Friday, December 23, 2005

Holiday break

I will be spending the holidays with family. I don't know if I'll have any time to blog, so if I don't get to say it later, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

P.S. Poohtie Cat says Happy Holidays, too.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

This explains a lot...

Research shows that the anticipation of a purchase triggers dopamine that gives a shopper a lift. I dissipates quickly, however, leaving a let down--buyer's remorse.

I'm a believer! (But I have been better this year at unplugging the Christmas machine. I'm buying practical gifts this year.)

Connect your appliances into the Kill-a-Watt, and assess how efficient they are. A large LCD display counts consumption by the Kilowatt-hour just like utility companies. You can figure out your electrical expenses by the hour, day, week, month, even an entire year. Monitor the quality of your power by displaying Voltage, Line Frequency, and Power Factor.

The Smart Strip Power Strip features advanced circuitry that not only offers excellent power surge protection and line noise filtering, but is actually able to 'sense' the flow of electrical current through the strip's control outlet. Because of this unique ability, the Smart Strip can turn off selected equipment when its not in use -- creating benefit that no other power strip on the market today can offer.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

I'm a NRDC fan too

The National Resource Defence Council has a flash video featuring the BiPolar Bear Flip and Penguin P. Chilly who give Mom's car a makover in "Pimp Mom's Ride." It's cute.

Friday, December 16, 2005

I'm a Jib Jab fan

Jib Jab has done it again. I just saw their new video--"2-0-5" in review--on CNN. And I'm still chuckling. Have at it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Two proposed energy policies

There are two energy policy proposals circulating that I think its important to take a look at and give your feedback about.

The first is a critique of the US Energy Policy Act of 2005. In it, author Rudolf Cooke says we need a plan, and

[t]he first step in addressing any problem is to understand it. We need a really good definition of the challenges that lie ahead--technical, social and economic. Thus we start with a thorough review of the energy market. We need a realistic forecast of America's energy requirements by fuel type by year for the next 20 years. Fuel types fall into two basic categories: fuels for mobile applications (cars, trucks, railroad engines, airplanes, etc.), and fuels for stationary applications (power plants, furnaces, generators, pumps, industrial motors, etc.). Then we need a forecast of fuel resources by type by year for the same 20 year period. The supply forecast must include a conservative estimate of resource depletion, potential political challenges, and international competition for available fuels. Our market plan should also examine future cost/price trends and their potential impact on our economy.

Where shortages appear in our forecast--and they will--we need to review alternative solutions. Again, there are two categories: energy efficiency and new resource development. Since energy efficiency improvements provide us with the quickest and cheapest solution, all avenues of improved energy efficiency must be defined and quantified. The remaining energy shortfall defines the annual fuel volume requirements of our resource development objectives.
Cooke goes on to describe the "three key components of a successful business plan." It would be administered by a large organization that must manage the project. None of the components are in the 2005 act.

He invites us to consider his proposal and give feedback. As of this writing, the link to the feedback forum is not working, so I don't know whether this will be an option in the future.

I do know that the feedback mechanism is working for the second proposal called Energize America -- A Blueprint for U.S. Energy Security written by several regulars ("Kossacks") at the web's most popular Democratic blog, Daily Kos. Jerome a Paris published the latest draft and introduces it this way:
With this Fourth Draft, we have refined our focus, sharpened our message and begun to build the financial models to support the plan, including both a funding model and target investments for each specific proposal.
It sets a legislative agenda for transportation, power generation, the environment and regulatory framework, efficiency and education, and funding the campaign. The authors are asking for feedback on several levels: rhetorical, political, cost/benefits, and even the wording.

It is an important piece of work that may help Democrats frame their platform, so take a few minutes to look it over and then register with Daily Kos to comment. (You won't be able to comment for 24 hours, but I think it will be worth the wait.)

This is the nature of participative democracy today, so take advantage of it! See you in the comments section!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

a funny...

