|By Ka-bar in Peak Oil | October 8, 2007|
Want more? Click here.
|By Ka-bar in Eating Local, Permaculture | August 5, 2007|
Before World War II, most families spent a third or more of their income on food, as the poor majority in developing countries still do. But after the war a series of radical changes, from mechanisation to the green revolution, raised agricultural productivity hugely and caused a long, steep fall in the price of food, to a tenth of many peopleís income.
We have come to expect that food is cheap and easy to get ahold of, and odds are good that this situation won’t last much longer, as the article linked to above explains. We’re seeing the first stages of food inflation already, whether it’s talk of skyrocketing tortilla prices in Mexico, or rising dairy & meat costs here, or Australian wines getting more expensive thanks to their drought. I doubt this is a short-term problem, for food demand is inelastic, and we’re doing a better job of degrading farmland rather than enhancing it. An increasing population competing for flat or falling food supplies means higher prices.
|By Ka-bar in BioFuel, Energy, Green Politics | July 25, 2007|
|By Ka-bar in BioFuel, Dumb Ideas | April 11, 2007|
Cuba’s ailing dictator roused himself from his sickbed long enough to write a short essay attacking the use of foodstuffs like corn (maize) for motor fuel, calling it among other things “the internationalization of genocide.”
Few people were surprised that one of the last Marxist leaders left in the world would write an article decrying globalization and the idea of turning grain into ethanol for the benefit of the Western first world. What was surprising was that The Economist, one of the leading financial magazines of the capitalist world agrees with Castro. The original article is protected behind a paywall, but it has been duplicated in several other sites including this one.
Biofuels will be an important part of the energy mix in coming decades, but more and more people are seeing cracks in the argument that corn-based ethanol is the right choice for the United States’ auto fleet. It’s politically popular, but not necessarily ‘green.’
|By Ka-bar in Conservation, Green Living, Organic | March 24, 2007|
If you haven’t read about the rising wave of problems with crashing bee populations worldwide, get on Google and check it out. In a nutshell, bee colonies are dying off around the world, and no-one really knows why. There are several possible reasons people are talking about:
So, there are a number of possibilities for why this is happening, but it’s bad news regardless of the underlying reason. Did you know that bees are used to commercially pollinate more than $14.6 billion dollars’ worth of fruit, nut and vegetable crops every year in the US alone? Without these incredibly helpful insects, these food stuffs would be much more costly if they were available at all.
There’s plenty of information out there, and most of it is ominous. One of Albert Einstein’s famous quotes is making the rounds lately with regards to this, and it bears repeating here:
“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”
So, if you have any open space in your yard, plant a pollinator garden. If you don’t, spread the word with friends and family. This affects all of us in the end.
For some links on what to grow, you can consult your local county extension office, local university or you can check out some of the following links:
|By Ka-bar in Energy, Green Politics | February 23, 2007|
Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty recently signed a new law mandating that 25% of Minnesota’s energy will come from renewable sources by 2025. This is big news, especially for a Midwestern state that doesn’t have large amounts of hydropower resources to draw upon. In addition, Xcel Energy, the state’s largest power utility, will be raising their percentage of electricity generated from renewable sources from the current rate of 7% up to 30% by 2020.
Minnesota has been frequently mentioned as a hotbed of ethanol production and advocacy, since it is in the middle of the Corn Belt, and there are a number of wind farms in the southwestern corner of the state. It’s refreshing to see the state look at the long-term picture and start embracing more renewable energy options than just biofuels. As the story notes, there are some loopholes in place, but I think this is just the first of many laws coming out of the legislature in coming years as Minnesota embarks on its journey to a post-carbon future.
|By Ka-bar in Climate Change, Education | January 31, 2007|
The debate over climate change has moved significantly in the past few years. Things are now to the point where it is the deniers who are seen as out of touch with popular opinion instead of the advocates. One of the movementís long term supporters is veteran arctic explorer Will Steger, who is leading an expedition this spring to Baffin Island, Canada to document the changes both the land and its Inuit inhabitants are experiencing thanks to the rapid increase in the melting of the ice sheets.
The expedition team held a sendoff event at the Saint Paul Winter Carnival on January 27th. It was fitting that after a long stretch of above-average temperatures dating back to before Thanksgiving, winter finally showed up to inaugurate the Carnival. The weather during the expedition kickoff (which was held outside) was a balmy 14F with high winds, making the effective temperature much colder. Steger and his fellow expedition members were among the few people who truly looked comfortable in the cold, amiably chatting with supporters throughout the entire event.
Will Steger being interviewed by local media.
Recent events such as the collapse of the Larsen B ice shelf in Antarctica and evidence that the Greenland ice sheet is starting to melt faster has focused more attention on the state of the polar ice caps, and their importance to both the local and global population.
The Global Warming 101 booth drew a crowd at the Carnival.
At the local level, the Inuit who inhabit Baffin Island rely on the rapidly-shrinking ice sheets for much of their food production through hunting. Globally, scientists are starting to warn that increasing sea levels from melting polar ice will threaten many of the major cities that are close to the ocean. One of the purposes of Stegerís expedition is to raise awareness with the American public of the implications that ice melting on the far side of the planet can have on everyone.
The 1,200 mile trip will start in the middle of February, with the team making stops in several Inuit villages along the way to interview village elders and document the changes they have seen in the land over time. In addition to collecting scientific and cultural information, the expedition is bringing along communications equipment that enables them to post pictures, video and audio items to the team website, allowing educators and students to keep track of what they are up to. Check out the globalwarming101.com site for more information and educational resources related to both the expedition and global warming in general.
|By Ka-bar in Eating Local, Green Living | January 29, 2007|
Author Michael Pollan (“The Omnivore’s Dilemma”) has written a short essay on the subject of what to eat.
Concise and to the point. Definitely worth a read.
|By Ka-bar in Green Living, Permaculture | January 5, 2007|
I’ve posted an annotated booklist of the titles in my personal collection that deal with sustainability.† It mostly focuses on permaculture and gardening, with some other stuff thrown in for good measure.
It’s not a complete listing by any stretch of the imagination, but perhaps you’ll find a title or two you hadn’t heard of before.†† If you’re just starting out on your path towards sustainability (like I am), then hopefully this will be a good introductory listing to set you down the right path.
|By Ka-bar in Peak Oil | January 3, 2007|
As a follow-up to Aaron’s post, Energy Bulletin has a story today about the expected drop in Canadian natural gas exports. This post fingers both plummeting supply as well as increased internal consumption due in part to increased production of oil sands.
If you rely on natural gas to heat your home in the winter, the time to start saving up for next winter’s bills is now. Likewise, if you get some or all of your electricity from natgas-fired power plants, it would make sense to prepare for higher power bills this summer.