Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Facing a New Reality

> new reality initiative

“Facing the New Reality: Preparing Poor America for Harder Times Ahead”

A Special Report from the Community Action Partnership


Click here to read online.

Click here to download a printable version.

Read their article in Energy Bulletin here.

As we all know, what happens in America comes to Norway ten years after. So let's prepare for a new reality as well! This report is a good start.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Democratizing the Electricity System - A Vision for the 21st Century Grid

New Report: Democratizing the Electricity System

ILSR has released a vision for a 21st century electricity system as a network of independently-owned and widely dispersed renewable energy producers.

"Thirty years ago renewable energy was a novelty," says John Farrell, author of the new report. "Twenty years ago it was little more than a cottage industry. Today the $100 billion renewable energy industry threatens to overturn the bigger-is-better foundation of the existing, 20th century electricity system."

Download the report as an e-book here.

Related reading:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Plantebasert luftfilter & topp-ti luftrensende potteplanter


Prinsippet for et plantebasert luftfilter

Morsomt, men er det nødvendig? Planter er jo effektive luftrensere i seg selv!

Men hvilke planter fungerer best som luftrensere? Her har NASA laget en studie som kartlegger de ti beste plantene for å fjerne giftstoffer i lufta for bruk på romstasjoner. Men vil tro de er minst like effektive i stua! Les artikkelen: The Top 10 Plants for Removing Indoor Toxins.

Ingen tvil om at giftrensende planter bør være en selvfølge i alle hjem, med eller uten luftfilter. Nye forskningsresultater bekrefter en forbindelse mellom formaldehyd og leukemi. Formaldehydbasert lim nyttes i sponplater, panelplater, parkett, etc. Den boligen "Norges ledende boligleverandør" leverte meg bestod nær 100 prosent av formaldehydbaserte produkter. Les dokumentet "Plater, Papp & Folier" for et sunnere boligkjøp.

Narrow Roads often Work Better than Wide Ones

This doesn't work! Photo: Floydian

Read the article from New Urban Network: Narrow roads often work better than wide ones.

Related reading:

Six Framework Conditions for Global Systemic Change

From: P2P Foundation

Summary

Christian Arnsperger: The main framework conditions that I believe would be needed for a genuine transition to a sustainable pluri-economy to get off the ground:
More Information
  1. Christian Arnsperger: Reasoned Localization and Selective Deglobalization [7]
  2. Christian Arnsperger: The Concept of Transition. [8]

A Few Scenarios on Our Energy Future

Absorption of solar energy heats up our planet's surface and atmosphere making life for us possible. But the energy carnot stay bound up in the Earth's environment forever. If it did, the Earth would be as hot as the sun. Instead, as the surface and atmosphere warm, they emit thermal long wave radiation, some of which escapes into space and allows the Earth to cool. This false color image of the Earth was produced by the Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System (CERES) instrument flying aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft. The image shows where more or less heat, in the form of long-wave radiation, is emanating from the top of the Earth's atmosphere. As one can see in the image, the thermal radiation leaving the oceans is fairly uniform. The blue swaths represent thick clouds, the tops of which are so high they are among the coldest places on Earth. In the American Southwest, which can be seen in the upper right hand corner of the globe, there is often little cloud cover to block outgoing radiation and relatively little water to absorb solar energy making the amount of outgoing radiation in this area exceeding that of the oceans. Recently, NASA researchers discovered that incoming solar radiation and outgoing thermal radiation increased in the tropics from the 1980s to the 1990s. They believe the unexpected change has to do with apparent change in circulation patterns around the globe, which effectively reduce the amount of water vapor and cloud cover in the upper reaches of the atmosphere. Without the clouds, more sunlight was allowed to enter the tropical zones and more thermal energy was allowed to leave. The findings may have big implications for climate change and future global warming.
Excerpted from Barath Raghavan:

Doing the analysis above reminded me that a wholesale transition to alternatives seems unlikely to deliver energy at current levels of consumption/production. I'd like to briefly consider a few possible trajectories / scenarios here, which I'll explore in more depth another time.
  • Business-as-usual: we'll just keep on going with fossil fuels until we can no longer do so; that is we'll follow the oil depletion curve down and try to substitute with coal, tar sands, and other dirty fuels. We may not build new coal plants in the United States, but we probably won't decommission them as fast as we should to deal with climate issues, and China, India, and other countries will continue using coal at breakneck rates. This scenario might, in the short term, maximize global economic output (though it will likely still be decreasing on a long-term basis given the economic impact of oil depletion). It will however cause us to overshoot 450 ppm of CO2, taking us to perhaps 500 or 550 ppm, which is probably past the point of no return in terms of warming - natural feedbacks are likely to take over. (I think we probably are unlikely to go much further than that, since we'll start running out of cheap coal at that point.)
  • Unmanaged descent: we'll keep using fossil fuels, but the economic contraction due to oil depletion will hit hard enough that we'll end up using less energy overall. In this way, we'll haphazardly decrease our energy use at the expense of global human hardship. In this scenario, we'd probably avoid exceeding 450 ppm of CO2 simply due to a non-functioning economy, though we also won't be able to build alternatives at anything near the rate I describe above.
  • Managed descent: there are a lot of things that need to be done just right to manage our descent. First, we'd need policy-based solutions, either in the form of a carbon tax (or the equivalent) or energy quotas. Second, we'd need to stabilize swings in oil prices as I discussed before. Third, we'd need to invest in alternatives that have the highest capacity yield per unit time. From what I can tell, solar thermal is one of the best options, as it doesn't require particularly advanced technology and therefore could probably be ramped up quickly. It is however only viable in desert regions. My preference would be to target solar thermal, wind, and algae fuel as the three main alternative sources; solar PV can help at the household scale.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Agrarrebellen Sepp Holzer


Les mer om  Sepp Holzer hos kulturverk.com her, og hos PRI-Australia her.

Growing Cities Movie & Radical Gardening (book)

Growing Cities is a feature-length documentary film about urban farming across America. It follows two friends in their road trip across country as they meet with leaders in the urban farming movement and learn how cities are being revitalized one vegetable, bee, and chicken at a time.

Learn more here.

* Book: Radical Gardening. George McKay. France Lincoln, 2010

Excerpted from the introduction by George McKay in Stir magazine:

“Radical Gardening is about the idea of the ‘plot’, and its alternate but interwoven meanings in the garden. There are three. First there is the plot of the land, the garden space itself, how it is claimed, shaped, planted, and how we might understand some of the politics of flowers. Then there is the plot as narrative or story, whether historical or contemporary. The book draws on a small but persistent tradition of writing which sets itself against the dominant narratives of gardening. I trawled through many old and new anarchist and socialist magazines and leaflets to find some of these. Third, there is the notion of the plot as the act of politicking, sometimes a dark conspiracy but more often a positive, humanising gesture in a moment of change. So the ‘plots’ of Radical Gardening are the land itself, the history of the struggle, and the activism of the political conspiracy.

These plots show us how notions of utopia, of community, of activism for progressive social change, of peace, of environmentalism, of identity politics, are practically worked through in the garden, in floriculture, and through what art historian Paul Gough has called ‘planting as a form of protest’. But not all are positive—some are sobering, or frightening, for within the territory of the politically ‘radical’ there have been and continue to be social experiments that invert our positive expectations of the human exchange that occurs in the green open space of a garden. So I write also about fascist gardens, of how for the Nazis the land and its planting were pivotal to their ideology, of the notorious herb garden at Dachau concentration camp (run on the biodynamic principles of Rudolf Steiner favoured by many senior Nazis), of the SS ‘village’ at Auschwitz, as recalled by Primo Levi, with its domestic normality of houses, gardens, children and pets—and the garden paths paved with human bones. Such a fetishising of the land bolstered a murderous ideology: the suspicion towards Jews or Gypsies, as wanderers and nomads, were confirmed precisely because of their lack of a relationship with land or soil.