The blogosphere was rich in important contributions today. It's going to keep me busy for the next couple of days. But I thought I'd start you off with this:


Sunday, December 11, 2005

a lovely new blog

Thanks to Energy Bulletin, I have found Transition Culture, which is what my blog wants to be when it grows up. It is written by Rob Hopkins, who describes himself this way:

My background is in the teaching of permaculture for many years, giving people the tools to create more sustainable ways of living in their own gardens and families. Since I found out about peak oil, I have become fascinated by how we apply these principles to whole towns, whole settlements, and in particular, to how we design this transition in such a way that people will embrace it as a common journey, as a collective adventure, as something positive. So much peak oil and other environmental literature is doom-laden and information heavy, and most peoples’ reaction is to switch off. How can we design descent pathways which make people feel alive, positive and included in this process of societal transformation?
It is heartening to read, in fact he makes a conscious decision to include Heart in his work:

In September 2005 I moved to Totnes in Devon, to begin a PhD at Plymouth University looking at Energy Descent Action Plans, refining the model in such a way that they can be done anywhere. This involves looking at what I call the Head, the Heart and the Hands of Energy Descent. By the Head I mean the concepts of peak oil, arguments for and against localisation as well as any historical examples that we can learn from. The Heart refers to exploring how to actually engage communities in a positive and dynamic way, how to use peak oil as a tool for empowerment rather than leaving people feeling helpless. This part of the exploration is about how to actually facilitate change, and the dynamics of cultural transformation. The Hands refers to the practical aspects, could the UK become self sufficient in food and how? How much well managed woodland would it take to heat a town with efficient CHPs? Can local materials be used to retrofit houses?

This reminds me of the 4H pledge that Mr. Logan taught me:

I pledge My head to clearer thinking,
My heart to greater loyalty,
My hands to larger service, and
My health to better living,
For my club, my community, my country, and my world.

I thouroughly enjoyed every entry and invite you to visit often.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

A message from my Electric Membership Corp

My electric bill came with a message from the CEO:
Dear Members:

Those of you who have lived in Georgia for at least one summer know that, on a hot summer afternoon when the clouds get dark and you hear thunder off in the distance, we are about to have a storm. People adjust their plans and get ready for what might come.

Currently, we are hearing the thunder of increasing energy costs and seeing the darkening clouds of a tightening energy supply of the various raw commodities used to produce electric energy. It appears that this is the prelude of what "might" come very soon, increased electrical rates.* With the tightening of the supply of coal and natural gas, two (2) of the most popular fuels used in the production of electric energy, coupled with record increases in the commodity price of these fuels, many people believe we are on the verge of a 1970s style energy crisis. We are not ready to sound that alarm just yet but want you, our members, to be aware that the "sky is getting dark" and like with that afternoon storm, we need to prepare...
He goes on to say that they will send out an energy professional to our homes to discuss how we can lower our energy usage.

*This sentence was very strange because the bill also came with a note that our Wholesale Power Cost Adjustment Factor has changed from $0.014100 per kWh to $0.024025. And its a fee on top of the Energy Charges.

I also wonder about the way he brought up the looming energy crisis as something other people a worried about but not them. And that the problem is coming but isn't coming yet. Why doesn't he want to take ownership of "sounding the alarm?" What is that strategy about?

We have turned down our thermostat and are making other changes to get our kWh down. I think we have a lot of room for improvement. December is usually our highest month so we will hopefully beat last years usage.

I'm sure we will all be hearing a lot more on this theme as the effects of peak energy begin to impact us where it really gets our attention--in our pocketbooks.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Community Solutions Leadership Training

I am back from a very empowering weekend produced by Community Solutions and hosted by the Center for Sustainable Community at Stelle in Illinois.

I met up with three other peakers at O'Hare and we took the subway downtown to meet our ride. We carpooled down to Stelle in a Prius, which sat five adults more or less comfortably. I sat on the hump. We used the onboard GPS to find the hamlet, which lead to a nervous minute when we thought we were going the wrong way and had to turn around on narrow country roads with ditches on either side. But the GPS took us right to the front drive.

We were pretty late, but they had saved us dinner--hot soup and homemade bread. This was just the first in a series of delicious meals prepared with local, organic food; much from their own gardens. They showed us wonderful hospitality.

We stayed at various homes in the community and got to know our hosts a little bit that way. We were each given a binder full of resources to look through for the next day. When I saw the course outline and all of the handouts I felt intimidated--me? a community leader? I haven't even held my first showing of "The End Of Suburbia."

The first day started out with the usual course overview and introductions. Our group came from diverse backgrounds, but each of us had a burning desire to take action in our communities in common. It was quite a relief to be around other people who had the same concerns.

Then Pat gave some pointers on developing a peak oil talk. Each of us got a CD with his Powerpoint slides that we can use to develop our own talks. He pointed out the Fundamental Four graphs that tell the peak oil story:

The first shows the peak of US production.

The second is the growing gap between discovery and production, which I can't get to upload.
The third is world oil production.

