Friday, September 30, 2005

Interview with Heinberg

Stuart Staniford over at The Oil Drum interviewed Richard Heinberg at the recent Peak Oil and Community Solutions Conference. Heinberg said:

...I'm not a trained ecologist, but I do teach human ecology, I managed to educate myself in the science of ecology over the years. I see the energy problem, the problem with fossil fuel depletion, in the larger context of the ecological dilemma: the poplulation pressure, resource depletion, habitat destruction. The only way to solve that ultimately is to scale down the human project. You can't solve it by simply replacing one resource for another that's becoming scarce [nuclear power]--you can ameliorate the problem temporarily, but it will only come up in another guise.

Maybe oil or natural gas is the first resource to be depleted, but what's next? Will it be topsoil or fresh water or copper? There's a whole list that's depleting quickly. The only answer is to reduce the per capita rate of consumption of resources and reduce the population. We can't do that in an organized way, and I think we've shown that we can't, with a few exceptions. China has experienced less population growth than it would have otherwise but the population is still growing. If we can't do it in an organized, cooperative, deliberate way, then nature will do it for us.

Okay maybe I've quoted the heaviest part of the interview, but it seemed like a good bite.

I talked to Heinberg myself when I was wrestling with the question of going back to school at New College, where he teaches. He sympathized with my "freaking out about peak oil" as I put it. His feeling was that its easier to bear when you are not alone. In his interview he explained:

Students come into New College and usually within the first month or two they become extremely depressed because they had no idea that things in the world are nearly as bad as they actually are. Then usually by the end of the year they're, if not hopeful, then highly motivated because they've been given the tools to actually do things in their lives.
When I talked top him, he noted that he wasn't among those who were going the survivalist route, explaining that he had had a good life and was interested in passing the torch to the next generation.

He has a new edition of The Party's Over:

It's substantially revised and much improved. All of the data is updated, there's some spiffy new graphs, and an afterword. The first edition came out before the Iraq invasion had occurred, so the timeline is updated.
When he puts this months Museletter on line I'll be sure to let you know.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Another post from my inbox:

September 27, 2005

Dear friends,

The media has done an admirable job of reporting on cover-up and corruption related to Hurricane Katrina and Rita. Below is a compilation of key excerpts from excellent major media articles which reveal a disturbing pattern of corruption and manipulation related to these hurricanes...

With best wishes,
Fred Burks for the Team
Former language interpreter for Presidents Bush and Clinton

P.S. Our hearts and deepest wishes for support and encouragement go out to all affected by Hurricane Katrina and Rita. If you are interested in donating to support those affected, we have found that Brother's Brother Foundation makes best use of funds donated. To make a contribution:

What follows is this page: Hurricane: Cover-up, Corruption Revealed in Major Media Articles, with links to articles in the mainstream media about the failings during hurricane Katrina.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Stop John Roberts

This was in my inbox today:

The Million Email March to Stop John Roberts


Thousands and thousands of your fellow citizens are speaking out right now to oppose the nomination of John Roberts as chief justice of the Supreme Court. They are telling our senators that they don't want a justice who won't let us see any of his memos for the last 20 years. They are telling them they don't want a justice who tried to hide his leadership role in the extremely reactionary Federalist Society. They are telling them the most unpopular second term president in history does NOT have any mandate to appoint his own personal crony to such a position of absolute power. And they need to hear from you too.

The question we must ask ourselves is this: If YOU had the power to cast the deciding vote on John Roberts, would you vote your conscience on principle or not? That is how you need to tell your senator they must vote as well, because you DO have that power. We are the American people, and our representatives we elected are there to listen to us and want we really want.

Especially if you are from Vermont or Wisconsin you must immediately contact Leahy, Feingold and Kohl and tell them they got it WRONG on Roberts in the judiciary committee and they need to correct their error. We already have a president who is incapable of ever admitting or correcting any mistake. We don't need that from our senators too. But whatever state you are from it is important for you to use the action form below to send a personal message to both your senators at one time, plus you can send a letter to the editor of your nearest daily newspaper, all with one click

Who were the self-appointed media pundits who dared to tell us Roberts was a done deal before the hearing even started? Who co-ordinated the corporate media campaign that poisoned our minds with the words of defeatism and submission? Indeed, who has unwittingly collaborated with the right wing talking points merchants by speaking those words of betrayal and resignation out of their own mouths?

Why NOT demand what we really want? We are the people of the United States. We don't have to settle for less than we really deserve, a true mainstream justice who will rule fairly for all the people, not just on behalf of a minority of corporate crony friends. How dare anyone tell us Roberts is the best we can hope for. The best we can hope for is what we are BRAVE enough to demand as is our RIGHT by the mandate of our numbers speaking out.


Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The 2nd Community Solutions Conference on Peak Oil

Stuart Staniford over at The Oil Drum posted his thoughts on the Second Community Solutions Conference on Peak Oil that happened this weekend in Ohio. He admitted to experiencing culture shock at the rural location and the "eco-sustainability wing of the peak oil movement." I identify with that wing, so I read his perspective with interest. Its good that we talk to each other.

He talked about Yellow Springs, where it was held and its Midwest characteristics: "decaying industry, all the jobs moved to Asia, big petro-agriculture." But,. aside from the cold, it might be a good place post-peak for growing food.

He shared his impressions of Richard Heinberg, who gave the keynote address. After hearing the audience's response to Q&A about nuclear power ("not a major part of the solution"), Stuart reflects on the problem that returning to a low energy way of life still doesn't answer the problem of feeding 10 billion people. He doesn't see die-off as an option.

He had a generally sympathetic response from TOD's readers. One issue that was addressed was the benefits of vegitarianism or veganism on the acreage-needed-for-food footprint. The need for nuclear energy was another theme. If you have a moment, check it out. Heinberg's address is worth a look-see as well.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Hurricane Rita's impact

The best source for news on Rita's impact on oil production, refining and transport is The Oil Drum. I have to confess I don't understand much of the technical data, but I can usually get the drift of what is going on. They are summarizing the damage reports as they come in:
  • 81% of the platforms and 68% of the rigs still evacuated
  • 17 miles of road leading to the LOOP terminal still under water
  • "some" missing rigs
  • gasoline shortages in the Houston area
  • potential heating oil shortages this winter
  • a month until refineries are back to normal

Matt Savinar at Life After the Oil Crash linked to an interactive map produced by RigLogix that shows the path of the hurricane and its attendant wind speeds relative to the offshore rig positions and manned platforms. With it you can zoom in to get a closer look. It conveys the number of structures that we should be concerned about very well.

Our Governor Sonny Perdue closed the schools Monday and Tuesday to save diesel fuel in case of a shortage as happened after Katrina. But this has not manifested so far, thank goodness. Parents are complaining that they now have unnecessary child care issues to deal with. His supporters say he didn't want to underreact, his detractors say he acts first, thinks later.

These are uncertain times.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Disaster preparedness

The Energy Bulletin put up a post by the Christian Science Monitor that got me thinking about a topic close to my heart: disaster preparedness. Everyone should have what they need to survive if help doesn't come for 72 hours. People in hurricane country should have what they need to get through two weeks.

After living through the Loma Prieta Earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1989 I began to take this seriously. In my house I had flashlights, a radio, batteries, water (1.5 gal. per person per day) gloves and sturdy shoes (helpful for clambering around in debris). Since moving to Georgia which has occasional tornadoes I have added an extensive first aid kit, and sanitation and hygiene supplies (i.e. toiletries), cash, and an emergency evacuation binder.

There is plenty more to do, actually (I'm looking at the Emergency Supplies Checklist at the FEMA site). But I feel better having taking action.

Let me tell you about my binder. It has:
  • a page protector (get the multiple page kind) full info about my meds
  • phone numbers and copies of my relevant business cards (I just took my binder page for cards and copied it)
  • emergency info (lists of kits to build and first aid information for people and pets)
  • photocopies of what is in my wallet, my bank accounts (doesn't have to be current, I just need the numbers)
  • health and auto and home insurance packets
  • certificates: birth, marriage (death), name change
  • other legal documents
Its red and labeled "vital records" so I can grab it and go.

The next step would be to add food (my pantry is pretty full) including tools to make it edible: a can opener, and a stove and fuel (we have a grill at least). The Healthy Hurricane/Disaster Cookbook could come in handy as well.

Here are some of the supply sites I have bookmarked:
Major Surplus & Survival
South Summit Outdoor Gear and Emergency Preparedness
The Internet Grocer
Survival Acres
AAOOB Storable Foods

and for information about food storage, the LDSs have a great website:
Provident Living

There is a lot more available on the net as well. You might want to consider Googling "bug out kits" to prepare for a quick get-away.

Put together a kit for yourself, even if its just flashlights and water. You'll feel a lot better, I promise!

The Colonial pipeline

Here in Georgia, as well as up the coast to New York, we rely on the Colonial pipeline for our gasoline and other fuels. (I first reported on it here when Katrina struck.) The Oil Drum pointed out today that the Colonial pipeline originates in Houston, thus may be compromised when Rita hits. They offered a link to a page on RedNova that explains Where We Get Our Fuel.

