Blogs

Leaving behind the automobiles


(A photo taken by "Idiolector")

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Arrol Gellner on why we shouldn't take automobiles for granted -

"Cars in their present form are no more a permanent fixture of our built environment than were the oxcart, the chariot, or the horse and buggy. We happen to live in the historical apogee of the internal-combustion automobile, but even the smallest degree of historical perspective makes plain that it's merely a temporary visitor -- and an increasingly troublesome one -- on planet Earth."

"History has a way of casually demolishing institutions that seem impregnable, and the internal combustion automobile is surely one of these. Something better, simpler and kinder to the earth is no doubt on the way, assuming that we're smart enough to welcome it."

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Here on the Relocalization Network, Shelby Tay has posted about how to "curb spending on gas and all the related costs of car ownership while still getting around."

(... "some examples of community activities that help us make the transition towards reducing and replacing the ol' automobile." ...)

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Toban Black
(http://tobanblack.net/blog/?p=728)

General Motors automobile murals in Oshawa, Ontario

In downtown Oshawa, Ontario (in August)

With the exception of that last image, all of these photos were taken outside of a bus terminal. The first four murals are beside a busy road -- that is, a road which lot of car drivers use. If you look closely you'll see cars reflected in windows in those photos.

(On the map on Flickr, the photos were taken around here.)

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These murals celebrate automobiles in general, and General Motors automobiles in particular. They're a form of advertising.

Did the city government pay to have them put up?

Regardless of where the money came from, I think the presence of these murals downtown is telling; it's an indication of how entrenched the automobile industry is in the city.

The headquarters of General Motors Canada is in Oshawa, where there is also a General Motors plant -- and various related business operations (including at least one automobile inspection company).

(Decades ago, there were two General Motors plants in Oshawa. However, over the past 20 years, one of these plants was sold off and then eventually shut down.)

Oshawa and Windsor (another city in Ontario -- near Detroit) are the main centres of automobile production in Canada. Oshawa sometimes has been called a "Motor City." (Was that the official slogan for the city at one time? I think it might have been) (Now the city is marketed with the slogan "Prepare to be amazed"!)

There's a car museum in Oshawa.

Here's some information about the history of the automobile industry in Oshawa -
- en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Motors_Canada
- en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McLaughlin_automobile
- en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_McLaughlin

The McLaughlin mansion is a major local tourist site. In Oshawa, the main library branch and one of the high schools also are called "McLaughlin"; the only local art gallery (in a city of almost 150,000 people) is "The Robert McLaughlin Gallery"; there is a "McLaughlin" armoury; and there now is a large "McLaughlin" cancer centre in Oshawa. However, in my experience, people there don't see those connections; it seems that they don't notice those links with General Motors.

I grew up in Oshawa, where I lived for over 20 years. Now I often criticize automobiles, while promoting alternative forms of transportation.
Here are some relevant blog posts - http://tobanblack.net/blog/?tag=transportation

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A post about General Motors -
GM - ‘We need cars that are a little greener’

General Motors and Oshawa also were mentioned in this post -
Gas prices!

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Toban Black
(http://tobanblack.net/blog/?p=658)
Creative Commons License
 

SustainaBundy in the Library

Look for SustainaBundy-donated reading materials and DVDs now available in the public library, including books about permaculture, organic gardening and sustainable building. DVDs include The End of Suburbia, Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil and An Inconvenient Truth.
Just ask library staff for more!

A letter to city hall regarding the Meadowlily retail development proposal

A letter to the municipal goverment in London, Ontario
from the Post-Carbon London steering committee:
(regarding issues that you can learn more about here and — if you dig through recent posts at the following site — here).

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London Councillors and City Staff:

The proposed big box retail complex -- far from core areas of London, at 168 Meadowlily Road South -- would further increase our dependency on automobiles and fossil fuels, while leading to further destruction of local farmlands and carbon sinks. This proposal is completely unacceptable, given how it is increasing clear that global warming and fossil fuel depletion (including worldwide "peak oil") are realities that we must face. The sooner our city recognizes these facts and begins taking major steps toward embracing this reality, the better off we will be. While we proactively face fossil fuel depletion and global warming challenges, we also can confront smog, oil spills, and various other social and environmental problems associated with the consumption, distribution, and extraction of fossil fuels.

We must refuse to accept development projects that continue to contribute to global warming. A retail complex far from the core of the city is at odds with these important goals, as consumers will tend to reach such retail outlets in cars -- an inefficient mode of transportation.

In addition, the infrastructure required to support this new retail shopping plaza will be an enormous waste. Although proponents will say that these up front costs will be paid for with development fees and taxes, London will be on the hook for all the maintenance and surrounding upgrades required. In an energy constrained future, the cost of attempting to maintain this infrastructure will be an unnecessary burden on Londoners.

Moreover, we should be preserving precious local farmlands toward the outskirts of inhabited areas of the city -- with the Meadowlily woods, and surrounding carbon sinks. Yet, another heavily trafficked big box retail complex would be a magnet for further construction -- over what presently are important farmlands and carbon sinks that we still can preserve.

Important changes can happen at the local and community level. Our city hall should be a centre of proactive change to help residents to deal with looming energy constraints, while -- at the same time -- mitigating ongoing global warming. This means that our mode of business as usual needs to change; but London does not have to be anti-business to make these changes. Instead, we should support businesses which are suited to a lower carbon and lower energy future. We should not be making choices that clearly are a holdover from a past when we did not understand global warming and energy constraints.

Given the aforementioned grounds for grave concerns about this proposal, London city planners and councillors should stand firm by rejecting this submission, which promotes further steps away from sustainability. Approving this development proposal would be an enormous mistake.

Sincerely,
Post-Carbon London

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The Post-Carbon London steering committee co-wrote the above statement (and I don't mean to suggest otherwise by posting it on this blog).

Tonight I was the one from the group who presented a nearly identical version of this letter to the London municipal planning committee at a public participation meeting (which followed an earlier rally to oppose the big box retail development discussed in the above letter).

September Education - Action Meeting

We had our first meeting on September 9, second Tuesday of the month, using our new format for education - action meetings.

Peter and Donna started us off with updates on the world energy situation. Already there are many places in the world with significant energy shortages. Our jobless rates hit hits highest point in 5 years. State and federal governments have less revenue as people are driving less which is lowering the amount gathered by gas taxes. And, the price of oil is going down, but, not the price of gasoline at the pump...for various reasons.

Cal then gave a presentation on food production concepts for the years ahead when food will not be so easily available in grocery stores. Cal covered subjects of gardening, composting, community gardens, food storage and cooking. Peter, by the way, gave us all lots of tomatoes from his garden.

We ended with a discussion about our organizations' name and if it is a barrier to people wanting to come to the meetings. The main outcome of the discussion is that the choosing of a name has to do with the purpose of the group, and maybe it is time to redefine or reclarify the purpose of our organization. Nathan and Ivy agreed to be a subcommittee on this topic and have since posted a forum piece to foster discussion over the coming weeks until our next meeting.

Thank you to all who came and to everyone who contributed to the meeting!

Community education and self-directed learning

Home Grown OrganicsCommunity-based education is at the crux of relocalization and learning about local adaptations for developing self-reliance and overall community resilience. There are many examples of "The Great Re-Skilling" that is taking place around the world, as more and more are people taking an interest in knowing how to produce the things they need themselves and as a community through activities ranging from food preservation to small-scale energy production. Projects have developed as responses to local and global food security issues, general health and environmental quality, and as a celebration of community spirit, local culture and sense of place.

