I'm Dreaming of an Oil Crisis

Happy Motoring, it's 5 minutes to midnight

I'm Dreaming of an Oil Crisis (White Christmas parody)
Lyrics and vocals by David Farant, Video creation by David MacLeod

In the Holiday spirit, here's a YouTube video I created, from David Farant's parody of White Christmas, as heard on the Financial Sense Newshour with Jim Puplava.

- David M

Holiday Reading

Hi everyone
Having along weekend has allowed me a bit more time to search the internet for interesting reading sites. Radio National always has some interesting speakers. One recently on Ockhamsrazor was about the financial crash by Peter Newman but he doesn't talk about the financial and economic effects but debates about the resilience of our cities and how they are developed to cope or rather not to cope with such a crash. It can be heard on


i have solved the global energy crisis with no greenhouse gases

ENERGY IS THE KEY TO CIVILIZATION- don't believe me- go live just one day in the woods- the valuable resource is getting dry as India and china want to live a little like the west-cant blame them- who I do blame is being on this net for so long as everyone uses their own arrogance and negativity to ignore solutions for energy- how many people have you met in your life that says they solved it- go ahead and ignore this as the rest in past year- when the total economy fails- don't be puzzled as you did nothing- pressure a university to investigate and repeat- I don't want your money-take your energy and help solve the energy crisis

Hello, my name is Solomon Azar- I HAVE FOUND THE ROAD TO SAFE CLEAN NUCLEAR FUSION- When this is found and understood- the energy crisis will end- I have been looking at this system since 2002 and it is perfect in every way. I finished my experiments April-2007. I have since that time tried to the best of my abilities to inform many people upon the net- there is no question It would be nice if concerned citizens would offer suggestions or help provoke a university to simply repeat my experiment to end the energy crisis- 19 months and I still wait as the world crumbles from lack of abundant clean energy.

I have performed an experiment never done before in science- I used a Tesla coil for its use in high voltage high frequency and apply its discharge plasma not upon the dielectric of free air- but to the dielectric of water itself- specifically I used ultrapure reagent grade water from manufacture NERL-this is to establish the high degree of insulation needed for plasma (you cannot have contaminants for conductivity)- I doped my water with heavy water from the manufacturer UNITED NUCLEAR-(however- a full concentration of heavy water is desired)- I built my 1 million volt Tesla coil entire tunable- every aspect of it- as it must be done to TUNE THE OUTPUT DISCHARGE OF THE TESLA COIL to the water itself- once the arc is stable- the voltage may be increased- I have written in my pdf file in my website of that a prerequisite of 750 kv is needed as an electric field gradient about the charged particles used in fusion( in this case the hydrogen bound in the water molecule) because of voltage drops as expected as in all electrical systems upon the load (load here is the water)- a much higher voltage is needed in order to distribute the voltage gradient upon entire arc plasma length between electrodes in water- THUS- THE HIGH THE VOLTAGE- THE BETTER- within my website you will find a link to youtube showing my primitive experiment- BUT MAKE NO MISTAKE ABOUT THIS- THIS IS THE FIRST TIME EVER DONE BEFORE - I propose nuclear fusion of water/heavy water- my little experiment IS THE ROAD TO NUCLEAR FUSION- we must universally connect the dots- put two and two together- and conclude this- MY EXPERIMENT MUST BE REPEATED ON A LARGER SCALE- my system is a direct replacement of nuclear power plants particularly of the pressurized water reactor which uses heavy water already - a vessel already built for gamma radiation and other high energy flux which will emit with the plasma arc-

Power reactor in which the heat is dissipated from the core using highly pressurized water (about 160 bar) to achieve a high temperature and avoid boiling within the core. The cooling water transfers its heat to the secondary system in a steam generator. Example: Grohnde Nuclear Power Plant in Germany with an electrical output of 1,430 MW.

Replace the rod assemblies and use electrodes to conduct the Lightning bolt! High Voltage High frequency will create the magnetic pinch to slam the isotopes of hydrogen together which is bound in water- helium and oxygen are the outgassed products recaptured by expansion tanks-it is absolutely perfect!

_ I HAVE FOUND THE TRUE PURPOSE OF THE TESLA COIL- the answer was always in the lightning bolt- understanding of gamma bursts from lightning discharges have only been recently vindicated from satellite in late 90s---

CA 94305 United States
Said, R ( ) , STAR Lab, Electrical Engineering, 350 Serra Mall, Stanford, CA 94305 United States
Smith, D M ( ) , Physics Department and Santa Cruz Institute for Particle Physics, University of California, Santa Cruz, 1156 High Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95064 United States
Lopez, L I ( ) , Astronomy Department and Space Sciences Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720 United States

The observation of brief (<1 ms) bursts of intense γ-rays, the so-called Terrestrial Gamma-ray Flashes (TGFs), by the BATSE γ-ray experiment was one of the most unexpected discoveries by the Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory.

Let me try to give another analogy to make the point. think about striking a match, if all conditions are proper , one knows that to strike a match, you must go a minimum speed- you cannot strike the match too slowly- this is understood as more speed is more friction and thus more activation energy necessary to create combustion of the match material. the same applies to this fusion system, first, imagine my system as inside a pressurized water reactor used in fission plants- the moderator is already heavy water- we shall use it as the fuel. I have said the plasma arc looks exactly like our friend the electric lightning bolt- but I talk about in my pdf file- that the so called lightning bolt must be understood in regards to high voltage and frequency- just like the minimum speed needed for the match- so it is with the combination on high voltage and frequency to not only resonate with the dielectric molecule of heavy water- but more so- to create a minimum velocity upon charged particles in the fuel water. this velocity is also exhibiting itself as a magnetic field-think of the cathode ray scope- in a snap shot instant in time for analysis, look at when the maximum energy is being applied on a per strike basis of the input cycle- or shall we say the highest amplitude of the ac signal. if for example- an input energy of one megawatt was injected into the strike of the arc- a magnetic pinch shall be directed upon the charged particles in transit of the discharge- in a thermodynamic extraction process such as this - we need at least 5 times more energy out of the system to recoup our initial energy input- and a surplus for commercial energy supply- thus- via fusion of hydrogen to helium- with each strike- a minimum voltage and frequency SHALL give the minimum activation energy required for magnetic pinching and fusion of the isotopes of hydrogen. to increase the q of the reaction in this system- a magnetic toroid may be used around the plasma arc for increased efficiency= such as used in tokamak devices. I hope this analogy helps those who question this system- THANK YOU--

Here is a thought experiment for electromagnetic fusion with Einstein in mind

Pretend you are water-you are an oxygen atom- you are stable- you are noble- 8 protons-8 neutrons-and 8 electrons- there are only 5 magic shell nuclear elements of the periodic table- oxygen is one of them- it is very stable-

Therefore- you are stable and noble- you have no need for fusion- yet it could happen- but the probability of another element such as hydrogen and its isotopes would be made to fuse together in some kind of fashion mankind tries will occur way before oxygen does- - ok-so now you are this noble one and you have outstretched in your hands a hydrogen atom and or its isotope deuteron and you hold it out to mankind as a gift-

Man understands the gift of fusion for many years and is desperately trying to do such-

I propose electromagnetic fusion- I propose the BENNET pinch used in poloidal currents used in plasmas of tokomaks- but much further-

Here we go – the thought experiment- you are this oxygen atom with two hydrogen’s and you stand amongst your friends similar in nature. You are placed in a large vessel filled of your kind-now imagine that two walls opposing in this vessel are the plates of a capacitor- who cares what is applied to the capacitor plates (electrodes of system)-for all you know as a noble oxygen and the hydrogen you have in your hands is nothing more than the electric field upon the plates-

You are composed of charged particles- thus you will interact with the applied electric field of the plates-this is common electronics and electric knowledge-

However, I speak of dielectric breakdown- I speak of the lightning bolt- let us now assume we have made the capacitor plates oscillate at 1 million volts peak to peak as way of a tesla coil

Think of the electric field- everything will be controlled by this field- a dielectric breakdown will occur- and all discharge current will begin to flow and oscillate as a function of the applied voltage-

Now- you are in the heart of a lightning bolt- you who are noble as a oxygen probably lost all your valence electrons due to the magnitude of such a high electric field- every charged particle in transit of the discharge current is surely ionized and talks of being a complete water molecule should be erased- the state of this plasma current is nothing more than ionized hydrogen and oxygen and a complete sea of electrons-

Let us think first of the electrons- 1896 times smaller than protons- no question it will oscillate much faster as a function to the applied voltage- remember the cathode ray scope- basic physics also will say this charged particle will also have a magnetic field about itself because of the electric field that has driven it-thus- this oscillating electron current will have an intrinsic magnetic field

Let us now think of the protons- oxygen has 8 and surrounded by 8 neutrons and is far less likely for reaction than isotopes of hydrogen for fusion- this should merely be understood by refereeing to atomic tables of elements and known theory- but this hydrogen is a singly bound proton with mass one- unless we speak of a deuteron- it will also be controlled exactly the same way as the electron is affected by the external applied voltage- however- it is opposite to the electrons motion-and much slower by its mass – however-its magnetic field will add to that of the electrons- this is standard knowledge of magnetic field generation of charged particles by way of electric fields-

Thus, in this thought experiment- within this state of dielectric breakdown- I like to say the lightning bolt- can you now see the oscillation of the charged particles by such a large magnitude of the applied voltage plates- can you now see the probability at a certain moment in time- particularly when the applied ac signal is greatest- that all magnetic fields of charged particles in transit can have the power to be magnetically pinched-

Magnetics have push and pull- it is well known that high frequency causes a constriction upon electrical currents- whether in copper lines and forcing such to the surface- or in plasma and made use to constrict it - high frequency is known to constrict the currents- thus- do you see the forces I am referring to as this dielectric breakdown has occurred upon the most perfect fuel of the heavens- water- this oxygen atom holds the hydrogen for us- we shall apply a high voltage (high is relative- I have stated 750kv in the vicinity of the hydrogen for fusion- I come to this by way of understanding the beta decay of a free neutron- if it can disintegrate- it can come together- made into a deuteron- then made into helium)-

Thus –we make helium and oxygen is then unbound and must also be recaptured- this is easy in expansion tanks- the byproducts are helium and oxygen-truly noble-

To increase the q of this system- a simple toroidal magnet as used in tokamaks for plasma control may be used for additional pinching-

I hope this helps- however- you must always think of the applied electric field and its magnetic inducement upon the charged particles- we will stably run the Tesla coil upon the dielectric of water itself (more appropriately heavy water) and turn up the voltage for greater acceleration speeds and thus magnetic fields- we can control pressure in this vessel- we can control electrode spacing and so much more-

that is my thought experiment for you to understand it is my intention to use all input energy by way of oscillating a very large electric field which will induce the proper magnetic flux density in units of Tesla for a pinching- not established hot fusion whereby all energy input is chaotic and the probability of fusion comes by way of statistics from a gas equation- no- high voltage and high frequency in an orderly manner by the construction of a man made lightning bolt with controllable parameters inside an existing pressurized nuclear reactor- everything is off the shelf- the world will run on steam power again globally-from trains-factories-ships-and all power plants- I offer the Watt steam engine again- not with two sticks to make fire and boil the water- but electromagnetic fusion with two electrodes to induce fusion of hydrogen isotopes to boil water and make steam- it is absolutely perfect.

To the CEO's of nuclear power plants-or pressurized coal fired- you have spare reactors in the back yards of your plants- take a 1 million volt tesla coil and do what I have said- you will measure its fusion reactions and you will conclude this - I have found the road to safe clean energy.

I speak plain science- please connect the dots and let us end this energy crisis for a world that desperately needs energy- May the light of God shine upon all our actions for the betterment of mankind

Solomon Sami Azar

update-after 19 months on this net- it seems evident people do not care until the machine breaks, right before our eyes our economy collapses as inflation and energy costs have been eating at our economy for some time now- maybe even global war with russia and iran will you finally care to investigate the deeds of a human being that has sacrificed his life over a dangerous experiment for all of us. Time will tell.

