email or on the web.

What does the 6 month training require?

John Croft:The six month training requires a group of not less than 12 people who live in close proximity, each of whom has a personal project they would like to see completed in 6 months. At the completion of the 6 months, Trainees receive a Community Certificate which will become active once they have served as a Mentor for someone else’s 6 month Dragon Dreaming project, and then organised and assisted at a weekend Dragon Dreaming workshop for others.

How many can do the training?

John Croft:: In Australia we have run the program with groups of people from 6 to 600. Clearly the more people who enrol, the lower the individual costs for tuition. Fixed costs for food and accommodation, of course, will be constant.

Not your ordinary recession: a perspective from a visitor to the UK

 My last trip to England showed a country being hit by the effects of the peak of oil production. My visit over New Year shows a country nose-diving into a new kind of recession: one that has no end.

Some examples:

UK’s refinancing timebomb Sunday Times 4 Jan 2008 – Some £50 billion in loans expiring will need refinancing and the prospects are not good.

Number of business failures set to surge in 2009

As the reams of newspaper articles laying out dismal prospects for 2009 appear before us, there is an underlying belief in the recovery will come in a few or at most ten years, and 2008 will fade into memory as a year unremarkable. Not so from the perspective of Oil Peak. We are looking into the tangled guts of a system that has stopped working because the cheap and easy oil that feeds it has peaked.
We are looking over the precipice into the long decline, aptly called the long emergency by James Howard Kunstler.

The logic of this is almost too simple, but not anything you will find explained in the mainstream media.
The system we call business as usual is full of disconnects – think of it like a plumbing system with faulty joints and bends. Despite leakages, the system still delivers water to the end user. However, when pressure drops, the taps run dry and the installation is not only useless, it wastes valuable resources as well.
In this case, money is rather like water. You want to stuff money into the system and see more come out. At least you would want to know you can get basic services like food water, shelter etc. Any business needs a supply of capital and cash to start up and keep going. If you borrow money, you have to be able to pay it back at, say, 4% interest a year.

Standing in front of the bank manager or an inventor you have to convince her that you will be able to expand your business to be able to pay the loan and the interest off in a reasonable time. Multiply this by the number of businesses around and you will see that in order for any money to come in to the system you must be convinced everybody will make more money than they are already doing, to at least pay off the debt from the interest.
When it works, this way of doing things creates jobs, provides an endless array of services and goods and generates tax income to run the civil sector.
When it does not work, you put money and your own time into the system and get very little out.

This is where the connection to oil comes in: look into any business plan of any business and you will find a massive reliance directly or indirectly on fossil fuel. Electricity, the life blood of any office, comes increasingly in the UK from gas fired power stations.
Energy price hikes make everything more expensive, reducing profits and undermining the logic of the business plan and indeed the whole set-up.

From this perspective you can see how we got into the situation we are in. Peak production of cheap oil in late 2005 started a process of price hikes and started to knock holes in the wealth generation machinery. First hit were airlines and transport sector, creating job losses and credit defaults. From there the spiral downward continues. In this context a much larger number of businesses cannot make the business plan work. Trying to kick-start the economy now that oil is cheap will only result in a new wave of price rises as economic activity grows, oil demand increases, the production ceiling hits and the bidding goes up to push oil back up.
The current wave of low prices is merely the receding of the wave of the economic tsunami that will inevitably come back to hit us again.
The current low price of oil means stalled investments in new wells or increased productivity. With 60 of 80 oil producing countries past their peak we cannot expect any increase in economic activity to be long lasting.

What does all this mean for the oil aware denizen in 2009?
Don't be fooled by oil-unaware arguments. True Woolworth’s demise is partly their own doing in trying to sell everything, but there is nothing to say that just because a business is working to day, it will be able to continue as more and more job losses produce more and more unwilling or unable to buy their stuff. No, all business plans are energy reliant and I would say 99% are energy unaware.
You need to become familiar with other economic models. Interest-free banking and cooperatives are two I recommend.
Interest free banking at least shares rewards and risks and is more human.
Cooperatives, especially those involved with community supported agriculture, are designed to provide their owners with economic security and /or basic services at below market prices.

