Tag Archive

Future Scenarios

ByGroovy Green Oct 1, 2008

What will the next 10-20 years be like? With global climate change and peak oil what can we expect? David Holmgren co-originator of the permaculture concept has developed a new website investigating some possible outcomes.

Future Scenarios: Mapping the cultural implications and climate change.

The simultaneous onset of climate change and the peaking of global oil supply represent unprecedented challenges for human civilisation.

Global oil peak has the potential to shake if not destroy the foundations of global industrial economy and culture. Climate change has the potential to rearrange the biosphere more radically than the last ice age. Each limits the effective options for responses to the other.

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Why Off-Shore Drilling Won’t Make A Dent in U.S. Consumption – Graphically Presented

ByGroovy Green Sep 10, 2008

usoilconsumption

Saw this first at After Gutenberg, but it came via itsgettinghotinhere from a Architecture 2030 e-news bulletin.

A picture (or in this case, a graph) tells a thousand words.

It Is Time for the US to Sell Its Highways?

ByGroovy Green Aug 28, 2008

It’s difficult to imagine a person not having heard the old axiom “Buy low, sell high”, and it is prudent advice when you are making financial decisions. It’s the second part of that adage that might warrant a look at our strategy for infrastructure improvement in this country. If you are looking to make the maximum amount of money by selling something you want to sell that something when it’s at its highest value. I wonder then, is it time for our government to sell its infrastructure? You know, since the effects of Peak Oil are beginning to make themselves felt, the value of the infrastructure developed to serve cars running on cheap oil will decline each year into the future; starting soon. Selling high might mean selling soon.

Now, I don’t think we should sell all of it, by any means. We should keep the ports and the train lines, but is now a good time to start selling our roads, highways and airports? There has been news recently of other governments selling their infrastructure, and considering the value of these items in an energy scarce future I would contend that their value will never be higher. In fact, there is already plenty of news about airlines facing massive losses. (And starting to charge for baggage, pillows and normal drinks) How valuable will an airport be if we don’t have airlines? Or what if the ones we do have are marginally profitable? I say it’s better to sell now while the full force of Peak Oil hasn’t quite made itself felt.

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Peak Energy And What That Means For Food

ByGroovy Green Jul 21, 2008

Note: The following is a peak energy introduction written with Sharon Astyk for our forthcoming book, “A Nation of Farmers: Defeating the Food Crisis on American Soil,” to be published in the Spring of 2009 by New Society Publishers. This excerpt will be a review for those who follow her site and mine but might be interesting to those who have only recently become agitated by $4/gallon gas and who want to learn more. It’s very important that those of us comfortable with this topic help to shape the emerging conversation as one of opportunity not tragedy. No doubt this will mean doing things differently now and in our future but all is not gloom and doom. The rising cost of energy could be an opportunity to address big problems- a catalyst for positive change. With that in mind we must frame this not as ‘the end of the world’ but as the beginning of something better.

Peak Energy

“To alcohol- the cause of and the solution to all of life’s problems.?

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Don’t Pin Your Hopes on a “Green” Economy

ByGroovy Green Jul 16, 2008

Both presidential candidates have stumped for a new “green” economy.  To me this smells of the supposed transformation to the “information economy” touted only a decade ago.  Fortune had this to say on June 30th:

What senators McCain and Obama believe about U.S. energy policy matters – hugely. To fight global warming, the next President will oversee the transition to a new, green economy , which will result in one of the biggest business transformations of the 21st century and potentially one of the largest transfers of wealth since the creation of the income tax.

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Feeding The Suburbs

ByGroovy Green Apr 17, 2008

This is the last story in our series from Wendy.

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This evening, after I read Andrew Lost on the Dog to Precious, I sat back in my bedroom and thumbed through the March/April edition of World Ark, the magazine published by Heifer International. What struck me as I read through the articles was the statistic “85% of all farms worldwide are smaller than five acres” (15). Several articles, cited the fact that most subsistence farms in Third World countries are very small – some even as small as mine.

I was surprised.

I have a book someone gave me entitled Five Acres and Independence. I’ve had it for a while, and having that book seemed to reinforce my (mistaken) notion that in order to be self-sufficient, I needed an acreage. I needed land, lots of land and the starry sky above ….

At any rate, a 1/4 acre wasn’t going to do it.