Here are a few highlights:
  • the Colonial delivers 100 million gallons of many different kinds of gasoline and other fuels a day
  • the oil moves at 3 to 5 mph, taking 18.5 days to get from Houston to New York
  • it costs about 2.5 cents per gallon to transport it
  • statistically, pipelines are the safest method of transporting oil
  • problems usually occur when there is digging near the pipeline

The AJC did not have any articles today about the impact of Rita on local gas supplies or prices today, but we are assuming there will be problems. My local Shell station is still out of gas, though prices are down to the $2.59-2.89 level at many places. I'm not stockpiling gas, but I did fill up my tank today.

I guess we'll have to just wait and see how the story unfolds.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

A bevy of blogs

Oh dear. I've spent the morning over at Pip Wilsons bevy (shrewdness? tiding? murmuration?) of blogs instead of helping Mr. Logan in his mission to paint the house. But it was fun.

Here's a summary of Pip's delights:

Check it out!

PS. for group noun names BlackDog

Monday, September 19, 2005

Birthday wishes

Happy Birthday to You,
Happy Birthday to You,
Happy Birthday Dear Poohtie,
Happy Birthday to You!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

A report on Burning Man

On her blog Over the Edge, tickledspirit shares her life at Twin Oaks Intentional Community(which hosted the Communities Conference I went to last month). She wrote a piece about the Burningman Festival, "the largest countercultural event in the world."
Next year marks the 20th summer of the Burning Man festival, a celebration of raw creative expression and temporary autonomous community during the week
before Labor Day. For one week, a city of tents, RVs, and geodeisic domes is created by over 40,000 people on an ancient lakebed (the "playa"). No money is exchanged; people pack in their own supplies, and share. The result is a mix between a frat party, a commune, a playground, and an art museum.
I have never been to Burningman, and I just spent several hours browsing the website. I am fascinated by the tension between the structures and the freedoms that make it up.
Burning Man isn't a model for a sustainable alternative society. Instead, it offers an experience of new possibilities, a look at what lies beyond our normal limits of experience and expression. The lessons of Burning Man are about empowering the individual, with the intention of creating a community based on both self-reliance and trust of others. Individuals expressing themselves fully, in needs, desires, thoughts, and fears, create a strong base for a powerful collective. I experienced this in the final days of the festival, once I trusted myself more in seeking out what I really wanted. I got silly with strangers. I explored new art forms. I walked in solitude across the vast playa on a self-directed mission to pick up scattered trash. I asked questions that seemed irrelevant, gave away random gifts from my bag, rode my bicycle naked, and offered to assist a struggling juggler.

Coming back into larger society, I want to carry these lessons with me. If I see someone doing something interesting, I can ask them to teach me. If I see something that needs to be done, I can do it. If I'm lonely, I can find someone to play with me. If I'm curious, I can step forward and experience more.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Willits' energy audit

The city of Willits, California is in the news again. (I've previously written about them here.) They started with showings of The End of Suburbia, galvanized volunteers, formed committees, and ended with an energy audit by one of the subgroups.

They calculated their total megawatt/hour consumption subtracted the more than half that is spent on transportation. They then figured what their total locally produced, renewable energy capacity is and compared it with the first figure. The results are sobering. They would have to reduce their use by 25% through conservation.

"Those who equate sustainable energy with solar, water, and wind power, will be surprised that the largest component of the likely post-oil local energy mix is firewood." Air quality becomes a concern.

Even with conservation in place, the proposed alternate energy mix would not permit the current jump-in-the-car-and-go lifestyle to continue.

The personal vehicle may well be a thing of the past, the report concludes. It calls for the use of electric vehicles for transfer of necessary goods, services, and labor. Beyond that, restoration of rail lines, energy efficient bus service, and car-share cooperatives are on the to-do list.

Its a harsh reality, but reports like this are the place we need to start if we are going to solve our problems. We need to have a quantifiable starting point so that we know how to proceed. May a thousand energy committees bloom!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

My first Meetup gathering

Tonight I met with the Atlanta Oil Awareness Meetup group that I first blogged about here. It was satisfying on several levels and I had a lot of fun. I got there late because I mapquested the wrong address and slavishly followed it even though it really didn't look like we were heading into Buckhead. (Picture railroad tracks and strip malls.)

Once I got there I found our group had introduced itself and were engrossed in conversation. They graciously allowed me to join in and present my agenda. We further broke the ice by answering a series of questions--"what is your interest in oil awareness?" "how did you find out about this topic?" and "what does your background bring to the table?" Our group included a city planner, a cohousing member, a systems analyst, an architect whose firm specialized in sustainability, a copier repair person, a craftsperson and me (communication and education.)