Nov 8- 2008

The following video is my latest attempt to stimulate society to a solution for the energy crisis. after a full time devotion and expense of speaking of this technology - my own energy to discuss this in a formal manner has exhausted- sorry- no editing-first 4 minutes repeat as I start again-thank you for your interests

Not two sticks- But two electrodes

my system will in time be viewed as simple as two sticks to make fire as early man, Fire from water with two electrodes in the 21st century will take mankind to a bright and prosperous future as we progress together

not two sticks but two electrodes
This is a picture of the very first transistor- it looks nothing like a real production transistor- but principle applies--what I have demonstrated with a Tesla coil of high voltage high frequency and have written in PDF- should be clear to the trained eye- that I- Solomon Azar- Have invented the first practical fusion generator system

An outline of the NFG science created in PDF format


I thank God for Strength

MY 43RD BIRTHDAY ON JANAUARY 13-2008-also the date of baptism of Christ-fire from water-time will tell


I fundamentally believe I have solved the energy crisis. this is a very hard state of mind to be in possession of when you hear a world crying for energy solutions and greenhouse gases. - I concluded my tests on palm sunday-april-2007- However, knew it would work since late 2002- I tried to relay this openly since then such as several at los alomos laboratories and sandia labs- they like it-but too speculative and they are too invested in something else- so I continue upon my own efforts and just build it-

I have been trying to ask the public to spread this discovery so many will see it- for out of many a few select will understand- I have tried every possible angle to spread this- even religious to no avail- I have tried some fusion journals- but my system is completely new and not understood- I am the first human being to do this- thus- it will take time for the next and so forth- The day you have a positive frame of mind- you will understand this process- look at the stable plasma arc within the heavy water itself contained by all parameters in a pressurized vessel- my video is real- not fancy graphics- if I alone with junkyard parts can do this- what can a nuclear power plant and staff do with a spare reactor in their backyard? clean nuclear safe fusion right here- I dare you to prove me wrong- but it would be nice if you prove me right :)

- I am bewildered as to how many don't care- ENERGY IS THE KEY TO CIVILAZATION_PERIOD___will you do something about this? or must the global economy be destroyed before you care.

june 13-2008

if you want to save the world from global war and economic collapse from energy - email princeton plasma labs and force them to repeat my experiment as they are too arrogant to listen to the deed of an outsider- when my system proves true to save the world of greenhouse gases and clean energy for all nations- you will say- THANK GOD--

or the American energy department-

The Naked Truth…..about COMPOST!’s_New_Clothes

There, I just blurted it out……….there is something untruthful, something not being said about compost. Understanding and committing to practices that are truly sustainable takes courage, involves change, requires forethought and action but gives in return treasures for the effort. At we are committed to educating those who really want to know the facts, and believe they will then with knowledge and good science make the planet a better place.

What I have to say today will go against a popular belief so strongly imbedded and advocated by so many that it is certain to engender retorts and denials. But one of the great thrills in science is seeing things as they really are……seeing the truth, like the child who told the truth about the Emperor’s New Clothes in Hans Christian Andersen’s 1837 tale of the swindlers. The weavers, had declared they could manufacture the finest cloth to be imagined with colors and patterns that were not only exceptionally beautiful, but most importantly, the clothes possessed the wonderful quality of being invisible to any man who was unfit for his office or unpardonably stupid.

So we are led to believe that an important part of recycling and keeping the planet “green” is making and using compost. We are increasingly being told that we’ve got to get the solid waste out of the landfill, that composting is good, that we should recycle our kitchen scraps, lawn clippings, etc. by composting them, and that compost is good for the soil and plants because it restores naturally what was missing. Plants are supposed to grow better when we use compost.

City and county planners are diverting more and more solid waste to tracks of land where compost is produced and then sold back to the public for garden use. Farmers frequently advocate composting and the use of animal manure to enrich the soil so they can obtain higher yields. A great compost industry has evolved. Giant earth moving machines, mixers, grinders, and trucks are used to move and manage the piles of “decomposing” organic matter that will in time be called “compost”.

Gardeners are coached and advised to use compost, to recycle their garden waste materials, and sold tumblers, bins, etc. designed to speed up the decomposition of organic matter so that the product can be used again and again in the garden.
What’s wrong with this picture? A lot. It’s plain to see we are headed in the wrong direction advocating compost as a sustainable process and it is certainly harming not helping the planet.

So what is compost anyway? Some people will say it is a dark, crumbly, and earthy-smelling form of decomposing organic matter, but it is perhaps better defined as a stable humus material. I like the Virginia Tech bulletin “Compost: What Is It and What's It To You” pithy way of stating what it is.

You can’t actually define it because no one knows exactly what it is. We can however say a lot about the process. When you purchase or make your compost you are getting something “earthy” at the end of the process but no two batches are ever going to be the same.

The process is well known. You have to collect the organic material and put it in a pile. The decomposition occurs because the naturally occurring microbes in the pile are working hard to consume the mass. They do this by oxidizing the plant material rendering in the end if all goes well a mass of humus.

There are many different types of microbes involved in the process all working together and an important part of the process is keeping the conditions in the pile right so that all of the essential microbes and fungi digesting material are healthy. During the process, because of the oxidation, the pile heats up. The heat is important because if the pile is too cold, the microbes won’t survive or the process will be too slow. But if the pile heats up too much, the microbes will die and then you have only a dead heap of partially decomposed organic matter.
As the decomposition commences, a lot of carbon dioxide gas and water vapor is produced and because of the heat in the pile, the gases are driven into the atmosphere. The pile begins to collapse upon itself as the center of the pile decomposes. This results in a substantial drop in the amount of oxygen that is needed to oxidize material. The microbes can not survive when the oxygen level drops too low but other microbes that thrive in low oxygen environments will begin to flourish.

The anaerobic (low oxygen loving) microbes take over and produce noxious gases including ammonia, nitrous oxide, methane, and hydrogen sulfide and many other noxious materials. Because of the heat, these gases are also driven into the atmosphere. The loss of nitrogen in the form of ammonia means in the end the compost nitrogen content is reduced. This is the process of putrefaction and it accounts for the offensive pile odors frequently observed when material is allowed to rot. That’s not good.

Anyone who ever tried to manage a compost pile will tell you it is a little tricky. It is almost impossible to maintain the perfect conditions to get a consistent product. You’ve got to make a pile big enough to get the temperature up to 110 – 150 F, assuming you have a proper mix of microbes. You’ve got to turn it and mix it adequately to keep the oxygen levels up to support the oxidation and you’ve got to add enough water to keep the humidity between 50 and 60%. If you turn it too soon, it will cool too fast. You have to add more water as it dries out to keep the organisms working (wasting water).

We’re not done yet. The microbes are pretty fussy……some need organic matter high in carbon content whilst others need organic matter rich in nitrogen. You’ve got to support these requirements or the pile won’t decompose in the manner you’d like. It turns out you’ve got to have a proper balance of carbon to nitrogen to make the pile work (C: N ratio about 30:1). People usually define carbon as “brown stuff” and nitrogen as “green stuff”……so you mix brown and green materials to try to get the ratio correct.

I think you’ve got the picture and it is kind of ugly. It’s very hard to control this process and virtually impossible to keep it going smoothly all along the way. You just can’t mix the pile and keep the temperature, humidity, C: N ratios, and oxygen levels etc. all where they need to be to get a consistent product. When it is done industrially, a lot of energy consuming devices are used to make it better. Temperature sensors, blowers, heaters, sprayers, oxygenators, earth movers, etc. are employed. A lot of labor and energy is consumed to produce a product. It can take easily 6 months from the beginning to the end of the process to have a stable and cured pile of compost.

In the end the humus produced, because of the heat, etc. has been sterilized. The natural microbes that normally inhabit the soil are no longer present. The natural microbes in the soil are intimately involved in assisting plants fix nitrogen and provide many nutrients that plants can readily assimilate. A lot of nitrogen was lost in the decomposition (taken out of the product as ammonia and nitrogen oxide gases and dispersed into the atmosphere). The oxidation of the organic matter results in tons of carbon dioxide and water vapor going into the atmosphere. Have you ever witnessed a steaming pile in the cool morning air?

Is it natural? People frequently like to say composting is natural “natures way of breaking down the organic matter”. Nothing could be further from the truth. When did you ever see mounds of material piled up and rotting in nature? Men recognized that you could accelerate the oxidation and breakdown by gathering and piling material in masses that are properly aerated and humidified.

In nature material is far more slowly broken down. When the leaves and debris do pile up and become matted down by rain and water, the oxygen is excluded and anaerobic processes take over. Most of the decomposition is occurring at ambient temperatures. Because no one is turning material to get the oxygen levels back to surface conditions, the interior processes resulting in decomposition are anaerobic (at very low oxygen levels). Have you every witnessed leaves as they naturally rot? They form a soggy mass on the ground in the fall and by winter’s end have completely disappeared.

The process of composting is not nature’s way but man’s way of rotting material. It is polluting the planet. We are by composting releasing water vapor, carbon dioxide, ammonia, and numerous other gases into the atmosphere. We are releasing a lot of heat that would not have been produced naturally. If we encourage people to compost, promote composting as an environmentally sound solution, and want to believe it is a sustainable practice that will be good for the planet, we are only fooling ourselves.

Like the child who saw the emperor’s suit for what it was, those who want real sustainability will acknowledge there has to be a better way. And there is. We’ll talk more about green house gases, microbes, and anaerobic fermentation in the future.

Got local seafood?

Yesterday I beat the rush and went to Mermaid Markets off Maryborough and George streets to get my Chrissy prawns. I had been eyeing some of the prawns advertised in the big supermarkets junk mail and my mouth was salivating, but not for imports, I wanted local. So as I was out and about buying fresh local fruit and tomatoes I dropped into Mermaid Markets to have a look, and was pleasantly surprised to see a SustainaBundy "got local?" sticker on the front of their seafood display case . The prawn selection was great and I grabbed two half kilos of local prawns (biggies and mediums) and when a fresh tray of local scallops came out I had to have some of those as well.

The prawns look and smell great, I am holding off on tasting until tomorrow. Because I know if I start on them now there won't be any left for tomorrow!

Have a wonderful Christmas and enjoy the fresh and tasty foods we have available in the Bundaberg area.


On the "World Energy Outlook" IEA report

About the International Energy Agency's 2008 "World Energy Outlook" report --
an authoritative report on oil depletion statistics -

Richard Heinberg -
"IEA: Everyone Gets to Be Right"

George Monbiot  -
"At Last, A Date"

Andy Rowell at the Oil Change blog -
"It’s Official: Oil Will Peak by 2020"

Transitioning from Less Solution-Oriented Employment to More Solution-Oriented Employment

“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 it, and apply it to the development of sustainable systems.” (David Holmgren, from “Energy and Permaculture” article)


We now live in very complex and challenging times. 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, which include (but are not limited to):

1) global warming and reducing carbon emissions
2) peak oil and reducing dependence on petroleum based products
3) global inequities and the tragic cycles of malnutrition, disease, and death
4) an increasing world population requiring more resources when many resources are becoming more scarce (with a special emphasis on the increasing number of people who are consuming resources and ecological services indiscriminately)
5) cultures of greed, corruption, and overindulgence have caused a crises of confidence in financial markets, and are in many ways slowing the restructuring of investment priorities needed to respond to the challenges listed here (and other challenges)
6) there still seems to be a majority of people on the planet who do not have a clear understanding, well-grounded in personal experience, of which basic elements of community life and cultural traditions lead to mutually beneficial understandings, which lead to cycles of violence—and why it is so important for people to achieve clarity on this subject.

The “1000Communities2” Proposal

One suggestion which could assist in bringing many solutions to light at the local community level is a 161 page proposal by this writer titled “1000Communities2” ("1000CommunitiesSquared").

The “1000Communities2” proposal advocates organizing and implementing Community Visioning Initiatives in 1000 communities (communities—or segments of rural areas, towns, or cities—with populations of 50,000 or less) around the world

1. which are time-intensive, lasting even as much as 1½ years (18 months), so as to give as much importance to developing a close-knit community as it does to

a) accumulating and integrating the knowledge and skill sets necessary for the highest percentage of people to act wisely in response to challenges identified as priority challenges
b) helping people to deliberately channel their time, energy, and money into the creation of “ways of earning a living” which are directly related to resolving high priority challenges
c) assisting with outreach, partnership formation, and development of service capacity for a significant number of already existing (or forming) organizations, businesses, institutions, and government agencies
d) helping to build a high level of consensus for specific action plans, which will help inspire additional support from people, businesses, organizations, institutions, and government agencies with significant resources

2. which expand on the concept of “Community Teaching and Learning Centers” (created by the “Teachers Without Borders” organization) so that such local community points of entry function as information clearinghouses, meeting locations, educational centers for ongoing workshops (on a broad range of topics related to the Community Visioning Process, and building the local knowledge base), practice sites for developing “teacher-leaders”, a location for an ongoing “informal” “Community Journal”, a location for listing employment opportunities—and provide a means of responding quickly (by changing the emphasis of workshop content) to new urgencies as they arise

3. and which suggest—as a way of emphasizing the need for an exponential increase in compassion for our fellow human beings—that communities (with the resources to do so) enter into “sister community” relationships with communities in other countries where there has been well documented calls for assistance with basic human needs.

The following three sections of this article will provide some further information about the concepts Community Visioning Initiative, “Community Teaching and Learning Centers”, and “sister community” relationships.