Here in Halifax, Nova Scotia, a couple blocks from where we live, there's a little organic produce shop run out of the back of one of the houses called Home Grown Organic Foods and with a demonstration organic garden on-site along with a community composter, their ultimate mission is to help people to grow their own food. Bike Again is another community-driven volunteer-run program here in Halifax that offers instruction and resources for anyone interested in taking up cycling. Participants recycle and refurbish used bicycles with the goal of reducing land-fill waste and making cycling accessible to all members of the community.
Sustainable Methow Classroom in Bloom

Relocalize.net feature project - In Twisp, Washington, Partnership for a Sustainable Methow is actively building on their mission "to initiate, encourage and support activities that foster long-term sustainability and well-being in the Methow Valley community."

Classroom in Bloom, one of their ongoing programs, is an outdoor-centered classroom focused on "awakening senses and connecting healthy lifestyles to school cirrculum and food choices...Students of all ages, K-12th graders join in to help make the garden glorious and bountiful. Some lessons taught in the garden include math skills, problem solving, art, creative thinking, building and science education. Food planted in the garden is used both in the school cafeteria and the Foods class, in order to create nourishing lunches with life and nutrition."

Their most recent project is The Local Source, a directory of local skills, goods and services to help relocalize the community. They are currently gathering info from folks who have a skill, good or service; are located in the Methow watershed; and if a business, are owned locally.

For learn more about their projects, visit them online at www.sustainablemethow.net.


A new rhythm in a new city | part one

office

Living in the midst of things. A few short weeks ago, I packed up my stuff in my hometown of Vancouver, BC and headed East to Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the opposite coast. Halifax is a much smaller city than Vancouver, but is similar in many ways least of which being that it is a port city. There are three universities situated on the peninsula of Halifax, which houses the city centre, and so the student population swells during the September to April months. One of the first things that I noticed was that everything seemed so close by. It was a thrill to be able to walk or bike everywhere and arrive within minutes of leaving. I imagine I'll probably come to appreciate this even more when the rain, wind and fog take over the city. Living close to amenities eliminates any need for a personal vehicle and also means more time saved. Admittedly, having a home office also cuts the commute to zero, as Brendan Koerner of Wired Magazine highlights [Home Sweet Office: Telecommute Good for Business, Employees, and Planet]. 

Getting around town: walk, cycle, ride. Dalhousie along with many other Universities across the continent have negotiated special transit passes for students, the U-Pass. This has a huge impact on ridership and reduced single-occupancy traffic through the city. In British Columbia, the Canadian Federation of Students-BC has launched a campaign called "We Ride: Student Action for Public Transit" that calls on the provincial government to improve the public transit system. There are also loads of cyclists, and very little infrastructure in the form of bike lanes and markings. As Julian Darley remarked when I mentioned this, "That sounds like most cities in North America, except without the cyclists." Well, true that may be. Either way, it's a welcome shift from, as we say, a fuel economy to foot economy.

Reducing energy use in rental places. A huge proportion of students, and the general population, live in rental places and may not have a say in how their home is set up to use energy. Our flat is a duplex in an old house heated with oil and pushed air heating. While the landlord has taken measures to make sure the furnace runs as efficiently as possible, we've been looking for ways to conserve as much as possible (bring on the sweaters and woolly socks). The Australian Department of Energy released a brochure that suggests some measures for reducing energy use in flats and apartments. The US Environmental Protection Agency also has some tips for troubleshooting common household problems that involve little out-of-pocket costs.

street 


Approaching the Tipping Point

A short wrap on some important recent developments in the Lytelton Timebank.

If you have been following our blog then you will know this is three+ years in the making. If this is a first time read then a timebank can be best understood by visiting http://www.timebanks.org/ , essentially it is a system of sharing time. The old practice of reciprocity with a modern twist, on a community wide scale. We believe this type of trading is intrinsic to humanity so relevant as ever for today.

Our Timebank operates in the port town of Lyttelton and surrounds, an area with a population of about 5,000. We are situated in a harbour basin connected to the metropolitan city of Christchurch by a tunnel and a couple of roads over the Port Hills. We are unique in that we are geographically distinct from the city, but only 15 minutes from the centre. If you can also imagine a town that has had its own local council until recently, so still self reliant in many ways. Then on top of all this bedrock we have Project Lyttelton. Project Lyttelton started our farmers market, our community garden, our summer and winter street parties, a local newspaper etc, etc and ... the Lyttelton Timebank.

Do you start to get this picture of a vibrant and sustainable community. Well, we are in the place of becoming and the Timebank is one catalyst. Currently we have 110 members representing almost 10% of households participating in this alternative currency.

We have realised that in the area of the Core Economy there are not the same degree of tools to measure the outcomes of all the sharing, meeting and forming relationships, as there are tools for measuring trading in the Cash Economy. So we recently applied for City Council funding to undertake ethnographic research into the social impacts of the Lyttelton Timebank. We have been forming relationships with researchers and one of our coodinators is a professional in this field. We begun to design a model and will publish our initial findings in one year. We look forward to sharing our observations.

We have also realised that we all like to communicate and share information in a variety of ways. At first there was a degree of 'pump priming' where the core membership of about 20 people intentionally traded within the timebank. We attempted to utilize the trading software as much as possible but as time went on and the membership base grew we employed Jacinda to focus on facilitating trade. We acknwledged that only some members would migrate to using the online trading database, (the software Community Weaver is also an excellent timebank management tool). Some members prefer to be telephoned, some prefer emails, to be texted, to read about the trades in the Lyttelton News, or worked out a trade when meeting another member on the street. How Natural! It is no surprise that the way the timebank works is how sharing and trading has always worked, new technologies have simply added to the choices.

I think we are almost at the tipping point now. Our initial target is 200 members, we believe at that point the timebank will really take on a life of its own. Our Foundation group meets regularly to discus how we are growing and how we go forward. We have Initiated research, hired a trading facilitator for 5hrs per week and a timebank coordinator for 2ohrs per week,established a group of key members to develop the timebank and now we are approaching new members and seeking their help in maintaining the trading system.

It is very very exciting to have got this far and we are even more excited about what will happen over the coming year. Stay Tuned

A Greater Force than the Challenges We Are Now Facing

Highlight from blog entry: "... true confidence is built up because people believe that the efforts of everyone working together is a greater force than the challenges they are facing. In accordance with this point of view, confidence is dissipating rather than being built up—particularly in the United States—because our public discourse does not honestly and truthfully identify enough of the actual challenges we are now facing for all of us—collectively—to know that our efforts will be enough to overcome them.

Complete Essay is as follows....

Dateline: September—October, 2008

We are living 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. Currently, here in the United States, the crisis in the financial markets has become the challenge regarded as most in need of urgent resolution.

This writer has viewed or heard observations and commentary on the nature of this financial market crisis, and descriptions of possible solutions, from many credible sources—as a result of access to the Internet, and access to programming provided by C-Span (a private, non-profit company, created in 1979 by the cable television industry to provide public access to the political process). In the context of this essay, this writer will make reference to two comments made by Dr. Peter R. Orszag, who is Director of the Congressional Budget Office (briefly, a government agency with a mandate to assist the House and Senate Budget Committees). One comment is from his testimony before the Committee on the Budget, U.S. House of Representatives, on September 24, 2008 (“Federal Responses to Market Turmoil”)(testimony accessible at http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/97xx/doc9767/09-24-MarketTurmoil.pdf), and one from the Director’s Blog section of the Congressional Budget Office’s website [see blog entry titled “Troubled Assets Relief Act and Insolvencies” (September 25, 2008) at http://cboblog.cbo.gov/].

Why Confidence is Dissipating: Yet Another Viewpoint

Consider first this comment:

“Over the past several weeks, the collapse of confidence in financial markets has become particularly severe.” (Dr. Peter R. Orszag, House Budget Committee Testimony, see p. 3, 3rd paragraph)

It is this writer’s interpretation that Dr. Orszag’s comments in this particular testimony focus primarily on the kind of “confidence” which is built up or dissipated depending on whether there is more or less certainty about the structure and systems of the financial markets. It is also this writer’s interpretation that much of the observations and commentary he viewed or heard relating to the financial crisis focused on the structure and systems of the financial markets—in accordance with the view that the financial markets are the “grid” through which transactions are conducted, and if the “power stations” are constrained from generating “current”, there will be a limit to the number of financial transactions which can be “conducted”, no matter what else happens.