In fact, finding ways to ensure a supply of the basic necessities for all will be a major challenge in 2009. The leader in the Telegraph from Jan 2 expects there will be some people going hungry in the UK during 2009.
The system we live in already has major homelessness and poverty, in my opinion evidence of abject failure.
Oil aware people need to start to speak up outside the confines of discussion forums to send a clear message to politicians and civil servants: the fossil-fuel dependent way of life is on its last legs. Energy and food security for all need to become the top priority. And of course the good side of all this: this means there will be meaningful work for all, we expect to see a kinder, more generous UK, less stress and pollution, more local business and solidarity. The time to transition is now, 2009, while we still can.

returning to Oregon

I am returning to Eugene, after being in the Seattle area for 16 years. I graduated for the Interior Architecture program, School of Architecture, at U of O in '90. '
I have been involved in green building design since 1981, it'a infancy. I have many green built projects and 2 books since leaving Oregon. I am excited to return to Eugene and get involved with local Eco groups. I have been involved with transition Whidbey and many other environmental groups for many years.
Look forward to being back in the Valley.

Sharon's book

I read Sharon just about every day and loved her Depletion and Abundance book. I am looking forward to the next one. I am in Mclean VA.

rip your lawn into food!!!!

i been blown away by the amount of people's interest in turning their lawns into food!! it's about time we move our seeds into the streets! this spring is on!!

What do you do when you have reason to expect the worst?

In an article titled "Too Late? Why Scientists Say We Should Expect the Worst" (see link below) suggests that barring a miracle, atmospheric CO2 will exceed 450 ppm before any lowering will take place. In fact, a growing number of scientists believe that levels will reach 650 ppm before any lowering occurs.

With the prospect of global temperatures rising above 2 degrees celcius, phase change in the cryosphere (the frozen parts of the world) is assured. Aside from the potential of changing the deep ocean conveyor system (which represents a global disaster of unpredictable dimensions) catastrophic sea level rise may well be unavoidable.

This poses a challenge for us to craft a strategy that might at least educate those in the best position to impose a solution with a hope of easing this impending crisis.

What must we do?



At a high-level academic conference on global warming at Exeter University this summer, climate scientist Kevin Anderson stood before his expert audience and contemplated a strange feeling. He wanted to be wrong. Many of those in the room who knew what he was about to say felt the same. His conclusions had already caused.

Anderson, an expert at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at Manchester University, was about to send the gloomiest dispatch yet from the frontline of the war against climate change.

Despite the political rhetoric, the scientific warnings, the media headlines and the corporate promises, he would say, carbon emissions were soaring way out of control - far above even the bleak scenarios considered by last year's report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Stern review. The battle against dangerous climate change had been lost, and the world needed to prepare for things to get very, very bad.

("Rajendra Pachauri, who chairs the IPCC, argues that suggestions the IPCC report is out of date is "not a valid position at all".)

"As an academic I wanted to be told that it was a very good piece of work and that the conclusions were sound," Anderson said. "But as a human being I desperately wanted someone to point out a mistake, and to tell me we had got it completely wrong."

Nobody did. The cream of the UK climate science community sat in stunned silence as Anderson pointed out that carbon emissions since 2000 have risen much faster than anyone thought possible, driven mainly by the coal-fuelled economic boom in the developing world. So much extra pollution is being pumped out, he said, that most of the climate targets debated by politicians and campaigners are fanciful at best, and "dangerously misguided" at worst.

The CO2 level is currently over 380ppm, up from 280ppm at the time of the industrial revolution, and it rises by more than 2ppm each year. The government's official position is that the world should aim to cap this rise at 450ppm.