The fourth is the jump in OPEC oil reserves when they set the production quotas to be based on reserves, which I can't get to upload either.

Then we broke into groups to come up with answers to typical questions brought up in the Q&A session after a presentation. When everyone shared their responses, I was very impressed by the depth of knowledge in the room. And by what it will take to be able to field the FAQs effectively.

After lunch we did a session by Karen Berney on a theories for working with communities which included a section on a topic close to my heart, Adult Learning Theory and the Experiential Learning Cycle. Ultimately our goal is to bring about a change in people's knowledge, attitudes, and practices, so it is very important for us to understand how this happens. We also looked at the Diffusion of Innovation.

After dinner Pat Murphy gave us his standard presentation that we can use as a model for our own. We got into a challenging conversation about the use of Biblical quotes. This led to exploring the principle of the importance of knowing one's audience.

Day two gave us a chance to apply what we had learned the day before. We broke into small groups and imagined that we had to create a process for people that had just gotten information about peak oil. How could we help a group work through their responses to this very difficult information? We wanted to allow for ownership by the group of the problems that we are facing with the advent of peak oil. It is very important not to provide solutions--even if we could--but to allow them to arise out of the group.

In the afternoon we had the nerve-wracking chance to develop a 3-5 minute speech. I decided to do one introducing peak oil to beginners. I was very nervous. Very ironic considering that in a past life I have taught public speaking many times. My best line came when I was talking about what in the room is made out of oil. Your computer, pen, the paint on the wall, etc. I included the Xanax that I had taken before giving the speech. (Did you know that many medicines are made from petroleum feedstocks?)

Then we got to hear everyone's speeches. It was very interesting. We had a talented group who had many approaches.

Megan Quinn gave a presentation on communities that have developed action plans in response. It included the ones I have talked about here. The next day we developed our own action plans. What are we going to do to once we leave? And by when? We stood up and shared our commitments to all the world and handed in copies of them for Community Solutions to follow up with us on.

We were exhausted and glad to be done but it was hard to say good-bye to so many dedicated individuals. It means so much to know that we are not alone. If you are lucky you will be hearing from one of us in a neighborhood near you.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

training for Peak Oil presentations

I'm off to another workshop... this one sponsored by Community Solution to "provide the tools, strategies, resources and practical experiences to educate your community on peak oil and work with them to implement local solutions." I feel extremely lucky that I was accepted.

It will be held in a community that started out as an intentional community and has interest in sustainability. So that should be interesting.

It will be so great to be able to hang out with "peakers!" I'm looking forward to developing a new network.

As usual, I will tell you all about it when I get back!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

"Risk" and "Probability" and Peak Oil

Kurt Cobb brings up an important point in the peak oil debate: the role of risk and probablity. He explains that when the consequences are severe, we will do our best to mitigate the risk even when the odds are low that something bad will happen. For example, most of us have fire insurance even when it is unlikely that we will ever have a fire.

So when it comes to peak oil, which has potentially very severe consequences, why not behave as if it will happen even if we can't predict when it will happen? Especially considering that every year that goes by increases the odds that it will happen this year. We may not be sure that the doomers are right, but it is better to be safe than sorry.

For a clearer explaination than I can do here, go read his essay.

PTF's trip to New Orleans

The crew over at the Path to Freedom have written up their experiences about their trip to New Orleans to help friends and relatives with clean up. It was a very sobering piece.

Several hours or so later with buckets, shovels, a rake, gallons of bleach, and garbage bags piled high in the back of the rented minivan, we arrived at Lester’s home, donned gloves and masks and plunged into work. His home is quite big and we literally attacked each room. We were determined to get the muddied, molded and waterlogged furniture, appliances and stuff out of the house and onto the curb. Having a deadline of only a few days to work kept us moving even as the stench permeated into our brains with a dull headache, the waterlogged carpets and slime soaked floors threatened to spill us with one misstep and the itchy masks formed prickly goatees of sweat on our faces.
The end by relfecting that Los Angeles, indeed the world, has its own "big one" that looms--are we really ready to be without power, water and infrasturcture?
For those who want not to just read about peak oil or the end of the world scenarios – go to New Orleans and find out first hand. Reading in the comfy of your surroundings is one thing; living the nightmare is another.