This writer believes that it will always be helpful for people with much experience in the related fields to assist the general public in understanding of the structure and the systems associated with financial and economic markets. However, public discourse of this nature will consistently fail to provide sufficient understanding of how to build up “confidence” as long as it cannot or will not identify enough of the “whole picture” to properly serve the needs of the problem solving process. For true confidence is never really built up by merely convincing a majority of the people involved that they believe the markets are based on sound and practical principles; true confidence is built up because people believe that the efforts of everyone working together is a greater force than the challenges they are facing. In accordance with this point of view, confidence is dissipating rather than being built up—particularly in the United States—because our public discourse does not honestly and truthfully identify enough of the actual challenges we are now facing for all of us—collectively—to know that our efforts will be enough to overcome them.

How We Can Know Which Institutions Are More Likely to be Solvent in the Future

Here this writer will acknowledge that specific expectations are created by the above discussion: in particular, that this writer can offer a sufficiently compelling approximation of the “whole picture” with regard to the challenges which we are facing—and that this writer can provide suggestions for how we can arrive at knowing that our efforts will be enough to resolve those challenges. And here he will assure readers that he intends to fulfill those expectations. But first, it will be helpful to consider one additional comment from Dr. Peter R. Orszag, this one from the blog he provides as Director of the Congressional Budget Office (from September 25, 2008):

“As I stated in my testimony yesterday before the House Budget Committee, the current crisis is fundamentally one of collapsing confidence in the financial markets and ‘providing more transparency about the lack of solvency at specific institutions may be necessary to restore trust in the financial system.’ In other words, to restore confidence, participants in the financial markets need more clarity about which institutions are solvent and which are not. To the extent
proposals like the Treasury one can accomplish this end, it would be a step toward resolving the crisis, not worsening it.” (see above reference, paragraph 3)

As a way of expanding on the above observation, this writer would add that everyone would be more confident if there was also more clarity about which institutions—of every kind—were more likely to be solvent in the future, and which less likely. But unless we can see into the future somehow, how can we be sure which institutions are more likely to be solvent in the future? This writer believes that even though we cannot see into the future, we can achieve much more clarity than we have now about which institutions—of every kind—are more likely to be solvent in the future. We can do so by being more honest and truthful in our public discourse. In our own personal lives, honesty, responsibility, transparency and confidence are all mutually supportive… we must find ways to inspire, encourage, and support honesty, responsibility, and transparency in our public discourse. Returning to the “electricity” metaphor, when the “power stations” are more honest, responsible, and transparent, the “current” more naturally flows to the institutions which are most critical to overcoming the challenges ahead.

We are living in very complex and challenging times. Currently, here in the United States, the crisis in the financial markets has become the challenge regarded as most in need of urgent resolution. However, there are other crises which are also in need of urgent resolutions, both here in the United States, and in other parts of the world. This writer identifies the following five challenges as sufficient to suggest that we—collectively—are in urgent need of problem solving on a scale most of us have never known before:

a) global warming and reducing carbon emissions
b) peak oil and reducing dependence on petroleum based products
c) global inequities and the tragic cycles of malnutrition, disease, and death
d) 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)
e) 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.

There may be many readers who disagree with the emphasis on these particular challenges. Those readers may then just consider the above list as an example which will serve to illustrate how we can answer the question raised above: “Can we really know which institutions are more likely to be solvent in the future, and which are less likely?” Here is how we can know. Earlier in this essay, this writer stated the following:

“… true confidence is built up because people believe that the efforts of everyone working together is a greater force than the challenges they are facing. In accordance with this point of view, confidence is dissipating rather than being built up—particularly in the United States—because our public discourse does not honestly and truthfully identify enough of the actual challenges we are now facing for all of us—collectively—to know that our efforts will be enough to overcome them.”

The above challenges identified by this writer may or may not be the challenges other people would identify as the five challenges most in need of urgent resolution, but the most important points to be made here are as follows:

1) if public discourse does not honestly and truthfully identify enough of the actual challenges we are now facing for all of us—collectively—to know that our efforts will be enough to overcome them—how will it ever be possible to build true confidence?
2) if our public discourse does succeed in bringing to the forefront enough of the actual challenges we are now facing—and also contributes to the creation of a greater force (in the form of high levels of citizen participation in local, regional, national, and international action plans) than the actual challenges—then we will have established a high degree of true confidence about what institutions will be more likely to be solvent in the future (i.e. the ones which will be most helpful to us in overcoming the challenges ahead).

What then do we need to do? We need our public discourse to be as honest, responsible, and transparent as possible, so we can identify, nurture, support, and sustain ways to build a collective force greater than the challenges we are now facing. The remaining part of this essay will focus on how we, collectively—through the efforts we can make in the everyday circumstances of our lives (by deliberately focusing our time, energy, and money)—can become that greater force.

Creating a Multiplier Effect of a Positive Nature: The “1000Communities2” Proposal

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. (For source references, see p. 9 of the “1000Communities2” proposal)

This writer has recently created a 161 page proposal which expands on the community building tools used in the above mentioned Community Visioning effort, and which is tailored specifically so that it will be possible for communities of people to overcome even the most profound challenges. The proposal is titled “1000Communities2”.

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 to 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.

What are Community Visioning Initiatives?

Here it may be necessary to pause for a moment… for there is good reason to imagine that there are many people who do not know what a Community Visioning Initiative is. Unfortunately, at this particular point in time, there seems to be many important initiatives which are critical to overcoming the challenges of our times, but which are not quite “coming through the mist as much as they should be.” Thus, this writer believes it may be very helpful, as a supplement to the above proposal description, to offer in this place a brief “primer” on Community Visioning Initiatives. This “primer” is an excerpt from the “1000Communities2” proposal, mentioned above. It is worth noting that although there are at least 100 cities and towns in the United States which have carried out strategic visioning initiatives or community visioning initiatives, and although some of these initiatives have been time-intensive as suggested by the above proposal, there have not been any such initiatives—that this writer is aware of—which identify community visioning initiatives as a “centerpiece” for problem solving as it might relate to the five challenges listed above… and thus as a “centerpiece” for helping us—collectively—to become a greater force than the challenges we are now facing.

Here is the excerpt from the “1000Communities2” proposal, offered as a brief “primer” on Community Visioning Initiatives.

[beginning of excerpt…]

[From Section 3—“A Summary of the Potential of Community Visioning Initiatives”]
(see pages 5-9 in the “1000Communities2” proposal)

A. What are Community Visioning Initiatives?

1. 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.

2. In its most basic format, a Community Visioning Initiative (CVI) is simply a more comprehensive variation of the above mentioned approach to problem solving.

3. Community Visioning Initiatives (CVIs) are especially useful as a means of increasing or maximizing citizen participation in the planning phase of community revitalization efforts.

4. 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. (For source references, see p. 9 of the “1000Communities2” proposal)

5. 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.

6. Many CVIs have followed a model which has three basic steps, and which requires 3 to 6 months to complete (this is a variation of the “Oregon Model”2):

a) Where are we now? (or What are we now?)
An assessment which incorporates:
Community Values
Strengths and Weaknesses
Most Difficult Challenges
Most Valuable Resources

b) Where do we want to go? (or What do we want to be?)
Brainstorming and strategic planning sessions
which involve:
Brainstorming Positive or Desirable Community
Improvements
Developing these Ideas into Practical Goals
Prioritizing the Goals

c) How can we get there?
Brainstorming and/or focus group sessions which
answer the questions:
What action plans will help us achieve our goals?
Who will implement the action plans?
How will they be implemented? (With what
funding?)
How will we know if our efforts are achieving the
desired results?

