The Practice of Practice

As a rule of thumb, I expect to do a design project three times before I am satisfied. The prototype always has a few bugs and may not even work at all, but you learn a lot and can expect success with the second version. The practice you had with the first two attempts finally pays off with close-to-perfection on the third try, with a product or process you can be proud of. It all comes down to learning from your mistakes. But you can't make the mistakes unless you make that first attempt.

Society is perched on the precipice at the beginning of the Great Decline. There is much angst and pessimism about the implications of “peak everything.” Gradually we will move from denial, to anger, to acceptance of our condition. Discontentment on this path is the impetuous we need to make personal changes in our lifestyles and careers. The steps from frustration to realization is practice.

So, the first time you bike to work and get caught with a flat tire you can't fix; somehow you will still get home and you will be better prepared next time. The garden you planted where the squash overran everything else; you managed to get a lot of squash and you know better for next time. Your great solar charcoal-making, algae-burning, carbon-sequestering device makes more smoke than heat, but you have your data point and you know where to go next.

With practice, your mind is active and engaged; you are in the moment. You are acting for yourself, your family, community and planet. You get the satisfaction of new knowledge and experience, the pride and rewards of your own accomplishments. The satisfaction doesn't take much money – just practice.


Dan Burden (at a San Jose 'news' outlet) -
"Toward Walkability — and Happiness"

Exerpts -

"One measure of quality of life is the level of access we have to the things we value most — jobs, safe streets, affordable transportation and housing, and quality health care, schools and civic spaces such as parks and other gathering places.

The ability to walk to many of these places from our homes or places of employment generally raises that quality-of-life index. When researchers look for places where people are happiest, it’s often in communities where they can live near where they work, walk their children to school and shop at stores within walking or biking distance."

"Studies also indicate people are least happy when in their cars, largely because they cannot predict what will slow them down, or when."

"Unfortunately, over the past several decades, we’ve designed our communities to move automobiles, not people. Too much is tied to the auto and is out of walking and bicycling range for residents. The happiest places in the world were designed to accommodate and support people, not their cars.

Take a walk and test this out. Walk a street or corridor and look for ways to make it a better place, where people can get to know more people and are within walking distance of the things they love or need.

For existing streets, ask community leaders to redesign the rights of way to support walking and biking — perhaps widening sidewalks and planting trees so that pedestrians feel protected from fast traffic.

For new development, encourage projects that are compact and walkable, with homes near stores and jobs, and streets that are comfortable to walk and bike. Connect streets so it’s easy to get from one place to another without going out onto a multiple-lane road with fast traffic."


Of course, there are different views about what constitutes "happiness" and "quality-of-life," and these standards sometimes are overgeneralized -- without leaving room for interpersonal differences.

I don't mean to wholeheartedly embrace the general definitions that underlie the above writing; however, those (largely implicit) views about "happiness" and "quality-of-life" do seem to be very valid (but not completely valid).


A related post -
... "We’re more human when we use our feet."

And there are some posts about cycling here -

Toban Black
Creative Commons License

"Drive-Thru Truths"

Did you know that...

  • Critics of drive-thrus don't have "any proof"; in fact, they don't "make sense"
  • Fast foods -- and drive-thru access to those fast foods -- are "vital" "for the disabled, seniors, and parents with small children"; access to these fast foods is not just a matter of convenience; "many people need drive-thrus"
  • All of "the disabled, seniors, and parents with small children" have cars -- as well as money for insurance and gas; and all of "the disabled, seniors, and parents with small children" don't have disabilities which prevent car-driving (as blindness does, for example); so all of these people have the option of using drive-thrus
  • Drive-thrus are the only way that we can improve accessibility for all of "the disabled, seniors, and parents with small children" -- even for disabled people whose mobility is not impaired in any way
  • Cars only make people safer; no one is ever endangered by car driving
  • It's fine to encourage people to eat and drink while they drive after leaving a drive-thru
  • The health of drive-thru window employees is not important; it's OK that they inhale fumes from nearby exhaust pipes throughout their shifts
  • It doesn't matter that all of the employees and customers in establishments with drive-thru windows are exposed to the exhaust fumes that come in through these windows
  • Drive-thrus are not an environmental problem in any way whatsoever; in fact, drive-thrus are an environmental asset
  • People don't travel to businesses by bicycle, by bus, or by foot; every customer who doesn't use a drive-thru either will leave their car in a parking lot, or they will leave it idling outside of the building; so without drive-thrus that is what's bound to happen
  • Tailpipe emissions are the only environmental issue that is relevant here; other environmental consequences (e.g. ongoing oil spills) associated with extracting, refining, and shipping the oil used to make gasoline are a separate matter; and the materials (e.g. rubber) needed to manufacture and maintain vehicles (e.g. their tires) are not relevant either; so the extraction, transport, processing, and disposal of these materials also has nothing to do with drive-thrus; and the ecological implications of industrial manufacturing of vehicles and vehicle parts is unrelated as well
  • Concerns about how oil profits often end up in the hands of authoritarian regimes (e.g. in Saudi Arabia) are irrelevant
  • Drive-thrus don't encourage additional car driving, so "banning drive-thrus won't reduce the number of overall car trips"; drive-thrus thus have nothing to do with ongoing automobile collisions, or with other problems (e.g. increased obesity) associated with car driving
  • Eat-in establishments are of no value; "quick service restaurants" are ideal; it's not important that we sit together as a community rather than eating and drinking more privately (e.g. inside vehicles); we shouldn't be concerned about how there are fewer jobs and less tips in "quick service restaurants" with drive-thrus
  • It doesn't matter that younger people who can't drive cars on their own have less access to drive-thrus, and to establishments that are more accessible by car; poorer people who can't afford their own cars -- and everyone else who can't drive on their own -- also don't deserve any consideration
  • "The public" supports drive-thrus; "the public" does not have any concerns about drive-thrus
  • Each name on the petition is actually from a separate person who has "read the facts"; there are no duplicate names on the petition, and no fake names were added to it
  • There is grassroots activism in the "Drive-Thru Truths" campaign -- as the protest signs show
  • "The experts" dismiss concerns about drive-thrus and tailpipe emissions; "the experts" all agree on this
  • Tim Hortons and the Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association -- the people behind these messages -- just want to help us all, while contributing to environmental causes; profit-making strategies have nothing to do with their stance on these issues; unlike "special interest groups," Tim Horton's and the Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association are concerned about the general interests -- of "the people," whose voices and whose empowerment are considered to be very important

Those are the messages that you'll find at drivethru truth .ca, a pro- drive-thru propaganda site. (The banner image is at the top of this post; their original banner is a little larger, however.)
The above points are about what is said on that site, and about what isn't said on that site.