What are Community Visioning Initiatives?

Well organized efforts to identify problems and brainstorm solutions are a universally recognized approach to problem solving which is commonly used in family, community, business, and government
settings in every part of the world. In its most basic format, a Community Visioning Initiative (CVI) is simply a more comprehensive variation of the above mentioned approach to problem solving.

Community Visioning Initiatives (CVIs) are especially useful as a means of increasing or maximizing citizen participation in the planning phase of community revitalization efforts. In 1984, the non-profit organization Chattanooga Venture [Chattanooga, Tennessee (USA)] organized a Community Visioning Initiative that attracted more than 1,700 participants, and produced 40 community goals—which resulted in the implementation of 223 projects and programs, the creation of 1,300 permanent jobs, and a total financial investment of 793 million dollars.

[Note: Since the source references for all quoted material in this document can be found by searching the pdf file of the “1000Communities2” document, they are not reproduced here. The “1000Communities2” document is accessible at the website of The IPCR Initiative, at, or through the following link]

Community Visioning Initiatives (CVIs) can be described as a series of community meetings designed to facilitate the process of brainstorming ideas, organizing the ideas into goals, prioritizing the goals, and
identifying doable steps. Many CVIs require steering committees, preliminary surveys or assessments, workshops, task forces, and collaboration between many organizations, government agencies, businesses, and educational institutions—and seek to build up consensus in the community for specific goals and action plans by encouraging a high level of participation by all residents.

The “1000Communities2” document referred to in this article incorporates input from many different fields of activity, and emphasizes a time-intensive approach to Community Visioning, which may take up to 1½ years (18 months) to complete. (For more details, see Section 6 “A 15 Step Outline for a ‘1000Communities 2’ Version of a Community Visioning Initiative” of the “1000Communities2” document.)

[Note: The “1000Communities2” version of a Community Visioning Initiative includes a step (Step 12) which is described as follows: “Summary Presentations and Job Fairs”. Here is an excerpt relating to job fairs, from p. 39 of the “1000Communities2” document: “The job fairs which come at the end of the CVI 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…”]

What are Community Teaching and Learning Centers?

The concept of “Community Teaching and Learning Centers” (CTLCs) was created by the organization “Teachers Without Borders” (see The website of “Teachers Without Borders” includes the following description of CTLCs: “Community Teaching and Learning Centers (CTLCs) are local, practical education centers designed to be embraced by and emerge from the community itself…. CTLCs use existing facilities and are often outfitted with libraries [(which include) dictionaries, references, educational material of general interest] … computers, face-to-face classrooms, and break-out spaces, used primarily to serve several essential functions for community sustainability.”

In this “1000Communities2” proposal, the concept of CTLCs is expanded so that such local community points of entry function as

1) information centers, resource centers, clearinghouses (on how residents can deliberately channel their time, energy, and money into the creation of “ways of earning a living” which are directly related to resolving high priority challenges
2) locations for workshops on topics suggested by the “Preliminary Survey” [see Step 3 of the 15 Step Outline (Section 6)], and as determined by the CTLC Coordinator
3) practice sites for the development of “teacher-leaders”
4) community centers for meetings, both planned and informal
5) locations for “Community Journals” (which are collections of formal and informal input which may be contributed to or accessed at all times)
6) locations for “Final Version” Document submission (“voting”) as part of Steps 5, 6, 7, 9, and 10 of the 15 Step Outline (see Section 6 of the “1000Communities2” document)
7) locations for “Summary of CVI Process to Date” Notebooks, for latecomers, and as an information resource for media
8) central locations for listings of employment opportunities
9) as a special form of community education, which can respond quickly (by changing the emphasis of workshop content) to new urgencies as they arise

How would the “sister community” concept work?

Programs for developing the sister community concept already exist as a result of the work of Sister Cities International.

“Sister Cities International is a nonprofit citizen diplomacy network that creates and strengthens partnerships between U.S. and international communities. As an international membership organization, we officially certify, represent and support partnerships between U.S. cities, counties, states and similar jurisdictions in other countries.” The mission of Sister Cities International is “to promote peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation—one individual, one community at a time.” “Sister Cities International represents more than 2,500 communities in 134 countries around the world.” Key program areas include: Sustainable Development, Youth and Education, Humanitarian Assistance, and Arts and Culture.

Unfortunately, there are often so many different activities which require our attention during the course of any given day, and many of us simply do not know how much good can be done in the world with even minor contributions of time, energy, and money. Here this writer will provide the names of ten organizations—and a brief description of their work—which should be sufficient to bring to mind how many different kinds of positive outcomes could result from such “sister community” relationships. [see Appendix 5 of the “1000Communities2” document (“Examples of Humanitarian Aid Which Can be Explored Through ‘Sister Community’ Relationships”) for more detailed information about these organizations.]

The Ten Organizations (or concepts) are:

Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
World Food Programme
Doctors Without Borders
Teachers Without Borders
S3IDF (Small-Scale Sustainable Infrastructure Development Fund)
IDE (International Development Enterprises)
Alternative Gifts
Peace Corps
Foreign Student Exchange
Adopt a Child (“Sponsoring” a child)

1. The Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
“There are many circumstances in communities around the world where the activity of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is essential for communities of people to survive natural—or human-created—disasters, and progress to a recovery and rebuilding phase.”

2. World Food Programme
“WFP is the United Nations frontline agency in the fight against global hunger.”

3. Doctors Without Borders
“Every year, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) provides emergency medical care to millions of people caught in crises in nearly 60 countries around the world. MSF provides assistance when catastrophic events — such as armed conflict, epidemics, malnutrition,
or natural disasters — overwhelm local health systems.”

4. Teachers Without Borders
“Teachers Without Borders is a non-profit (501c3), non-denominational, international NGO founded in 2000, devoted to closing the education divide through teacher professional development and community education. Our organization focuses on the building of teacher

5. Small Scale Sustainable Infrastructure Development Fund (S3IDF)
“Our Mission: To foster pro-poor, pro-environment small scale infrastructure services with financing and technical assistance for the electricity, water, sanitation and other infrastructure (eg.
transport and telecommunications) necessary for poverty alleviation.”

“Based on more than 25 years of experience, IDE has developed a unique market-oriented development model that benefits the rural poor. We call it PRISM (Poverty Reduction through Irrigation and Smallholder Markets). Using PRISM, IDE integrates small farm households into markets and develops sustainable businesses that reduce rural poverty worldwide.”

7. Alternative Gifts International (AGI)
“AGI is a nonprofit, interfaith agency. AGI provides education for people of all ages about global needs and raises funds each year in its Alternative Gift Markets and from individual donors to respond to those needs. Designated grants then are sent to the established international projects of several reputable nonprofit agencies for relief and development.”

8. Peace Corps
“… 190,000 Peace Corps Volunteers have been invited by 139 host
countries to work… (in the following areas): Education (36%), Health & HIV/AIDS (21%), Business (15%), Environment (14%), Youth (6%), Agriculture (5%), Other (4%).”

9. Foreign Student Exchange Programs
“A student exchange program is a program in which a student, typically in secondary or higher education, chooses to live in a foreign country to learn, among other things, language and culture.
“American Foreign Exchange (AFS) is an international, voluntary, non-governmental, non-profit organization that provides intercultural learning opportunities to help people develop the knowledge, skills and understanding needed to create a more just and peaceful world.”

10. Sponsor A Child

What does Children International do?
“Our child sponsorship solution provides health, educational, material and emotional aid to impoverished children around the world. One-to-one sponsorship gives these children the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty and realize their full potential.”

Transitioning from less solution-oriented employment to more solution-oriented employment

Section 6 of the “1000Communities2” document is titled “A 15 Step Outline for a ‘1000Communities2’ Version of a Community Visioning Initiative”. Step 12 of this 15 Step Outline begins as follows:

Step 12 Summary Presentations and Job Fairs

(Approximate Time Required: 4 weeks)

A. Goals

1) Steering Committee members (with help from volunteer Advisory Board members, etc.) will summarize the Community Visioning Initiative (CVI)process
2) Steering Committee members-- and key community leaders who were very much involved in the CVI process—will make presentations based on the summaries
3) Specifically, information will be provided on how residents can deliberately focus their time, energy, and money so that their actions
a) can have positive repercussions on many fields of activity relating to solutions
b) can result in an increase in the “ways of earning a living” which are related to solutions
and action plans
4) 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

The following passage is also included as “Special Commentary” for Step 12:

“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.”

As mentioned on p. 125 of the “1000Communities2” document, 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.”

Especially important to this kind of transition will be a community’s capacity to identify local specific “engines of economic stability”. The 15 Step Outline for a “1000Communities2” version of a Community Visioning Initiative (mentioned above) includes Step 3 “Preliminary Surveys”. One question which is recommended for such “Preliminary Surveys” is as follows: (for all of the questions, see Section 9 of the “1000Communities2” document)

Question #5: Identifying Engines of Economic Stability

Many people seem to be worried that “the economy” will collapse if some form of “voluntary simplicity” philosophy becomes more and more accepted… and yet many of the challenges of our times have chronic elements (see Appendix 1), suggesting that it may require decades, generations, or even centuries to overcome such challenges. (There will be work to do….)

a) Please name as many engines of economic stability and methods of economic conversion as you can which you believe would result in communities that

minimize resource requirements
maintain ecological sustainability
maintain a high level of compassion for fellow human beings

and which represent what a significant majority of community residents surveyed would describe as a high quality of life.

Important Note: Having responses to the above question (and many others, through “Preliminary Surveys”) from 150 key leaders from a significant variety of fields of activity in the community will, by itself, be a significant contribution to the “(reconfiguring) the embodied energy from the industrial age, and applying it to the development of sustainable systems” (see quote at the beginning of this article).

Problems that may arise

Even though there may be a sense of shared urgency among a majority of the residents in a given community, there are problems, issues, and challenges which can turn the whole Community Visioning Initiative process into an unfortunate experience with few positive outcomes. And yet—given circumstances which require problem solving unlike anything most of us have experienced before—experiments must be tried, and risks must be taken. However, every precaution should also be taken to avoid costly efforts which result in unfortunate experiences with few positive results. Such experiences might be demoralizing, and impair the effectiveness of other constructive efforts in the future.

As a way of minimizing destructive and demoralizing thinking and maximizing constructive thinking and constructive action, the “1000Communities2” document includes a section on “Problems That May Arise” (Section 13). As one example from that section, consider the following:

3. The need to proactively encourage constructive thinking

“There will be people who are inclined to focus their attention, regardless of the difficulties and urgencies of trying to resolve multiple crises, on trying to make money by preying on people’s fears and misunderstandings, or on trying to encourage people to set aside their higher aspirations, and indulge in destructive behavior. Such behavior is clearly counterproductive to the building of caring communities; it can be very dangerous for community morale, and it can become a crippling obstacle in times of crises. Responsible people will take sufficient
preventative measures to encourage a high percentage of constructive thinking and constructive action in their community.” [Note: This particular “problem that may arise” is formulated into a question (see question 7) which is included in Section 9 “15 Suggestions for Preliminary Survey Questions” in the “1000Communities2” document.]

Concluding Comments

This writer understands that creating the knowledge base, skill sets, and the compassion for our fellow human beings necessary to resolve the challenges of our times will require

1) recognizing deficiencies in the knowledge base and skill sets of our communities as they are now (an awareness which can be brought to the forefront by Community Visioning Initiatives)
2) recognizing deficiencies in compassion for our fellow human beings (an awareness which can also be brought to the forefront by Community Visioning Initiatives)
3) linking together the concepts of Community Visioning Initiatives, “Community Teaching and Learning Centers”, “teacher-leaders”, ongoing workshops, and “sister community” relationships
4) curriculum development “on the fly”
5) teacher training “on the fly”
6) community centers which are neighborhood-friendly, and which provide ongoing workshops that are deliberately affordable
7) encouraging as much formal and informal meetings with other people in the local neighborhoods for discussion, information sharing, mutual support and encouragement, fellowship and friendship—so that the result will include the building of a close-knit community of people with a healthy appreciation for each others strengths, and a well developed capacity to resolve even the most difficult challenges.

This writer—and the “1000Communities2” document—also advocate three propositions which are especially relevant when considering the value of local community points of entry information
clearinghouses, and ongoing workshops….

a) There are countless numbers of “things people can do in the everyday circumstances of their lives” which will contribute to peacebuilding, community revitalization, and ecological sustainability efforts, in their own communities and regions—and in other parts of the world. [As one example of the countless numbers of things people can do, consider the list of “105 Related Fields of Activity”, located at the website of The IPCR Initiative 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.