I didn’t know that a large portion of the world’s farmers are working land that isn’t much bigger than the average American suburban lot.

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Love Thy Neighbor

ByGroovy Green Apr 16, 2008

Another in our series from Wendy.

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I had a rather nomadic childhood. For the first eight years of my life, we moved at a rate of about once a year. Then, we were settled for about five years, but we moved again just before I started high school, and then, four years later, when I graduated from high school, I lived a transient life as a college student. Four years later, when I received my Bachelor’s degree, I moved for the next seven years, at about the same frequency as I did for the first eight years of my life – packing up my entire household and relocating every two to eighteen months.

Then, I moved with Deus Ex Machina, our two month old daughter, eight month old chow-chow puppy, and three year old iguana to Maine.

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The Sustainable Suburbs: Self-Sufficiency

ByGroovy Green Apr 15, 2008

Another in our series from Wendy. This one is about being self sufficient on a small plot, and if you really need to be.

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Someone told me recently that I could never be self-sufficient on my quarter acre suburban lot here in southern Maine. I don’t have enough land, and I can’t build a greenhouse.

Maybe. Maybe she’s right. But just maybe ….

My hero, Dolly Freed, lived on a 1/2 acre 40 miles from Philadelphia. She and her father weren’t “self-sufficient”, in that they did depend on outside sources for electricity, water, some food items, and clothing.

The folks at Path To Freedom aren’t self-sufficient, either. They buy bulk grains for themselves, feed for their livestock, clothing, and toiletry item ingredients (they make their own, but don’t produce the ingredients on their land).

Both of those examples are people who have very little land, compared to, say the settlers in the late 1890s, who were given 160 acres, but both of those examples are also people who live with very few “modern” conveniences on very small pieces of land with very small sums of money. In fact, their incomes likely fall well below what is considered the Federal Poverty level, and by our money-centric standards should be living in squalor.

If you think so, please do spend some time at the Urban Homestead. It’s anything but squalor. They even have a televsion, although I don’t believe they watch it very often, and they, obviously, have an Internet connection. While you’re at it, you should also, really, try to find a copy of Possum Living. It’s amazing what can be done, and how little cash one actually needs to live a very fulfilling life.

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The Sustainable Suburbs: Fowl Language

ByGroovy Green Apr 14, 2008

Another story in our series from Wendy. This one has some nuts and bolts about the cost of keeping chickens in your backyard.

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I live in the suburbs. Mine may not be a “typical” suburban neighborhood – my house was not part of a “planned” subdivision, although a subdivision plan was filed with the town for the road on which I live.

There’s also a planned subdivision across the road from me. The house lots are each a 1/2 acre. There’s another planned subdivision going in right down the road from me. I know the owner of the property. He’s my neighbor and owns the garden center next door.

About a 1/2 mile up the road from me is another family who also has chickens. I think they might also have bees.

This is a residential area. It’s a suburb. With the exception of my home business, the few other home-based workers and the garden center, there are no shops or other stores – just a bunch of houses from Route One until the grocery store that is the beginning of the town proper.

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There Was No Fat Lady Singing

ByGroovy Green Apr 13, 2008

The next in our series from Wendy.

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We watched the movie The End of Suburbia last night. I’ve been waiting a long time to see the film, but after having seen it, I’m actually glad that I didn’t have the opportunity to see it sooner. I like the timing of it all. Here, I’ve planned this series of posts about why we should stay in suburbia, and then the movie comes in the mail. It seems almost too fortuitous, almost fated.

Deus Ex Machina wasn’t as enthusiastic about the movie as I was (when he saw what it was he grumpled something about it being more of that fundamentalist crap). I asked Deus Ex Machina what he thought about the film after we watched it, and his response was, “They didn’t say anything new.”

Basically, the movie was a history of how our country adopted a suburban mindset. The original idea behind the suburb was to give city-dwellers the opportunity to move outside of the crowded and dirty environment of the newly industrialized cities into a cleaner community, usually consisting of residential housing with no industry or retail outlets within close proximity to where people lived. The hope was to give people a “taste” of country living.

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Pass The Scoop, I Likes Me Some Ice Cream With My Cake

ByGroovy Green Apr 12, 2008

The next in our series from Wendy.

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I was supposed to be commenting on the Suburban Lawn of the Future, but I’m having trouble with that topic.

Ask me why.

Okay, I’ll tell you.