There are additional problems with drive-thrus that I could mention, but I'm just responding to the lobbying on and around that particular drivethru truth web site. In other words, this post is just a response to a particular set of industry lobbyists (and without effort to come up with every possible point that could be raised against them).

Some of their propaganda also has been spread through pamphlets (which I've seen on Tim Hortons counter-tops), through mainstream media advertising, and through t-shirts worn at a public event the other day.

Here are a couple of photos of the t-shirts:

(Click to enlarge)

The mob wearing those shirts all seem to have been Tim Hortons employees. (In part, I say that because of how they collectively reacted to what was said during the forum on Tuesday.)

They might have been paid to come out to the forum wearing those shirts; or other pressures or incentives might have driven them there.
I'm not sure why exactly they were there, but I am certain that they didn't have to pay for the shirts; and I'm sure that they didn't have to create the t-shirt design and then produce the actual t-shirts.

The "Drive-Thru Truths" campaign is a 'top'-'down' form of lobbying. Executives, managers, and marketers have been leading the way.


As for the lobbyists' pamphlets, here's the text from one that I picked up from a Tim Hortons counter -

"Banning Drive-thrus in London?

It's a bad idea all around.

Fact: A drive-thru ban would hurt the less mobile.

Drive-thrus are a vital access point for the disabled, seniors, and parents with small children.

Fact: ZERO Environmental Benefit.

Crowded parking lots create the same or more emissions"

Basically that pamphlet text is a condensed version of messages at drivethru truth .ca (which the pamphlet refers readers to).

On the pamphlet a hand is holding up a sign that says "4 KIDS IN A VAN. BLIZZARD. DRIVE-THRUS HELP."
How ridiculous is it to bring up that situation? Generally speaking, why would someone drive to a fast food outlet in that weather? -- when there actually are blizzards (which do happen now and then around here). A parent who does that would be endangering their children; yet, the lobbyists are encouraging that behaviour.

On the pamphlet there also are two other hand-held signs--the "DON'T BAN DRIVE-THRUS" sign, and the one about using a walker (which also are on the drivethru truth site).

How many people with walkers also drive cars though?

Messages like that are an insult to the intelligence of humanity.


Here's a web site which was set up in response to

(Those campaigners don't have the help or resources needed to make a more eye-catching and easy to navigate web site. That's 'democracy' for you.)


On a barely related note, here's a blog post (elsewhere) about Tim Hortons here in London, Ontario -
"You’ve (do not) always got time for Tim Hortons - lady previously sacked for giving away a timbit"

I'm only posting that here because I expect that, like me, others will enjoy reading this because they are frustrated with the industry propaganda, which Tim Hortons has had a huge hand in.

The case described in that blog post also symbolizes a lot of other issues I've been alluding to--issues which come down to sheer inhumanity (e.g. in exposing employees to car exhaust fumes).


Updates -

The web site now brings people to a Tim Hortons web site. ( doesn't bring visitors to the Tim Hortons site, however.)

There are a few comments on this "Drive-Thru Truths" piece here:
(where I had re-posted it)

Toban Black
Creative Commons License

Forum on drive-thrus in London, Ontario

On Tuesday night there was a forum (at a local hall) about drive-thrus in London, Ontario.

A mob was there wearing blue t-shirts associated with this pro- drive-thru lobbying web site. (I've written about that web site and those blue-shirted people in this post.)

The local campaigners challenging drive-thrus have been taking pioneering steps, so industry lobbyists have tried to stamp out the campaign. (This aggressive lobbying has come from Tim Hortons and the Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association, in particular.) London thus has been made into a sort of flashpoint--within the province of Ontario at least. (I don't know how contested drive-thrus are elsewhere.)

Several local environmentalists went out to the event to speak. One of them was there on behalf of Post-Carbon London, which I'm part of as well. Others (like the gentleman in the photo, who is from a neighbourhood association) also came out to raise different concerns about drive-thrus.


Before the event the Council of Canadians sent out this announcement:

They also distributed these posters:


Here's some mainstream coverage of the event -

Videos -'%20width=402%20height=338%20scrolling='no'%20frameborder=0%20marginwidth=0%20marginheight=0


Written journalism -

A blog post -- and the comments on it -
(I think that the author's responses to my comments show that they are intent on misrepresenting the event. For instance, this person dismisses the idea that the blue shirted people were "causing a scene"--despite how their propaganda shirts were an obvious "scene," and despite how they would respond to happenings en masse--usually by clapping.)


Update -
Here's the PowerPoint presentation that Cory Morningstar -- the head of the local chapter of the Council of Canadians -- prepared for the Tuesday forum on drive-thrus:

Toban Black
Creative Commons License

Sandy LeonVest

by Sandy LeonVest

“Anyone who isn’t cynical right now is either stupid or not paying attention.”

The quote above is not mine, nor does it represent how I feel. It does, however, articulate what I perceive as an increasingly palpable (and disturbing) attitude among some segments of the populous - apparently in response to the crazy times in which we find ourselves.  

I’m hoping this only reflects my experience, and does not represent a hard core ‘renaissance’ of cynicism. But it does seem to me that, right around the turn of the century (just after Bush 2 was elected), cynicism as a valid (even intellectually superior) position picked up steam.  

Today, reality on the ground, including the dismal state of the economy - from local to global - seems to be amplifying the phenomenon further, which, I guess, only makes sense.  “It’s hard to argue against cynics,” wrote good old Molly Ivins. “They always sound smarter than optimists because they have so much evidence on their side.”  Of couse, she’s so right. As a journalist, I can testify to that. Seems like the evidence supporting the cynics’ position is coming in by ever-bigger truckloads with each passing day.  

Yet, I think I prefer Oscar Wilde’s view of the matter. He once defined a cynic as one “who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” And perhaps Ralph Waldo Emerson, who once said a cynic “can chill and dishearten with a single word,” best reflects my attitude on the subject.  

The planet is in deep trouble - perhaps irrevocably. Humans across the world face a resource crisis of historic and unprecedented proportions. That seems as good an excuse as any for giving up.  But, to engage in what John Kenneth Galbraith called “the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness,” seems to me destructively self-indulgent. Unless one is looking for an excuse to give up, cynicism serves no long term purpose. It may be a reasonable position - for a minute. But the more relevant question is, “where do we go from there?”  