I asked people to fill out a questionnaire about their interests and people resonated with discussing Peak Oil, discussing sustainability, discussing survival plans, and planning The End of Suburbia showings.

We decided to set up an email list so that we can pass on resources to each other easily.

I reported on the activities of the San Francisco Oil Awareness Meetup Group. They have done something really cool: they published a peak oil information poster, which I will post about when I get a copy of it (soon).

One of our members is going to the Second U.S. Conference on Peak Oil and Community next weekend, so we are looking forward to hearing her report on it.

We brainstormed on how to set up showings of the The End of Suburbia with help from the Post Carbon Institute's Guidebook.

We decided that the next book we will read is Richard Heinberg's Powerdown, as we are freaked out enough and would like to focus on solutions.

We heard a funny story in which one person had confused the end of the movie "Suburbia" with the movie "The End of Suburbia." He could not figure out why people were so fired up about it.

One of our members has schedules a showing of The End of Suburbia Friday, September 23rd and 7:00 and 9:00 PM at Jake's Ice Cream at 970 Piedmont Ave NE, Atlanta. Pass it on!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Update on bridge story

Larry Bradshaw and Lorrie Beth Slonsky, the couple who wrote Hurricane Katrina--Our Experiences that I posted about here, were interviewed on CNN recently. You can see a clip of one of their interviews today on CNN's homepage. They were dressed in black and had matching buttons on their shirts, but my resolution isn't good enough to read them. They reiterated what they had written, and it was clear they had strong feelings about it.

The tourists had been told by police that there would be buses waiting for them on the bridge to Gretna, and with that good news they began their trek, a crowd joining them on the way.
"We had people in wheelchairs, we had people in strollers, people on crutches, so we were a slow-moving group," said Bradshaw. "And we didn't think anything when we saw the deputies there. Then all of a sudden we heard shooting."
They claimed that they witnessed police shooting above the crowd to disperse it. Shocked they tried to negotiate with the police but to no avail.

"What we were told by the deputies is that they were not going to allow another New Orleans, and they weren't going to allow a Superdome to go into their side of the bridge, Gretna," said Slonsky.

"So to us, that reeks absolute racism, since our group that was trying to cross over was women, children, predominantly African-American," she said.

They regrouped and someone stole a water truck and they found some rations, and thus provided for, the set up an encampment. In their letter they report a cooperative community spirit. But

...the police came back at dusk.

"Jumped out of his car with the gun aimed at us, screaming and cursing and yelling at us to get the blank-blank away," he said "And just, just so rabidly angry. And we tried to reason, we tried to talk. And he was just putting his gun in the face of young children and families. It said Gretna on the police car."

The letter goes on to say that a helicopter buzzed them, the wind from the rotors breaking up their camp.

The clip then goes on to present the other side of the story. Anderson Cooper interviews Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson who defended the closing of the bridge.

"We had no preparations," he said. "You know, we're a small city on the west bank of the river. We had people being told to come over here, that we were going to have buses, we were going to have food, we were going to have water, and we were going to have shelter. And we had none.

"Our people had left. Our city was locked down and secured, for the sake of the citizens that left their valuables here to be protected by us."

He said as far as he knew shots hadn't been fired. He hadn't talked to his police officers yet, but promised to look into it.

Asked why Gretna authorities did not allow the group into town and call for buses, Lawson said, "Who were we going to call?"

"We had no radios. We had no phones. We had no communications, as I just told you," he said. "We had not spoken to the city of New Orleans prior to or during this event. Who were we going to call? What were we going to do with thousands of people without enough water to sustain them, without enough food to sustain them, or without any shelter?"

I'm curious what the blogosphere has to make of the story now. I'm going to guess that the dispute will shift from whether the account is true to the question of who's point of view about it is valid.

A blueprint for sustainability

Jamais over at worldchanging found an important resource for rebuilding after Katrina--a five year old document from FEMA that focuses on building for sustainability.

The chapter on community discussed they ways that the local government powers can help develop sustainable land use planning, housing, and infrastructure after a disaster. It points out that community members are more open to this kind of thinking when face to face with the obviously unsustainable. There is a window of opportunity to be taken advantage of.

Jamais explains:
The FEMA website is called Rebuilding for a More Sustainable Future -- An Operational Framework, and each chapter is downloadable as a separate PDF (unfortunately, there isn't a combined single-download document). The document has a publication date of November 1, 2000, indicating that it was produced late in the final months of the outgoing agency leadership. Sadly, the material hasn't been updated since then, and the link to the document -- along with a link to a glossy short overview document, Planning for a Sustainable Future: The Link Between Hazard Mitigation and Livability -- is relegated to the bottom of the "additional resources" section of the Planning Resource Center page.

