Thursday, October 1, 2009

Ardi makes Lucy look like a Newborn

Lucy is 3.2 million years old. Ardi is 4.4 million years old. She walked upright, was taller and weighed more than Lucy. Her brain was about the size of a modern chimp's.

This extension of the human lineage an additional 1.2 million years into the past is a large statement in our presence on this planet. Our actions, motivated by our biology, have inextricable links to our environment and the longer those links stay intact, the more powerful they become.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What is the Point of Ascent?

According to Bill McKibben in Deep Economy, there was a period of time in which economic growth made everybody wealthier.  That was a big part of the purpose of the growth.  The standard of living went up for everyone as businesses expanded.  McKibben argues that we hit a point where we should have stopped focusing on growing our economies because of limits in resources.  Our economic gauges are recognize health only when they see increased economic activity.  To have the same amount of activity as last quarter is unhealthy. 

 A less important gauge is the average wealth of the people of an economy. McKibben thinks that the Business As Usual model of growth is now geared to centralize the wealth rather than make everybody wealthier. In fact, “though our economy has been growing, most of us have relatively little to show for it.  The median wage in the U.S. is the same as it was thirty years ago.  The real income of the bottom 90 percent of American taxpayers has declined steadily: they earned $27,060 in real dollars in 1979, $25,646 in 2005.”  Where did that growth go??  Well, the top one percent in the U.S. in this 30 year period perennially “captured more of the real national gain in income than the bottom 50 percent.” 

 What is the point of all of it?  We are not wealthier and we certainly are not happier. The richest Americans are as happy as the Pennsylvania Amish.  The G8 + 5 is not some bliss club.  Costa Ricans are happier than the Japanese, says McKibben.  The French are about as happy as Venezuelans.  Homeless people in Calcutta get some of the lowest happiness scores in the world, but their score doubled when they moved into a slum.  That new score was equal to a sampling of college students from 47 countries!

What is a society that does not seek economic growth as a central focus of progress?  Is it happier than this current paradigm of human existence?   

Peak Oil?

The NY Times proves to provide a corporate, business as usual perspective in an op-ed today about peak oil.

Read the comments on the op-ed for more educated perspectives on the issue.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Let the Light Shine Down

I built this lamp last week as a gift to my girlfriend who wanted to redecorate.  In a small apartment with only a drill and a wrench, I had to get creative with the materials.  The base is a old classroom chair I found on the street.  The small shelf is a cutting board that supports a baby lemon tree planted from a seed inside a lemon I bought.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Midwestern Wind

The NY Times blog Green Inc. posted a blurb about wind farms in Missouri. 

And an online discussion took place.

I live in central Missouri and my electricity comes from a rural co-op. I’m in my third year of purchasing eight units a month of wind energy at $3/unit. It’s not much, and it’s (i think) coming from of state (Kansas) but for $24 a month I am weaning myself from coal. It will be really nice when that same wind energy is being generated in Missouri.

— Vanessa

#2 Vanessa’s post is hopeful. The renewable energy industry can change the power dynamics of one of our most important resources. Large corporations control citizen access to all major resources, but this has always been an exploitive, extractive, and destructive system.

Creating rural co-ops, where the energy is produced and controlled by the citizens, for the citizens, we develop a resource stream that empowers the people who both produce and depend on it. Do not let large corporations come into our towns and try to steal what is rightfully ours and then sell it back to us!

As we power-down our societies, let us empower our communities. Join the discussion at…


Samuel Kraft (#5),

The romance of the co-op concept is deceptive, at least from a clean energy perspective - rural co-ops are far more regressive when it comes to green energy than either regulated private utilities or independent generators. Granted regulated utilities have in most cases been driven by legislation and regulation to do what they’ve done, but in some ways that’s the point, and it’s been for-profit, competitive independent producers who have led in development of new clean energy sources. In most cases the last bastions of new coal-fired plant construction are rural co-ops, and those same co-ops have used their taxpayer-subsidized cost of capital to freeze out the independent generators who are innovating new clean sources of generation. In most states with renewable portfolio standards, co-ops have successfully fought to be excluded from them, and they’ve in most cases they’ve used that exclusion to continue with business-as-usual. You need to revisit your romantic notion of the inherent virtues of rural co-ops.

— Michael HoganIt seems as though I do not really know what I am talking about when I spoke about rural co-ops.  This guy Michael dropped some authoritative sounding jargon on me.  But he did not sound all preachy like I did, which is the more important part of my post anyways.  I can't believe he did not start his post with a compliment...that is rude.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Military will save us, right?

The NY Times published an article today titled, "Climate Change Seen as Threat to U.S. Security."

Through statements from people in the military, the article tells us that more extreme weather patterns will create unlivable conditions in the already poor parts of the world, causing conflict. Because of the one dimensional quotes, the reader is left to wonder if the U.S. should provide aid with our military, or protect our right to resources and borders.   Forget that our current levels of resource consumption are causing the problems in the first place, we need to hang to our lifestyles with every bullet we've got! 

They published this on a Saturday.  Nobody reads the paper on Saturday!  As Richard Heinberg says in Powerdown, articles about the impending crises ahead caused by systematic fossil fuel consumption and resource depletion appear periodically in major news sources but do not remain part of a news cycle and do not appear often enough to become regularly discussed issues.  It is too frightening, too complex, too destructive to the way we have come to understand our world and our lifestyles.  It is also too long term.  We do not base our actions on their consequences decades from now...but we can if we try.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Eat it, Monsanto!

In early May, I planted some seeds in containers on our balcony from produce I bought at the supermarket .  I was fearful that these industrial hybrid seeds probably owned by DuPont or Monsanto would either grow surveillance cameras and eventually explode, or just not fruit.

But my illegal tomatoes have responded well to my love and attention. 


And my pepper plants are flowering too.  Seems like they take a little bit longer than tomatoes.

In other balcony news, I have to give my compost away today!  Despite the anaerobic environment of the buckets, I managed to maintain a little bit of integrity with the material. The left bin has been resting for about 2 months, while the right bin our active one.

I am moving to Seattle in a week, so I am giving my compost to the Lower East Side Ecology Center.  They set up a compost collection booth at the Union Square Farmer's Market 4 times a week.  My urban experiment is over, but I found an organization in Seattle that offers workshops in urban composting, container gardening, urban chicken husbandry, and other great topics.  Most of the workshops are free!