May the courageous people of New Orleans persevere, and may the rest of us never have to face what they are facing.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The shape of the peak

I just came across Robert L. Hirsch's article about the shape of the curve that describes the peak of oil production. He looked at regions that had already peaked to check out the assumption that it would be a gentle slope. Here is what he found:
  • In all cases, it was not obvious that production was about to peak a year prior to the event
  • The peaks were sharp, not gently varying bell curves and not flat topped, as some forecasters have hoped
  • Post-peak production declines were much greater than our 2% benchmark in some cases
  • Pre-peaks occurred in three cases

The implication is that we may not have much time to adapt to a post-peak world.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


I just saw this link on Dead Ants are my Friends. Play it for your Uncle on Thanksgiving.
The Speechinator

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

reflections on sustainability in community

I participated in a workshop by Tree Bressen this weekend, training me in facilitation for cohousing communities. It was a wonderful experience and I learned a lot. I particularly appreciated getting an insider's look at cohousing community issues and culture. And I was fortunate enough to be a witness to a "distillery"--an exploratory meeting--on the issue of "green decision making." It gave me an idea of the spectrum of concerns that people have when confronting such things as "what green criteria [if any] should we establish to make purchasing decisions?"

Many cohousing groups are concerned with sustainability. They cluster their homes to make room for open space. They share a common building with a large kitchen, meeting room and guest, kids and teen rooms so that each townhouse-style home can have a smaller footprint. They share laundry facilities. Often the building process itself is green.

But this doesn't mean that the individuals would rank "sustainability" as a primary value. "Community" is what brought them together, so relationships are very important. Being economical is important, too.

In other words, cohousing communities have to weigh the same variables that all of us do. How much more am I willing to pay to get a "greener" product? I've read that research shows that people will pay a 10% premium.

On the other hand, many products that are more energy efficient end up costing less money when you look at cost over time. So that's a no brainer.

The other issue that was really important was health and safety. People were concerned for the well being of their children. Could the group come up with an agreement not to put pestacides on their individual lawns? Questions like that need to be answered.

At least with cohousing you have a forum for discussing issues like this. And in many places they can make binding agreements. Having a consensus decision-making process means everyone has input. At the very least you will end up with something that you can live with, and generally speaking, if the process is healthy, you will have gotten your position aired.

But the community we were at did not appear to have a consciousness about peak oil. So there is consciousness raising to be done. It looks like I have my work cut out for me.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

off to another workshop

I am designing a training program to prepare me for my new career as a facilitator for communities interested in learning more about peak oil and sustainability and how to relocalize their resources. Yesterday I found out I was accepted into Community Solution's upcoming train the trainers workshop and I am thrilled.

Today I am off to the first in a series of workshops with Tree Bressan specifically designed to give me facilitation skills in cohousing environments. We'll be meeting at a cohousing community and practicing our skills as they deal with real problems.

I'll tell you all about it when I get back. In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

ASPO-USA Conference

"The essence of the problem: There is NO ready substitute."*

Reports are in from The Oil Drum on the ASPO-USA Conference that took place Nov 10-11 in Denver. By all accounts it was an excellent event, with high caliber speakers and a fruitful mix of perspectives. If you only have a little bit of time to research the latest thinking by experts in their field, check out Stuart Stanifords great coverage (with pictures) of Thursday and Friday.

ASPO-USA has also put up the Powerpoint slides of the various speakers. You can also get audio highlights of Day 1.

Rather than pull selections for you to read, I encourage you to go look at the overview yourself. Good stuff.

*The image is from Roscoe Bartlett's keynote presentation.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Field Trip

On Saturday some members of my Oil Awareness Meetup Group had a field trip to Allison's house to see how he had built it to be energy efficient and ecologically friendly. He and his wife own 66 acres, mostly wooded, but with some fields cleared for future livestock and farming. But we'll get to that in a minute. Our tour will start with the inside of the home to see his new Energy Star appliances.

His new fridge uses 75% less kilowatts per month which cuts down its fuel bill to about $4.00.

The new washing machine uses much less water per load. Their monthly water usage total is about 440 gallons, or 40% of the average household.

They did a beautiful job tiling the shower, so I had to take a shot of it.

This is their composting toilet. The gasmask is a joke. It has a fan in the tank below which pulls the air out of the bathroom.

This is the waste pipe for the toilet upstairs.

The salvaged the beautiful oak floors from a schoolhouse slated for demolition.

This stove heats the place with downed wood they collect. The house is so well insulated it doesn't take much to get warm. "Pancho" (a plastic Einstein doll) rides atop the cowboy hat.