Korianderolje for helsefremmende mat og medisin

Ball-and-stick model of the coriandrin molecule, part of the essential oil of coriander

Coriander oil has been shown to be toxic to a broad range of harmful bacteria. Its use in foods and in clinical agents could prevent food-borne illnesses and even treat antibiotic-resistant infections, according to the authors of a study published in the Journal of Medical Microbiology.
Coriander is an aromatic plant widely used in Mediterranean cuisine. Coriander oil is one of the 20 most-used essential oils in the world and is already used as a food additive. Coriander oil is produced from the seeds of the coriander plant and numerous health benefits have been associated with using this herb over the centuries. These include pain relief, ease of cramps and convulsions, cure of nausea, aid of digestion and treatment of fungal infections. - Eurek Alert
Wow! Les hele artikkelen her, og les mer om koriander på rolv.no her.

Advarsler, bivirkninger og kontraindikasjoner
Det finnes ingen rapporter om bivirkninger ved normal bruk av koriander som krydder. Inntak av store doser av frøene, eller utstrakt bruk av den eteriske oljen i aromaterapi, kan føre til døsighet og en bedøvende virkning. Den rene eteriske oljen må ikke brukes under graviditet, og bare i svært små mengder innvortes. Det finnes noen sjeldne rapporter om allergiske reaksjoner på koriander, men faren for slike reaksjoner er ikke stor. - Rolv.no

Monday, August 22, 2011

Agroecology - the Foundation for a New Green Revolution

In Brief

The combined effects of climate change, energy scarcity, and water paucity require that we radically rethink our agricultural systems. Countries can and must reorient their agricultural systems toward modes of production that are not only highly productive, but also highly sustainable. Following the 2008 global food price crisis, many developing countries have adopted new food security policies and have made significant investments in their agricultural systems. Global hunger is also back on top of the international agenda. However, the question is not only how much is done, but also how it is done—and what kinds of food systems are now being rebuilt.

Agroecology, the application of ecological science to the study, design, and management of sustainable agriculture, offers a model of agricultural development to meet this challenge. Recent research demonstrates that it holds great promise for the roughly 500 million food-insecure households around the world. By scaling up its practice, we can sustainably improve the livelihoods of the most vulnerable, and thus contribute to feeding a hungry planet.


Read the article: The New Green Revolution: how twenty-first-century science can feed the world.

Related reading:

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race

Sustainable: A society that balances the environment, other life forms, and human interactions over an indefinite time period.
To science we owe dramatic changes in our smug self-image. Astronomy taught us that our earth isn’t the center of the universe but merely one of billions of heavenly bodies. From biology we learned that we weren’t specially created by God but evolved along with millions of other species. Now archaeology is demolishing another sacred belief: that human history over the past million years has been a long tale of progress. In particular, recent discoveries suggest that the adoption of agriculture, supposedly our most decisive step toward a better life, was in many ways a catastrophe from which we have never recovered. With agriculture came the gross social and sexual inequality, the disease and despotism, that curse our existence. - Jared Diamond
Read Jared Diamond's classical article from 1987: The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race.

Nigerian farmers. Photo: Mike Blyth
Related reading:

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The World According to Monsanto - FULL LENGTH

I’ve been travelling around the world for over 20 years, and I hear things all the time about this American multinational — mostly bad things, to tell the truth. I wanted to find out for myself, and spent months surfing the Net. I learned that Monsanto is one of the most controversial corporations of modern times, because it has systematically hidden the extreme toxicity of its products. What about today? Is it telling us the truth about its GMOs? Can we believe it when it says that biotechnology is the solution to hunger and environmental contamination? To answer these questions, which concern us all, I set out on a mission across three continents, comparing what Monsanto says with the real world. I met dozens of eyewitnesses I hadn’t identified in advance on the Web. And I’m convinced this is no time to let Monsanto take possession of crop seeds and, by extension, the the world’s food supply. - Marie-Monique Robin

Dr. Huber Explains Science Behind New Organism and Threat from Monsanto's Roundup, GMOs to Disease and Infertility from Food Democracy Now! on Vimeo.