7. 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.

8. This “1000Communities2” proposal incorporates input from many different fields of activity, and emphasizes a time-intensive approach to Community Visioning, which may take up to 11/2 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” proposal.)

[end of excerpt]

An Additional 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” proposal: “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…”

If even a few….

There are many important initiatives which are critical to overcoming the challenges of our times, but which are not quite “coming through the mist as much as they should be.” Community Visioning Initiatives can be very helpful in exactly these kinds of circumstances, as this community building tool encourages and facilitates the creation of a “constellation” of initiatives by which the best (in view of the participants in the community visioning initiatives) solutions to the most difficult (in the view of the participants in the community visioning initiatives) challenges can bubble up to the surface, be recognized as priorities, and therefore be brought forward as appropriate recipients of people’s time, energy, and money. Many people can realize the wisdom of deliberately focusing the way they spend their time, energy, and money. The result can be a deliberate increase in the “ways of earning a living” which are directly related to overcoming the challenges identified by residents as priority challenges. As the ancient Chinese proverb says: “Many hands make much work light.”

If even a few of these kind of Community Visioning Initiatives generated results similar to those achieved by the Chattanooga, Tennessee (USA) Visioning Initiative carried out in 1984 (see references in both of the last two sections of this essay), people in all parts of the world—keenly attuned when it comes to resolving challenges which require urgent solutions at all levels of society— could be inspired to carry out similar Community Visioning Initiatives. And if many communities carried out similar initiatives, and also achieved significant results, our collective capacity to resolve the challenges of our times would surely begin to accumulate at an accelerating rate.

Concluding Comments

“…the soundness of ideas must be tested finally by their practical application. When they fail in this—that is, when they cannot be carried out in everyday life producing lasting harmony and satisfaction and giving real benefit to all concerned—to oneself as well as to others—no ideas can be said to be sound and practical.”
(D.T. Suzuki, from “Essays in Zen Buddhism”)

Are our economic and financial markets based on sound and practical principles? Are our government and educational institutions being honest, responsible, and transparent about the challenges we are now facing, so that we may be truly confident that our efforts will be enough to overcome the challenges of our times? Which institutions—of every kind—will be more likely to be solvent and sustainable into the foreseeable future, and which less likely?

The above mentioned “1000Communities2” proposal suggests one way in which a significant majority of people can attain a high degree of true confidence that economic and financial markets, government and educational institutions—and all other fields of activity which have a significant role in determining the quality of everyday community life—are based on sound and practical principles, and are likely to be solvent and sustainable into the foreseeable future.

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. We—collectively—can become a greater force than the challenges we are now facing.

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.

Note: In light of the urgent need to increase collaboration between diverse communities of people, anyone may access all IPCR documents (including the above mentioned 161 page “1000Communities2” proposal) for free, at the website of The Interfaith Peacebuilding and Community Revitalization (IPCR) Initiative (www.ipcri.net). In addition, this writer has created an “Educational Materials Outreach Package” which introduces the “1000Communities2” proposal, and which is also accessible for free (see the bottom of The IPCR Initiative homepage).

With much hope for a more peaceful and sustainable future,

Stefan Pasti, Founder and Outreach Coordinator
The IPCR Initiative

Oil consumption is a problem

"I beg to disagree with any candidate who would say we can't drill our way out of our problem."

Sarah Palin (quoted in this article)
on the future of the United States

---

On oil consumption and dependencies in the United States (in particular) -

by Andy Wahl

---

Toban Black
(http://tobanblack.net/blog/?p=699)

What you can do (from Qld Govt)

The Queensland Government (in Australia) have recently released a discussion paper on how we can move Toward Oil Resilience.

The entire document is available at http://www.epa.qld.gov.au/publications/p02620aa.pdf/Towards_Oil_Resilien...

I thought some of you may be interested in the 'What you can do' - section. It all fits very well with the Relocalisation Network and Transition Town models.

What you can do

It is up to all of us as Queenslanders to take steps to reduce our reliance on oil. There are many things we can do right now.

Here are some ways we can all prepare;

Familiarise yourself with the issues outlines in this paper [see link above for entire document]
Simply being aware of peak oil and oil vulnerability is the first important step to preparing and adjusting for future changes

Talk about this issues with friends, neighbours, employees and local community members.
If you are concerned about this issue, chances are other people around you are too.

Think about how you can make a difference
This may include simple action to reduce fuel consumption such as;
• Reducing private vehicle use (by not driving so much, car pooling, taking public transport, riding a bike etc)
• Support local initiatives and industry that reduce food and commodity kilometres (by buying local produce, using local services, growing some of your own food etc)
• Getting involved in local and regional planning processes (by contributing submissions through government consultation processes, contacting your local member etc)

Visit the EPA website for further information www.epa.qld.gov.au

[ENDS]

Also, please visit the Sunshine Coast Energy Action Centre website [www.seac.net.au] - we are mentioned in the 'further reading' section of this government document and our website has lots of articles, ideas and lessons we've learnt so far about moving from oil dependency to local resilience.

Diversified Associates Construction

Diversified Associates Construction

We are a small construction company in Bellingham, Washington that handcrafts energy efficient houses. We design and execute energy efficient construction in a way that is responsive to a client's budget, aesthetics, and needs.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A book I much admire and recommend

"The Northwest Green Home Primer" (Kathleen O'Brien and Kathleen Smith, Timber Press 2008, ISBN -13:978-0-88192-797-9) is the right book to read before beginning to remodel or building from scratch an energy efficient home in the Pacific Northwest.

Full of specific details, general concepts, and valuable examples about what to do and what NOT to do, this book can help start your project out right. The authors exhaustively combed the construction industry to gather this information.

I think every builder needs to know the contents of this book. Diversified Associates Construction has seriously been pursuing energy efficient building principles since 1980 - which, of course, predates things like energy codes. Over time, we have come to believe that a sensible blend of energy efficient building techniques combined with common sense approaches is the best way to build what we like to call a 'happy home'. 0 comments

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

We take pride in building memorable homes


Perhaps because we often find ourselves building on one of the San Juan Islands, we have become used to a variety of problems that other contractors simply do not have the experience to handle.

A good example is the very large island home that features spectacular views available from a spectacular interior with handcrafted carpentry that reminds many of the craftsmanship of days gone by.

Contact John Thompson at 360 317 5343 to learn more about how we can turn your dreams into an energy efficient project that you will be proud of for many years.

We are located in Bellingham, Washington and are a small company that custom-builds in a way that is responsive to a client's budget, aesthetics, and needs. We welcome creative challenges, and are usually able to translate a client's wishes into a pragmatic plan.

We stand behind all of our work. Absolutely!

0 comments

We believe in energy efficient construction


We have believed in building energy efficient homes since 1980 when we built our first energy efficient homes.


We built in this large waterfront home in 1980 as one of the first energy efficient homes in that area. It was a first of its kind, before the energy codes.



A 2100 sq. ft. of energy efficient rural home with R10 insulation under slab, R-29 in walls, R-38 Ceilings, R-30 Floor --- making, for worst winter conditions, energy costs for this house of approximately 8 cents an hour.

Take advantage of our wealth of experience building a variety of different types of homes.

We built this large energy efficient home waterfront house in 1989 featuring maximized insulation, in-floor hydronic heat and very low electric demand.

Style + efficiency + comfort

We also build in a variety of different styles - making almost anything you can dream up - an energy efficient home.




On this foundation of a rural island home, we later added radiant hydronic heat in floors with maximum insulation - topped off by a sod roof - to meet the owner's wishes.

We also retrofit older homes to bring them up to modern energy efficiency standards. The house below was almost completely rebuilt - and it now is one of the "tightest" houses around with very low energy bills.

We renovated this historic Bellingham area home, adding maximum insulation & new windows and raising the roof - literally - to provide more space without changing the exterior "look" of this 80+ year old home.