Everyone is involved when it comes to determining the markets which supply the “ways of earning a living”. All of us have important responsibilities associated with resolving a significant number of very
serious challenges in the months and years ahead. Communities of people can deliberately create countless “ways of earning a living” which contribute to the peacebuilding, community revitalization,
and ecological sustainability efforts necessary to overcome the challenges of our times.

Even now, as you are reading this, truly inspiring contributions of genuine goodwill are being generated in a variety of ways—and in a variety of circumstances—by countless numbers of people in communities around the world. A combination of Community Visioning Initiatives, “Community Teaching and Learning Centers” and “sister community” relationships can bring to light the many truly inspiring
contributions of genuine goodwill in your community and region, and contribute much to the building of “close-knit” communities of people… communities with a healthy appreciation for each others strengths, communities with a well-developed capacity to resolve even the most difficult challenges—and communities which demonstrate a high level of compassion for their fellow human beings.

With Kind Regards and Best Wishes,

Stefan Pasti, Founder and Outreach Coordinator
The IPCR Initiative

[Note: This article is also accessible in pdf format at the website of The IPCR Initiative ( or by using the following link:

Source Notes: Since the source references for all quoted material in this document can be found by searching the pdf file of the “1000Communities2” document, they are not reproduced here. The “1000Communities2” document is accessible at the website of The IPCR Initiative, at, or through the following link

The Transition Handbook Review

The Transition Handbook Review
Roy H. Taylor III

The Transition Handbook: From oil dependency to local resilience
Rob Hopkins
Green Books Ltd., 2008

Here is the best “how to” start a movement book that may not be currently on the shelves of your local bookstore. It is so popular that it has sold out in many locations. Rob Hopkins realized very quickly that he was on to something as the creation of the first Transition Towns of Kinsale, Ireland and Totnes, England, a town of about 8,500, took place. Hopkins, steeped in the principles of permaculture that he taught for many years, appears to have been the right person at the right time for this job. Serendipity of events completed the picture.

“The future of less oil could be preferable to the present if we can engage in enough imagination, creativity, adaptability in that process.” R. H.

In a time of recognition of the potential perils of reaching peak oil what can we do to plan for a society that is less dependent on oil? How can we power down our energy requirements? What are the pieces that need to be in place to effect change in the communities where we live? While it seems at first thought that this might be a version of a “Sustainable” Sim City or how to create a new city out in the woods somewhere else that would be an easy task compared to what this book is presenting. The one thing that it shares with those types of plans is that this will create very intentional community.

“It is one thing to campaign against climate change and quite another to paint a compelling and engaging vision of a post-carbon world in such a way as to enthuse others to embark on a journey towards it.” R.H.

The power of this book is not just in the information it provides but in the way it is presented. The book is divided into three sections, Head, Heart and Hands. The author first makes the rational argument of the need for change, then engages the power of vision and possibility before outlining the work that needs to be done to accomplish it. This process is so masterfully presented that that reader is caught up in the excitement of the Transition Initiative so as to want to go work on it themselves, or inspired to just get to work harder on those great projects that they are already working on.

Most of the readers of this review are already familiar with the arguments made in the first section of the book about peak oil and climate change but they are well laid out and create the setting. The second section is his appeal to the Heart with positive vision. This is the key to creating the community involvement necessary to accomplish the work of making the transition from oil dependency to local resilience. As the vision of what might be is created, a desire is born to make it happen. The third section is the real “how to” portion of the book as it explains “The Transition Approach” to the community development movement that has been started. This section of the book is valuable reading for anyone working on community or group development on almost any large project. The 6 principles laid out, based in part on those of Permaculture, include: visioning, inclusion, awareness-raising, resilience, psychological insights, and credible and appropriate solutions.

Warning: When you finish reading this book, be prepared to want to get involved with the Transition Initiative where you live.

This book is now available online - – Use this site to find the active site in your State

World population increase means less oil for all (and the end of economic growth)

I’m worried. I have just been to a presentation of world population trends by the eminently informative Swedish Professor Hans Rosling from Karolinska Institute. It seem that world population is expected to continue to expand. The good news is that the number of children per woman is reducing in developing countries and stable in developed countries. Still, we are looking at the world overstepping nine billion in 2045.
We currently need to do better to feed the poor and forgotten, who number 890 million, or 13%. So how will the world feed this 34% increase? Modern agriculture requires large inputs of fossil fuel and fossil-fuel based products. At the same time, oil production per capita is expected to fall.
On returning back to the office I started plotting world population trends against oil consumption I managed to (this is back of the envelop stuff) get oil consumption from the International Energy Agency site, and population figures from Wikipedia.
I also reflected on what the professor said: that as standards rose, and in the presence of peace, fewer children per woman were born. This isi the mechanism that will stabilize world population.
Up to 2007, oil consumption per capita has remained more or less stable even as consumption has risen.

o 2005 that is. If you then plot projected population rises against project oil production you get another picture:


This means that we are entering a new era, where each country has less oil per capita. Now, some countries are expanding their population faster than others. This leads to a few scenarios:
1) Those countries that expand their populations fast up to 2045 increase their share of oil and manage to retain or improve their living standards. For those industrialized countries it will mean a faster reduction in oil consumption per capita compared to the expanding countries.


2) ( See graph above.) Each country manages to keep the same proportion of consumption as now. The consequences will be that rapidly expanding countries will have less oil per capita and risk food shortages.
3) Some countries, possibly rich countries gain a larger proportion of the oil production and thereby fast growing countries will quickly face difficulties feeding the population.
From this “back of an envelope” analysis I see some rather stark conclusions:

  • Abandoning economic growth as a goal and concentrating on security of supply of basic needs is a priority.
  • Regardless of the stance taken towards countries with rising populations, all countries need to consider a Powering Down situation as they are looking at a reduction in the availability of fossil fuel in the next decade.
  • Helping the poor and forgotten to rise to a minimum standard that gives food security should be a priority globally.

Transition Sunshine Coast 2008 – A year in review

bannerTransition Sunshine Coast – formerly known as the Sunshine Coast Energy Action Centre – is an evolving and rapidly growing collaboration of regional and local initiatives that have developed out of: the Relocalisation Network and Post Carbon Cities in the US; the Transition Town model from the UK; David Holmgren’s and Bill Mollison’s permaculture concept of sustainable design principles, ethics and systems, and climate change action groups spawned by Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth.

Regardless of our origins we are all people who are involved in relocalising our own communities, moving toward local resilience, building diversity and strength in local supply systems, and connecting with our community. And we are whole-heartedly committed to tackling climate change and peak oil, together.

The Sunshine Coast is located on the eastern seaboard of Australia – our initiative reflects the new mega-council’s boundaries capturing a growing population currently at 300,000, and more than 3000 square kilometres of land. It is a sub-tropical climate with good rainfall, fertile soil and lots of beaches. Our main industries are tourism and retail.

Our 2008 highlights;

  • Ran a community education centre on positive solutions to climate change and peak oil
  • Launched an Outreach Program taking it to the masses
  • Continued our EDAP consultative process and the collation of actions and initiatives
  • Invited to be part of council conference on the future of the region
  • Invited to speak at regional events next year – State of the Region and Green Futures
  • Ran workshops on Transition Town initiatives which have started up new initiatives in Qld and NSW
  • Supported and connected new initiatives
  • Launched our new education program – Pathways to Resilience
  • Completed an ‘Outdoor Classrooms’ project for primary school teachers
  • Well into planning the first local waste recycling facility in the region
  • Began education for sustainability in the popular Eumundi Markets
  • Won the most Sustainable Project Award at the Sunshine Coast Environment Awards
  • Organised the 2009 calendar of training – early courses already fully booked
  • Presenters at Greenfest in Brisbane and the Woodford Folk Festival (130,000 visitors)
  • Presenter at the Queensland Home Garden Expo (25,000 people)
  • Supported a Future Ready Expo (1000 people) including visit by Roberto Perez of Cuba
  • Completed a solar bulk buy
  • Promoting a series of reskilling programs including running composting workshops ourselves
  • Built relationships with local government – ongoing
  • Mentioned in state government oil mitigation strategy
  • And just yesterday – ran a weekend workshop for more than 70 people on how to start initiatives in their own communities

Lessons learned

  • Have a very clear vision
  • There will be peak and troughs, try to ride them out and stay focussed on your vision
  • Don’t engage in negativity – use positive language only and stay committed to your vision
  • Don’t be afraid to fail – you only really fail if you keep doing the same failure over and over again!
  • You don’t need to be a climatologist or a petroleum geologist – you need to be passionate and concerned about your community
  • You are the expert about where you live – the transport issues, the food supply issues – that is what you know – build on it
  • Meet with and talk to key stakeholders in your area – but go there with solutions, not complaints
  • Focus on collaboration and cooperation, not conflict and competition
  • Look for running mates to support you and to take the baton when you need a break
  • Start in your own home and backyard – be the example
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel
  • Add your number to the international numbers – there are a lot of us out there
  • And most importantly, network for inspiration and information and take care of yourself and try to remember to have fun – this is going to be a long haul.

Group photo


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Transition Sunshine Coast!

Photo: (Left to right) Sonya Wallace and Janet Millington of Transition Sunshine Coast along with Barry Earsman and Liz of Sustainable Maleny at the Sunshine Coast Environment Awards night.


Looking back on 2008

With the economic crisis pointing to harder financial times to come, the need to build local resiliency is coming to the forefront of discussions among policy-makers on local, regional and national levels. Relocalization is about reducing consumption and producing locally -- building community resilience as a response to climate change and energy uncertainty. It is also a way to preserve and promote local knowledge and culture. It's about being self-reliant, planning for the unknown, and understanding the risks of putting all our eggs in one basket.

Take, for example, food. 2008 saw a massive swell of interest in local food and urban gardening. Food riots and e-coli scares demonstrated the vulnerability of our current food system. The concern that this caused, along with inspiration from a growing body of literature on the topic, resulted in community gardens and farmers markets cropping up in increasing numbers on abandoned strips and empty parking lots. More people are searching for local producers to source their basic needs, and have challenged themselves to eating a local diet. People understand the importance of supporting the local economy, but even more so it seems that people want to rediscover their sense of place. In an era of globalized culture, it's in the local parks and markets and squares that people are connecting with the neighbours and strengthening their ties with the place that they live in.

There is no shortage of ways for people to get involved and take action to help their communities develop resiliency. Members of the Relocalization Network in 2008 engaged in all sorts of activities from working with local elected officials on policy development to getting their hands in the soil and transforming lawns into productive food gardens. Transition Initiatives have grown leaps and bounds and have laid down a lot of the groundwork in getting communities to think about relocalization and local resiliency. This diverse and integrated approach allows for the strategy of relocalization to be inclusive and action-oriented, whereby people of all backgrounds can contribute and be engaged. Here's a snapshot of some of the Relocalization Network activities in the past year.

The current mix of political momentum and economic circumstances present us with the opportunity to think hard about the track that we're on and redefine how we live our lives based on what truly makes sense. This shift is unique and unprecedented in that while the work ahead is to be done on a local community scale, globally we are more connected than ever before. Global campaigns are mobilized in a matter of days. Anyone with access to the internet can publish content and have it viewed by millions of people around the world. These tools are allowing us to leverage a collective body of knowledge and glean from it best practices and models for alternatives ways of making the local economy work. We are far from alone in this endeavor.

I feel very fortunate to be working with the Relocalization Network community and I look forward to seeing more projects grow, gardens tended, workshops held, and bicycles repaired in 2009!

The Flaw of Western Economies

This is a great little piece that shows the way forward. I found it on
It was first posted at


The Flaw of Western Economies
by Marcin Gerwin

Let’s imagine a green and responsible consumer. Let’s call him George. George lives in a sleepy town, near the center and the park where he often goes for a walk with his dog. George built his house with his friends two years ago. It is a very small house, only 320 square feet and it was made with cob – clay mixed with straw and aggregate. The clay for construction was extracted from George’s land behind the house - now you can see a nice pond there with water lilies. George was fortunate enough to find some recycled timber for the roof from the old garage that his neighbors were demolishing. He considered making a turf roof with wild flowers and herbs, but eventually he decided that a slate roof will be more practical because he will be able to collect rainwater from it and use it for watering his garden during warm summer days.

George buys his food at a local farmers’ market. All food that is sold there is organic and comes from farms within a 50 mile radius and George is happy to know that very little fuel is used to transport the food he purchases. Furthermore, he buys only raw, unpackaged food, which he brings home in his own bag. He doesn’t eat meat or fish. He knows that it takes a lot of land to feed the animals, and “after all” he tells his mom smiling “a cow is a human being too”. He drinks milk, however, and enjoys scrambled eggs on a Sunday morning. Well, not exactly all his food comes from the market. He buys bread and rolls in the nearby bakery. He tried baking bread on his own, but eventually he concluded that it takes too much energy to bake a single loaf of bread for him alone and that it would be more energy-efficient to buy it from the bakery. Nevertheless, it was his New Year’s resolution to buy local produce only. George is concerned about the amount of fuel that is used for transporting food and he decided to go radical on this one. It was tough at the beginning as he likes to drink tea and coffee, and he loves bananas. He substituted regular coffee with a barley and rye “coffee” and instead of tea he drinks mint or chamomile infusions. Unfortunately, bananas are gone from his table for good, but he discovered new vegetables such as yacon and salsify, so he doesn’t miss them that much.