But no matter -- despite its age, this is terrific stuff, spelling out the links between disaster recovery and economic, environmental and social sustainability. It's exactly the kind of thinking that should be the foundation of reasonable, forward-looking conversations about rebuilding after Katrina, as well as the inevitable disasters to come. That it comes from the efforts of a government agency half a decade ago just underscores its mainstream cred -- this isn't some fringe movement or funky weblog trying to promote the idea of sustainable rebuilding.

Simply put, the very existence of this document bolster the claim that sustainable design -- of buildings, of neighborhoods, of communities -- is very much within our capabilities, and should be part of all kinds of planning efforts. It also makes clear that the US government is well aware that sustainable rebuilding is an option in the post-disaster landscape. We should not accept any future claim that "nobody could have guessed" that sustainable reconstruction was possible.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Safety first

Today I got to cross something off my "prepare for peak oil" list. Among other things, I would like to learn skills that might be helpful when times get tough. One category is health care, specifically, things that a lay person can do. Ultimately I'd like to learn about herbal remedies, especially from local plants. But I decided to start at the beginning with a basic first aid course.

The Red Cross has a whole website devoted to the classes they teach. Their categories include:
  • disaster response training
  • first aid and CPR
  • HIV/AIDS education
  • safety training for kids (babysitter's class)

The class I took taught me "first aid skills to care for adults who are victims of accidental injuries or sudden illness." It covered a lot of material. The training techniques included mini lectures, videos that demonstrated technique, hands-on practice, a workbook, and a test at the end that we had to pass to get our certificates.

I had some idea of the basics already but this clarified things and gave me a step-by-step plan to follow in a crisis. I feel a lot more confident and it feels really good to know that I could help.

Next month's agenda includes a plant ID course and CPR. I'm happy to be taking action towards becoming more self-reliant!

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Cooperation in times of trouble?

There is a story being discussed in the blogosphere that I think is worth knowing about: Hurricane Katrina--Our Experiences by Larry Bradshaw and Lorrie Beth Slonsky, EMTs at a convention in New Orleans who were not able to escape before the hurricane hit.

For an abbreviated version with commentary, Making Light has a thoughtful entry. For another with a lot of discussion about the veracity, see

The point Bradshaw and Slonsky make is that they banded with other tourists and locals to evacuate safely. They once the group got their food and water needs met, they were cooperative. But they were turned back at a bridge and not allowed to leave the city, with shots being fired over their heads. They made an encampment and it was raided by the police, their food and water confiscated. The police were as much a danger to them as the gangs were.

The authors are socialists and so many doubt their story because they believe the authors have an agenda.

But some of the tale is corroborated. Other people who were at the hotel tell their story here, here, here, and here.

Whatever happened, it sounds like a bad scene. I'll try to track whether people come forward to validate the rest of the story.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Today I bit the bullet and signed on as the organizer for the Atlanta area Oil Awareness Meetup Group.

What is Meetup? Its an internet service that allows people with shared interests to hook up in 3D. Our interest is "oil awareness." We get together once a month, the same day as people from all over the world who are concerned about Peak Oil do.

There are over 2,000 people who have registered for this interest in 85 different groups. (There are over a million members total.) It used to be for free, but they started charging a fee recently. Someone basically has to step up to the plate and pay it, and hopefully get reimbursed by the group at some point. I decided to do it as I would love to see some Peak Oil activities in Atlanta.

Our group is interested in "Peak Oil, alternative energy, activism, sustainable communities, spreading the word, alternative vehicles, and anything you want to bring to the table."

I sent out invitations and was happy to see that four people responded immediately. I guess they were waiting for someone to start it up. One person said she has the The End of Suburbia DVD and she is looking for places to show it. Maybe she can help Fay and I put something together for her town.

Since going to the Bioneers mixer I am inspired to pursue more face to face contacts. If we are going to build sustainable communities we need to get together!

So how about you? What is happening in your town that you can get or are involved in? I'd love to hear about it. Leave me a comment!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Bioneers Conference

Tonight I went to a networking party to promote the local version of the Bioneers Conference which is happening in San Rafael, California, in October and is beaming to Atlanta a week later. It was held at the Five Spot in the very cool Little Five Points neighborhood. I got there early and met with folks from the steering committee. They invited me to sit in on a meeting so I got a sense of the action-packed agenda that such events inspire.

The Bioneers are purportedly hard to define: their website explains that they have "practical solutions for restoring the Earth--and people. It's a thriving network of visionary innovators who are working with nature to heal nature." Ummm... right. But I knew my tribe when I saw them.