Lost cause

Anderson is not the only expert to voice concerns that current targets are hopelessly optimistic. Many scientists, politicians and campaigners privately admit that 2C is a lost cause. Ask for projections around the dinner table after a few bottles of wine and more vote for 650ppm than 450ppm as the more likely outcome.

Bob Watson, chief scientist at the Environment Department and a former head of the IPCC, warned this year that the world needed to prepare for a 4C rise, which would wipe out hundreds of species, bring extreme food and water shortages in vulnerable countries and cause floods that would displace hundreds of millions of people. Warming would be much more severe towards the poles, which could accelerate melting of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets.

Watson said: "We must alert everybody that at the moment we're at the very top end of the worst case [emissions] scenario. I think we should be striving for 450 [ppm] but I think we should be prepared that 550 [ppm] is a more likely outcome." Hitting the 450ppm target, he said, would be "unbelievably difficult".

For the full article go to:

Intro from Zephyr

Greetings Fellow Relocalizers,
Here at Batemans Bay (far south coast, NSW) we are setting up Transition Town, Batemans Bay. After an intro gathering in October a definitive meeting is now planned for late February. Currently we are in an information gathering phase focussing on the ways that the Transition Towns concept can be optimally realised in a community such as ours. One aspect of this phase is a short visit that Ruth and I are making to the Sunshine Coast TT early in January. There we shall be meeting up with our friend of many years, Andrew Smith, at Crystal Waters and hope also to meet Sonya Wallace and Janet Millington and to learn much about the developments on the SC . No doubt there will be much to follow up on. Just to the south of us here is Transition Town Bega, as well as Clean Energy for Eternity of which we have been members for some time. Meanwhile we should be grateful for responses from anyone on this network.
With best TT good wishes for 2009,

2009- a year of hope?

My Birthday will be here in a couple of days. My Birthday happens to fall on New Year's Eve. Being born on the last day of the year is not the best day for birthdays. Yes, everyone has the day off(mostly) but they are getting ready for their own celebrations and a birthday usually does not fit in too well. This time of year I do little rituals around setting goals for the future and looking back on what I did do this year. What I have learned and what I want to learn. Sometimes I look back and see there was some things I would have liked to have done, that did not get done but I do not give myself too much time for regrets.

This was a strange year in politics. As some of you know, I am a Member of the Green Party. We Did better than we ever have and yet we still did not gain any seats (accept for an independant that did not even have a chance to sit in the house). We did get into the debates. That is a huge deal. Obama is getting ready to take over the White House. People all over are seeing this as a sign of getting back to some form of sanity and they are sighing in relief. Local farmers markets started up and I expect that trend to continue. My worms have been doing well and I have been composting a lot of veggie material making it into excellent organic fertilizer. My Herbs did very well this year. My Tarragon was going wild. This year I will be able to start harvesting asperagus. My garlic is still small, but very potent. This year I got to learn how to make soap and did more of my own canning. I also helped start a small core group of people who get together to share knowledge on things like peak oil and conservation.

In this coming year I plan on building a couple of 4X4 gardens on my front lawn. They will be like a showcase to others what they can do as far as growing some of their own food. This year I want to focus on making my own medicines and tinctures and such. I am helping to home school my child and that is a big task. One big goal I want to achieve this year is to get a paddleboat. That is not a huge goal, but it is a bit of a stretch.

Good luck to you all and my this New Year bring you lots of hope.
Michael J. Kaer -

We need your vote by DEC 31 on to further sustainable communities!

Please vote for our idea on We think this idea will greatly further the sustainable communities movement, and if your contacts are at all interested in sustainable communities please pass this on the them.


WE ONLY HAVE UNTIL DEC. 31 and his idea is currently in 14th Place in Social Entrepreneurship and needs 232 more votes to make it into the second round!
The first round will end on December 31, 2008, and the top 3 rated ideas from each category will make it into the second round. The second round of voting will begin on Monday, January 5, and each qualifying idea will compete against the qualifying ideas from all other categories. Second round voting will end on Thursday, January 15.