While the exterior looks much the same as it always has, this same Bellingham area home has a completely re-done interior with new, modern floor plan, kitchen, bath, bedroom, and lots of storage. Great care was taken to reuse existing materials wherever possible

A historic house - completely updated - and made energy efficient.

We take great pride in providing the lowest possible energy bills!

Please contact us: let us make your plan a reality!

Call John C. Thompson at
360-671-7679 1 comments

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John Thompson

John Thompson
Owner of Diversified Asssociates

Long-term financial strategies

Those of you listening to 'financial experts' and trying to figure out a strategy to protect your savings and retirement accounts need to know one important thing...

The 'financial experts' that are being allowed to speak in the popular media are all totally, and completely wrong, and have been wrong ever since this crisis began.

The long-term outlook for the world economy is terrible, for the foreseeable future, some say a hundred years or more. The driving factor is the inescapable fact that the global economy is totally dependant on cheap, plentiful energy, and that is quickly going away.

Holding stocks is going to bring you nothing but pain. There will be big drops in value, then periods of stagnation, or maybe even small gains, before other big drops. This will continue until the stock markets lose all value. This not only applies to stocks, but all paper promissory notes of any type, since they all rely on orderly financial markets.

You need to research this to believe it, and come to a conclusion of your own finding. You need to become your own financial expert now, and quickly, or you stand to lose everything.

There are only 2 smart choices right now, cash or 1oz gold Kruggerands hidden on property you control. I think gold is a much better choice in the medium to long run. Jim Kramer, of ‘Mad Money’ is now even telling people to put the majority of their money in gold.

“It’s telling that for those whose livelihoods depend on beating the market, the investment du jour is no investment at all.”
http://blogs.moneycentral.msn.com/topstocks/archive/2008/09/25/hedge-fun...

All we hear these days is ‘don’t panic, don’t cash out your 401k, think long term…’, they are just mouthpieces of those who are currently looting America of its last few crumbs.

To get started in your own research, read a NY Times article about the only guy who correctly predicted today’s mess…
‘Dr. Doom’
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/17/magazine/17pessimist-t.html

Then, find out about ‘Peak Oil Theory’ from a great Fortune Magazine piece from a few days ago…
‘Here comes $500 oil’
http://money.cnn.com/2008/09/15/news/economy/500dollaroil_okeefe.fortune...

To get the complete story on ‘Peak Oil Theory’, go to…
http://www.energybulletin.net/primer

My suggestion for books would be…
Twilight in the Desert, by Matt Simmons
The Party’s Over, by Richard Heinberg
The Long Emergency, by James Kunstler

Below are some resources…
Books
· Colin J. Campbell,
o Campbell Colin J (2004). The Essence of Oil & Gas Depletion. Multi-Science Publishing. ISBN 0-906522-19-6.
o Campbell Colin J (2004). The Coming Oil Crisis. Multi-Science Publishing. ISBN 0-906522-11-0.
o Campbell Colin J (2005). Oil Crisis. Multi-Science Publishing. ISBN 0-906522-39-0.
· Kenneth S. Deffeyes,
o Deffeyes Kenneth S (2002). Hubbert's Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-09086-6.
o Deffeyes Kenneth S (2005). Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert's Peak. Hill and Wang. ISBN 0-8090-2956-1.
· Eberhart Mark (2007). Feeding the Fire: The Lost History and Uncertain Future of Mankind's Energy Addiction. Harmony. ISBN 978-0307237446.
· Goodstein David (2005). Out of Gas: The End of the Age Of Oil. WW Norton. ISBN 0-393-05857-3.
· Richard Heinberg,
o Heinberg Richard (2003). The Party's Over: Oil, War, and the Fate of Industrial Societies. New Society Publishers. ISBN 0-86571-482-7.
o Heinberg Richard (2004). Power Down: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World. New Society Publishers. ISBN 0-86571-510-6.
o Heinberg Richard (2006). The Oil Depletion Protocol: A Plan to Avert Oil Wars, Terrorism and Economic Collapse. New Society Publishers. ISBN 0-86571-563-7.
· Kleveman Lutz C (2004). The New Great Game: Blood and Oil in Central Asia. Atlantic Monthly Press. ISBN 0-87113-906-5.
· Kunstler James H (2005). The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of the Oil Age, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes. Atlantic Monthly Press. ISBN 0-87113-888-3.
· Leggett Jeremy K (2005). The Empty Tank: Oil, Gas, Hot Air, and the Coming Financial Catastrophe. Random House. ISBN 1-4000-6527-5.
· Leggett Jeremy K (2005). Half Gone: Oil, Gas, Hot Air and the Global Energy Crisis. Portobello Books. ISBN 1-8462-7004-9.
· Leggett Jeremy K (2001). The Carbon War: Global Warming and the End of the Oil Era. Routledge. ISBN 0415931029.
· Pfeiffer Dale Allen (2004). The End of the Oil Age. Lulu Press. ISBN 1-4116-0629-9.
· Roberts Paul (2004). The End of Oil. On the Edge of a Perilous New World. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 9780618239771.
· Ruppert Michael C (2005). Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil. New Society. ISBN 978-0865715400.
· Simmons Matthew R (2005). Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy. ISBN 0-471-73876-X.
· Shah Sonia (2004). Crude, The Story of Oil. Seven Stories Press. ISBN 1-58322-625-7.
· Simon Julian L (1998). The Ultimate Resource. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-00381-5.
· Smil Vaclav (2005). Energy at the Crossroads: Global Perspectives and Uncertainties. MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-19492-9.
· Stansberry Mark A, Reimbold Jason (2008). The Braking Point. Hawk Publishing. ISBN 978-1-930709-67-6.
· Tertzakian Peter (2006). A Thousand Barrels a Second. McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-146874-9.
· Yeomans Matthew (2004). Oil, Anatomy of an Industry. ISBN 1-56584-885-3.
· No Blood for Oil! by George Caffentzis discusses peak oil and its relationship with current and past conflicts. [1]

Articles
· Tinker Scott W (2005-06-25). "Of peaks and valleys: Doomsday energy scenarios burn away under scrutiny", Dallas Morning News.
· Benner Katie (2005-12-07). "Lawmakers: Will we run out of oil?", CNN.
· Benner Katie (2004-11-03). "Oil: Is the end at hand?", CNN.
· Mitchell John V (2006-08). "A New Era for Oil Prices" (PDF).
· "The Future of Oil". Foreign Policy.
· Robert Hirsch (2008-06). "Peak Oil: "A Significant Period of Discomfort"". Allianz Knowledge.
· Campbell Colin, Laherrère Jean. "The End of Cheap Oil". Scientific American.
· Williams Mark. "The End of Oil?". MIT Technology Review.
· Appenzeller Tim. "The End of Cheap Oil". National Geographic.
· Lynch Michael C. "The New Pessimism about Petroleum Resources".
· Rapier Robert (2006-04). "Peak Lite".
· Roberts Paul (2004-08). "Last Stop Gas". Harper's Magazine: 71–72.
· Larry West. "Sweden aims to be world's first oil-free nation by 2020".
· "'Peak oil' enters mainstream debate". BBC News.
· Welch Dan. "Between Peak Oil and Climate Change". The Peakist.
· Mosher Donna. "Actions everyone can take to prepare for the possible end of an era". Citizens League for Environmental Action Now.
· Alex Kuhlman (2006-06). "Peak oil and the collapse of commercial aviation" (PDF). Airways.
· Anonymous (2005-02-20). "A letter from oil exploration insider". Energy Bulletin.
· Cochrane Troy (2008-01-04). "Peak oil?: Oil supply and accumulation". Cultural Shifts.
· Jaeon Kirby & Colin Campbell (2008-05-30). "Life at $200 a barrel". Maclean's.
Reports, essays, and lectures
· "Crude Oil - The Supply Outlook" (PDF). Energy Watch Group (2007-10-22).
· "Doctoral thesis: Giant Oil Fields - The Highway to Oil: Giant Oil Fields and their Importance for Future Oil Production". Uppsala University (2007-03-30).
· "Review: Oil-based technology and economy - prospects for the future". The Danish Board of Technology (Teknologirådet) (2005-06-09).
· Jim Bliss (2005-07-05). "An Introduction to Peak Oil".
· City of Portland, Peak Oil Task Force (March 2007). "Descending the Oil Peak: Navigating the Transition from Oil and Natural Gas". City of Portland, Oregon, USA.
· "The End of Oil" (PDF). University of Otago Department of Physics (2005-07).
· "Peak Oil Theory – “World Running Out of Oil Soon” – Is Faulty; Could Distort Policy & Energy Debate". CERA (2006-11-14).
· "Australia’s future oil supply and alternative transport fuels". Parliament of Australia - Senate (2007-02-07).