Toward that end, we would do well to keep in mind that cynicism is a luxury that primarily plagues the ‘well-fed classes.’ Those members of the global population who face the ravages of civil war, displacement, drought, disease and famine as a way of life understand that hopelessness is simply not an option when survival is on the line.  

For those of us who are still relatively privileged, I would submit that hopelessness is not an acceptable default position.  

So, how does one ‘remain in light’ in such dark times, without resorting to the (dangerous) comfort of denial? Or, in the Zen sense: Knowing we are surrounded by misery, can we still live in a joyous state?  I think the answer is ‘Yes.’ Here’s why:  

I am, by profession, a turner of stones, bound by a sense of personal and moral responsibility to consider many points of view and many facets of the same issue in order to make an informed judgment about how to approach a subject or a story. That may be why being an ‘activist,’ (ie: one who takes action) works so well for me. I find the process to be liberating and fulfilling , calming and exhilarating.  I love doing what I do, and I find it strange when people ask me (and they do), “How can you do what you do, day in and day out, and keep such a positive attitude?”  

The answer is simple: The more I understand about the rest of the world, the more I realize how fortunate I am to be who I am - and where I am. Democracy requires vigilance requires participation ... For my money, the US mainstream media and their ‘subscribers’ are obsessing over the wrong thing(s). Americans are about to discover that high gas prices - and even recession and/or inflation - may be the least of their worries.  

Besides, if a nice, long recession is what it takes to snap US policymakers out of their growth-induced trances, so be it. [Don’t miss reading NASA scientist James Hansen’s testimony to Congress in SolarTimes at]   

As Dr. Hansen so elegantly testified this summer, the long-prophesied ‘tipping point’ on climate change will have been reached if major and substantive measures are not taken within the next year.   

There is no lack of awareness of an energy crisis in the public (or private) sectors. That is not the problem. There are some extraordinary, even visionary renewable energy projects going on locally and across the planet.    

The problem, as I see it, is that while the US media is fixated on rising gas prices, inflation and the flailing stock market, national and global institutions are essentially failing. The ‘dinosaur’ in the room is the growing sense that economic and social systems we have come to regard as ‘normal’ are stressed to the limit and, in fact, melting down.  
Seemingly disparate phenomena, from food shortages in India, Haiti, West Africa et al, to melting ice caps in the Antarctic have converged with overtaxed power grids and energy shortages across the planet. Accelerated climate change and a third-world population explosion obliges us to redefine ‘normal.’  
It is unlikely that the high fuel prices of the past several months are an economic anomaly. Even the US Energy Information Administration says ‘conventional’ world oil production peaked back in 2005, and the peak in all oil (including non-conventional sources like tarsands) is estimated to come in 2010.  
Still, my biggest concern remains the seeming inability of governments - large and small - to implement substantive changes in a timely way. The (relatively small number of) Megawatt renewable energy projects actually being employed today is a drop in the proverbial bucket when compared to what is needed - NOW.  
I am encouraged and inspired by California’s public commitment to leading the nation in the movement to mitigate extreme climate change. And I get as excited as the next person about the latest, greatest R&D, and the promising new technologies that are here now or in the pipeline. But, from where I sit, there still does not seem to be the kind of radical vision of the future and the bold leadership needed to enact the systemic changes that might insure such a future.  

California, to its credit, has set some laudable goals and has passed groundbreaking legislation with AB 32 (the global warming bill signed by Schwarzenegger in 2006).  

But even the California Energy Commission is concerned that many of the state’s emissions goals, ambitious as they are, will not be met within the projected timeline, and agencies like the California Air Resource Board are not always helpful, as evidenced by their April, 2008 ruling on Zero Emissions Vehicles. (See SolarTimes, SecondQuarter, 2008).  

There is much work to do - statewide and nationally.  

By 2050 (conservative estimates), the planet may well have more than 2 billion cars on the road - three times the current number. More efficient fuel economy can be achieved with mandates, such as the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards, or by higher taxes, but these are likely political non-starters here in the US. And no country has ever substantially increased its fuel economy (even with new technology) without also implementing tougher fuel standards, higher prices or both. Even Europe, with its high gasoline taxes (relative to the US), has mandates.  In 2007, Congress did finally pass a 35-mpg fuel standard after a grueling battle with conservatives in both parties. That will get the US to where the Chinese are now by the year 2020, and we will still lag far behind Japan and Europe. “No gasoline-powered car assembled in North America would meet China’s current fuel-efficiency standard,” noted the Toronto Star last year. And, dare I add, it may be time to abandon the internal combustion engine altogether.  

“To avoid dramatic climate impacts,” says scientist, Joe Romm, editor of Climate Progress, “The average car on the road will need to put out under one-fifth the emissions of current cars, or the equivalent of five times the miles per gallon of today.”  

And, as Dr. James Hansen points out in his Congressional testimony, time is not on our side. ... SLV

Temporary Initiating Hub Meets and Grows

Hub members at our first gathering

On Sunday 6 July we had our first meeting of the Temporary Initiating Hub at Kerry St Community School garden. Allen, Alix, Ryan, Joelle and me showed up, and we welcomed 2 new members - Damien and Maria.

In the photo, taken in the community garden area, are from L to R: Allen Caetano, Damien Gerard, Joelle Gerard, Alix Frew, Ryan Hedley and Maria Nazar-Daza.

It was great to get to know each other better over some delicious soup that Allen cooked. Allen showed us over the school's community garden area which is being developed under a "Community Kitchen Grant". The school has already had a rainwater tank fitted thanks to a grant from the Water Corporation.

We discussed ideas and strategies for our first task as a Hub which is to help each other with "Awareness Raising" (download the Transition Initiatives Primer and then look from page 40 on) in each of our local communities (following the Transition Towns model). Basically this involves newspaper editorials and articles, film nites with community discussion time built in, radio interviews, presentations at community meetings and such.

We are currently organizing the setting up of a "library" of films that can be used to raise awareness about transition issues. We have also been in contact with the Transition Towns network in the hope of further inspiration and support.

Endangered species

(Oxfam protestors at the UN Climate Change Conference in December, 2007)
[via Simon Leufstedt]

More photos of the same Oxfam protestors -


In this previous post I wrote about polar bear protestors, and about saving polar bears and humans -
“If you care about climate change forget about ‘saving the planet’”

The photo up there also reminds me of this post -
‘We Just Want Our Voices Heard’:
Oil Executives March On D.C.

