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William McDonough, architect and author of "Cradle to Cradle," describes the future for green buildings and renewable energy.
(29 November 2005)
Jon Lebkowsky, WorldChanging
Given the post-Thanksgiving consumerist frenzy this "Black Friday," in which fights broke out and people were trampled at various stores offering competitive deep discounts, this is a good time to mention Duane Elgin's 1981 book Voluntary Simplicty: Toward a Life that is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich, described in its Amazon review as "the sacred text for those wanting to liberate themselves from enslavement to a job and the pursuit of status symbols."
Elgin's work emerges from a concern for the environmental consequences of our mass consumption lifestyles. His book exhorts us to save the planet and our souls by "living with balance in order to find a life of greater purpose."
Elgin was a social scientist at SRI International and had been studying what he perceived as a trend toward voluntary simplicity as a growing alternative lifestyle.
(26 November 2005)
.Good on Jan Lebkowsky for bringing up voluntary simplicity. It's a subject that's been curiously missing from the discourse on peak oil and energy. Jan goes on to mention other figures in the voluntary simplicity movement, such as Joe Dominguez, Vicki Robin and E.F. Schumacher.
Simplicity has a long heritage, including the Stoics and Diogenes. There are promptings towards simplicity in all major religions. Mennonites, Quakers and Shakers are particularly associated with simplicity. Some of the writers on simplicity that I've especially liked:
NJ rebates and credits fuel alternative energy
CAMDEN, N.J. - On an unusually bright autumn day, Ina Cabanas climbed onto her roof to see her long-held vision realized. That dazzling sun would finally fuel her house.
"I've wanted solar for a long time," Cabanas said.
Helping her in this venture was an unusual partner: New Jersey. The state has become a national model for solar power.
And interest in such systems is exploding now, not only because of the soaring natural-gas prices but also because of the state's generous rebate and incentive program.
(26 November 2005)
Ted Trainer interview: what is our biggest problem? (transcript)
Robyn Williams, Ockham's Razor, ABC radio
Summary: Ted Trainer from the School of Social Work at the University of New South wales tells us that the fundamental cause of the big global problems facing us is over-consumption.
... Trainer: If the question is how can we run a sustainable and just consumer-capitalist society, the point is that there isn’t any answer. We cannot achieve a sustainable and just society unless we face up to huge and radical transition to what some identify as The Simpler Way, that is to a society based on non-affluent but adequate living standards, high levels of self-sufficiency, in small scale localised economies with little trade and no growth...
...The most disturbing problem of all is our failure, our refusal to even recognise that the pursuit of affluence and growth is a terrible mistake.
Despite our vast educational systems, information technologies and media networks, despite having hordes of academics and experts, there is almost no official or public recognition that the quest for affluence and growth is the basic cause of our alarming global predicament.
... We are dealing here with a fascinating and powerful ideological phenomenon, a failure, indeed a refusal, to even think about the possibility that we are sitting on the railway tracks and there is a train fast approaching. It would be difficult to imagine a more profound case of denial and delusion.
... I believe we are now entering a time of rapidly intensifying problems which will impact heavily on the complacency within the rich countries. The coming peak of petroleum supply might concentrate minds wonderfully, but I think the probability of us achieving the transition is very low.
Your chances in the next few decades will depend very much on whether your region manages to build local economies, and whether the people living there are willing to shift to frugal, co-operative and self-sufficient ways.
How China can save the planet
Stanley Crouch, NY Daily News via Sacramento Bee
As we know, our communications technology and many means of transporting goods have brought everyone in the closest contact with one another in the history of the species. The sale of products and the opening of markets the world over have brought us all into a global economy, but that global economy is attended by something very dark.
We also have global ecological problems that come as the result of the abuse of the environment through the production of certain goods and even certain materials that will be turned into no more than expensive trinkets.
Hysterics aside, it is obvious that there is real trouble. These problems are becoming ever more dire, and something is needed to give us a new direction or to change the emphasis on certain products that have too large a position in the market. As ironic as it might seem, my nominee to bring about the biggest global change we might see in this era is not a Western democracy, but the People's Republic of China.
Now could be the time for China to throw its weight around for the good of the world and come out an ecological hero of epic proportions.
This is far from impossible. The necessary elements are right there. The Chinese giant could clean up its image, get the best available propaganda and prove itself an irrefutable world leader of unexpected vision and resourcefulness.
This could come at just the moment that we have become grimly aware of how well China has manipulated capitalist investment in order to get the money necessary to finance its totalitarian state. That need not be the whole story, however. In fact, I wonder how long it will take those Chinese to figure out that they should use the power with which they are now familiar and reverse the relationship of this entire planet to the oil industry.
How could China do this, and why would it care to? Well, China has had pollution problems for many years. If a very bright and charismatic member of the ruling Communist party were to think about it, he could come to the conclusion that it is time for that huge nation to use its impressive power and push the car industry to step away from Big Oil, which is both poisoning the planet and keeping us all in hock to the Middle East.
(26 November 2005)
UPDATE Dec 1:
Article is also posted at the Whittier Daily News.
"Greener" heat sources cost money, save energy
Warren Cornwall, Seattle Times
Seven years ago, Jeremy Smithson decided it would be neat to heat and light his home with solar power.
Then he did the math.
His 1908 Craftsman on the western slope of Phinney Ridge would need a roof four times bigger just to hold enough solar panels to meet his energy needs.
Now Smithson has a house so tightly insulated "that a BTU can't wiggle out of it." Efficient fluorescent bulbs poke out of the light sockets. Solar panels and tubes line his home's south-facing roof and wall.
"What we discovered is that if you super-insulate, then you reduce your heat requirement to the point where you can solar heat," Smithson said.
Over the year, the home will need roughly 2,000 kilowatt-hours of power from outside sources, down from around 18,500, he said.
Smithson's house demonstrates that with enough determination and careful planning, it's possible to find more renewable, environmentally friendly ways to meet at least part of your heating needs.
But it also shows that it's not simply a matter of throwing up some solar panels and turning on the thermostat.
(28 November 2005)