Dr. Don Huber was Professor Emeritus of plant pathology at Purdue University for 35 years, and has been studying plant diseases worldwide for 50. He has found links between Roundup Ready crops (corn and soybeans) and widespread crop failures and disease, livestock infertility and spontaneous abortion rates as high as 45%.

Read more here.

The video above — Farmer to Farmer: The Truth About GM Crops — narrated by UK farmer Michael Hart, tells us that U.S. GMO farmers are not necessarily GMO farmers out of choice any more. The seeds cost too much, the chemicals cost too much, and they now need to use a lot more chemicals than they had to before — yet the pesticide treadmill has mutated into the GMO treadmill, leaving farmers grappling with spiraling costs and super weeds whilst essentially making them captive customers; prisoners on their own land. - Craig Mackintosh
Related:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Riots of England – the Very Earmarks of Modern Urbanism

This is, of course, a rampant nod to commercialism, which, if we did not live in such a commercial era, would be seen for what it is. The life of a community cannot be held hostage, by a person or corporation who seeks to make money and profit from the construction of its streets and buildings. The streets and buildings are part of the neighborhood’s life blood, the city’s life blood, and they must be interwoven with the activities and life of the people themselves. Anything less leads inevitably to drug abuse, crime, teenage violence, anomie, and despair – the very earmarks of modern urbanism. Christopher Alexander
The high rate of crime among teenagers is not because they are worse people than previous generations. The reason is that we have given them a worse environment!
You just can’t change the kids; you have to change the context these kids are a part of.Laurence Steinberg
 Photo: GeorgeRexTA

Additional reading:

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Importance of On-Street Parking

Photo: Gloumouth1 
Splendid analysis on parking problematics from one of my favorite blogs, New Urban Network, by Steve Mouzon. Read it here.

NINE PER CENT PARKING **

Problem
Very simply - when the area devoted to parking is too great, it destroys the land.

Solution
Do not allow more than 9 per cent of the land in any given area to be used for parking. In order to prevent the "bunching" of parking in huge neglected areas, it is necessary for a town or a community to subdivide its land into "parking zones" no larger than 10 acres each and to apply the same rule in each zone. - Pattern 22

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Hybrid Solar System Makes Rooftop Hydrogen

Instead of systems based on standard solar panels, Duke engineer Nico Hotz proposes a hybrid option in which sunlight heats a combination of water and methanol in a maze of glass tubes on a rooftop. After two catalytic reactions, the system produces hydrogen much more efficiently than current technology without significant impurities. The resulting hydrogen can be stored and used on demand in fuel cells. - ScienceDaily
This is the hybrid system schematic. (Credit: Nico Hotz)

Read the whole article here.

Related reading:

After GDP—Happiness?


Proposals for a broader-based economic metric date back at least to 1972, when economists William Nordhaus and James Tobin suggested the Measure of Economic Welfare (MEW)—which Herman Daly, John Cobb, and Clifford Cobb refined in 1989 as the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW). The aim of these early alternative indicators was to deduct defense spending and the costs of environmental degradation from GDP, and add the unpaid services of domestic labor.

In 1995 the think tank Redefining Progress took MEW and ISEW a step further with its Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI), which adjusts not only for environmental damage and resource depletion, but also for income distribution, volunteering, crime, changes in leisure time, and the lifespan of consumer durables and public infrastructures. GPI gained more traction than either MEW or ISEW, and is now used by the scientific community and many governmental organizations globally (for example, the state of Maryland is now using GPI for planning and assessment).

Coincidentally, 1972—the year MEW was proposed—also marked the date when the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan started moving to build an economy based on what King Jigme Singye Wangchuck called “Gross National Happiness.” Seeking to preserve traditional Buddhist values in an increasingly globalized world, this tiny country set out to develop a survey instrument to measure its people’s general sense of well-being.

Until recently the subject of happiness was avoided by social scientists, who lacked good ways to measure it; however, “happiness economists” inspired by Bhutan’s experiment have found ways to combine subjective surveys with objective data on lifespan, income, and education, making a national happiness index a practical option.