George doesn’t have a car. He goes to work on a bicycle and if it’s too far for a bicycle he takes a bus or a train. Even when he is going abroad, which was three times in his life, he prefers to take a train rather than an airplane. His electric energy consumption is very low. In his home he installed a solar PV module for 140 Watts and batteries. That’s not much, but sufficient to power 3 lamps, a radio and a small fridge. George doesn’t have a TV, dishwasher or a computer. Some of his friends say that his lifestyle is a bit primitive, but he doesn’t mind.

George has many books on his shelves, but when he discovered that many of them were available in a public library he stopped buying them. Once a month he buys his favorite magazine, but recently he even began reading newspapers in the library. His house contains very little furniture, just a simple, wooden table with chairs and a wardrobe. His sleeping mattress is laid directly on the clay floor. Inside his wardrobe there are only a few worn out shirts and new pair of trousers he got for Christmas. George has only two pairs of shoes and some rubber boots for working in a garden.

George doesn’t have a bath tub, only a shower. He has a smart shower head that reduces the usage of water by almost 60%. But George is most proud of his compost toilet that he designed himself. It fits nicely in the corner of his bathroom and is not smelly at all! The compost is used to fertilize a small elephant grass plantation that he shares with his friends. The elephant grass is cut every year and is used to heat their homes in winter.

George works in a small shop that makes artisan cheese. They make cheddar, gouda and valdeon cheese wrapped in Sycamore leaves. All their produce is sold in two local shops. George doesn’t earn a lot of money, but it is enough for his modest needs. He pays his medical and dental care insurance and he can easily afford going to the movies every Saturday. He meets with his friends after work (he works only 6 hours a day), they play guitar and sing. He goes hiking in the summer and rides a bicycle along the river. George lives a happy and stress-free life.

What if We All Lived Like George?

Now, let’s take this a step further. Let’s imagine that all people in North America, Europe and Japan decided to reduce their levels of consumption and consume only as much as George. What happens?

The massive destruction of the Amazon rainforest stopped. The market for soya and timber shrunk so much that it was no longer profitable to cut down vast areas of the forest. The existing soya farms were forced to compete for the remaining customers in China and India. In Canada and Scandinavia the number of trees cut down within a year has decreased significantly. In Democratic Republic of Congo, however, the rainforest is still cut down to make way for roads to mines sponsored by China which had no intention of abandoning its consumer lifestyle. Nevertheless, in many parts of the world the pressure on the natural forest was reduced enough to remove some birds and mammals from the red list of endangered species.

Positive change was quickly noted in the oceans. The population of fish species started to grow. Cod numbers increased in Baltic Sea and at the coasts of Canada. Also, with adoption of organic farming methods, water in the rivers became less polluted and more fish were able to live there. Life even came back to the Louisiana coast were agricultural runoff borne by the Mississippi River had created a 7000 square-mile dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

The levels of air pollution in the cities has changed so much that the air is almost as clean as in the countryside. The level of carbon dioxide has decreased for the first time since the 19th century and scientist began to be more optimistic about human impact on climate change. Oil consumption was reduced so much that one barrel costs only 18 USD.

Now let’s go back to George. How is he?

George lost his job. The artisan cheese turned out to be too expensive for the new consumers and his boss decided to cut personnel. Everyday George cues in a long line waiting for warm soup and 2 slices of bread distributed by the government aid agency. He sold his bike, guitar and solar panels to buy food. He eats the soup and shares the bread with his dog. George’s friends lost their jobs too. His parents don’t have a job, his aunt lost her job. Actually almost everyone that George knows lost their jobs. He meets them all waiting in the long, long line to get warm soup.

How did it happen?

People stopped buying cars and decided to use public transport, so within one year all car factories were closed. Hundreds of thousands of workers were fired in Europe, USA and Japan. All car repair shops, tire making companies, car washing facilities and almost all gas stations were closed. Bicycle making companies recorded record profits but they couldn’t offer new jobs for the workers from the car factories, because they invested in new technologies and now all bicycle parts are made by machines.

Book publishers declared bankruptcy. With people reading books mostly in libraries they were not able to make enough profit. The quantity of books they were able to sell was too low. Along with publishers, bookstores were also forced to close their businesses. Ethical consumers understood that a million daily copies of a newspaper had a tremendous impact on forests. So, people quit buying them as well. As a consequence, journalists and editors lost their jobs. Printers lost their jobs. Producers of ink and printing equipment also lost their jobs. Producers of paper lost their jobs.

Hard times came for the construction industry. People are building small homes, which means that the producers of concrete, paints, windows, doors and roof tiles sell less products. With lower sales they were forced to cut down jobs. Millions of jobs for unqualified workers were no longer available.

The same happened in the clothes industry. Cotton farmers lost their jobs, factory workers in China, Bangladesh and India lost their jobs as well. Small farmers growing coffee, tea and cocoa in the tropics were shocked when the importers told them that they cannot afford to buy their produce. Millions of them lost their source of income.

The stock markets experienced a crisis that was never seen in their history. “The Great Depression Was a Joke” read the headlines. “Record Losses on Wall Street”, “Another Bank Goes Down”, “Sustainability is Killing Us”. But that was only in the first few weeks. Later on the newspapers went bankrupt. The repercussions were felt around the whole world. From Brazil and Argentina to Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka. The credit crunch was now a pleasant memory of the past - a ‘crisis’ the bankers only wished to experience.

At a government level the situation was equally dramatic. The national budget’s revenue decreased by more than a half! There was not enough money for salaries for school teachers, for doctors, for nurses, for policemen, for the administration and for the army. Not only was construction of new roads stopped, but there was also not enough funds to maintain the existing roads.

At first workers went on strike and protested loudly in front of the president’s office. They burned tires and waved flags of their unions. But soon they understood. There was not enough money in the budget to pay them. The protests were in vain.

The heads of all EU countries, the president of USA and the prime minister of Japan appeared everyday on TV and in the radio. They begged their citizens to consume more. “Please” they said “please, you must go shopping or our countries will perish.”

Our Economic System Relies on Consumption

The point is that the economic model of Western societies relies on consumption. Excessive consumption provides economic development, it provides jobs. The more people consume, the more jobs are created. When people consume less, jobs are lost. There is a famous quote from the retail analyst Victor Lebow who helped to create a vision for the economic reform in the US after World War II:

Our enormously productive economy (…) demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption (…) we need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate.

Think about disposable Gillette razors. Would it be such a good business if you could sharpen the blade once a while, rather than buy the whole new product over and over again?

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t reduce our levels on consumption. We must. The natural resources on our planet are used at an unsustainable rate. Too many forests are cut down, too many fish caught, too many soils are degraded, too many species are endangered with extinction - and too many people are appearing on our planet every year. My point is that if we wish to provide a livelihood for every person on this planet, it won’t be enough to promote sustainable levels of consumption. Our current economic model was designed for excessive consumption. Consumption is its engine. Honestly speaking, greed is its engine. If we wish to have a sustainable future we must change the whole economic model, culture and introduce true democratic political systems - or else we will be waiting with George for food handouts.

So, what can we do?

Certainly, it is completely unrealistic that all citizens change their consumption patterns at once in the way that George did. But with a predicted population of 9.2 billion people in 2050 we cannot expect that it will be possible for everyone to have a car, a two-storey house in the suburbs and a large piece of meat for breakfast and lunch. Solutions like zero-waste production, recycling, renewable energy, water and energy efficiency, organic agriculture, preventive medicine and many others are the foundations of sustainability. But where will the jobs come from?

To answer this, let’s look into a something different for a while. Have you ever wondered if there is a country where people enjoy a good life and they keep their consumption within the limits of their local environment? According to the "Happy Planet Index", published by the New Economics Foundation, the no. 1 place like this is Vanuatu - an archipelago of islands on the western Pacific. What makes life so good there? People live in traditional communities with close social ties. They fish, and grow food in their gardens. Some of the food is also gathered from the wild. The land is fertile and a close spiritual contact with the land is a vital part of local culture. The life is slow-paced and people are content with what they have. Andrew Harding, a BBC reporter, came to the remote Pentecost Island to investigate their lives. “There is no hunger here, no unemployment, no tax, no police, no crime or conflict to speak of,” he says. “It may not be a paradise, but you can see why people here want to keep the outside world at arm’s length.”

Norman Shackley, chair of the British Friends of Vanuatu and a former resident of the islands, recalls meeting a young man who had just returned to his home island after studying at Nottingham University. "I asked him what he was going to do with his life now” says Norman Shackley, “He just pointed at his fishing rod and said ‘this’. He could have been one of the top earners in Vanuatu if he wanted, but he was contented with his simple life and didn’t want anything else.”

Happiness is not dependent on geography, however. We can live a happy life in Poland, USA, Japan or Ukraine. We can live a happy life - and one that doesn’t destroy the natural environment that supports us. What we need for this are: good community relations, secure livelihoods and close contact with nature. As David Korten points out “We (all) want tasty nutritious food uncontaminated with toxins. We want healthy, happy children, loving families, and a caring community with a beautiful healthy natural environment. We want meaningful work, a living wage, and security in our old age.” Since we know all this then are our governments working hard to achieve this aim? No. They are working hard to increase the gross domestic product (GDP). And what that has got to do with anything? According to the International Monetary Fund Vanuatu is on their list of countries sorted by GDP - and is ranked at 170. That’s below Zimbabwe….

Money is a practical thing. It can be used to facilitate exchange of goods. On the Vanuatu islands people use pig tusks for this purpose. There are even 14 banks storing pig tusks in their vaults. However, their livelihoods are not dependent on money. As Jean Pierre John from the Metoma island in the north of Vanuatu answered when asked what is the secret of their happiness: "Not having to worry about money."

People tend to forget that money is not a real good. You cannot satisfy hunger eating a 100 USD bill or even a pound of coins. The true value is in the goods for which it can be exchanged: in vegetables, fruits, clothes, building materials, tools etc. We can have these things without the use of money. We can grow food, gather wood in the forest, dig clay and make pots, weave fabrics and sow clothes. We can even make our own ketchup.

In traditional local economies people can be independent and self-sufficient. Their livelihoods are not dependent on distant stock exchange markets, on unaccountable governments, on the European Commission in Brussels (an undemocratically elected institution, superior to member countries, often imposing policies that do not have social approval). These local economies existed also in Europe, not that long ago. We can still create local economies where people will be able to live off the land with a very little or no need for money.

Let’s go back to George. He has just finished eating his bean soup and now he is able to think more clearly. “Why wait for someone to give us job?” he says to his friend Lucy. “We will grow our own food!”

“Where?” asks Lucy. “In your backyard? There is not enough space. Maybe enough for basil and thyme, but forget maize or wheat.”

“There is plenty of land near the river.” George replies. “There are hundreds of acres of grasslands, I was riding there on my bicycle.”

“Possibly, but do you have money to buy it?”

“We don’t need to own it. We will use it and care for it. Come on Lucy,” George gets up. “We need seeds and tools, and a wheelbarrow. Let’s go and find some.”

A year later the grasslands by the river were transformed into rich vegetable gardens and vast fields of wheat, barley, rye, maize and oats. George has a right to use 2 acres of land were he planted pumpkins, squash, eggplants, tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers, potatoes, lettuce, broad beans, sunflower, currants, strawberries as well as fruit trees and nuts. He hopes to have a small forest garden there too. The project that he started was not about owning the land, but about land stewardship. They were very fortunate that the grasslands belonged to the county, or, in other words, to them. So, George organized a meeting in the city hall where people of his community decided how to provide access to this land in a just way. They set up a composting co-operative and a seeds exchange network. To extend the growing season they needed materials to build the greenhouses, so they decided to sell an old warehouse that belonged to the county. The city mayor was hesitant at first about the new way of arranging things, but he checked the constitution and it was expressed clearly, that people govern the state either directly or by their representatives. “So now they are governing it directly,” he concluded.

The food crisis it the city was over. People were able to satisfy their basic needs on their own and in autumn they were celebrating a bumper harvest. George still doesn’t have enough money to buy the solar panels he had before, but he has got an olive oil lamp. With his friends he built an oil press and they don’t need to worry about the lighting. George is also back in cheese manufacturing. He is back working in the shop part-time. People cannot afford to buy a lot of cheese, so the owner decided to accept vegetables and herbs in exchange for the cheddars they make. In winter they plan to launch a local currency to facilitate exchange of locally produced goods and services.