And (now that I'm digging through the archives) here's another one with polar bear protestors -
U.S. protestors; Canadian oil and tar sands?

Toban Black

Biodynamic intensive French method


I am looking for a garden following this concept.At first glance it looks like a method I would like to use , made for small garden, organic and does not deplet the soil, plus give abundant results. Now I suppose it means intensive work as well, but nevermind no pain no gain.
Really wish to see one in action.

Northern New Brunswick

I now have the time to help develop a reloaclization group here in Campbellton and the Chaleur region. This is essential for many reasons and so i am reaching out to find if there is anyone who is interested in joining with me on this journey.

Reusable Shopping Bags: The New Plastic Bags

It seems everyone's finally getting on the down-with-plastic-bags bandwagon. There are plastic bag bans popping up all over North America. And, where it isn't yet mandated by city ordinance but very much on the lips of the public, local markets and natural food chains alike are opting for the paper-only policy. Alternatively, customers are being encouraged to bring their own reusable shopping bags and forego disposables altogether. Personally, I like this option the best. What irritates me, though, is the way in which reusable bags have become yet another product in the marketplace--a cultural cliche that, for $40, better make the right statement about the person carrying it.

I got to thinking about this as I was standing in the check-out at Capers the other day. Don't get me wrong, I like Capers. They do a great job of labeling what's organic and local and the brands they sell are generally what I'm looking for. And, thankfully, they don't put a lot of impulse-buy crap at the till like most stores. However, there was one product I saw at the Capers check-out that really irked me--a reusable nylon shopping bag that neatly stuffs into a pocket-sized pouch with a carabiner attached. There's nothing wrong with the product, per se. In fact, the convenience of being able to carry it on a key chain will no doubt ensure it gets used more frequently than the oops-I-left-it-hanging-on-my-doorknob variety. What irks me is the fact that there has arisen a whole new industry around reusable bags--probably the out-of-work makers and sellers of disposable plastic bags.

Everyone can agree that disposable plastic grocery bags are a bane to the environment: it's a waste of energy and resources to keep making them and it's a waste to keep filling landfills with them after their intended single use. Plastic takes eons to break down in a landfill and it's made from oil, a resource that took so many eons to form in the earth that it is non-renewable in human time. Reusable bags are definitely a better alternative, but they, too, have to be manufactured at a cost of resources and energy. Whether they're cotton or canvas or nylon, the raw materials come from somewhere and they will need to be in a constant state of replenishment. (Ahem... isn't nylon also a petroleum-derived synthetic? If sustainability is the goal of reusable bags, maybe they should be made exclusively of sustainable materials.)

It isn't as if everyone will be issued their ration of reusable bags, end of story. No, the bags will get lost, damaged, worn-out (hopefully from use) and people will need new ones. Thus, the reusable shopping bag industry is a necessary fact of 21st century life... or is it? Who doesn't own a back-pack, briefcase, or large handbag? If you carry one of these on a daily basis, you're already carrying a reusable bag! So use it!

Reducing oil prices

Richard Heinberg on driving down demands for oil -

"We could reduce the price of oil just by reducing demand. If the world could be satisfied with the amount of oil that can still be produced cheaply ($30 is an arbitrary figure—by now $130 oil sounds cheap), then the price would fall to that level. We’d have to keep reducing demand to maintain that price since the cheaper oil continues to deplete.

But there’s a problem to that solution: the most likely way that global demand will be reined in is by economic contraction brought on by high prices. That’s a nice way of saying bankruptcy, unemployment, and industrial collapse. It sounds bad, but that’s not the problem; the problem is this: once the price falls by any significant amount, demand will just pick back up again and we’ll be right back where we are now—with prices aiming for Alpha Centauri.

Or, we could hope for a cheaper, more convenient source of energy that would reduce demand for oil painlessly. But since no one has invented one yet, we can’t really bank on it happening (though throwing a few extra tens of billions toward energy research is not a bad idea).

In other words, there is no existing market-based fix for the fix we’re in.

Which means there is really only one way to get the price of oil down over the long term. That is to implement some kind of global agreement to ration oil consumption by quota, so as to reduce demand artificially. Just reducing demand in one country won’t help much, because some other country will quickly take up the slack. No, we all go on a diet together.

Everyone would kick and scream—but no louder than they’re currently doing. We already have rationing after all; it’s called price rationing. And price rationing simply ensures that poorer potential buyers are priced out of the market first (that’s why countries in sub-Saharan Africa are now verging on economic oblivion: they can’t afford oil to grow crops, transport goods, or operate the diesel generators that supply municipal power grids). To rich folks, price rationing may initially sound like the better deal, but they have to live in communities too, and if Orange County is going Mad Max, daily life even in a mansion behind an electric fence starts to be a bit of a bother.

Quota rationing is something North Americans haven’t faced since the 1940s—when it worked successfully to conserve fuel for the war effort. But it has also been used in other countries when supplies of fuel or electricity or water ran seriously low. Typically, quota rationing averts cutthroat competition while appealing to people’s community spirit. Nobody has as much as they want, but everybody has enough to get by.

On a global level, the quota agreement might be as simple as this: each country would agree to reduce its oil consumption by three percent per year (which is a little more than the world oil depletion rate). Then national governments would be free to find their own ways to implement that cut domestically—whether through fuel taxes, investments in efficiency, or personal quota rationing.

A global Oil Depletion Protocol is impractical, you say? Could never be negotiated? Of course it would be a tough bargain to accept. The alternative is even tougher, though.

Imagine the world without such a Protocol. Continually soaring prices will be a given. But for an increasing number of countries and potential users, this will translate into shortages. As in: the gas station down the street doesn’t have any fuel this week because the station owner can’t afford to pay cash on delivery (this is already starting to happen right here in the wealthy US of A). Worse, perhaps: nations will be tempted to secure essential fuel by military action or covert subterfuge. Just how well this is likely to work we may judge by events in Iraq over the past few years.

How badly do we want cheaper oil? Badly enough to cooperate internationally? Badly enough to lower our consumption? As soon as we want it that badly, we’ll have it. Until then, the market rules. Welcome aboard the oil-price escalator."


(I've added the link to the Oil Depletion Protocol web site.)

Heinberg has published a book about that protocol.

As far as I know the Oil Depletion Protocol is the only proposal of its kind out there. Even so, I think that Heinberg narrows our options too much in the writing quoted above---in the second-last paragraph, in particular. There may be other ways to bring down international demands---if only through an agreement that is similiar (but not identical) to the protocol that Heinberg refers to here; that Oil Depletion Protocol isn't the only alternative to the path toward more and more fossil fuel demands and dependencies.