The top 10 rated ideas will be presented to the Obama Administration on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009 as the "Top 10 Ideas for America."

With love and regenerative light,
Ryan and Mandy

Greenhouse Gases……Wormeries, Compost, and Bio-Char…Oh My!

Greenhouse Gases……Wormeries, Compost, and Bio-Char…Oh My!

Things aren’t always as they appear………or as we are told. Like the scarecrow, the tin man, and the cowardly lion, we need good ideas, our heart, and cour to do what is right. We are told that the planet is heating up, that frightening things are happening (global warming) and like Dorothy, Toto and her companions we are not too happy to hear about these problems.

The mighty Wizard of Oz (scientists) advise us to get the broom. We’ve got to face the wicked witch of the east and we’ve got to get rid of her creepy flying monkeys (green house gases). We are supposed to find the answers and get back to the mighty Wizard hoping then he will show us how we get back to Kansas.

Dorothy and her dog Toto left the farm to find “a better place somewhere over the rainbow” only to in the end realize that the answers had always been in their own back yard.

Like Dorothy and her companions, others are taking the yellow brick road to the Emerald City seeking answers hoping the mighty Wizard of Oz will give them good advice.

Leaders around the country look to Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco for those answers. They want to know what to do with the solid waste, kitchen scraps, and organic solids that we all agree should no longer be placed in the landfills.

Green House Gases

What are the greenhouse gases anyway? We’ve heard a lot about them but perhaps you too have wondered a lot about them and why some gases are more damaging than others.

It’s really pretty simple and you don’t need an advanced degree or a lot of fancy calculations to get your arms around the problem. Simply put, anything in the atmosphere (over and above the surface of the earth) can absorb the sun’s energy, become heated, and then irradiate or send that energy back to the surface.

If we had no atmosphere a great deal of energy from the sun striking the planet would be deflected and sent back off into space. The surface of the earth would be significantly cooler. It is warmer here because the gases trap heat. Most of the things in the air are gases…….like water vapor, oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide. Some of these gases escape the planet and take the heat they have absorbed with them and that has an effect of actually cooling down the planet. Fortunately for us, we are not loosing a lot of gas.

Gases formed at the surface going back into the atmosphere will heat up and blanket the earth sending heat back to the surface, and this over time results in a kind of steady state temperature for the planet. Some gases are more efficient at capturing the sun’s energy. When they form and escape into the atmosphere; they have a greater effect on heating. Other gases that are less efficient at capturing solar energy do little to heat the planet.

So you can already appreciate that we’ve got to think about the amount of gas being put into the atmosphere and how efficient it is at trapping the sun’s heat to get a handle on how bad the problem might get if we don’t change our habits. A small amount of a very efficient heat trapping gas could be far more devastating for the planet then large amounts of a relatively weak heat trapping gas.

Here’s the good news………..we need our atmosphere and these gases to get the temperature high enough to support life as we know it. The oxygen, water vapor, carbon dioxide and other gases all contribute to heating up the surface because they catch the heat from the sun on the way to the surface or as it is deflected off the surface distributing and blanketing the earth with a kind of insulation that keeps the temperature about 33 degrees Celsius warmer then it would be without these gases.

Some gases, like methane when released into the atmosphere over time react to form other gases (they are oxidized and broken down) and as you can imagine the chemistry can get complicated. But the point is that even though the life time of the gas in the atmosphere may vary and change with time, the heat absorbing and re-distributing heat properties of the gases are all contributing to a net gain in planetary temperature. If we were truly in a steady state where gases going into the atmosphere and leaving the atmosphere were fixed and equal, there would be no further net heating of the planet. But that is not a fact.

As it turns out the global warming potential of methane is about 21 times greater then the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. This is just another way of saying that a molecule of methane (and all of its subsequent known oxidized products) will in time be 21 times more effective then carbon dioxide at trapping heat.