It may seem backward to suggest that people should farm instead of working in a space station. Nevertheless, in the world where resources are scarce and populations climb fast it is a time-tested solution (thousands of years of practice in all parts of the world) which will enable them to become economically independent and to have a meaningful life.

In the Western culture progress is defined as going from vinyl records to CDs, then to DVDs and finally to Blue-ray Discs. We used to have black and white TV-sets, now we’ve got High Definition television. That’s called progress. People get used to new technologies so fast that they think about them as indispensable parts of their lives. Can you believe that people could actually live without the internet? But that was only 20 years ago! Life must have been so hard back then… Oh no! 20 years ago? There were no cell phones either! To get out of this technological race is considered backward. Or perhaps… this is progress?

When governments try to tackle unemployment they encourage new investments, construction of new factories and generally they do their best to maximize the growth of GDP. More roads, more cars, more consumer goods, more services. In the Western economy, to create new jobs you must increase consumption. New technologies must be constantly invented, fashion changed, cars replaced, office equipment broken down and new needs created. But if the consumption slows down, this will no longer be the option. People will be out of a job for good, with very little hope for change.

The global economy can be more green, use less water and use much less energy. There is no doubt about it, the technologies are ready to be implemented. However, if we consume less then for some people there will be no jobs within the global economic system. Yet, there are opportunities waiting for them in the locally self-sufficient economies.

To create sustainable local economies we should start with ethics. Bad values got us into this mess in the first place. It is not a lack of technology that caused pollution of the rivers. Chevron Texaco used to dump 163 millions liters of toxic wastewater per day directly into the streams of the Ecuadorian Amazon. There was technology available to re-inject the wastewater deep underground. But they wanted to save 3 USD per barrel. Now the whole area of Lago Agrio is poisoned and people are suffering from contamination related diseases. It would have never happened if the values of corporate executives were those of caring for nature, helping one another and interconnectedness with the land.

The ethics for an environmentally-friendly lifestyle are simply exemplified in permaculture. They are: care of the earth, care of people and setting limits to consumption. Permaculture gives emphasis to working with nature, rather than against it, cooperation, caring for soil, water, plants and animals. Based upon these values we can use principles and techniques of permaculture to design gardens, villages or urban communities.

However, even the most appropriate ecological techniques will not do much help if we don’t have the land to start with. Access to land can be provided by land trusts, by local communities directly or in other ways that people find practical. In the land stewardship project that George started the right to use the land was granted in exchange for the care for soil and environment. No pesticides usage was allowed, neither use of industrial farming systems. His community is like the administrator of the land rather than the owner. It grants its members the right to use a certain piece of land, on the condition that it will not become eroded or poisoned. The right to use this land can be passed to the next generation, but if the farmer degrades the land, he or she can lose the right to use it.

In Madagascar the government introduced an innovative program of reforestation where a community that plants trees and cares for them for 3 years can become the owner of reforested land. In Madagascar there are hundreds of thousands of hectares of abandoned lands which can be restored and used by the growing population. The restored lands can be used as a sustainable source of food, fuelwood and timber. Even the most severely degraded lands can be restored, as Geoff Lawton proved by establishing a garden in a desert in Jordan.

Then, if we really think about creating sustainable livelihoods for all people on our planet, not just for our closest relatives or people who happen to live within the borders of the same country, we should allow migration to the places where the land is available. There are countries which are already overpopulated to the extent that they can no longer feed themselves and must rely on imported food. A prime example of this is Japan, which now imports 70 percent of its grain. There are also countries where land in unequally distributed. In Paraguay, for example, 1 percent of the population owns around 70 percent of the agricultural land. In this case farmlands should be re-allocated, in a democratic way.

Our political systems need some improvements as well. True democracy means that people can make decisions regarding their own lives. However, in most cases decisions are made by people’s representatives and too often they don’t keep their promises, lack skills, vision, they represent interests of their parties or business elites rather than the people and they are not accountable. We can organize the political system in a different way. It all starts on the local level, in the municipality. Citizens meet to discuss the daily issues affecting their lives and take decision regarding the budget, local taxation, land use permits etc. The mayor and local administration are employed to put their decisions into practice. In other words, people are like stakeholders of a company and the mayor is like a CEO. When the CEO of a private company doesn’t perform his duties well, he gets fired. In the same way citizens should be able to change the mayor or any other member of local administration. It is the citizens who pay their salaries. Administration must be accountable! Their job is to serve people, not the other way around.

One of the pioneers of the modern participatory democracy is the city of Porto Alegre in Brazil. Since 1989 the citizenry hold meetings where they decide on the priorities that decide how the public money is spent. Gianpaolo Baiocchi writes: “Citizens took over many functions usually reserved for bureaucrats: setting city-wide spending priorities, planning investments, and reviewing payrolls, not to mention setting the rules for the participatory budgeting process itself and monitoring its outcomes. Because since the 1990s Brazilian cities have assumed responsibility for most social-service provision and infrastructure investments, citizens are able to exert significant control over transportation, education, public health, and public works.” Among the benefits of direct participation in decision making are improved community ties and stronger involvement in the city life. Citizens are often able to choose projects to be funded better than officials as they know what they need, be it sanitation, water supply or a new housing. Research shows that participatory budgeting leads to lower poverty rates and improved education. And above all - community empowerment.

Don’t you think it’s a little odd that people cannot decide on what their tax money is spent on? The concept of taxation in democratic countries is to collect money that will be used to improve the quality of life of the communities. Yet, taxpayers have almost no say in the allocation of their money. True, they can choose the representative who will spend the money for them, and, if he or she turns out to be irresponsible, they can wait 4 years for another election and choose someone different. Well, it doesn’t seem very effective. Imagine a company where a manager must wait 4 years to dismiss an employee. It’s even worse - the manger must pay salary and benefits for all these years and do what his employee tells him to do. Isn’t it strange?

Consequently, people at the local level should be able to decide on nationwide issues. Why not? They meet, discuss, consult with experts, then vote in their own municipalities. Then votes in the whole country are counted and a decision is made. It’s called democracy.

The Transition initiatives that are spreading across the UK and other parts of the world is democracy in action. Participatory democracy doesn’t need a special law to be enforced. Formal regulations may be useful, but they are not obligatory. All it takes is that the mayor of the city accepts the recommendations decided upon by the local community. And when the mayor doesn’t want to listen? Than the local community can dismiss him or her and choose somebody else. The important benefit of the Transition initiatives is that thanks to regular meetings they provide a rich social life and stronger social ties. People living in one city can get to know each other better and work together in many ways.

Our current global economy was not designed to enhance community life. Its aim is to maximize profits. It depends on excessive consumption to provide jobs. We can make it greener, we can improve resource efficiency, energy efficiency, water productivity, we can recycle materials, use biodegradable plastics etc. But still, we need the consumer lifestyle to power it. Yet, the consumer lifestyle is not the way of the human being.… We don’t need all that stuff to be happy. Life can be simple, fun and meaningful with less gadgets, less cars, less stuff. To achieve that we need to create locally self-sufficient economies and to renew democracy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Editorial Notes ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Marcin graduated with a Ph.D. in political studies, from the University of Gdansk, Poland, with his thesis: “The idea and practice of sustainable development in the context of global challenges”.

Original article available here

Is It a Technical Problem?

The unhappy events of a week ago brought home the fact that the crises we face is a spiritual one and not a technical one. I remember listening to Janaia Donaldson's interview on peakmoment tv of Richard Heinberg in her interview called "The Calm Before the Storm". He spoke about the fact that he had predicted what was currently happening quite some time ago. Now that it is actually happening, he noted that the experience of it is quite different, really frightening in a way.

I was one of those add ducks who also was aware of what was coming some time ago, but have not been anywhere near as effective in contributing to positive change as Richard has been. I built a passive solar house some 16 years ago and have become somewhat effective in developing sustainable gardening practices based on the great work of Eliot Coleman amongst others. None of this was terribly difficult and took all that much effort. If you can believe the statistics regarding daily television watching in the US, my efforts were a fraction of that amount of time. Reading books on composting makes it sound much more complicated than it is, all you need access to grass clipping and leaves and you are good to go. All things that are readily available here in New England, and still thrown away in large quantities.

The unhappy event I am referring to is the trampling to death of a retail chain employee who opened the door to "Christmas" shoppers in hunt of bargains. So excited were they about their holiday bargains and the gifts they were going to give in Christ's name that they barely noticed the dead human being that was beneath their feet.

Hearing about events like that makes wish that the Great Turning as David Korten calls it had come and went some time ago. At the same time the terror of the imperial structure collapsing before the Earth Community is in place can be overwhelming. All of the complex commercial structures and systems that we have constructed still have their foundation in the daily activities of each one of us. Organic gardening is vastly more effective than industrial farming in producing food at any scale, we can feed the current population of the planet if we put our minds to it. We can live healthy, happy and fulfilling lives consuming a fraction of the energy and resources that we currently consume, a minute fraction! But we still don't believe it, we are still looking for the magic bullet, we still believe that the transformation as a technical problem, not a spiritual one.

Cob Oven Building Workshop

All geared for the workshop tomorrow morning. Please find attached the plan we will be using for our Basic Cob Oven.

Travel Blog 1: Europe

Old European cities are sometimes looked upon as examples we should strive for in relocalisation. They were built before the age of car, using walkable city design and robust public transport systems like trains and metros or subways. Daily needs were sourced locally. When we visited western Europe, we looked for those sorts elements and how they fit into modern European life. What we found was very telling. Click on any of the photos or links for more.

Istrice pajama party One of our favourite places in Italy was Siena. There is a very strong sense of community in this city of 55,000 people. We were there just a few days before their twice-annual horse race, Il Palio, that stops Siena in it's tracks- everyone parties! The festivities were ramping up. We stumbled into an entire contrada (district) having an outdoor pajama party late one night. Everyone in the contrada brought home made dishes to share. We were very warmly welcomed to join them in the celebration and were lucky to try many local favourites while the revelers around us sang and danced and laughed. Imagine that kind of tight knit friendship and sense of community in Bundaberg. Click here to see photos.

Siena is a hill town, and the streets of the city are narrow, windy and very steep. Transportation generally consists of very small cars, lots and lots of scooters, pedestrian traffic and a few buses.

Another common sight in Siena and other towns throughout Italy were the "specialty grocery stores" that sell regional meats, cheeses, wines, olive oils, etc. This Consorzio Agrario Siena, or the Siena Farmers' Consortium, has been a farmers' co-op since 1901. It offers training, assistance and consultancy to local farms and promotes local products.

Venetian View I Many large cities that we visited in Italy were largely disappointing in terms of sustainability. It seems they no longer produce anything - they rely predominantly on tourism to keep afloat, selling cheaply made but expensive trinkets, t-shirts and junk food to visitors. Venice was especially alarming- while the city is lovely in photos, the canals (a main means of transportation in this city of islands) were clogged with tourist gondolas and fast boats bringing pallets of soft drinks and bottled water to the docks, leaving with rubbish. The narrow walking paths between buildings smelled of urine. Trash was left, unbagged, outside your building to be picked up- or not. Some piazzas are crumbling, marred by graffiti and choked with tourists.

We learned that for us, green space is the saving grace of cities like Venice (or any other city in the world for that matter). You can find reasonably priced supermarkets like Coop that support the Slow Food movement, get a roast chicken, some fresh mozzarella cheese, some olives and a bottle of wine and sit on the grass and enjoy a quiet picnic as the world goes by. We ended up enjoying parks and gardens in nearly every city we visited throughout our travels, from the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris to Hampstead Heath overlooking London, from the riot of autumn colour in Montreal and New Hampshire to the quiet centre in the maelstrom of New York and San Diego. Bundaberg is blessed to have so much green space.

Local and organic Paris is a massive metropolis with old world sensibilities and some nice sustainability projects that are simply a part of everyday life. Weekly outdoor markets are still very commonplace. This stall sold all organic produce, much of it locally grown. The drawback was that two artichokes and two cloves of garlic (with a "free" cloth bag) added up to 11 Euros, or over $21 Australian dollars at today's conversion rates. Ouch!!! London was also very onboard with organic food, and we saw a great deal of it in every grocery and supermarket. The prices were closer to those for "conventional" food. The problem there was that nearly ALL fresh fruits and vegetables, organic or otherwise, were packaged on a styrofoam tray and wrapped in plastic!