I certainly have reservations about rationing, but is there a better way? Rationing is undemocratic, and we mustn't take that lightly. However, natural limits on fossil fuel supplies aren't democratic either; no one chose to place these obstacles in the path of humanity (and, above all, in the path of more affluent and more fossil fuel dependent societies in the inter-continental 'North' 'West'). Popular will (i.e. the basis of actual democracy) also couldn't take away those natural limits. Given how we are--or soon will be--colliding with those natural limits at a break-neck pace, maybe rationing is the best way to go.

To return to the above writing from Heinberg -
He also states that "once the price falls by any significant amount, demand will just pick back up again and we’ll be right back where we are now—with prices aiming for Alpha Centauri." It isn't inevitable that demands would rise in that way in response to lower prices, but it is extremely likely that this would happen---given the sort of world that we live in today. This world can be changed, however. The Oil Depletion protocol is one approach to moving away from fossil fuel dependencies, but there also are other possibilities. An example: Here in London, Ontario there is a campaign against new drive-thrus. Those campaigners aren't waiting for an international agreement like the one that Heinberg advocates.

Anyone who supports that Protocol still should support other constructive initiatives. I'm sure that Heinberg would agree with that, but in the above writing he discourages this sort of thinking about multiple possibilities.

However, I don't recall seeing any other statements from Heinberg suggesting that the Oil Depletion Protocol is the only positive way to go; and I've read most---if not all---of his Oil Depletion Protocol book.

Toban Black
Creative Commons License

Escape by transit

Panoramic View of the Pioneer Valley by Maria VI spent most of my life in Western Massachusetts, in the lovely Pioneer Valley. But even though I never learned to drive, I never set foot on the PVTA buses - thanks to the kindness of mom and dad, carpooling, my own two feet, and in hindsight, a terrible lack of curiosity. There was a certain nervousness, too: I didn't know how to find out where they went or when they'd arrive, what kind of people I'd find on them, whether I'd end up stranded at the other end of my trip. I wasn't sure whether one had to buy tickets ahead of time or pay as you board - I even had a suspicion that the service was just for the elderly or disabled.

When I moved to Portland, learning to use the transit system was a more normal thing to do. Everyone I met did it, and it turned out to be easy. If I want to figure out how to get somewhere and how long it'll take, is there for me. Real-time schedule information is available by cell phone. My process of gradually becoming comfortable in this mobile public space was similar, I imagine, to that of the Southern Californians interviewed in a recent LA Times article. But that process does take time, and systems need to be learned.

Last week, as I returned from vacationing with my family and we passed through Estacada, we spotted a Tri-Met bus. We seemed worlds away from the city I know - Estacada is about 35 miles from my home - but suddenly, this new destination was within my range. I also thought what better way to spend vacations than exploring?

Turns out it would take me about two hours to get to Estacada by bus. Which is two hours of checking out the view, talking to a friend, or reading a good book. And then I can check out the Clackamas river and McIvor State Park, or stop in at Viking Brewery ("the brewery that made Estacada famous!"). Who knows what else I might discover? The sense of the unknown and unexpected that may make people wary of shifting to transit systems for things like commuting have the potential to turn a relatively nearby destination into a fun adventure.

3041 by Brian McCaffreyWhat does this have to do with the PVTA? Compared with Tri-met, the PVTA is a fairly sparse system: that's reasonable, considering the difference in density1. But it's still pretty loaded with options, which today I can explore using the PVTA's site and Google maps' transit option. When I was living in Northampton, Mass., it could have taken me to Springfield's museum-loaded quadrangle (which I remember fondly from my childhood) in just 23 minutes. The friendly CSA farm in Hadley, which my parents still belong to, was under 20 minutes away, just over the Connecticut river. Further along the same route (the B43) is Amherst, home to several colleges and their attendant cultural amenities - I could have reached it in under an hour. Getting to my parents' house in Williamsburg would be more challenging, because it's in a small town, farther from the core of the route. These kinds of trips take planning and can't really be impulsive journeys2.

This isn't a new idea, and it won't work everywhere. But some transit agencies are making it easier, like (forgive the Portland-centricity, here) Tri-met, with their guide to local destinations, or even better, the New York MTA's "Destinations, Deals, and Getaways" page, that shows almost impossibly alluring (non-urban) vacation-y images.

Perhaps through these experiments people can get to know what's available and learn how valuable improved service in their area could be. They'll learn that their transit system is not just for marginalized populations or "common people". Nor is transit a boring utility, but can be part of getting to know the place in which they live.

Next time I'm back in Massachusetts, I'll have to set aside some time for an adventure I should have had years ago.

1. ^ The three counties that make up the Pioneer Valley have a combined population of about 685,000, while the Portland metropolitan area is home to about 2 million. The respective transit agencies, of course, serve primarily the densest, most urban parts of those areas.

2. ^ For example, I recently learned that I can get to Oregon's coast by bus for $15 round-trip - but because of the schedule, I'd better plan to stay overnight. With a little more research and planning, that could be a nice trip!

Photo credit: Maria V
Brian McCaffrey

Local First Movement Revs Up to Rock -- and Save -- Our World

It is 1974 in Springfield, Missouri, and they are still showing movies downtown at a theater on the city’s Park Central Square. I am 10 years old, and my sister and I are thrilled to be out on that sweltering summer night with our very cool Aunt Robin and Uncle Romie. We’re off to see Herbie the Love Bug Rides Again. The smash Disney hit is about a lovable, racing-striped Volkswagen Beetle who saves a little old lady and her historic home from the wrecking ball of "progress."

Bright colors, loud crashes, and daring escapes will make an impression on any kid. But it is the moral of Herbie’s story—that people and place matter—that’s kept the little VW zooming around my mind through the years. He roared in again just a few weeks ago when I sat down with some 500 hometown business leaders at the sixth national convening of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE).

And Herbie was doing wheelies! Like me, he was thrilled that so many people there, representing so many folks back home, are starting a new kind of progress that doesn’t need quote marks around it: rebuilding neighborhoods in their own towns.

Like Herbie, they’re coming to rescue us from the super-highway, super-center, super-consumer "progress" that costs us so much. Independent merchants, green builders, energy innovators, local food purveyors, and eco-friendly manufacturers are leading the charge. And as they make the change they want to see, more people are joining them—helped by the fact that the props supporting the "progress" that destroyed that little old lady’s neighborhood are now tumbling down.