Though Bhutan’s economy is still based on subsistence agriculture and has a relatively low GDP, the Bhutanese people rank among the top 20 happiest in the world. This contrasts with the US, which delivers much less happiness per unit of GDP. In his book The Politics of Happiness, former Harvard University president Derek Bok traced the history of the relationship between economic growth and happiness in America. During the past 35 years, per capita income has grown almost 60 percent, the average new home has become 50 percent larger, the number of cars has ballooned by 120 million, and the proportion of families owning personal computers has gone from zero to 80 percent. But the percentage of Americans describing themselves as either “very happy” or “pretty happy” has remained virtually constant, having peaked in the 1950s. Our economic treadmill is continually speeding up due to GDP growth and we have to push ourselves ever harder to keep up, yet we’re no happier as a result.

The thinking behind Gross National Happiness is catching on. Harvard Medical School has released a series of happiness studies, while British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced the UK’s intention to begin tracking well-being along with GDP. Sustainable Seattle has launched a Happiness Initiative and intends to conduct a city-wide well-being survey. Thailand has instituted a happiness index and releases monthly GNH data. Britain’s New Economics Foundation publishes a “Happy Planet Index,” which “shows that it’s possible for a nation to have high well-being with a low ecological footprint.” And a new documentary film called “The Economics of Happiness” argues that GNH is best served by localizing economics, politics, and culture.

Whatever index is settled upon to replace GDP, it will be more complicated than the current one-dimensional metric. But simplicity isn’t always an advantage, and the additional effort required to track factors like collective psychological well-being, quality of governance, and environmental integrity may be well spent. - Richard Heinberg
Additional reading:

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Three Important Articles on Salingaros' Work

By David Brussat:
See also his short review of Salingaros' last book: Twelve Lectures on Architecture.

The Alhambra (The Red) in the evening light, Granada, Spain. View from mirador San Nicolas. Photo: Jebulon

Monday, August 8, 2011

Design for Social Innovation: An Interview With Ezio Manzini (Part 1 & 2)

 Ezio Manzini
Wow! Much good stuff is comming from Italy these days! Like the Slow Food Movement, ISB, Gruppo Salingaros, and just now I became aware of DESIS Network, founded by Ezio Manzini.
Ezio Manzini is an Italian design strategist, one of the world’s leading experts on sustainable design, author of numerous design books, professor of Industrial Design at Milan Polytechnic, and founder of the DESIS (Design for Social Innovation towards Sustainability) network of university-based design labs. His work over the past 30 years in sustainability and social innovation has coalesced around four watchwords: small, local, open and connected. On a recent Friday morning we spoke via skype and I was immediately impressed with his easy manner, warmth and balanced optimism. - Shareable
Read the interview: Part I (Design for Social Innovation: An Interview With Ezio Manzini) & Part II (Ezio Manzini on the Economics of Design for Social Innovation).
Beyond that, of course there are also some thinkers who have been very important to me. I like to quote Amartya Sen. He's a Nobel Prize winning economist who introduced me to the notion of “capabilities”. His main work deals with social equity. His approach focuses on positive freedom, a person’s actual ability to be who they want to be and do what they want to do. It’s the idea of empowering the capabilities of people. In my view this is a very strong idea for design. In some way, when you design, you search for problems to be solved. If you take the capability approach, you search for capabilities to support. This is a paradigmatic change in the way that we think. This is connected to social innovation. You don’t ask what you can do to make people behave differently. You ask what you can do to recognize people’s capabilities and help people use those to solve the problems they face. - Ezio Manzini
Ezio Manzini on Vimeo:


Ezio Manzini-Keynote: Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability from Interaction Design Association on Vimeo.