Velib Bicycle ShareSomething we saw being used with great success in Paris was the Velib bicycle program, 20,000 bicycles available at 1,450 stations throughout the city, available via subscription. We saw people of all kinds taking advantage of the bikes. Between them and Paris' wonderful metro system with its well maintained underground stops, for many people there's little need to own a car. According to Wikipedia, "as of 2007, similar schemes are also in effect in other European cities, including Aix-en-Provence, Caen (V'eol), Rouen, Barcelona (Bicing), Brussels, Copenhagen, Lyon (Vélo'v), Nantes (Bicloo), Toulouse, Marseille, Stockholm, Pamplona (Cemusa), OYBike, Call a Bike (Berlin, Frankfurt, Cologne, Stuttgart, Munich, Karlsruhe), Copenhagen/Helsinki/Aarhus (CIOS), Oslo, Sandnes, Seville (Sevici) and Vienna. A scheme has also been proposed for London." Our friend Melinda in Rennes, France also told us about the SmartBike scheme in her town, that's been renting bikes to residents for free since 1998.

Yep, western Europe has some real sustainability gems that you can find without even looking. But like Australia, they too have a long way to go.

From Europe we headed to North America, where train transport is nearly unheard of and metros or subways are only in a few big cities. The car is king. We still found some fantastic sustainable examples, which I'll share in a later post.

Another successful garage sale!

Hi SustainaBundy subscribers! Dean and I are back in Australia after a wonderful and eye opening trip overseas. I'll share some of the things we learned in future posts, but first let's see a little of what happened this past weekend!

All the action on Sunday was at the SustainaBundy Garage Sale at the Bundaberg North Progress Hall.

Folks "buying second hand first."

SustainaBundy Guidebooks, "got local?" stickers and memberships were also for sale, and people could browse the SustainaBundy scrap book to see everything we've been up to.

It was yet another successful effort in working for a Sustainable Bundaberg Region. Thanks to everyone who participated- we'll see you at the next one!

Don't forget, this coming Sunday December 15th is the cob oven workshop. Read more about it here.


Andi Hazelwood

Hamilton report and task force

Two posts at the Post-Carbon Cities site -

"Hamilton, Ont. creates task force to study city's energy vulnerabilities"
"The City Council of Hamilton, Ontario approved $35,000 for the creation of a Community Energy Collaborative to explore the city's energy supply vulnerabilities. The task force will look at economic, social and environmental sustainability and urban planning"

"Hamilton, Ont. report and recommendation regarding Peak Oil study"
"This report and recommendation were submitted to the City Council of Hamilton, Ontario on November 18, 2008. It details the steps Hamilton has taken to date on the issue of peak oil, and recommends the creation of a volunteer peak oil task force based on the model of Portland, Oregon. The council approved funding for the task force on December 8, 2008."

Trying to find others interested in...

My husband and I have been reading and discussing peak oil and the economy for sometime. We made a move so that our family work sustainability. However, I feel the need to see my local community move in a more sustianable direction. However, taking the community step hasn't been easy. I have been thinking there maybe others out there thinking the same thing. So I have created a yahoo group SustainableMO for those wanting looking to implement change in Missouri, but may think they are alone. Hopefully, this will lead to more relocalization groups in Missouri!

Is the green building revolution bypassing Bucks County?

GREEN BUILDERS: A Green Revolution Takes Root in the Garden State, is the next video offering by the ECLA PA, the Post Carbon Institute's voice in Bucks County. Their monthly video-discussion series will feature this NJN documentary on December 12 in Warminster. The video shows what a green building is, the advantages they offer, and the remarkable growth of this movement just across the Delaware River in New Jersey.

Thanks to a virtual cornucopia of state grants and incentives a first wave of innovative green design projects large and small have already hit the ground. NJN's Green Builders profiles a cast of green building pioneers who have taken the leap into making their part of the "built environment" a more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly place. Many of the pioneers shown in this documentary are from this area, but find more opportunities in Jersey.

Green Builders will be shown in the Astronaut's Auditorium at the historic Centrifuge Building located at 780 Falcon Circle (at the former Johnsville Naval Air Development Center). Starting time is 7 PM and the admission is free. The discussion will focus on local barriers to green building. The discussion will be lead by ECLA PA Coordinator, Larry Menkes, an advisor to a major green project that is scheduled for 2009 in nearby Ivyland. The Centrifuge Building is scheduled for a green makeover and will be the site of a new, green aerospace museum.

For information call 267.992.8020 or email
Contact: Larry Menkes 215.328.9128 or 267.992.8020 (cell)

A quiet green revolution is taking place all over the world, from the city of Masdar in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates to the Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park in New York. When it comes to green architecture they don’t get much greener than that. The revolution in green building is important for slowing global climate change and literally insulating building owners from rising energy costs. Building green is recognized as the most fiscally responsible choice and is growing exponentially across the world.

But in Southeastern Pennsylvania, green building projects lag behind much of the United States and the world. Although it has vowed to become the greenest city in the US, Philadelphia is ranked 24th in a list of the top 50 cities for green buildings. Many of the regions best green builders are working almost exclusively in New Jersey because of a lack of incentives and local ignorance about the benefits of green buildings.

Philly has a lot of competition for the green title, especially from San Francisco, which currently ranks as number six. The U.S. West Coast has long been a leader in green buildings. California has mandated such energy efficient new construction by 2020 and three European Union countries have already adopted a higher standard known as Passive House (the Energy Performance Buildings Directive). The rest of the EU is scheduled to follow by 2009 or shortly after.

According to the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, the single greatest barrier to Green Building is a lack of political will and strong leadership at the top levels of government. Since they identify the probable cause is an educational gap, the Green Builders video discussion is a step toward bringing this essential information to area citizens and interested local leaders.

There is no single way to build green. Green Builders takes a wide-ranging look at a variety of approaches and levels of commitment, and at the individuals who have helped turn green building theory into reality. These individuals are not just builders and designers; they’re teachers and homeowners, corporate leaders and academic specialists, leaders of institutions and universities as well as renegade inventors. From The Willow School to PNC Bank to the first solar-hydrogen home called The Hopewell Project, people talk about why they made the move to go green, what the challenges were, and how their project has fared. In most cases, one finds that a green building project has more to do with smart planning and a mindset change about energy use than expensive technologies or consumer sacrifice. Innovation helps, and there are plenty of innovations included in Green Builders that are making green technology effective and affordable. Geothermal storage, wind farms and extensive solar array systems are examined in the program. As the stories in the documentary demonstrate, it is crucial for us to change our perspective on how we build, recognizing the wasteful impacts of the traditional mode of building and operating our structures, and realizing the environmental and economic benefits of building green. Only then will the green building movement be successful.

CHANGING YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT: Collectively Building the Foundation for a Movement

The individuals in Green Builders have made the move to building green without suffering, sacrificing, or experimenting with a wispy might-happen. These are real projects on the ground, working businesses and college campuses that prove you can change your carbon footprint once you change your way of looking at how a structure operates. Collectively, the green builders are building the foundation for a more widespread movement toward making America’s built environment less harmful to the dwindling supply of healthy natural resources and even less expensive to operate. Their homes and offices are the proving grounds for green building, and their personal experiences reveal that building greener is less complicated and expensive than you probably thought, and more rewarding in the long run.

November Education - Action Meeting

November 11 Education – Action Meeting: Transition Initiatives was the focus, presented by Houston in the second of our three part meeting.

Part I: Updates

Peter let us know the following:

Oil is $59.40 today. OPEC plans December and January meetings to determine decreases to oil production to raise the prices.

Consumption in the US is decreased by ½ million barrels per day but jet fuel is down 16% in usage while automobile usage is only 2% decreased. People are using more gasoline again.

Infrastructure investments are down.

Saudi’s are curtailing projects for oil development.

The IEA will soon release their oil market report for the year. For the first time they will be indicating that the current rends in gasoline supply and demand for oil are unsustainable. Key judgment is that 30 million barrels per day of new production capacity will be needed by 2015 and we can’t make it.

The US car industry is collapsing. If Bush does not bail them out it may be too late by the time Obama becomes president. Ford has 7 months of money available only.

Auto sales and air travel is declining in China and the economy only grew by 5% this quarter. China’s prime minister made a speech on global warming stating the world is facing an emergency and China will have to act, but the U.S. and other industrialized nations will have to pay for solving the problems. China has to have 8% growth in their economy to keep up with their population growth.

Governor Kulongoski is recommending $1 billion influx into the state’s transportation system, but that is mostly about roads, bridges and infrastructure. Money is to be raised by increasing fuel tax and car title fees.

Oregon transportation could benefit from Obama, who could send a lot of trust money to Oregon for light rails, buses. Earl Blumenhauer has been discussing trust money with Obama, who was very impress by the bike, light rail, transit system here in Portland.

Bob asked why there has been such a dramatic drop in oil price. Peter stated that just 3 years ago oil was $10/barrel. The price has collapsed because the demand now does nt reach the supply. Before we always had exactly the supply we needed. Then suddenly supply did not reach demand, the price went up and up. Then with the housing crisis, the hurricane, people were using less and suddenly supply exceeded demand, which is a very new circumstance. And this is a worldwide phenomenum. Even a 1% difference makes for one million barrel of oil no one can sell. Even China has a glut of oil. But as soon as economies get better, the price of oil will shoot up.
Ellen talked about the World Food Crisis per the Washington Post. October 16 was World Food Day, which started 30 years ago. Food price is catastrophic in the developing world:
6.7 billion: world population
923 million: under-nourished in the world, comsuming less that the minimum calories necessary for minimum bodily funcitn.
1.4 billion: living on $1.25 per day or less
300 million: U.S. population
29 million: food stamp recipients in the U.S.
$7/day: for family of four on food stamps
72 million: obese people in the U.S.
33%: % of Americans who are obese
$3.16: two 2-liter Cike Classic
$6.29: 1 liter organic milk
How much do you spend per day on food?

Gene: Fast food is another word for “corn.” Fast food is essentially nothing but corn.
Food stamp recipients have to eat poorly at that is food that is economically available to them. 80% of food that we consume in the U.S. is wheat, corn, soybeans. Most of the beef available is an example as the cow eats wheat, corn and soybeans. All prepared foods are 80% wheat, corn, soybean.

Part 2: Preparation

Houston presented on Transition Initiative, using the Transition Handbook, which he considers a must-do project. The text of the Handbook is put together quite creatively and it’s very good. It has three sections: Head, Heart, Hands.

Head: Peak oil and climate change is inevitable.
Heart: Positive vision is crucial.
Hands: Exploring transition models for inspiring local resilience building.

Peak oil and climate change are inter-mixed, and are twin drivers for change in how we live. Transition Initiative leaders has shown awareness tools, showing movies like Crude Awakening and others to the public. According to Rob Hopkins, author of the Handbook, NYC has 1/3 of carbon footprint of most Americans, but no resilience, couldn’t feed it’s self if the food supply goes down. Portland’s Peak Oil Task Force report was referenced in the Handbook. Best choice for useful transition: healthy functioning that we will have with which our needs will be met in the future. I.e., don’t talk doom and gloom.

Peak oil and climate change will create PPSD (peak petroleum stress disorder). A resilient community is one that is able to function indefinitely, live within its limits and thrive for having done so. It’s important to develop strong inner resources for this journey, a journey which will last beyond our lives. It takes an inner strength and convictions. We need to be able to transcend doom, avoidance, paralysis.
We have become addicted to a way of life that is ending. Motivational Interviewing: originally developed to work with people who are overcoming addictions, violent behaviors. It is based on stages of changes, from pre-contemplation, to contemplation, to preparation, then action and finally maintenance. The interviewing enables opportunities for listening, sharing feelings. Transition Initiatives has a lot of town meetings, brainstorming ideas with lots of people, to start seeing a new possibility and start harnessing the power of a positive vision. Motivational Interviewing is a freeing mechanism that engages a lot of people to articulate a vision, develop enthusiasm and excitement. They even have workshops for visioning for 2030 with projects such as making up newspaper articles about things happening such as opening up a nursery in a former parking lot, to get people excited about what could be.

This section has steps for actually starting the Transition Model. One way is to have concrete goals, such as every 16 y.o. would know how to plant seeds. Transition Towns have spread like wildfire in just two years, all in England and a few in New Zealand, Australia, and one in the U.S. (Boulder, CO). People involved in Transition Initiative work with energy consumption, and act collectively, as we all will have to do. It is about the develop of local markets, local food, going green locally, local energy, local currency.
It starts with awareness and engagement of the community, rather thatn starting with government policy.

Part 3, Projects

We will show the Movie, What a Way to Go, at our Dec. E-A meeting.

Peak Oil Film Festival in the spring:
Gene wondered if we could get a movie shown at the Venetian Theater in Hillsboro. Ellen will look into that. Donna will contact McMenamin’s in Forest Grove about showing movies. Hillsboro Library is free, the room hold 60-80 people. Tigard Library is a consideration.