I live in Maine, and right now we’re under a foot-deep, concrete-hard blanket of ice and snow, which is not unusual for February in Maine, but it makes thinking about what my garden might look like in the spring a little difficult. Some of my favorite bloggers are starting seeds right now, and from my experience as a gardener in this part of the country, it’s still too early to even do that. The traditional planting date for Maine is Memorial Day – still three full months away (and I learned the hard way not to flout the wisdom of waiting until then).

Instead I hope I can talk convincingly about why, if you already live in the suburbs, keeping your house is a better option than running wildly into the woods, and I’ll be making the assumption that your house in the suburbs carries a mortgage AND that if you found a house in the country, you would also have a mortgage.

In a survival situation, experts stress that the first order of business is finding shelter. Most people freak out and rush around trying to get food. Read More

A Rose by Any Other Name

ByGroovy Green Apr 11, 2008

The next installment in our series from Wendy.

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What is a suburb?

As I was thinking about this post, I started having a really hard time defining what a suburb is. I mean, we all know what it is, right? It’s a planned, homogenized community with plastic-looking houses and artificially green lawns sporting pink flamingoes and rusty swingsets.

But if my goal is to defend suburban life and explain why I think people who live in suburbs have as good a chance of surviving the apocalypse as the people in the country who have a bajillion acres of land and an abundance of natural resources at their disposal, or people in the city who can combine or eschew resources such as transportation and heating, I can’t very well use that definition :) .

I googled the term and found this definition: town or unincorporated developed area close to a city. Suburbs, since they are largely residential, are usually dependent on a city for employment and support services and are generally characterized by low-density development relative to the city.

I think that pretty well explains what a suburb is, but again, if suburban dwellers are “dependent” on the city for support services and employment, then any illusion of self-sufficiency is immediately negated, by definition.

In short, by using either definition, when it comes to the apocalypse, we suburbanites are screwed.

So, let’s focus on what suburbanites have that is unique to their particular habitat, and might, with a little imagination, be used to their advantage.

1. Suburban homes have a yard space, usually between 10,000 and 40,000 sq ft. Not a lot, but more sometimes just means “more”, which isn’t always better.

2. Suburbs are “close” to amenities. While “close” really is subjective, and some people would say that anything within a 50 mile radius qualifies, I (and most of my suburban neighbors) would classify close as within walking distance. It would take me two to three hours to walk to Portland. It would take about an hour to walk to downtown Biddeford (Portland and Biddeford are the largest and the fifth largest cities in the state of Maine, respectively).

3. Suburban homes are usually single-family homes. People who escape to the suburbs want to have some sense of privacy, but recognize that being interdependent might not be such a bad thing.

4. Suburbs do not, typically, have any businesses (except for the occasional “home business”, that usually doesn’t attract on-site clients).

In other words:

If you measure your property by square feet rather than acres, you might be a suburbanite.

If you need extra storage space to house your lawn care apparatus and outdoor furniture, you might be a suburbanite.

If you live close enough to school to walk, but far enough away for them to send the bus, you might be a surburbanite.

If the only bus that comes to your neighborhood is the school bus, you might be a suburbanite.

If you could walk to town for the gallon of milk you need, but choose to drive, because it’s more than a mile, and that’s just too far to walk with those little kids, BUT you don’t think twice about putting on your sneakers and dropping little Sally into the jogging stroller and walking around the neighborhood for some exercise, you might be a suburbanite.

If you drive more than two miles, but less than ten, to buy plastic crap from China, you might be a suburbanite.

If there is no “corner store” in your neighborhood, you might be a suburbanite.

If you’re close enough to see the dirt on your neighbors’ windows, but need binoculars to see what’s on their big screen television, you might be a surburbanite.

If there is anything called a cul-de-sac in your immediate neighborhood, you might be a surburbanite.

If you live in a cul-de-sac … you are a suburbanite.

Avoid the extremes and converge in the middle.

That’s the suburbs.

Suburbs are the happy medium between country life and city life.

Up Next: Mary, Mary Quite Contrary: The Suburban Lawn of the Future

Oh, Give Me a Home…

ByGroovy Green Apr 9, 2008

Wendy, who writes an interesting blog, has been working through the pros and cons of living in the suburbs as we approach the Peak Oil energy descent. What I find most compelling about his discussions is that she is like any of us. She’s struggling to figure out if the suburbs are her home, or if she needs a house and some land to survive. While she talks about it she walks you through her thinking. Whether you agree with it or not, she make some compelling arguments. She has been kind enough to allow us to bring her serious of posts over to our site to share with a bigger world, which I will be doing over the next few days.