Video Documentary
· Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash (2006)
· The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream (2004)
· The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil (2006)
· What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire (2007)

Community Support for Small Farms

Community Support for Small Farms
From The Localizer Blog

I recently witnessed two instances of community support for local farms that were under duress and felt that these instances were good exemplars for other communities. As many believe is in our imminent future, small family or co-op farms will again likely play an important part of our local economies. Any support or assistance we can give those farms in trouble will return dividends and bring the community closer together.

The first instance relates to a devastating fire that occurred last weekend in Concord, MA destroying a farmers market associated with a long respected farm family dating back to 1922. When the Verrill Farm complex was reduced to ashes in just a few minutes, the news spread on electronic bulletin boards and via word of mouth. From what I observed, first reactions ranged from mouths agape to tears. Verrill was a veritable institution beloved by residents from Concord and surrounding towns. It provided several varieties of sweet corn, peppers, heirloom tomatoes of countless colors and shapes, flowers, greens, and more. It also had a little bakery and cheese shop. Among the popular events sponsored by the farm, the blueberry pancake breakfasts and corn and tomato dinners were the most popular. Kids loved to show off their purple fingers after an hour of blueberry picking. Verrill was among the several farms in the area practicing sustainable farming methods.

Even as news spread of the fire, long time customers and curious observers walked or drove over to gather and share stories. For days afterward, streams of cars would slow as they passed by and people would still gather nearby to commiserate. In parallel with the grief and sense of loss was a gathering movement to provide financial assistance and support to Verrill's rebuilding. Initially, the family leaned toward not rebuilding. But the outpouring of support from the community may have turned the tide. Several donor campaigns have popped up to assist the effort and Verrill is now selling from a makeshift farm stand on site. I think when people imagined a Concord without Verrill Farm, they were motivated to show support in some way. Certainly small family farms, with or without retailing components, can become important local institutions even in this modern economy. Finding ways to support them, financial or otherwise, ensures that they will be around for years to come.

The other example of community support for a local farm emerged during a regular local Board of Selectmen meeting in a small town in Massachusetts's Nashoba Valley. While the specifics of the case are not important, the message that was embedded in a citizen's short comment held out a new model for community and neighbor interaction. A neighbor to a long operating family farm filed a complaint about the condition of the property. Apparently the farmer was in his eighties and was no longer able to properly maintain it as it was strewn with rusted and abandoned machinery and trash along with the tools, equipment, and livestock directly related to farm operations. The complainant was concerned no doubt about property values and nuisance oriented impacts, many of which are not actionable due to right-to-farm laws in Massachusetts. He also was allegedly concerned about what appeared to be toxics in barrels that the owner claimed was molasses-based feed for livestock. Anyway, after the complainant was heard and neighbors supporting the property owner retorted, one woman stood up and said the following (paraphrased):

Instead of approaching this from an adversarial stance, why can't we approach the farmer and ask him if he needs any help? Maybe he needs some assistance in cleaning up his property and since he's over eighty and has no family, he can't look after the farm as diligently as he used to.

Now from the typical municipal code enforcement perspective, the usual approach is to determine if the violation is valid and to follow up with an enforcement order. In most cases this works fairly well but sometimes there is an obstinate property owner who loves to be uncooperative. Yet how many such cases may involve an owner, for whatever reason, who just can't get it together and needs help? The municipal enforcement function is not set up to consider this type of solution.

Yet perhaps there should be some accommodation or consideration of a neighbor or citizen that does need a hand. We use Boy Scouts to help rake leaves for older people so why couldn't we, both structured or unstructured, find mechanisms to help those in our community in need within the context of a possible zoning or building code violation? In particular, family farms with older owners may need a hand to maintain viability or keep their properties from becoming a general nuisance. Obviously, homeowners in new subdivisions have no legitimate gripe with operating farms as long as everything functions within the context of normal agricultural operations. You buy near a farm or airport, you should know what comes with the territory.

I'm not suggesting a one-solution-fits-all exists to help local family farms but some ideas could include having the local agricultural committee (if one exists) inventory local farms and follow up annually on needs. If your community has a Local with a local food subcommittee, perhaps one task would be as a liaison to local farms to see if they need any help for the harvest, spring cleaning, or getting ready for a long winter. This obviously extends beyond the expected support through patronizing local farm stands, purchasing CSA shares, or hosting farmers markets. I am referring to the needs that often are not visible or obvious that require us to be observant, so see each other as fellow citizens and members of a community rather than a separate group of people with little in common other than an occasional small transaction. This kind of act of civility is as important as checking on the widow down the street after a snowstorm.

Find original article at: The Localizer Blog

Hi everyone

Hi everyone - just thought I'd check back in. No changes in my life - garden has more weeds than ever due to the wet season last christmas and I haven't caught up since then.

Have had months of family issues and the garden has had to come second. But at least I have preserved my seedstock and more importantly preserved my enthusiasm but just had to put it to one side a bit.

Still pining for the dry country and the red dirt but life brings what it will and our only return is to be as content as possible. Working on content, hoping to retire and dreaming of the ultimate property. Seeya, Lori

Humus and hubris

Things are unusually peaceful in my garden at the moment.

A light spring rain is falling, settling in some recent transplants and helping them make that crucial first connection to their new patch of soil. Most of my summer veggie seeds have been planted and are up, and the spring field crops are all in, barring a touch of resowing to fill in a couple of gaps. The weeds are here and there but basically under my thumb. A lazy morning wandering about with the hoe, picking here and there, but mostly just looking at things, will put them in their place again. I will probably get out and replant the many gaps in my new zealand flax windbreak- now the grass on the other side of them is gone our old horse should stop grazing through the fence and pulling them out. A hen sits in a trance on her first batch of eggs, drawing on the deepest of histories to guide her. Fruit are ripening steadily on the small trees. Flowers are all about and unidentified sweet scents swing about on the gentle breezes. Does she ponder the fate of her children? Life in spring seems almost unreal. Serene. Unborn, undying and unvanquishable.

But I have been through many springs and I know what treacherous creatures they are. Summer will come before we can snap ourselves out of our swoon. Fruit will rot and spoil. Flowers will wither in the sun. And the weeds will rise up like a hydra. The sun will sting our eyes, and our sleep will be shallow and fitful. Just as the beauty and bounty of autumn inspires a vague fear of the depths of winter for temperate gardeners, the sweetness and generosity of spring should inspire unease in the warm climate gardener. Summer is our season of the testing of strengths and limits.

For now I will enjoy the calm before the storm and use it as best I can to replenish my reserves. Spring is the last opportunity to fill your senses and replenish the well of hope. If we can drink of spring fully its image can linger upon our eyes as we look upon the savagery of summer.

There is no rest in the garden. No permanence. No certainty. The only permanent culture is the ever changing one. One crop follows another, one generation another, concepts and ideologies swing back and forth. Any perception of progress is merely evidence of the incompleteness of our lives. We only ever get to see half of the story.