I met a woman who was welcoming a family from New Orleans this week. She converted a new rental property to survivor housing. Now that is walking your talk. She found them through MoveOn and their site.

I met a man from (I can't get their site up) that is building 8'x6'x10' shelters for homeless people.

What surprised me the most was most of the people I talked to had not heard of Peak Oil. So I did my best to do the "elevator speech" and hopefully some folks will come home and google it. I even offered to do a Peak Oil session at the Bioneers SE Forum, and was told that I need to find a Southeastern angle to it.

I said I would, but frankly, I am at a bit of a loss. I'd welcome any suggestions on how to find a regional connection.

But it was great to hang out with people of my ilk and eat good food and listen to cool music. The Bioneers Conference is being beamed to 16 locations nationwide, so check it out to see if there is an event where you live.

Monday, September 05, 2005


Today is my 6th anniversary so I will celebrate with our wedding picture...

Hope you are having a great Labor Day!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Communities Conference pictures

Here are words and pictures from our journal from a happier time--at the Communities Conference (first blogged here) that took place August 19th-21st.

We got off Hwy 64 near Lousia, Virginia and drove a short way through beautiful wooded countryside. We landed at Twin Oaks and were greeted by a guy in pigtails and a skirt and were sent to the car-camping ground. We set up and borrowed some bug spray and then made our way along a trail back to the conference area that was cleverly marked with a rope.

I had to look down to watch for poison ivy as I didn't have on any socks.

We got to the site and registered and started browsing the book booth. I wanted to buy everything in sight while Fay eyed the books about gardens, flowers and produce. I bought five back issues of Communities Magazine.

We milled around for a bit and finally it was time for dinner.

We ate at the least muddy table which turned out to be somewhat removed from everybody else (the picnic tables were arranged in a big circle around the fire pit) but eventually were were joined by Glen and Keith from Jubilee House, a Christian service community that helps war refugees.

After dinner we went to the pavilion for entertainment. We heard an electric piano player, Melody, who said who was a jazzpeace ambassador. Then we heard announcements. Then came the highlight of the evening. A couple (I didn't note their names, unfortunately) led us in a song.

They said was the most frequently sung in America, according to their research. They had us stomping and clapping and lo and behold it turned out to be Queen's "We will, we will rock you!" The leader explained that the lyrics had come to mean "we will kick your ass" so we changed them to "We will build a New World!" It was great fun.

Then it was story telling time and several people stood up and told us stories from their communities. We heard what it was like for the East Wind Community to be covered by National Geographic (yikes!). The funniest part was when he explained that the women "dropped trou" (got nekked) whenever the photographer was around (despite it being October) because the wanted to see whether they would publish a white woman being bare chested. (They did--but doctored the picture to make it look sunny.)

We hiked the trail back to the van and got ready for bed. We were delighted to discover that there were hardly any bugs which was fortunate because it was so hot and we needed to leave the windows and doors open to have at least the appearance of air circulating.

The next morning we got to breakfast before it was over and waited forever for the coffee to percolate. Then it was time for the Opening Circle. If you look really closely under the tree banner you can see someone leading the group in a rousing (considering the hour) rendition of "We come from the mountain."

We met the organizers, Valerie and Sky who were really wonderful and did a great job.

We had announcements and then it was time to "meet the communities." People in communities looking for new members took a minute each to tell a little bit about their group. After that they sat at the picnic tables and we stopped by the ones were were interested in to learn a little bit more. We took pictures of each one to help us remember them.

Eric told us about a community he was starting in northeast Tennessee on 60 acres. He is up there beginning to put in the infrastructure. Its very rustic living when you are first starting out.

Neo-coho is no longer a cohousing group. Now they want to build and eco hamlet in NE Ohio. They don't have their land yet, but have the area and vision in mind.

Heathcoate offers natural building courses which Mr. Logan is interested in, so I took a brochure.

Dunmire Hollow is a small community 2 hours SW of Nashville. Harvey has a woodshop there.

And I had to stop by Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage to see what they thought of their episode of 30 days with Morgan Spurlock (previously blogged here). Our host said that they were pleased overall--it didn't make them look too crazy and it had a lot of information about sustainable living. Compared to other media coverage of intentional communities they felt like they came out on top.

After lunch we had workshops, which I briefly covered in my earlier post on the conference. I went to one on cohousing--it was great, but I left halfway through to take a blessedly cold shower (did I mention it was hot? Later we found out it was about 99 degrees with a heat factor of 110). Then I went to one on visiting communities, a project that is on hold until we find out how severe the gasoline shortage is.