They learned how to set tile on their screened in back porch. We got to meet Hemingway, who is a very friendly 5 month old.

We went out the back door for a look at the graywater system.

It comes out these pipes...

and gets sent to one of the two fields via this valve, which he switches every couple of weeks to let the mulch dry out...

and it comes out of this pipe into the drainage cachement which sends the water to nourish a fruit tree.

Now its time for a trip to the basement to see the inner workings of the house.

It was built with this insulating material, made of Styrofoam sandwiched between OSB. The ones in the outside walls are about 4" thick and have an R factor of 17. The ones on the roof are thicker.

An airtight house means a ventilation system is needed. When people ask if they will get sick from a well sealed home, Allison responds that a home can't be too tight, just underventilated.

This one exchanges heat between the air going in and going out. The next step up exchanges humidity as well.

This pipe evacuates the radon from underground. Its easy to install if you do it when pouring the slab. The negative air pressure draws radon gas up and out the vent in the roof.

This is the tank of the composting toilet.

The sawdust gets stirred by tines attached to the top axel. The compost comes out of the bottom panel.

The fan and the light (to attract and kill mold gnats) is on a 12 volt system.

The water pump is also powered by these batteries.

The water is pressurized in this tank.

Now its time to tour the grounds.

The greenhouse.

A tractor from the 1940s that they got running with a little TLC and a lot of moola.

My hubby used to ride on one of these growing up on the farm.

Next year this area will have chickens and maybe goats. The mound is their compost pile.

The garden/field is fenced off to protect it from the deer. Apple scented modules lure them and then shocks their noses. They learn to stay away instead of figuring out that they can jump the fence.

The well is 302 feet deep.

The pump is powered by this solar panel.

We learned a lot and had a great time hanging out. Thanks for your hospitality, Allison, and thanks for coming everyone!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Three Peak Oil Meetings

The Energy Bulletin posted this article by Aaron Naparstek that helped me define the edges of the peak oil responses and consequently my own place among them. He discusses three events: the "Petrocollapse" Conference, the "Winning the Oil Endgame" town hall, and a NYC Oil Awareness Meetup group.

The Petrocollapse Conference took place in Manhattan on October 5 and it featured speakers such as Jan Lunberg, Michael Ruppert, and James Howard Kunstler. All three are pretty serious "doomers" on the peak oil spectrum and don't put much stock into policy solutions.

If Peak Oil theory is now mainstream, splashed across the front page of USA Today and the theme of Chevron and BP ad campaigns, then Petrocollapse is a secular, left-wing, non-fiction version of Tim LaHaye's Christian Apocalyptic "Left Behind" series. The gospel according to Petrocollapse is that Peak Oil is coming, and it's coming soon. The transition to the post-carbon world will not be gradual, it will be sudden and massive. And when it comes, the sinners--those profligate American consumers and the corporate whores who oversee them--will all be swept away in violent social turmoil, starvation and environmental disaster. But there's good news too. After the tumultuous mass die-off, a new society will arise from the burned out SUV hulks and melted plastic detritus. In this post-carbon world, humans will have no choice but to live sustainably, in cooperation with each other and in harmony with nature. Those who get religion and accept Peak Oil into their hearts soon enough--they may be among the lucky survivors whose children grow to live in this new and better world.
On the other hand, the next event was all about policy.

If the Petrocollapse conference was dominated by conspiracy theorists, then Winning the Oil Endgame" was the Conspiracy. Present on the dais were former CIA director James Woolsey, Mississippi Governor and former Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour, former Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Robert Altman and Amory Lovins, CEO of the Rocky Mountain Institute.

Far from doom and gloom, the Endgame speakers were nearly united in their belief that it was both possible and desirable to keep finding fixes for America's energy Jones and to keep the American consumer machine rolling along using new technologies.
They promoted drilling, nuclear power, coal-fired electricity, natural gas and more efficient vehicles. Little mention was made of the "profound environmental problems and danger" of fossil fuels.

A third perspective was offered by a member of both audiences, Charles Komanoff, "who has been involved in the energy and environmental movements pretty much since they began in the early 1970's."

Komanoff acknowledges the possible validity of the Peak Oil analysis, but having heard similar End Times prophecies thirty years ago, he isn't allowing the Peak Oil argument to guide his work and activism. "I think there's an element of wishful thinking and that some Peak Oil adherents are looking for a deus ex machina to sweep away the disaster that is contemporary industrial civilization," he said. "And understandably so. Waiting for Peak Oil is so convenient, so much simpler, and so much more seductive than the hard work of organizing for social and ecological change."