Lisa has already gotten information about the Beaverton Library, which requires a refundable deposit. Since the rooms close at 8:30 in the evenings, perhaps we should consider Saturday afternoons as evenings would have to start at 6:30 which is too early.

Gene suggested we start with planning to show three movies.

Carpools: we discussed starting carpooling to meetings.

October Education-Action Meeting

October E-A Meeting Recap

Part 1, Update:

Peter provided many vital pieces of news concerning peak oil:

• There has been a recent crash of the oil market, as we know. The price had gone as low as $78/barrel, now is $88. Everyone thinks the oil catastrophe is over and starting to go back to their merry ways of driving around. But this reprieve in prices is only temporary.
• Good news: Oil depletion is being slowed down to a lower rate of depletion by the financial crisis, but, not by much.
• There will be substantial reductions in oil availability for next year.
• China is buying much more oil.
• The current price of oil is now less than it costs to produce oil from most sources. A lot of oil projects went off-line as a result, which will further reduce supplies over time.
• OPEC is considering decreasing their production, after the elections in the U.S.
• The number of natural gas injections into storage are above average, which is good news, with lots of natural gas currently available. We have a glut in the U.S. Most of this gas is coming from Texas due to new technology of horizontal drilling.
• European dependence on Russian gas is dangerous partly because of future supply shortfalls, not because Russia may cut off supplies over tensions with the West.
• Diesel is becoming a big problem. Due to Canadian refinery maintenance, truck stops in Western Canada are not getting supplies."
• China is trying to reinstate rationing of driving like they had during the Olympics.
• U.S. oil production in Texas is slowly coming back online following the hurricanes, but according to operator reports it is estimated that approximately 43.3 % of the oil production in the Gulf is still shut-in. As of June 2008, estimated oil production from the Gulf of Mexico was 1.3 million barrels of oil per day. It is also estimated that approximately 38.2 % of the natural gas production in the Gulf is shut-in. As of June 2008, estimated natural gas production from the Gulf of Mexico was 7.0 billion cubic feet of gas per day.
• U.S. gasoline prices may go below $3/gal due to the lack of confidence by speculators. (AS of 10/20 Hillsboro Costco was $2.863.)
• Federal energy incentives chiefly benefit oil and natural gas with nuclear and alternative energy lagging behind. In the 2006 energy incentives, oil had 46% of the total funding, natural gas 14%, coal 13%, hydro 11%, nuclear 9%, renewable 6%, geothermal 1%.

Donna presented updates from Oregonian articles: “Sure, We Want Stuff, But do We Need It?,” “Look out for a Global Warming Land Rush: Climate Change is at the door, and It could bring a LOT of Friends to Oregon,” “Looking for the Happiest Place on Earth?,” and “Growing Lunch.”

Peter recommended going to for a great 7 minute video.

Part 2, Preparation. Topic for this month: Political Involvement.

Donna started the presentation with information from Peak Oil Prep by Mick Winter regarding political involvement on local, state and national government levels. The suggestion in the book that stood out the most for us was advocacy for passenger railroad services.

Peter noted that Congress is increasing the Amtrak budget. And we discussed that we need railroad mogul. We concurred that getting involved in Amtrak advocacy could be a great way to go. Donna and Laine to look into Amtrak organizations.

In response to ideas from Peak Oil Prep regarding local government influence, Laine talked about Orenco starting to work with infill compatability, which would allow for starting to look at building commercial centers within residential communities.
Standards can be developed including diversity of housing. Laine to put information on the infill efforts on our WCPO website.

Bob presented on the energy positions of the two major presidential candidates. He did well with staying non-partisan. Bob plans to put his presentation on our website, in part to have pre-election policies proposals for a reference after either one gets elected and becomes president.

Peter offered to find out and let us know the names of the energy advisors for Obama and for McCain. Would be good to tell them of the wave technology being developed in Oregon if they are not aware of it yet.

[Note: since then Peter did his research: The advisors are - For John McCain, James R. Wollsey, former CIA Director and principle in the Oil Shockwave scenario's with "Securing America's Future Energy (SAFE)" organization. For Barack Obama, it's Jason Grumet, Executive Director of the National Commission on Energy Policy.]

Part 3, Projects

a. Personal Projects

Lisa noted it is time to start saving staples such as rice, beans, lentils, dried fruit, etc. If there is a food shortage, you don’t have to be standing in long lines at the grocery during those periods of time.

Rocket Stoves were discussed. They can be made relatively simply using #10 cans and #5 cans and other simple materials. They get very hot with just use of constantly feeding in twigs, and can be used camping, and for emergency use at home. They get very hot, so use on gravel or ground but not on grass or concrete. And don’t use in the garage because of oil drips on the floor could ignite. And that would be bad.

Peter recommended going to Portland Box Company (or maybe it is Portland Packaging Co.) for 30 and 50 gallon drums, all cleaned out. You can buy 50 pound bags of rice and beans so you have food for a month and you won’t panic. The 50 pound bags be subdivided into smaller, useable packages, like gallon size bags that can be grabbed without disturbing the rest. You fill the barrel with the rice and been. Fill with dry ice and keep the lid partially off until the dry ice evaporates, then seal the barrel and most of the air is out.

If the city suddenly has no water: Shut off your main valve yourself. Then you have all the water in your home in the hot water tank and the toilet and it will stay there.

Lehman Brothers sells Amish supplies, including non-electric supplies.

b. Group Projects

Our book club will be, most likely, in World Cup at Powell’s in Beaverton, rather than in the store area, at this point.

Film series on Peak Oil: We could set a 3 or 4 week series of films on Peak Oil issues, probably at this point for spring of 2009. Places we could provide the series were discussed and members will be looking into the possibilities.

Ways we can be of greater support and in fuller contact with each other as time goes on were discussed as part of community building efforts.

Save the humans

(By Erland Howden)


From Mark Hertsgaard's article
"Our Polar Bears, Ourselves" -

"What's missing from most discussions about endangered species is that preserving other species is not an act of charity; it is essential to our own survival. 'Endangered species issues are usually seen as humans versus nature--we act in favor of one or the other--and that's just not the case,' says Aaron Bernstein, a fellow at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard and an editor (with Eric Chivian) of Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity. 'Polar bears hold tremendous value to medicine, for example," explains Bernstein. 'There is something about the metabolism of female polar bears that allows them to put on tremendous amounts of fat before winter but not become Type 2 diabetic. We don't understand how they do it yet, but this research is hugely important for the tens of millions of people who suffer from Type 2 diabetes.'

But human dependence on other species is even broader. 'We need [ants] to survive, but they don't need us at all,' notes naturalist E.O. Wilson in a quote Bernstein and Chivian include in Sustaining Life. Without ants (and countless other underground species that will never be the subject of impassioned environmental appeals) to ventilate the soil, the earth would rot, halting food production. Without trees and other elements of a healthy forest, water supplies would shrink. Take away coral reefs and you destroy the bottom of the marine food chain. Global warming is on track to make as much as one-quarter of all plant and animal species on earth extinct by 2040, threatening general ecosystem collapse. To study the natural world is to realize, in the words of the environmental axiom, that everything is connected. What we do to the polar bears, we do to ourselves."


I addressed similar issues and imagery in this post -
"Endangered species"


(Photo by Steven Lee)


I'm connecting these 'save humans' messages to global warming, more than other issues.

If you think this 'save the humans' message is too over-the-top, I challenge you to go through these posts -
- "More global warming"
- "While we consume fossil fuels …"
- "Global warming and other energy & carbon -related crises — as well as associated interests"


Another 'save humans' T-shirt design -

(Those t-shirts are sold from the "It's Getting Hot in Here" web site.)


'Save the humans' messages also are warranted in light of nuclear technologies --
to give another important example

Toban Black

I'm Onboard the Freedom Train

I'm in the midst of writing a brief for an immigrant client whose story is a classic of sub-prime lending and the foreclosure vultures. pro bono. It will be a thin holiday this year.

After I'm finished, this weekend I will be putting together materials for a seminar I'm teaching with two other land use and environmental lawyers on December 12 in Sacramento. I was doing research for that project when I came upon Post Carbon Cities and the Relocalization network. I am really jazzed that I can share this perspective with those who might be attending.

The seminar is Climate Change: Local Government Response. When we put it together we didn't yet know whether SB 375 would be passed and then signed into law by the government. We bet that it would and we got lucky. My passionate belief is that the California Air Resources Board top-down regulatory command and control approach to curbing GhG emissions is not the best way forward. This revolution (and that is what it will have to be) must be led and sustained from the bottom up.

Those who are asking for the state to set stricter goals for regions and localities had best consider whether that is they world they really want to live in. Shouldn't they rather be leading their locality and region to set a standard for others to match and the state to be able to point to as it catalogs best practices and adaptive strategies that suit a wide range of conditions and local circumstances? We can set the bar higher than the state could dare. Some places may lag for a bit until we can prove life is better freed from carbon dependence. Then it is they who will want to catch up.

The initiative and involvement at a local level, and the realization that collaboration on a regional basis is essential to have sufficient scale to address the problem and bring about solutions that best suit the geography, economy, politics and culture of each locality by people who know that locality intimately is what this movement must be all about. The state's role should be to provide the tools, the flexibility and the resources for localities to get the job done, and get out of the way -- not micromanage every iota of our lives.

Climate Change and peak oil will either jolt us into re-energizing small "d" democracy or to giving way to bureaucratic fanaticism and fear mongering that will be just a further push along our continuing road to fascism. Whether is the big oil of W & Co or environmentalists who truly believe they know best how to protect us from ourselves, it matters little. We must exercise our freedom and creativity to build a sustainable quality of life where we live, with our neighbors, not wait for the next directive from Sacramento or Washington, or where ever, that will lock us into drab, safe, uniform little cubicles because that is all they can imagine.

I'm for a world that is rich, and messy and colorful and diverse and passionate and engaged, more open and creative. I'm not for a world of rule followers and timidity and "safe" and where equitable means uniform. How about you?

Masters of the Universe

It is some what humorous that Robert Hirsch has taken that tact of asking the peak oil community to pipe down. As if commentary from the peak oil community could effect the course of the current unfolding of global economic crisis! It amazes me that the whole concept of "perceptions" has so much currency even in the IU (insane universe). "If we all just believe that the economy is OK it really will become OK" the cool aid drinking Master of the Universe keep telling us. To delude others, I guess you must first thoroughly delude yourself.

It reminds me of the scene from "Its a wonderful Life" when there is a run on the Building & Loan Association. Jimmy Stewart (George Bailey) convinces everybody, in a bit of small town warm and fuzzies, that they couldn't take their money out of the bank is because their money was tied up in their neighbors houses. I guess that the prevailing presumption amongst the elite is that the average American can't understand the nature of the fractional reserve banking system (or if they did, they would be headed with pick forks and torches to there nearest banking institution). Of course what the movie doesn't reveal is that based on the dollar they deposited with the Bedford Falls Building & Loan Association the bank loaned their neighbor $100. Where there is no fundamental understanding, belief in the system is required for the system to function.

This foundation of belief without understanding has been taken to extremes in modern industrial society. The shenanigans and out and out criminality of Wall Street has been cloaked in jargon to give it a feel of legitimacy. The fact that the GDP is now 70% consumption based, we're spending 10 calories of energy to generate 1 calorie of food energy, the domestic savings rate has been in negative territory for a number of years, and we have been running massive trade deficits for years has not penetrated the collective consciousness yet. Our largest employer is Walmart and the biggest sector of our economy is "Financial Services". There seems to be absolutely no understanding regarding the need to have an industry that is a primary wealth producer that can support all these secondary and service industries (green or otherwise). The emperor has no clothes!

Abstractions, specialization, and ignorance has turned our economy into a bizarre cult where cool aid drinking is required so that our collective positive feelings and carefully nurtured and guided speech can pull us out of this crisis. We have grown up with essentially free energy in the form of fossil fuel which has allowed this cult to arise. At this point no chatter from blogisphere is stopping this boulder from coming down the hill.

In my first and somewhat abstract blog entry I was making the point that even well intentioned groups are on the cool aid. We have to slowly, respectfully and carefully withdraw our energy from the IU into the real and stay there as long as we can. As often as we can.

Homeless polar bears

More polar bear protestors -


Those photos are from September, 2008; and there are more of them here.

There are videos and background information here.

An artist named Mark Jenkins was involved in this project
( -- and in another street scene that is part of this blog entry -
"Highlighting not-so-hidden homelessness")



As I've said before, I don't think it makes strategic sense to stress how global warming threatens polar bears and other arctic wildlife.

Even if we should care about those animals, how many of us ever will care (much)
about them?

And how many of us would act on those feelings?

I think it's clear that most people wouldn't do much for the sake of those animals;
so we should focus on other problems and opportunities as we confront global warming.


Toban Black
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