But life does have one trick. Life slows down the eternal ebb and flow of the universe and spins it around. The pace is softened, the edges roughened and elaborated, and the whole dance becomes all the more wonderous.

Passionfruit, anyone?

Local passionfruit available- good-quality seconds, 15 for $1. First grade price is $1 each, so this is a good deal for us and the local farmer gets something!
Excess will go to feed animals, then to waste. This situation will continue for the next few months.
Take this opportunity to have passionfruit for breakfast! Make some passionfruit butter, passionfruit cake or passionfruit cordial! Yum!

Round 1: We'll pick up from the farm Friday morning (26th Sep)- individuals can arrange a pick up point and time after that as suits.

Call Jacqui on 4196 0043 to order. Orders for this round close on 7pm Thursday, Sep 25th.

alternative energies that aren't being talked about

When I first heard of the concept of peak oil I was bummed out. But recently
I started feeling a little better after researching alternative sources of energy.
Besides common alternatives wind, geothermal, solar, which are the more mainstream alternatives,
I have come across other sources of free energy. Even though they aren't commercially available, nevertheless
its the "outside the box thinking" that could help cushion the blow of peak oil.
I have also been inspired by many people tinkering in their garages and modifing their internal combustion engines
into a different type of hybrid, one that runs on gas but are supplemented by HHO (hydrogen hydrogen oxygen) some people seeing 20% 40% better gas mileage.
Albeit I was skeptical at first, as anyone should be who knows a little bit about chemistry
and the laws of energy conservation. But as I researched more and found schematics/info/video's I became
convinced it is for real. There are too many people doing this for it not to be real, but I leave that to your judgement, I am
just a messenger. Of course, and until you actually install one, you don't really know what kind of results
you will get. As well as not everyone is inclined to tinker on their car with something that could be dangerous. But the
info is out there on how to do it right and safely.

With that being said if anyone is curious look up "HHO" on youtube.

And if you really want to learn about some great alternative free energy technologies,
here is a link to torrent that you can use to download for free, a compilation of interesting alternative energy
technologies in pdf, html formats.
http://www.torrentportal.com/details/3398610/Stanley+Meyer_Patents_Plans...

unfortunately I don't think these technologies aren't able to be bought, who knows if that will change in the future, but
for now it looks like you have to build it yourself, ugh! but knowing people have created remarkable technologies
trying to help mankind is inspiring.
Well it doesn't hurt to look thats all I have done so far, but I do plan to modify my car in the future.
I'll keep you posted
hope it helps
eric

A bet each way

Making predictions is hard, especially about the future.

All of us in this peak oil/climate change/relocalisation/down shifting movement have decided to think carefully about the future based on what we can learn today and to make adjustments to our outlooks and attitudes and to our practical living arrangements.

But more and more commentators in the area are helping us to keep our heads and not rush to extremes. Sharon Astyk stands out as a champion for common sense. Even if we are all heading to some kind of apocalypse there is a real downside to making (or trying to make) all the possible preparations too far ahead of the ideal time. For example if someone had known in 1920 that the depression was coming in 1929, then they would get no particular benefit selling all their shares in 1921 and sitting on the sidelines for nearly a decade. Apart from that it is easy to totally exhaust and depress yourself by doing too much at once.

Everything goes through phases and changes, and we need to respond not too soon and not too late to reap the benefits. Trends can also veer off in very different directions. At the moment the world financial system is teetering and lurching between deflation and inflation. Both problems require different personal approaches to minimise the damage inflicted. The direction things go at any particular time basically results from the politically motivated decisions of a small number of people who are far beyond our influence. In such uncertain times we can do well by choosing to protect ourselves partially against both extremes and place a bet each way, rather than assuming we have perfect knowledge of the future. The results may be less spectacular than choosing a winner, but they are certainly more pleasing than picking a loser.

In the spirit of this I have recently started persuing a career in the electricity industry. Given electricity can be produced and consumed in so many ways I believe it will be the eventual winner in the struggle to power our civilisation. This bet for a "techno utopia" will be balanced by the remainder of my time going into my partially self sufficient farm that represents my bet for the "stone age". Real life will continue to shift and lurch between the two, but I will win at least partially either way. Investing in such a divergent way means I have a foot in the door to respond to either eventuality. If "techno-utopia" prevails then I have a chance to define myself as an expert in the field. If it all goes to hell I can quickly scale up from feeding ~1 person year round to feeding the 5-10 people in my entire family. In the immediate time my life is more diverse and I can enjoy both sides. Each type of toil is a holiday from the other. Realistically I may have to keep holding down an increasingly stressful and poorly paid job, so that the family can keep the farm, while coordinating the family themselves to grow their own food. Other alternative job targets are in the water system and agriculture public service. Doing a major career shift like this is always a chancy affair, so I have to cast a fairly wide net until someone gives me a chance.

A similar tactic pays when gardening in a changeable and changing climate when you are using little inputs. Water is the main variable in eastern Australia, so having the ability to rapidly shift between water loving/tolerant crops and dry tolerant ones is very useful. Even understanding that you shouldnt expect to grow perfect lettuce every year is a major step in allowing you to adapt as things develop without falling into despair.

Dreams and Nightmares

I dream of a community mature enough to muster up cooperation during a post-petroleum transition. Almost busting with hope, I doodle alternate economic theories (not that I have a clue) and eye neighbor's goats while chanting inside my head "barter, barter."

A car-free environment sounds ideal...never liked cars in the first place. And who could argue with eating closer to the source? Organic fruits and veggies galore! Heck, I just learned that those angry, thorn-abundant honey locust trees on our hay farm produce edible sweet legume pods and the thorns can be resourcefully used for nails!

Ah, the future looks promising. However...

I'm also teetering, experiencing some kind of peak oil bipolarism, as equal brain time is allotted to potential nightmare scenarios.

Already in our community, catalytic converter thefts are becoming common--for metal scrap resale. You pop into the grocery store and by the time you're finished shopping, some kid has crawled under your car and sawed off your catalytic converter.

People are getting robbed near their homes, at gunpoint. Ours is a typical, middle-class newly built suburban area. This is all new to us.

The kids committing these crimes are able-bodied, young and strong. Why don't they look for a proper job? Because stealing is easier.

So, this gets me to thinking...if we are headed for a society which combines the humble lifestyle our great-grandparents knew with a society attempting to make the best of a poisoned planet, my see-saw careens to the dark side.

I mean, prior to 1900, material possessions were minimal and work was actually laborious and physical. The people back then were sturdier stock. Hard work and honesty were valued. Joy was found in the simple things.

What do we have now, but a population of folks with the mindset of work smarter not harder----raised on get-rich-quick infomercials.

I am seriously in fear of the collision between society and reality. It's like we've remained spoiled children. We've been told what we want to hear and we've been allowed to spend beyond our means.

No one has told us "no." Not for many, many years.

What is going to happen when circumstances force us to work together and get sweaty with still no assurance of preventing hunger? What is going to happen when employees, self-identified by their current salary, get laid off?

If we help people, will we become enablers? I kind of think that we won't have the option of helping others to the point of over-helping, but still...what will neighbors expect out of those who have thought ahead? They will be looking for a rescue, of course.

If we aren't able to help others, it's reasonable to assume that some people will just take the easy way and use illegal methods to get what they need. After all, their circumstances aren't their fault (i.e. it's not faaaiiir). They would consider their new career of crime a variation of the "working smarter" model.

Catalytic converters are just the beginning.

Kris
www.sccworlds.com

P.S. I dream I'm wrong. Way wrong.

The Prize: Oil

"WIN $50 IN FREE SHELL GAS EVERY SUNDAY NIGHT!."

A contest at a bar in London, Ontario. (I took the photo.)