Komanoff was also critical of the Endgame analysis. "There is a big dissonance between Amory's kind of chirpy optimism and actual realities on the ground and actual energy trends." Three decades after Lovins unveiled his revolutionary "soft energy path," Komanoff points out, the U.S. uses 25% more oil, burns 75% more coal and generates 35% more greenhouse gases than it did in the mid-1970s. Though a 66 mpg SUV is certainly more desirable than Detroit's current state of the art, Komanoff doesn't believe Lovins' hyper car project provides us with real answers for our global energy and environmental quandary because the project is "only about improving the fuel efficiency of the vehicle and does nothing about addressing the social and whole system efficiency of travel and mobility and community."
Finally, Naparstek looks at the NYC Oil Awareness Meetup group. This is the same network that I am involved with so I was particularly interested in how other groups are developing. They deal with the emotional component and have started a subgroup formed to help people get through the paralysis that learning about peak oil brings. Philosophically, they have broken into two approaches: "The Relocalizers believe New York City won't be viable in the age of Peak Oil and are looking for new places to live and new skills to live in a world without modern conveniences. The Sustainable New Yorkers are dedicated to educating and preparing the city for what they see as a lengthy and potentially tumultuous energy crisis."

Despite such dread, there is often a sense of action and possibility at the monthly meeting. Miner makes a point of emphasizing that there are things you can do to prepare for Peak Oil and people interested in doing them with you. At the Meetup, you aren't so much assaulted by the gloomy hopelessness that pervaded the Petrocollapse and Endgame conferences.

In my group, similar distinctions apply. As one member put it, there are "three possible scenarios for the P.O. future, and I can actually argue in support of each:"
1) Nothing Happens (Yergin): Things keep going smoothly (with maybe a slight bump in the road), alternative energy sources are identified in time and the economy will continue to grow at 4% indefinitely-business as usual. The Deniers say, "Everything is fine."

2) Soft Landing (Simmons): The energy crunch causes, at minimum, a recession or possibly a full-blown depression. The US has been through recessions before and will weather this one. A global depression may result as the US economy falters and consumers stop spending but in the end. "We'll tighten our belts and pull through somehow."

3) Hard Landing (Kunstler): The worst case scenario is an economic and social collapse-the stuff of doomsayers' dreams. "Oh shit."

Some Peakniks come in somewhere between 1 and 2, or between 2 and 3. The optimistic 1.5ers see a problem, but believe we can address it-they're the Organizers and Activists. 1.5ers will push for education, political action and programs like carpooling, bike lanes, public transportation, and tax credits for installing solar.

The 2.5ers are the Preparers; they're less optimistic and will be more concerned with readying for a stark, downscaled future-learning about farmsteading and food storage, getting off the grid, learning self defense.

The 3-or-worse crowd (the Survivalists or Apocalyptics) will start hoarding food, buying rural property and stockpiling ammunition like a survivalist. (NOTE: None of these generalizations are intended to be judgmental; everyone has to follow their own instincts.)
We found this to be an interesting starting point in identifying where each of us fell on the spectrum, and hope to create a group that can meet the needs of each.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

(was Flying Talking Donkey)

If you are like me, you are wondering what became of that blog. Well ask no more. Tim of Suburbia is back with links galore at Deat Ants Are My Friends. His selection is as interesting as always. I doodled at the GE's online collaborative whiteboard, added my location to the Peak Oil Frappr map, looked up Preteris, and all around had a good time whileing away the afternoon.

And yes I will update my links!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Slow Crash

This essay by Ran Prieur was posted on Energy Bulletin recently. Its a thoughtful proposition about how things might change, but in a less extreme fashion.
Imagine the end of the world in moderation. It's hard. We tend to imagine that either the "economy" will recover and we'll go on like 1999 forever, plus flying cars, or else one day "the apocalypse happens" and every component of the industrial system is utterly gone.
He denounces the images of people running wild in the streets. He starts out with the question of electricity: "When the lights go out, we won't go berzerk -- we'll go to bed earlier." Gasoline and water are dispatched. Food is more problematic, but he does not believe "the lack of food will make people kill each other." He has plenty of examples to counter that.