It’s the hot story right now: rising energy prices, falling credit capacity, climate instability, big-company complicity from here to Hong Kong—it’s status-quo-shattering stuff. But it’s also old news. We’ve seen it coming, even if some thought our scientists and soldiers could stave it off.

But none of the "local first-ers" were in Boston to say, "I told you so." Their message is way more positive: "Come on down and join the party! We have a lot of work to do, but it’s fun, rewarding, and profitable work."

For example, way out West, BALLE members are having a great time and a lot of success in Bellingham, Wash., where the region’s "Local First" campaign is building serious awareness and sales through initiatives like its "Where the Locals Go" coupon book.

Out East, the Greater Philadelphia Sustainable Business Network, a founding BALLE member, is leading a broad-based effort to develop a comprehensive "green-collar jobs" plan for the city. It’s all about employing local youth and supplying local businesses with the skilled workforce they need to seize opportunities in such areas as green home building, renewable energy installation, and urban farming.

And in the Midwest, 12,000 people showed up a few weeks ago for local food, bands, and beer at West Michigan’s fifth annual Local First street party.

This is no sentimental yearning for a Main Street day gone by. This is fierce, hard-working love for people and place leading the way to a new and nourishing economic understanding. And it’s on a roll, with more and more people now getting it…and demanding it.

Philly’s Sustainable Business Network, for example, had to set up nine regional Web-cast locations for its first green-collar jobs forum after the 600-seat central location filled up. Two weeks later, the city council directed its economic development and environment committees to get to work on that comprehensive plan.

The new understanding is that everyone Philadelphia needs to help it move forward—indeed, everyone every community needs—is already here. Their work is to recognize, welcome, and support each other, just like an organic farmer builds the strength of plants by using how nature actually works to cultivate the soil’s web of life.

It’s easier in the traditional economic development world to give another big-box store another tax break and pretend that gigantic parking lots are conducive to neighborliness. BALLE, however, is doing the deeper work of building a more connected, more robust economic life.

Local BALLE chapters invite people to think first of local bookstores or restaurants when they’re out and about. The chapters also connect local businesses to other local businesses, which widens the web of local commerce. Plus they partner with chambers of commerce, local governments, and universities to find ways to keep sales and investments working for local folks, not distant speculators.

And, as the local economic web grows … who knows? New funding for local food and farms in the federal farm bill? Hey, wait, that actually happened this year, thanks in part to so many farm-to-school and related local food campaigns emerging across the country, such as the one I’m involved with in northwestern Lower Michigan, called Taste the Local Difference.,

This is so exciting it has Herbie and me doing wheelies! And next time we’re in Springfield, we’re going to the independent Moxie Cinema, down by Park Central Square—just another risk-taking, fun-loving business that is bringing local commerce and community back to the core of that city, and to this country.

A Plan Just Crazy Enough to Work !

Hi all,

I've been doing my own thing for a while. Preparing for Peak Oil on a micro scale - you know,- just my family first.
I've noticed that with the financial stress, consumers aren't spending as much on non-essential items, and these are on sale now. Just bought some sleeping bags, water sterilising tablets, camo pants (for bow-hunting (which I have done all my life)), and black plastic solar shower-bags. Also bought a cast net and yabbie trap. While essentials will rise in demand and price, non-essentials are dropping, trying to stay in business. I plan to buy discounted non-essentials, to make my essentials for free. Now I can go and catch a meal of baitfish, as they do in Spain, and fry them up, instead of wasting my money in the seafood section of the supermarket. If they taste terrible, I can mush them into fertiliser to feed my vegies, and eat them that way, instead of wasting money on blood & bone at Bunnings.

Action Alert-- A Multiplier Effect of a Positive Nature


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.1

We now live in very complex and challenging times. This writer has created a “Ten Point List of the Most Difficult Challenges of Our Times” (see which suggests a need for problem solving on a scale most of us have never known before. Challenge #10 reads as follows: “Sorting out what are real challenges and what are sound and practical solutions is becoming more and more difficult, as there is now, in many parts of the world, a multitude of ideas of all kinds coming to the fore in personal, family, community, and cultural life—all at the same time.”

Community Visioning Initiatives can contribute much to this “sorting out” process, and help build the kind of consensus which attracts investment from significant sources. This writer believes communities of people can experience a “multiplier” effect of a positive nature from implementing a well-organized Community Visioning Initiative. He has, therefore, created a proposal titled “1000Communities2” ("1000CommunitiesSquared") to help bring this community building tool more to the forefront of public discourse.

What are Community Visioning Initiatives?

Many of us will be familiar with the problem solving strategy of identifying problems and brainstorming solutions. 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. The more comprehensive CVIs require steering committees, preliminary surveys or assessments, workshops, task forces, 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” ("1000CommunitiesSquared") proposal

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) contributing to 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 establish a significant number of local community points of entry called “Community Teaching and Learning Centers” [if use of that particular description “Community Teaching and Learning Centers” is permitted by the organization “Teachers Without Borders” (see] to act as information clearinghouses, meeting locations, classrooms 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 to 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.

Many Difficult Challenges Ahead

More and more people, in more and more parts of the world, are coming to the conclusion that on top of the challenges of

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)

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.

If even a few…

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 (“Vision 2000”), 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.

Many hands make much work light

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.”

Concluding Comments

The above mentioned proposal—“1000Communities2”—is accessible in pdf format for free at the website of The Interfaith Peacebuilding and Community Revitalization (IPCR) Initiative, at (This writer is the founder and outreach coordinator for The IPCR Initiative.) (A pdf file of the "1000Communities2" proposal has also been attached to this blog entry).

This writer has also created a Group Site for the “1000Communities2” proposal through the WiserEarth networking website (see To facilitate discussion-- and as a way of focusing member contributions towards specific and constructive results-- 26 excerpts from the original 161 page proposal have been made into Wikipages for this group. (See “List of ‘Titles’ for the 26 Excerpts” in the “Introduction” to that Group Site). Members of this group are encouraged to make posts in the “Discussion” section of this group site—or in the corresponding Wikipage area-- which are related in some way to one or more of the 26 excerpts, or to some specific element of the "1000Communities2" proposal. Hopefully, back and forth discussion on various elements of this “1000Communities2” proposal will supplement, add to, and refine the relevant and practical “how-to” and “why” information already in the proposal. Such discussions may encourage and inspire people in different parts of the world to create similar community-specific proposals, and result in active participation by many people in a Community Visioning Initiative associated with their specific community.