His websites:

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Taken for a Ride – How General Motors Swindled a Nation

This 1-hour documentary shares the history of how General Motors deliberately swindled the U.S. public out of a superior, healthier public transport system — so as to replace the then-popular electric street cars with their own products: cars, buses and trucks. This deceit and selfishness has landed the American public in its current ultra-vulnerable position, where they: despite having only 4% of the world’s population are consuming 25% of the world’s oil; must endure hours of each day in oft-gridlocked traffic; and must even see their sons shot to pieces fighting far-flung wars over resources. Thanks GM. - Craig Mackintosh
 

Related reading:

Addicted to Growth


Vi er alle avhengige av økonomisk vekst, det er vårt narkosium, og verden er høy på en virkelighetsfjern rus. Hva skjer den dagen realitetene treffer oss som en knyttneve?
In this year, 2011, we are enjoying a lifestyle beyond the most optimistic dreams of past generations. We are benefitting from the whirlwind of achievements in science and technology during the last hundred years. There has never been a century like the one just passed, and there will never be another like it. Lifestyles will be very different when oil and gas are depleted. - Roy Anderson
We’re not really facing a shortage of energy; we’re facing a longage of expectations. And the sooner that we as individuals or a nation recognize that the future is going to see much lower consumption than today and prepare for that, psychological resilience is going to be really important, because if no one is psychologically prepared, people are going to freak out when some of these freedoms start to go away. - Nate Hagens

A Timeless Character

The timeless character of buildings is as much a part of nature as the character of rivers, trees, hills, flames, and stars. - Christopher Alexander
Moni Agios Triadas, Meteora, Greece. Photo: Dido3

A House Like This

A must read from the permaculture fairy, Cecilia Macaulay!
Making a house like this is about the only thing I really want to do with my life. And a family to bring it to life. - Cecilia Macaulay
Read her article: I want to live at Valcluse House - Low-tech Home, grand mansion, and useful kitchen Gardens.

Claude Monet - The House among the Roses

A Tower of Deceit and Western Fundamentalism

Kingdom Tower will in the end be raging 1.000 meters above Jeddah. PAFP/KINGDOM HOLDING COMPANY
The situation with the new Asian states awakening from their competitive slumber is absolutely tragic. They are swallowing all the deceptions that originally sold city-destroying, soul-destroying, and culture-destroying architectural and urban typologies to the West. If this were the 1950s, then OK, we might excuse this error as a lack of experience. But we have several decades of mistakes, endlessly documented, endlessly discussed and debated. Why are the new Asian states copying the worst that the West did to their own people and to their own cities? Probably, the reason is that the West itself is still promoting the same destructive typologies -- only a minority of us are condemning them, whereas the system is still stuck in a heroic city-destroying mode. We have a bunch of western "experts" that have advised the new Asian states to do precisely what they are doing now. And those experts are making huge fortunes from the ensuing devastation... many people are profiting financially from all this construction, and it churns the country's economy. But the product is toxic. Incidentally, many people don't see this in this way; all they see is exciting new buildings and highways going up in the East. The devastating realization will occur when the energy costs are added up, and people realize that they have destroyed their own society. - Nikos A. Salingaros 
Illuminated CN Tower in Toronto at night. Photo: Wladyslaw  

Further reading:

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

In a Healthy Town Every Family Can Grow Vegetables for Itself!

Problem
In a healthy town every family can grow vegetables for itself. The time is past to think of this as a hobby for enthusiasts; it is a fundamental part of human life.

Solution
Set aside one piece of land either in the private garden or on common land as a vegetable garden. About one-tenth of an acre is needed for each family of four. Make sure the vegetable garden is in a sunny place and central to all the households it serves. Fence it in and build a small storage shed for gardening tools beside it. - Pattern 177



Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Sea of Flowers

Flowers of sorrow in front of Oslo Cathedral, remembering the victims of the recent terror attacks in Oslo and at Utøya
Two children in contemplation
Grief and hope
 
My wife and daughter were just around the corner of the cathedral, on Oslo's parade street Karl Johan, when the bomb blasted only 200 meters away. Luckily they were quite protected inside a shop, although the windows were shattered and gravels started falling down from the ceiling. It was hard to be away on my permaculture course in Sweden that time, wanting to comfort them from the great chock they had just passed trough.

What can we do to give the children of Norway a future as nice as the sea of flowers seen in these pictures? I think such a future is in the palms of permaculture and biourbanism, creating a paradigm shift away from the failed ideologies of the 20th century, among which modernism is of the worst ones.

Minutes before Norway is changed forever
Flower flags
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