...[T]he interesting question is not "How will people die?" but "How will people live?" In the town next to the mass grave, what will we do all day? Process data and feign enthusiasm? Get on the internet? Make crossbows? Tend fruit trees? The best I can figure it out is to look at a bunch of more and less likely modifiers to the world as we know it, and think through how they could change things.
He goes on to look at the effects of various possibilities, including peak oil, economic depression, WWIII, secret weapons, China, serial Falluja, disease, weather, astronomy, and finally, a human consciousness shift.

Interesting reading. And be sure to give the appendixes at the end a look.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Medicine Bow

Medicine Bow, where I took the Plant ID course last weekend, is "A primitive school of Earthlore in the North Georgia mountains...that specializes in Native American survival skills (primitive skills) and nature classes. Besides a year round schedule of courses at the school, Medicine Bow carries programs to you on all aspects of Indian lore; such as: using wild plants for food and medicine, tracking, archery, history, canoeing, sign language and other facets of environmental education."

We learned about identifying plants Saturday morning and then spent the rest of the weekend traipsing around the beautiful Appalachian ecosystem looking at plants and learning about their gifts. We harvested tubers and nuts and Sunday afternoon we cooked them up and sampled them. I found out I loved Solomon Seal. We have lots of acorns on our property so I was interested in preparing them as well. We even learned how to make rope. Saturday night he offered an introduction to Native American sign language.

Mark Warren, the owner and our guide had a wonderful presence informed by the Cherokee world view. We learned to respect the "Standing People" (as the Cherokee call the trees and plants) and appreciate what they have to offer us. It was a very nurturing way to address survival issues.

If you live out in this neck of the woods, I highly recommend it.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Plant Identification Course

This weekend I will be taking the first in what I hope to be a series of basic survival courses. So far my peak oil education has included basic first aid from the Red Cross, group facilitation from Communities at Work and this Plant Identification course from Medicine Bow. I'll tell you more when I get back. Have a safe weekend!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Groups taking action

I am of the opinion that while we each need to take individual action to prepare ourselves for an uncertain future, our ultimate survival will depend on how well our communities function. So I am very heartened whenever I hear of groups and communities coming together to address the challenges. Here are some links to homepages of some of these groups. (Produced by the San Francisco Oil Awareness Meetup group)
Colorful and authoritative, this poster traces the history of the Oil Age from its beginnings in the hills of western Pennsylvania in 1859 to its rise as the engine of global industrial economies. The poster's main chart features a year-by-year rendering of worldwide oil production from 1859 to 2050 with projections of future production based on Colin Campbell's Oil Depletion Model. (Produced by the Los Angeles Oil Awareness Meetup group)
This website was created to further promote discussion about peak oil production, to focus on raising awareness in our community on this topic, and to create communities working torwards energy self-sufficiency. (San Diego Post Carbon Institute group)
This project is called "EONS Now" which is short for "End Oppressive Non-Sustainability NOW." (It could equally well mean "Earthlings Overwhelmingly Need Sanity NOW".) It is a project which aims to educate and enlighten people about the dominance of various forces which are non-sustainable at their core, what that means for society, and then what some options are for the future when these oppressive systems dissolve and become dysfunctional in the era of fading oil and gas supplies which allowed them to prosper. Despite there being a number of admittedly bleak topics covered, there is hope because we don't have to carry on this failed experiment. Envisioning a world with less corruption, pollution, alienation, and fear is a first step toward realizing such a world. (Portland Oil Awareness Meetup group)
We're a grassroots group of concerned local citizens, from different backgrounds, with different interests, who've separately become aware of the looming crisis caused by the peaking of world oil supplies. WeÂ’ve come together to try to:

  • Develop individual and collective strategies to cope with this crisis
  • Create awareness in the Portland community about Peak Oil
  • Influence policies of local government to help mitigate the crisis
  • Serve as a community resource as the crisis becomes more severe (Seattle Oil Awareness Meetup group)

Seattle Peak Oil Awareness is a local citizens action network offering information and practical ideas for living in a time of reduced energy availability. Working in small, focused groups we advocate healthy, sustainable living choices for all interested residents in the Puget Sound region. (Willits Economic LocaLization)

The primary objectives of the Willits Economic LocaLization project are 1) to determine current resource use in the community of Willits, California (energy, transportation, food, housing, etc.), 2) to determine how that community can reduce its consumption of those resources imported, 3) to determine local resources that can replace those imported from outside the community and 4) to implement this transition towards a localized economy. (Ithica, NY and surrounds project)

Every location will bring its own set of strengths and weaknesses to its struggle with the economic, social, and material consequences of the end of cheap oil. So unlike most sustainability plans, which apply now and apply almost universally to the U.S. and other developed countries, this project aims to develop a plan that will apply in the near future and will address the specific strengths and weaknesses of Tompkins County. This kind of plan is called "county relocalization." It is based on the belief that the size of counties and the traditional land use, welfare, and emergency management functions of counties puts them at the organizational level most appropriate to the management of emergency relocalization. In our case, it allows the plan to recognize and make best use of the unique blend of rural, town, and university resources in Tompkins County. The general outline of the TCRP may be applicable to other counties as well, but the objective is to map out in detail the measures to be taken right here.