With Kind Regards,

Stefan Pasti
The IPCR Initiative

Notes and Source References

1. The statistics included here are from “Revision 2000: Take Charge Again”, a brochure this writer received from Chattanooga Venture. These statistics are also accessible in a detailed overview of Chattanooga community revitalization efforts titled “Chattanooga: The Sustainable City”, at the website for the James MacGregor Burns Academy of Leadership at (see Chpt. 3, p. 7) (Confirmed June 15, 2008)

Portland, OR Transition town talk

Date: Sun, 6 Jul 2008 22:52:09 -0700
From: Jeremy O'Leary
Subject: [ppg] Speaker: David Johnson - Transition Towns (Cities, Villages
and Islands)

Speaker: David Johnson - Transition Towns (Cities, Villages and Islands)

Start: Jul 9 2008 - 7:00pm
End: Jul 9 2008 - 9:00pm

David Johnson will speak on the Transition Town movement which was
set up in the UK as a community response to the dual challenges of
Peak Oil and Climate Change. From its small beginnings in Ireland in
2004, the Transtion Initiative has spread to include over 50 groups
around Britiain and communities in Australia, New Zealand and America
as people start to take responsibilty themselves for the challenges
that we face.

David has recently moved to Portland from the UK. He built an award
winning eclogical house in South Wales and completed a Masters Degree
in Ecopsychology through Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. David
has also trained with Joanna Macy in her Despair & Empowerment work.

St. Francis Dining Hall
1182 SE Pine
Portland, OR

looking for somehwere that does car conversion

i m wondering if anyone is aware where i can find a person to assist me to convert my vehicle to hydro or air

doing the permaculture walk in qld, australia

I am wishing to connect with people I can learn and grow with in the areas of alternative fuel, alternative energy, and setting up permaculture fashion.
I have 200 acres near brisbane (an hour from) so any groups please let me know

Concord Local Member Informs House Committee on Sustainable Industrial Practices

Newburyport-based Sustainnovation, a business consulting firm focusing on sustainable business practices recently spoke to the combined Massachusetts House Committee on Science and Technology Caucus and the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture on June 26 at the State House. Read the article about their company and the State House meeting below:

Article in Wicked Local

Call for a Moratorium on New Car Manufacturing

I just got back from an all-day outing to IKEA in Richmond (near the airport, for non-Vancouverites) and, though I'm grateful I got to spend time with a friend who was only in town for a day, I'm exhausted from spending what feels like an eternity in stop-and-go traffic in my POS car. It's a 25-year-old Volvo 240 Wagon, but the charm stops there: the transmission's manual; the power steering seems to be, too; the seats are leather and the air conditioning doesn't work. It's physical labor to drive the thing and, quite frankly, it makes me not want to drive. I'd rather be on the bus with a good book.

So, I'm proposing a moratorium on new car manufacturing. There are enough cars on the planet already. Hasn't anyone noticed the sad state of dealerships lately? They've got countless thousands of new cars sitting around that nobody wants and that they can't seem to give away, even with $500 of free gas. Why should precious resources be used to manufacture even more new cars when there are tons of old heaps like mine just waiting for someone to show them a little TLC?

(Don't think that the advances in fuel efficiency bestowed upon newer models are really going to save the planet; they're just keeping the sprawled-out car culture charade alive a little longer. It's a little like skipping the bacon on your double cheeseburger or switching to products that claim to be "low-fat" once you've attained morbid obesity on a diet rich in meat and processed food. You know a more appropriate dietary change would be to start eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains--in other words, a complete 180--but you don't know how to give up the charade. In the same vein, people who drive "fuel-efficient" cars are kidding themselves if they think they're not still using the same fuel as the rest of us--yeah, I get it, they use less of it, or else they have an excuse to drive more. Either way, they still pollute; even bio-diesel-fueled vehicles produce greenhouse gases, which constitute a more real environmental threat than peak oil, anyway.)

So, why a moratorium on new car manufacturing? Precisely because people will not be compelled to give up the car culture charade until they feel the effects of it physically and financially. Fortunately, the relentlessly rising cost of fuel is starting to take a noticeable toll on people's wallets and, thus, they're driving habits. In case that's not enough, if we adhere to a moratorium on new car manufacturing for, say, ten or fifteen years, then everyone will be driving an old heap and the simple task of driving to the office--once so comfortable, even luxurious--will be work in itself. If driving becomes, not only outrageously expensive, but physically draining as well, then maybe people will finally be compelled to do less of it. At the very least, then, driving would be a physical task more akin to walking or biking, and more people would probably choose to do the latter if the former weren't so effortless.

Who's with me?! Down with new cars!

Cycling blog

Selected posts from Canadian Cycling Blog -


Toban Black

Bringing Population Into Balance With Resources

This is a guest post by Merry Teesdale.  Merry Teesdale is a field biologist and permaculture designer who specializes in win-win solutions. She manages OwlWood Wildlife Refuge and OwlWood Garden, which displays and encourages the development of sustainable food production within the community. She also writes the Journey to Permaculture series for Whatcom Watch.

 Merry writes:

Thank you for the fantastic job you are doing by giving us cutting edge information.  I love to read your emails.  Good work.  [referring to our weekly Sustainable Bellingham email newsletter - DM]

There is one subject that I haven't seen anything about in the media.  It is that elephant in our living room that no one is acknowledging.  Perhaps you can find some info on it to start a dialog in our society. 
All these problems we are having and will be having would be alleviated if our population was brought into balance with the resources.  How can we lower our population?   This is THE most important question we should be dealing with. 

I suggest we accept for discussion positive reasonable solutions and stay on track with that.  For example, our government could reward young women of childbearing age for not having children until they are 28 yrs old.  (This cuts out approx. 12 years of potential children from each woman.  By the time they are 28, they have established and educated themselves and will have a better life for themselves and their children.    How can we reward these young women for not becoming a parent?  How about refunding their income tax each year as long as they don't have a child?  From age 18 to 24 we could also pay for some credits of school at state funded colleges or tech schools. 

Some positive new language needs to happen too.  
First, we need a good positive word to describe a female person who isn't having a child.  So women can be proud of that condition.     Childless - sounds like lack, 'not a mother' (not so good)  See what I mean?