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Blood for oil

"The American Red Cross [ran] a summer contest where blood donors are eligible to win a year’s supply of fuel."
- Phoebe Chin at Upickreviews (in July)

"Blood banks recognize the rising prices of gas as an opportunity to pull in more donors and leveraging that in their marketing. 'Donate plasma for gas money,' is plastered across a banner outside Las Cruces Biological, in Las Cruces, N.M. [They're] not actually giving out gas, just money but they have been seeing sharp increases of donors since March and lab workers claim the new donors are not the typical drug addicts looking for some quick cash, they are regular Joes and Janes looking for some extra gas money… quick cash. 'Blood for Gas' is a strange appeal, but it appears to be working."
- Matt at greenUPGRADER (in July)

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Sex for oil

"Some resourceful people have turned to bartering for gas, but generally speaking you have to have some kind of skill to offer in exchange. This didn’t stop Angela Eversole who traded sex for a $100 gas card." " Unfortunately rather than getting a full tank she got a prostitution rap.

This is the second 'Sex for Gas' incident in just a few months." ...

- Matt at greenUPGRADER (in July)

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Praying for oil

Jenny (in August) on the "Praying at the Pump" movement

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An oil-fuelled missionary drive

"At St. Ann’s Parish in West Bridgewater, Massachusetts, $50 gas cards are given out in [draw competitions] at Sunday masses"
- Phoebe Chin at Upickreviews (in July)

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"The Prize" -- the title of this post -- is a reference to the book The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power, which a video series with the same titled also was based on.

In the context of this post, that title ("The Prize") is meant to be a joke about the ways that oil is pursued in the cases mentioned above.

(As for the book and the videos with that title, I found the latter worthwhile, but I haven't read the book. People have suggested to me that the author recently has been speaking on behalf of oil industry interests, but I couldn't begin to confirm or question those claims.)

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A post about more constructive approaches to rising oil and gasoline costs -
"Reducing oil prices"

Giving blood for oil or sex for oil, on the other hand, entails an extremely shallow and present-minded perspective. Those approaches barely scratch the surface of rising gas prices as symptoms of much wider problems.

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A previous post in which I joked about oil depletion issues -
"Lightening the loss of crude"

Toban Black
(http://tobanblack.net/blog/?p=409)
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Introducing..... world peak oil !


[via The Global Sociology Blog]

This video is an excellent overview, but it isn't flawless, and it doesn't cover everything. For instance, it's oversimplistic -- to say the least -- when the creator(s) suggest that there are only two future scenarios for us to choose between.

For a much more comprehensive overview of where we might end up in the future, see Heinberg's book PowerDown. (I highly recommend that book -- and others that Heinberg has written in recent years -- but I don't mean to suggest that all of the answers can be found there, or in any other set of books or videos for that matter.)

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Related writing from Richard Heinberg -
"The Dress Rehearsal Is Over"

"As oil crosses $100 on its way south, not even a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico and a statement from OPEC that the cartel will cut production by over 500,000 barrels per day seems capable of halting the bloodletting"...

... "Wasn’t the price of oil supposed to rise endlessly? Wasn’t the world supposed to end by now? What happened? What does it all mean?" ...

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Toban Black
(http://tobanblack.net/blog/?p=638)
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Help in getting to Kwinana

Help anyone please I need a car share expeses with someone to get to Kwinana in the mornings at the moment start time is 7.oo a.m. however that is not a big problem the problem is getting home at 5.30 p.m. can anyone help? Please email if you can help, anywhere along the Canning Hwy or South street whatever would be a help thanks

Why we must "roll" "back" Wal-Mart and other fossil fuelled big box stores

A speech that I read at a September 6th rally against Wal-Mart. (I since have touched it up a little).

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Hello everyone.
I’m Toban. I’m an organizer in Post-Carbon London, and I’m a Phd student (which I only say so that you might take me a little more seriously).

There are many important grounds to “roll” “back” Wal-Mart and other companies like Wal-Mart (because of unacceptable and even outrageous exploitation of workers, and many other problems), but today I’ll be raising issues surrounding fossil fuel consumption that we focus on in Post-Carbon London.

Basically, we promote alternatives to fossil fuel usage and dependencies --
through alternative energy sources (such as solar power), through improved energy efficiencies (in home appliances, in some cases), and -- most importantly -- through changes to our way of life. Rejecting big box stores and big box shopping is one way to challenge the fossil fuel consumption in our lives today.

Above all, Post-Carbon London raises fossil fuel issues in response to global warming and oil & gas depletion (including world “peak oil”); this oil peak -- this present or soon-to-come challenge of worldwide peak oil -- will entail skyrocketing gasoline and natural gas prices, and many other related problems (including rising electricity costs, and increasing poverty). Given smog, given ongoing oil spills, and given the incredibly unjust distribution of fossil fuel profits in and around state and commercial enterprises -- as well as numerous other grounds for concern about fossil fuel consumption -- we must cut our ties to these carbon fuels.

Yet, Wal-Mart and companies like Wal-Mart have been driving up the fossil fuel consumption in various ways as their operations have been expanding.

Wal-Mart is a leading importer of overseas products. Over two-thirds of Wal-Mart’s inventory is imported from China -- where factories are fuelled by coal (and dirtier coal at that) -- far more than other energy sources. These products then are shipped to Canada and other countries in oil-fuelled vehicles.

Yet, all of these fossil fuels are burned to sell poor quality ‘goods’ which are considered to be relatively disposable. When these items are replaced, more fossil fuels are burned up, and further pollution is spewed out.

And shoppers usually reach stores like Wal-Mart by car (or van, or truck) -- because these stores are on the outskirts of cities (and other areas where people live), and because of the one-stop-shopping at these stores (where customers buy clothing, appliances, and a wide range of other items during separate trips). Buses and other alternatives to cars also are inadequate and otherwise discouraged. In Post-Carbon London we aren’t completely opposed to cars (or vans, or trucks), but we do object to fossil fuelled automobiles -- that is, the gasoline-fuelled vehicles that generally are driven today. (We also object to electric cars, air cars, and hydrogen cars, in a society that is a long, long, long way from generating adequate electricity, air, or hydrogen for car drivers without significantly relying on coal and other fossil fuels –- which we may prove to be necessary to fuel so many vehicles.) The cars on the road also are not as efficient as they could be, and drivers usually are very wasteful (as cars are driven with one or two people in them, for instance).

Given various forms of fossil fuel consumption behind companies like Wal-Mart, these big box stores are driving us toward more rapid global warming, and toward even more rapid depletion of the more affordable and accessible oil & gas supplies.

In these and other ways, Wal-Mart has been leading a lowering of standards. But we shouldn’t settle “for less” -- which is what Wal-Mart is selling.

So let’s take a stand. Let’s “roll” “back” and “rollaway Wal-Mart and other big box stores.

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(At the White Oaks mall Wal-Mart in London, Ontario)

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From this page you can reach a poem and two more speeches that were read at the rally -
http://londonontario.indymedia.org/?q=node/684

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I'm planning to post a longer version of the above writing.

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Here are two other relevant rally speeches I've written and presented over the past year -
- "Social and environmental problems and opportunities"
- "Imperialism and fossil fuels"

The "Social and environmental"... speech was on behalf of Post-Carbon London, but the other one was not; and I brought a lot of my own personal perspective to the "Social and environmental"... speech.

(Believe it or not, I'm still planning to post an extended version of the "Imperialism"... piece.)

Toban Black
(http://tobanblack.net/blog/?p=594)
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Photos from the "save our forest city" rally against Wal-Mart

At a September 6th rally against Wal-Mart -

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On Facebook, Teresa T. also has posted other rally photos.

If you have a Facebook account, you can get to one of those photos here -
http://www.new.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=4199102&o=a...

From there, clicking "next" (at the top-right of the picture) will take you to Teresa's other rally photos.

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Note:
London, Ontario is often called "the Forest City" -- a name that some consider to be very inappropriate

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Toban Black
(http://tobanblack.net/blog/?p=586)
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