Fay went to a workshop on sustainable agriculture, and learned that shw could control her arch nemesis, kudzu, with grazing animals. (She noticed that the groundhogs liked it. Now on to the goats.)

Before you new it it was time to eat again. We got in the front of the line because we had KP duty after dinner. Everyone washed their own dishes in a series of buckets that were filled up and maintained by the crew:

  • warm pre-wash
  • hot soapy wash
  • disinfect w/ clorox
  • cool rinse
  • put in the rack.

Then we took the dry dishes and stacked them back in the beginning of the food line.

It was tiring work and we were very glad when our shift was over, especially because everybody had gone to a dessert party over at the community building at Twin Oaks. But to get there we had to walk half a mile down a dark path with Lions and Tigers and Bears (and frogs). After two false starts, one leading to the kids' area and one to an outhouse (the lights on the path fooled us), we finally got on the right one, and with one shared flashlight between us we made our way.

We came int though an industrial sized kitchen

to the buffet where there was a huge spread of cakes and cookies and brownies. The cake was perfection (it was a leftover from a wedding that day) with a lot of delicious frosting. We were not moderate.

We read all of the signs, bulletins, and clipboards to get a tiny peek at the life at an income-sharing community. It was organized chaos. I guess your Mom really doesn't live here. But they had a nice selection of publications in their library. That is one great benefit of community living, shared cost of magazine subscriptions.

Then a Klezmer band started up in the hall

and soon the room filled with dancing people.

We were to tired to do much hopping around and as soon as we found out there was a shuttle going back to the campground we were on it. We even got a ride to our van.

I slept in the next morning but made it in time to get the last pancake. Fay and I sat and talked and missed a group process called Open Spaces that I have since researched and can't wait to participate in. Nevertheless we tood advantage of the work they did setting and agenda and organizing sessions and went to workshops on building the local economy and culture, and natural building.

After lunch it was time for previously scheduled workshops again. I was torn between one called "Creating a healing culture in community" and "Conflict: fight, flight or opportunity?" I opted for the conflict one, in part because I had taught a course in conflict last year and was curious how this would compare to it. It was very good.

Then it was time for the closing circle. We had acknowledgements again, a few announcements, and then we were asked to close our eyes and review the weekend and come up with a word to sum it up. Then we went around the great circle and shared them. My word was "hope" and Fay's were "coming out of my shell." Other funny words included: "air conditioning is wonderful," "sweat," and "hmmm..."

We danced our good-byes.

I was sad to go. I really enjoyed the special feeling of being with other people with the same values and dreams for saving (or at least surviving) the world through cooperative living. If you get a chance to go to a retreat with like minded people I highly recommend it. We need that support and revitalization.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Today's links

To be honest I am just too disheartened to write much today. I am just going to post some links that resonated with me.

From the Boston Globe (via Energy Bulletin), a post by the editors of Grist Mill. (I know, its about time I had something of theirs on here.) . "...[I]t's time for us ordinary citizens to get active, too. Time to call our legislators, show up at city council meetings, write letters to the editor. After all, everyday Americans outnumber energy company executives by a ratio of roughly a bazillion to one -- so let's make sure the dialogue reflects that, and that our needs get proportionate attention."

From From the Wilderness: "Bottom line: my assessment is that New Orleans is never going to be rebuilt and that US domestic oil production will never again reach pre-Katrina levels."

From Planetizen (via worldchanging): "A strategy for retrofitting sprawl across the board regardless of existing densities and without absolute reliance on new construction and public transit must be found. I've called this the smart sprawl strategy..."

From deconsumption: Remembering Oil Shockwave, "an ultra-high level brainstorming conference which met a couple months ago to discuss the question of just what exactly might happen if a substantial disruption occurred to the American oil infrastructure."

From Slate (via Flying Talking Donkey): "A former deputy chief of FEMA told Knight Ridder Newspapers yesterday (Sept. 1) that there 'are two kinds of levees—the ones that breached and the ones that will be breached.' A similar aphorism applies to broadcasters: They come in two varieties, the ones that have gone stark, raving mad on air and the ones who will."

From how to save the world (also via Flying Talking Donkey) "Feeling anxious and short-tempered these days? I've noticed it everywhere since the news of Katrina's destruction and aftermath has sunk into public consciousness."

Friday, September 02, 2005

Today's snapshot

Like many of you I am sure, I have been listening to the news out of New Orleans all day. Its hard to take it all in. And I can't help wondering whether "community building skills" would help the morale. Probably just plain help would make the most difference. What would I do in those circumstances? I'd probably curl up in a ball and cry. But it brings to light the need for "social capital." When the stuff hits the fan (TSHTF in some circles) we are going to be dependent on each other to get through. Our government can't be counted on for many reasons. We need to become more self sufficient.