Nitrous oxide, a gas produced by earthworms, also found in poorly managed compost piles, is 310 times more potent then carbon dioxide. -

Certain trace gases like fluorocarbons used industrially are more then 1000 times as potent as carbon dioxide at trapping heat and they are no longer being used because they so heavily pollute the atmosphere.

We all know now that methane and carbon dioxide are great contributors to planetary heating and it really doesn’t matter rather you think it is man-made or natural causes we don’t fully appreciate that explain the rise in carbon dioxide levels that have been widely observed. More polluting gases are only going to make things worse.

When carbonized products are oxidized, carbon dioxide is produced. So fuel used in transporting or processing materials, either goods or waste material will pollute the atmosphere with carbon dioxide. Of course we’d like people to consume less and produce less waste so we don’t have to transport so much waste to the landfill. And we will ask them to take the organic waste out of the garbage so it can be processed more efficiently. We don’t want that methane and carbon dioxide coming out of the landfill and we need more space to bury the non-organic waste.

We’ve already made the point that composting is not the answer and is indeed contributing significantly to the global warming problem. We can anticipate that the problem will get much worse if more people adopt that policy. Academics who have taken a closer look at how people compost at home have warned us more then 2 years ago that these practices contribute greatly to global warming.
Professor Jan Gronow of London's Imperial College has pointed out that "Emissions from home composting and poorly-run composting operations may contribute significant amounts of methane because75% of people's home composting bins are anaerobic because they do not aerate them." The concern was backed up by the head of the waste and energy research group at the University of Brighton, Dr Marie Harder, who asked: "Has anybody stopped to ask whether home composting is good for the environment?"
Over 34% of British households participate in home composting schemes according to the government, which has just completed an initiative handing out one million composting bins via the Waste and Resources Action Program.
Defra's (the British Government’s equivalent of our USDA’s) long-term waste strategy is currently being reviewed, with a new strategy expected by the end of the year. But Prof Gronow, who was formerly the Environment Agency's head of waste and remediation science, believes the government was "jumping on the climate change bandwagon" to reach European landfill targets rather than thinking about the real environmental impacts of different recycling and composting processes.
A little house keeping…………..
So some of you who think composting is good may want to site a number of reports where experts have made the claim that in well managed compost operations the contributions to greenhouse gases are reduced. For example Californians Against Waste assert that composting is a greenhouse gas mitigation measure.

And there are primers for Compost Producers that attempt to rigorously prove that composting is beneficial and results in a reduction in GHG emissions.

Here it is very important to look at the assumptions that are made. We’ve got to question those assumptions to determine if they are truly valid and use a little common sense.

Although they acknowledge an inventory of GHG must be done to determine if policies are truly going to make a difference, the assumptions regarding what is happening when organic discards are processed are flawed.

Organic discards that are high in nitrogen and carbon content (food scraps, grass clippings, etc.) placed in the landfills decompose to produce methane and nitrous oxides. They pollute badly……… we want them out of the landfills. We all agree.

It is argued that the value of compost mitigation (to reduce global heating) can be determined by answers to these questions.

• What would have happened to the feedstock (scraps, clippings, etc.) had they not been composted?
• How is the compost operation run?
• What happens to the compost?

The negative impacts are said to be from emissions from diesel powered processing equipment used to handle and process feedstock that is being composted.

Good accounting practices mean you have to account for the cash coming in and going out. The rate of carbon dioxide produced does not necessarily equal the rate of carbon dioxide taken back out of the atmosphere by plants. That assumption was made in the mitigation analysis.

The carbon dioxide naturally produced by decaying plants is called biogenic carbon dioxide. The net balance will be close to zero if there is no polluting program in place. One assumption about composting that can lead to a great miscalculation is the assumption that the rate of carbon dioxide produced during compost operations equals the rate of removal from the atmosphere by plants that are alive and growing.