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Today was a holiday. Seriously. It’s like President’s Day or something, I think. Anyway, my client’s office wasn’t open today, which means my normal “work day” was spent doing not much of anything. I sat on the computer most of the day … well, not “on” the computer, because that would have been very uncomfortable, and, well, I’m not sure my computer would have been able to support my weight – not that I’m big or anything.

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The Pentagon Is The Largest Consumer Of Oil In The World

ByGroovy Green Sep 27, 2007

Some interesting facts to pass along regarding the US Military and its consumption of oil. According to a Energy Bulleting report from earlier this year, the Pentagon is the world’s largest consumer of oil. In fact, there are only 35 countries (out of 210) in the world that consume more oil per day than the Pentagon. Here’s the breakdown:

>>Fiscal Year 2006 the Pentagon consumed 320,000 barrels per day of site delivered oil, compared to about 360,000 barrels per day in 2005. While consumption may have gone down, prices skyrocketed from $8.5 billion in ‘05 to $17 billion in ‘06.

>>These figures do not include oil for “fuel obtained at no cost overseas, fuel consumed by contractors, fuel consumed in some leased and privatized facilities, and not last but least oil consumed by certain leased and rented fleet vehicles.”
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I Ride My Bike

ByGroovy Green Sep 26, 2007

Enough with the gloom and doom over peak oil and climate change you say. You want an empowering story of change? Alright here’s an example of a personal adjustment I’ve made in my own life in an attempt to address both the above events because after all, the basic answer to both peak oil and climate change is roughly the same. Stop using fossil fuels; or at least cut way back on using them. But that’s so hard everyone says. It can’t be done. Nonsense. Or as Tom Athanasiou recently said, Change is necessary and because it is necessary it is possible.

I decided 2007 would be the year I got rid of my car. Not completely, but I’ve known for some time that driving a car keeps me dependent on the oil economy and pollutes this planet. I’ve known I needed to cut back on my automotive oil addiction. But it wasn’t until 2007 that I got serious about making change. Here are the numbers for the year so far.

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Adventures In Sustainability: Grow My Little Jatropha, Grow

ByGroovy Green Aug 14, 2007

Well, it’s been over two months since I started my little Jatropha experiment and I thought I would chime in on how things are coming. First of all, Jatropha is incredibly easy to grow. I had a delay of about three weeks with my initial seeds since most of it was “old” Jat seed according to some growers and stymied my efforts. In desperation to up the odds, I planted about 20 seeds into one container and was finally rewarded with about six plants. After a few weeks, I transferred two of the strongest plants to a larger container and they’ve taken off in their new home. Surprisingly, the other four plants are doing fine (albeit with not as dramatic growth) and continue to increase in foliage.

Jatropha PlantSince I’ve had some time to spend growing this plant, I’ve also discovered some interesting facts. For instance, this is a deciduous tree. I’ve always heard it referred to as a ‘weed’ but this may be because it has an easy time adapting to poor soil conditions, droughts, and can survive almost anywhere it stay relatively above 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, Jatropha can grow 8-10 meters tall under the right conditions. Once it drops its leaves and flowers, the seeds will follow shortly afterwards and then mature three months later. It’s at this point that we can attempt some biofuel extraction.

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Growing Our Own And More On The Bullseye Diet

ByGroovy Green Aug 9, 2007

The Bullseye DietIt was mainly Peak Oil that drove me out into my garden with a new mission; no longer just to grow a few tomatoes for fun each summer, but in an effort to grow the majority of the food my family eats. I set out a goal of producing more calories than I consume on my own property and within 5 years. I called my project ‘Growing My Own’. But there were others factors tugging at me, entreating me to take personal responsibility for the needs of my diet.

And I can see now that there are lots of other people becoming interested in local food and they’re doing so for a variety of reasons. Some of them want to avoid the potential health threats increasingly associated with industrial agriculture. You can get your daily update of just what food has been recently recalled as a health hazard by visiting this handy website the U.S. FDA recall website. The fact that such a site exists is a telltale sign of our increasingly dysfunctional relationship with what we eat. To be sure there have always been local incidents of accidental food poisonings and the like, but now that our system of growing and distributing food is so centralized, the risk of mass contamination from food borne illness is much higher. My favorite example is the recent Castleberry’s Chili recall in which cans were literally bursting with botulism. In the face of all the human health problems swirling around the anonymous origins of industrial food, many people are now opting to get their food from known local sources.