I have been trying to get an accurate picture of what is happening with the Colonial and Plantation pipelines. Here's a compilation of what I have found:

On August 31 CNN said:
One of two pipeline companies supplying gasoline to the eastern seaboard of the United States said Wednesday it hopes to be back in partial operation soon. The other pipeline is still waiting for an indication on when electricity to pumps will be restored.
On September 2nd The Washington Post reported:

Two major pipelines disrupted by Hurricane Katrina that provide much of the Washington area's gasoline showed signs of life yesterday, although it could be days before they are running up to full capacity. Colonial Pipeline Co. said that it was operating at 40 percent of capacity and that it hoped to operate at 61 percent by today and 86 percent by the middle of next week. Officials with the other pipeline, Plantation Pipe Line Co., said the line is operating at 25 percent.
On September 2nd The Atlanta Journal-Constitution weighed in:

Exacerbated by Wednesday's buying spree, the metro area came within four days of
running out of gasoline supplies, said U.S. Department of Transportation spokesman Brian Turmail. Hurricane Katrina had knocked out power to the two Gulf Coast pipelines that supply the Atlanta region's 7 million-gallon-a-day gasoline habit.

Power was partially restored Wednesday night and, by Thursday night, Alpharetta-based Colonial Pipeline Co. was nearing half capacity. The second, smaller pipeline was operating at 25 percent capacity.

availability of gas appears to be on the increase Friday in the metro Atlanta area, according to Tom Smith, director of the Georgia Association of Petroleum Retailers.

He estimates that one in every seven sellers in the metro region is completely without gasoline at their pumps. And perhaps one in five have run out of just a grade or two of fuel, he said.
On September 3rd The Atlanta Journal-Constitution actually quoted Matt Simmons! Is Peak Oil next?

Alpharetta-based Colonial Pipeline Co. was moving gasoline, diesel and jet fuel at two-thirds of its normal rate, while the smaller Plantation Pipe Line Co. was up to 95 percent.

Matt Simmons, a Houston-based investment banker in energy, worries that the good news is superficial, and will drive Americans back into complacency as energy resources dwindle.

After more than two years of research for his recent book, "Twilight in the Desert: Pending Oil Shock," Simmons concludes that the world's oil production has reached its highest point.

His tri-fold message is: open restricted oil fields, including the Alaskan wildlife refuge; [not worth it!] conserve existing supplies; and look for energy alternatives, including nuclear, [ack!] wind and solar. He said he hopes Americans don't sleep through Katrina's wake-up call.

"We're going to have to get used to paying realistic prices for our energy," Simmons said. "I think the quicker people start to realize that we've ended a very long era of inexpensive energy, the better off we'll be."

Today I had to run an unexpected errand not far from home, so I added on a trip to the library to it. Everything seemed normal--no lines or closed stations on the way. Mr. Logan said I was overeacting by not going to the gym today. Next week is when our reserves would run out if not replenished. That is when we will see the crunch, if it is to occur.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

More questions than answers

I've spent the morning looking for information about the pipelines serving Atlanta but had no luck. I did find the comments section of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The vast majority of the posts criticised the people who were frightened into panic buying last night as "sheeple" who weren't thinking for themselves, and criticised the gas stations--especially those at $6 a gallon--for price gouging. The main argument is that panic buying and stockpiling is causal to the gas shortage. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

But without good information it is difficult to know what to do. Friends of mine have stockpiled 35 gallons in their basement. Will I regret not doing the same? My husband wants to fill up our 5 gallon containers. I'm a bit nervous about storing gasoline. The propane is bad enough. (But I have to admit I love the grill.)

If we really do only have a 7 to 10 day supply and minimal resupply from our pipelines then things are going to deteriorate. What can I do to prepare for this eventuality? I guess it is time to stock up my pantry. Its been on my to do list but this may be it.

The Oil Drum is covering this story and has had extensive coverage on Katrina in general.

On the Silver Lining side, public transit ridership in Atlanta is in record numbers.

I'll update our situation here as I get more information.

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer writes:

As for Colonial Pipeline, it is working to install generator equipment at its facilities in Louisiana and Mississippi. The company said the power from these generators will allow them to gradually increase the system's capacity through the weekend, hopefully to as much as 50 percent to 60 percent. Colonial Pipeline is owned by five oil companies -- Koch Capital Investments, HUTTS, Citgo, Phillips and Shell.
This confirms what I heard on CNN so hopefully help is coming.