As more and more agricultural products are produced to feed the growing world population, the mass of organic waste has escalated. It is simply unreasonable to assume that the rate of aerated waste material allowed to decompose (by composting) will produce no more carbon dioxide then can be taken up by plants.

Although it might well be reasoned that because methane and nitrous oxide are far more heat producing than carbon dioxide alone, and neither of these gases are produced in well run compost operations, it does not prove that composting is the best policy. There are alternative practices that produce no polluting gases.

It has also been argued that composting puts more carbon into the soil (a form of sequestration). If you can put the carbon into the soil so less and less is available to oxidize and produce carbon dioxide, then over time the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has to drop……….right? This again is not necessarily true. It depends on the relative rates for producing carbon dioxide and sequestrating the carbon. If you are producing more and more carbon waste (more food scraps) and composting them, yes it is true more and more carbon is going into the soil, but you are also putting more and more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.


Some of you are certainly familiar with wormeries and one might be tempted to believe these are going to help us out of this problem. Although the amount of worm composting is very small and the amount of landfill is large, the worms may not be as environmentally friendly as gardeners who use them have hoped for.

A lot of people love worms and think they do no harm. However, it is now clear that large commercial worm composting plants may be comparable to the global warming potential of landfill sites of the same scale.

Scientists in Germany have demonstrated that one third of the nitrous oxide emissions coming from the soil are associated with worms. Although worms are very efficient at breaking down kitchen scraps and other organic materials, they emit nitrous oxide in the process of digesting these materials which as noted is 300 times as effective as carbon dioxide in trapping heat.

What about that idea of trapping carbon in the soil? Thousands of years ago the natives along the Amazon basin discovered a method of farming that until recently was not fully appreciated as a method of reducing the greenhouse gas effects. They were able to transform some of the most infertile soils into the most productive of soils that remains today even 500 years after they are gone rich in organic matter and nutrients.

The Terra preta, as it is known, was produced by a slash-and-char policy. The indigenous people like others in many parts of the world did a slash and burn to clear and prepare the land for crops, but instead of letting the fire burn openly and rapidly, they covered the lit fires with soil and straw to let it smolder. They reduced the amount of oxygen available for combustion.

The smoldering process puts about 50% of the carbon mass back into the soil where it is then available for plants and microbes in the soil. It turns out that microbes and plants symbiotically thrive off of the carbonaceous resins that are produced. The microbes release enzymes that are involved in freeing trapped minerals, ions and nutrients fixed in the charred mass that are then delivered to the plant root hairs. The plants secrete nutrients in return that are used by the microbes.

Because the oxygen levels were reduced in the process of decomposing the organic matter (in this case by slash-and-char), less carbon was released into the air as carbon dioxide. Carbon was put into the ground (sequestrated) and made unavailable for release into the atmosphere.

The Japanese government approved the use of charcoal as a land management practice in 1990 and we are certain much more work in this area is in process.

The more we examine the facts the more we realize that the processing of the carbon waste and the biomass that is less polluting occurs when oxygen levels are reduced. Although it is true that anaerobic decomposition in the landfill is polluting, this is because of the type of organisms that are allowed to grow and interact that trigger the release of methane and other polluting gases. An anaerobic fermentation process with the right kinds of microbes gets around this problem and most importantly produces no polluting gases. It is also far more efficient and faster then composting.

In the classic 1939 American musical-fantasy film, The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy and her companions returned to Emerald City, her dog, Toto inadvertently exposes the great and powerful wizard as a fraud. They find an ordinary man hiding behind a curtain operating a giant console which contains a group of buttons and levers and are of course outraged at his deception. But the wizard solves their problems through common sense and a little double talk, rather than magic. He explains that they already had what they had been searching for all along and only needed things such as medals and diplomas to confirm that they were qualified to find the solutions to their problems.

They found in the Emerald city the answer they were hoping to get……….and it was surprising to discover it was right at home……… the back yard. We’ll talk more about microbes and anaerobic fermentation in the next blog.

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