The people who will ultimately save us all are the young women who choose to not have children, or who only have one.   They deserve thanks and recognition.   We need a world-wide movement about this.   We are all here right now and it would be wrong to complain about those who are now living, but our future is unrealized potential.  We CAN do things about it and these things are really quite easy.  All we have to do is REFRAIN from doing things.  Refrain from having children, refrain from burning stuff. 
I have great faith in the ability and flexibility of our populus to deal with hard times.  A public dialog and educational program about a smaller population and how we can get there will be a great boon to this society. 

Merry Teesdale

[comments/replies are encouraged - DM]

Home-scale Permaculture Site Evaluations

Permaculture site evaluations

I am now offering home-scale permaculture site evaluations for anyone who is interested in applying permaculture principles to their home sites.

For a $150 fee, I will spend two hours at each site with the owners/tenants to assess residents' needs, evaluate their site, and determine suggested design elements and systems that will maximize sustainability for the long term. This evaluation is not a complete permaculture design, but rather serves as a springboard of ideas which each homeowner can take and begin to implement as time and resources allow.

Design considerations include:
- Site orientation & solar access
- Water flow, catchment & storage
- Sustainable food systems
- Energy flow and renewable energy systems
- Natural building materials & methods
- Animal systems
- Waste management & sanitation

This special rate is offered for a limited time to residents of Grass Valley, Nevada City and adjacent areas.

To schedule your site evaluation today, please call Paul Racko of Sierra Permaculture Design at 530-613-4181. Visit Sierra Permaculture Design online at

Paul Racko has been studying and applying permaculture for over ten years. In 2007, he received his Permaculture Design Certificate from the Regenerative Design Institute (RDI) and provides design and consulting services through his company Sierra Permaculture Design.

What is Permaculture? Visit Wikipedia to find out more:

Congress must extend renewable energy tax incentives

An Open Letter to Congress
By Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin
July 10, 2008

If you want to know more about the economic, environmental and security benefits from renewable energy development, look no further than my house in Madison, Wisconsin. A crew from a local solar contractor just finished installing a solar electric system that will, when activated, produce about one-half of the electricity used in our household. . .

As you very well know, federal tax credits have been the principal policy tool for accelerating renewable energy development in this country. Right now, most renewable energy technologies are more expensive than fossil fuels, but the federal incentives level the economic playing field, providing breathing room for solar, wind and biogas to mature and become cost-competitive with more established energy resources. This has been especially true with wind generation, which has expanded from 6,500 megawatts in January 2005 to over 19,000 today. This tripling of windpower capacity in less than four years could not have happened without the production tax credit being in place during that time.

How critical is the solar tax credit in driving solar’s growth in the United States? If our  middle-class household is at all representative of the solar-installing customer base, I can honestly say that the federal incentive was a necessary component to making that investment work for us. Had federal incentives not been available this year, our budget would have been insufficient to absorb the substantial up-front expense that comes with owning a solar energy system. 
Indeed, when I compare the flurry of installation activity now with the near-dormant conditions that prevailed just three years ago, it’s clear that the federal tax credit has greatly expanded the size of the domestic solar energy market. . . .

The U.S. economy is on the ropes, and a lot of unpleasant policy trade-offs lie ahead. As the cost of fossil fuels escalate, and the housing sector and the automobile industry contract further, the U.S. can ill afford to skimp on the one energy pathway that can, with the proper policy support, create jobs by the thousands and convert capital into socially productive and sustainable enterprises. If Congress is truly serious about turning the economy around, reducing the trade deficit, making progress on climate change, and creating a more energy-secure America, it must extend the renewable energy tax incentives, preferably this month. No other action will accomplish so much, or cost so little.

Read the full letter on RENEW Wisconsin's blog.

Beaverton Farmer's Market Part 6

Posted at

Beaverton Farmer's Market Part 6

Glad to get back to the farmer's market, missed last week due to my wife and I are in the middle of buying a house. Each week there are more and more items showing up. We took a walk through the entire market first to see what was there and to compare prices and quality.

First got small Yukon and red potatoes, they can be roasted whole, about five stalks of broccoli and a pint of plum tomatoes. Grabbed some more rhubarb to make another pie, see previous posts for the recipe that I'll use. I'm going to bring it to a Peak Oil meeting this week, I've been told it's great to read about me cooking, but they haven't done any tasting yet ;-).

Seeing that the weather will get hot this week, we decided to make a chef salad one night. Picked up tomatoes, cucumbers, head of lettuce and some sugar snap peas. Mixed with some turkey breast, salami and whatever else is in the fridge, makes a great meal.

Onions are looking great, got two very large Willamette Valley sweet onions which I used in the recipe of the week. I added them to chicken Madeira, a great dish that is not hard to make but it very fancy. It's a good meal to make for a dinner party or a special occasion.

Chicken Madeira

3 to 4 chicken breasts
1 large onion
12 mushrooms
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
1 1/4 cup Madeira wine
1 tbs corn starch
3/4 cup flour
2 tbs olive oil

1) Clean and cut chicken breasts if desired, mix salt and pepper in the flour and dredge the chicken to coat.
2) Heat a skillet, recommend cast iron, add one tablespoon of olive oil and fry the chicken until its browned on both sides, about two to three minutes a side. Remove from pan and put into a oven or Pyrex dish.
3) Cut up onion and add to skillet after de-glazing with the remaining olive oil. (De-glazing is adding a liquid to a pan after frying to scrape up the little bits that are stuck to the pan.) Cook onion for about five minutes until the onion begins to soften.
4) Slice mushrooms and add to onion and cook for another five minutes, they should be tender and cooked. Add broth and Madeira and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow sauce to reduce. Add seasonings, I put a dash of granulated garlic as well as some pepper.
5) To thicken sauce, strain off about a half a cup of liquid and mix with corn starch. Stir well to remove lumps and add back to the pan. Stir and allow to return to a boil, the sauce should thicken up nicely.
6) Pour mixture over chicken and bake for 30 minutes at 375 degrees, or until chicken is cooked.

Made this with the broccoli and rice. Rice is a good side dish since it sops up all the gravy. Note the more broth and Madeira you add, the more sauce you'll get, I make extra sauce since I love the taste. Feel free to use less if you don't want it as "saucy".

Grabbed some blackberries and raspberries since they are now in season. Also got more artichokes, this time tried an Italian artichoke as well as a regular one. Made them for lunch on Sunday. The Italian artichoke is meatier and has a strong artichoke flavor. The leaves are thicker and the heart was amazing. Not to diminish the regular artichoke either, it was just as good.

Still anxiously waiting for eggplant to show up, I'll be posting a bunch of recipes then.

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