Raising Sydney's awareness of global oil depletion and the possible consequences

Each of these websites and documents can serve as inspiration and modeling for our own local efforts. Want to get involved? One way to start is through Oil Awareness Meetup groups, another is through Post Carbon Institute Outposts. Either way will begin the process of getting to know your concerned neighbors. There may already be a group meeting near you. You've only got to loose your isolation!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Bioneers update

The Energy Bulliten offered a review of the Bioneers conference I wrote about yesterday. Of particular interest:

Orr and McKibben were among the presenters to mention Peak Oil, which was not on this year's program as a separate topic. However, conference participants organized two discussions on Peak Oil. Dave Room of Post Carbon Institute explained to about 70 listeners that the underlying cause of high oil and gasoline prices is burgeoning demand for petroleum while supply nears its limits. Once the rate of global oil production peaks, Room says "we will no longer be able to rely on 6,000 mile supply chains for the goods we use on a daily basis. We will increasingly need to re-localize our food, water, energy, and money systems and begin manufacturing essential goods more locally."

Richard Heinberg, author of "The Party's Over" and "Powerdown," explained to another 75 people the following day that "Peak Oil is the good news. It will lead to a collapse of industrial society. It will involve hardship for humanity, but eventually we will have to create the sustainable society that many of us have been talking about for years."
Hopefully next year Peak Oil will be in the scheduling consciousness. I'm pleased to hear about the turnout for the topic.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Bioneers conference

The 16th annual Bioneers Conference was held in San Rafael, CA last weekend. They also had concurrent conferences across the nation. I will be going to one next weekend in Atlanta. So what is Bioneers, you ask?

Founded in 1990, Bioneers is a nonprofit organization that promotes practical environmental solutions and innovative social strategies for restoring the Earth and communities.

They have a slogan: "It's all alive, its all intelligent, it's all connected, it's all relatives." They break it down this way:

It's all alive.
ONE OF THE BEAUTIES OF BIOLOGY IS THAT ITS FACTS CAN BECOME OUR metaphors, and these underlying codes serve as inspiring parables for how we can organize a more just, humane and authentically sustainable society. Life has the answers to our problems. -->

It's all intelligent.
INTERDEPENDENCE ALSO TEACHES US THAT THERE ARE NO SINGLE ISSUES because it's one whole that can be addressed only by bringing together all the parts. Bioneers gathers people at the crossroads of ecological restoration, human health and social justice. There is only one cause - it is all of them -->

It's all connected.
THE BIONEERS SPAN ALL FIELDS, CULTURES, AGES AND WALKS OF LIFE. The work ranges from science to spirit - local to global - academia to the grass roots - farm to city - business to public service - art to engineering. We celebrate the gift of life in all its diversity and mystery, conjuring a change of heart to renew our empathic connection with the web of life and the Earth, our home. We are one -->

It's all relatives.

They have a blog that people from different locations contributed to, with both words and images. (The pictures are for you, Steve!)

We ended the day with a closing circle, and Juanita Hull-Carlson led us in a prayer she found in Whole Earth Magazine:

I pledge allegiance to the earth, and all the life it supports. One planet, in our care, irreplaceable with respect and sustenance for all.

I thought this summed up the weekend.

The conference reaches beyond the borders of California:

For the fourth year in a row, the speeches given during the Bioneers Conference plenary sessions will be broadcast live via satellite in schools and communities around North America. We work with partners in universities, nonprofits and community centers to develop locally relevant Bioneers satellite conferences. Each community organizes an event to complement the plenary sessions, with workshops tailored to the needs of specific bioregions.

Atlanta's conference will be next weekend. One of my Oil Awareness Meetup group members, Allyson A. Bates III, is on the Peak Oil panel on Friday at 3:15-3:45.

It should prove to be entertaining as well as educational.