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Adventures In Sustainability: Growing My Own Biofuel With Jatropha

ByGroovy Green May 21, 2007

I just received a package from India. Yes, I know it was a terribly long distance to order something for a green living site; but my buying options were extremely limited in the U.S. So, turning to Ebay, I managed to find what I was looking for fairly quickly. And now, after traveling thousands of miles, I have my first jatropha seeds.

What’s jatropha? It’s a small shrub that is being planted by the millions throughout China, India, and Brazil as an alternative to oil. What makes it unique in the biofuel industry is its ability to produce a great deal of oil that needs very little refinement. A one-metre hedge will produce one kilogram of seeds with each seed containing about 1/3 of oil. 5 kilograms of seeds will give you roughly one litre. It yields more than four times as much fuel per hectare as soybean, and more than ten times that of corn. It’s extremely easy to grow, lives up to 50 years and produces seeds for its whole lifetime. Furthermore, the species is drought-resistant, can be grown at high altitudes and can withstand slight frosts. In the right conditions, each plant can grow eight or ten meters in height!

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Crude Impact on TV

ByGroovy Green Feb 17, 2007

The film Crude Impact (trimmed down from 98 to 60 minutes) will be airing on LinkTV on February 9th. You can see clips from Crude Impact here and here, and you can read Transition Culture’s review of the film here.

LinkTV, a non-profit satellite channel, will also be hosting an online discussion at the same time, with James Wood (director of the film) as well as Richard Heinberg and Antonia Juhasz.

Crude Impact is airing as part of a two-part series titled The End of Oil [Part 1, Part 2].

LinkTV is on DirecTV channel 375, Dish Network channel 9410.

40.7 Percent Efficient Solar Cell Announced By DOE

ByGroovy Green Dec 7, 2006

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Alexander Karsner today announced that with DOE funding, a concentrator solar cell produced by Boeing-Spectrolab has recently achieved a world-record conversion efficiency of 40.7 percent, establishing a new milestone in sunlight-to-electricity performance. This breakthrough may lead to systems with an installation cost of only $3 per watt, producing electricity at a cost of 8-10 cents per kilowatt/hour, making solar electricity a more cost-competitive and integral part of our nation’s energy mix.

(Emphasis definitely freakin’ mine.)

Not to out do Kevin’s exuberance, this is definitely a huge deal. $3 per watt to install? A 62% reduction in installation cost for PV panels?

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When Will the Peak Perk?

ByGroovy Green Aug 23, 2006

Jeffery Brown throws out a challenge to the main stream media.

“Who among you is going to have the courage to step forward and “break” the story that the lifeblood of the world economy–net oil export capacity–is now declining?”

Mr. Brown says, “I estimate that oil exports from the top 10 net oil exporters are probably now falling at a double digit annual rate.”

He’s an independent petroleum geologist from Dallas by the way; not one of them economists that thinks you can put dollar bills in your gas tank and drive to work. I once told two smart friends of mine, an engineer and a medical student, that physics trumps economics and they said I didn’t understand how the world works. I don’t. But I do think that as oil is physically less available “laws” of economics are going to spin on their heads. Just a little prediction for you this afternoon. Here’s one more. It will be obvious that we’ve peaked in oil production by the end of 2006. It’ll take a few more years, two maybe, for the most optimistic of oil cheerleaders to admit so (read up on the history of the peak in production in the U.S. – 1971). Then, suddenly everyone will be saying, “Yeah, of course we’ve peaked. That’s what oil fields do- Duh!” But by then the scurry to find the next source of fuel for our mobile lifestyles and our transportation dependent economy will be on in full force. My favorite are the news headlines that read, “How Will We Fuel The Cars of Tomorrow?”, or, “Is Ethanol The Answer?” No ethanol isn’t the answer. It’s only suggested as a part of the solution because Iowa is the first stop on the road to the White House. It seems very few people are stopping to consider ways of living that require less driving. Supply-side solutions will not solve the problem of the declining rate of petroleum production.

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