During a rant about the latest Tory scheme of putting a price on the world and everything in it, another Kossak, James Wells, pointed me toward works by Paul Kingsnorth and, by extension, other Dark Mountain Project participants. He and his followers believe, given runaway consumerist capitalism, burgeoning population growth, and negligence by governmental authorities, that it may futile to participate in the environmental movement as it stands. On the whole, I disagree, but can understand their frustration and, having read their manifesto and the first of their published books, will continue to read subsequent volumes. The conversations between those who believe they have an existential obligation to continue the fight despite the possibility of failure, and those who feel that it is time to prepare for the worst, are conversations worth having.
Jul 21 2013
Capitalism causes cancer,
both the kind you’re thinking of,
and another kind:
Cities are tumors on the Earth,
our precious home planet.
Oct 11 2010
Welcome to the third to last xx/xx/xx year in our lifetimes Only next year and 2012 until we wait another 88 years for one.
Now that I have gotten your attention, actually MOST plastic bottles are not evil from a health and safety perspective, but the way that we use them certainly is evil. I did say MOST, since by far the greatest number of plastic containers are made of polyethylene (PE, recycle code 2), polypropylene (PP, recycle code 5), or polyethylene terephthalate, (PET or PETE, recycle code 1). These materials are not very apt to leach harmful materials into the contents.
Some plastics, notably polycarbonate (PC, recycle code 7 [7 is a catch all for “other”]) are apt to leach out harmful materials, particularly bisphenol A, strongly suspected as being an endocrine system disruptor because of its potential to mimic estrogen. Polycarbonate containers are clear and usually thick, while PE and PP are translucent. PETE is also clear, but usually quite a bit thinner than PC. Just look at the recycle codes on the bottom.
Oct 04 2010
We have been talking about sustainability recently, and one of the resources in most jeopardy is fresh water. In the United States the freshwater problem is becoming more and more significant, and in many parts of the world it is already desperate. We shall look at some of the methods used to purify nonpotable water tonight.
First of all, we need to understand what kind of water we are purifying. It ranges in quality from surface or ground freshwater, requiring only minor treatment to eliminate microbes that might cause disease (the vast majority of drinking and industrial water in the United States comes from these sources), all the way to seawater, with lots of intermediate kinds.
Sep 27 2010
I have been thinking about sustainability for a long, long time. Unfortunately, in my scientific analysis, it not possible if we continue on the route that we have chosen. This is an extremely complex topic, and might even deserve its own, new, date. I am thinking that Wednesdays might be a good time for it. This is more speculation than science, so it does not properly belong on Pique the Geek for the long term.
This will be the most controversial topic that I have ever tackled. I may be dead wrong in some of my speculations, but a lot of thought has gone into them. I offer no easy remedies but do ask the hard, horrible questions and illustrate them with facts. I will ask that you, my readers, tell me whether this deserves a new series, uncoupled from Pique the Geek. Please read further.
Dec 11 2009
Rob Hopkins is the founder of the Transition movement, a radically hopeful and community-driven approach to creating societies independent of fossil fuel.
From his bio at Ted.com:
Hopkins leads a vibrant new movement of towns and cities that utilize local cooperation and interdependence to shrink their ecological footprints. In the face of climate change he developed the concept of Transition Initiatives — communities that produce their own goods and services, curb the need for transportation and take other measures to prepare for a post-oil future. While Transition shares certain principles with greenness and sustainability, it is a deeper vision concerned with re-imagining our future in a self-sufficient way and building resiliency.
Transforming theory to action, Hopkins is also the co-founder and a resident of the first Transition Initiative in the UK, in Totnes, Devon. As he refuses to fly, it is from his home in Totnes that he offers help to hundreds of similar communities that have sprung up around the world, in part through his blog, transitionculture.org
Hopkins, who’s trained in ecological design, wrote the principal work on the subject, Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience, a 12-step manual for a postcarbon future.
Hopkins website is “Transition Culture: An evolving exploration into the head, heart and hands of energy descent“, where he asks “How might our response to peak oil and climate change look more like a party than a protest march? This site explores the emerging transition model in its many manifestations” One of the posts I found most thought provoking on his site is Your Free Guide to Setting Up Local Currencies, available in .pdf for download on that page. He discusses in the video below some communities setting up their own currencies and local economies.
Here is Hopkins giving a talk for Ted.com, filmed this past July and posted there in November this year…
Nov 17 2009
I originally submitted this as a sample blog post to become a blogger on change.org, but they rejected me, so here goes. I have two other posts like this up my sleeve, too.
I don’t know about you, but when I go to the supermarket it’s a chore. With every single item there are thousands of things that could potentially go wrong. Is it USDA organic? Is it fair trade? It doesn’t have palm oil in it, does it? And if you’re like most people, the supermarket is unfortunately your best choice for a wide variety of food.
If those are the kinds of thoughts that run through your head while you’re wandering through the aisles, then I have some good news. There is an easy way to break free from the grip of the agricultural-industrial complex that’s much easier than continually checking labels – and as usual, it will improve your budget, your health, and your life. I’m talking about raising chickens.
Raising chickens may seem like a daunting task when you first hear about it, but in reality it’s very easy. After the initial effort of getting them and setting up their living arrangements, chickens are nice animals and easy to take care of (and they don’t even smell!). I’ve heard people say that their temperament is similar to that of cats.
Last year, I decided that I wanted chickens. My family and I put a lot of research into it, and we finally found a farm and a carpenter (to build the coop) that we were happy with. If you live in eastern Pennsylvania, I’d be more than happy to give you the name of both. After about a year of delays, and with the help of Chicken Owners of Philadelphia, we finally got ourselves three beautiful heritage chicks in April.
This past week the last of the three started laying eggs. I really encourage everyone to get a few chickens for themselves. They are cheap – the chicks were five dollars each and the coop was a steal at seventy bucks – and entail little responsibility. They provide fresh eggs that you know are grass-fed and humanely raised. They give you local and possibly biodynamic food for next to nothing, without the hassle of reading labels. They’re great for any garden, with their manure and taste for bugs and weeds and seeds. And they’re great pets.
If you’re interested in getting some chickens of your own, I’ve got a wealth of information and advice from websites, books, and my own experience. Just email me at RossMLevin at gmail.com if you’re curious.
Nov 13 2009
There are many, many serious problems out there.
And, there are real opportunities to be had from taking on those challenges in smart ways…
Sadly, too much attention is given to those who deceive about the challenges and distort the implications of the options before us.
Best-seller lists, the air waves, oped pages, and blog posts have been filled with Steven Levitt’s and Steven Dubner’s shallow, truthiness-laden Superfreakonomics. The continued attention feeds on itself, as ignoring the deceptions and the mediocre interviews booked due to the authors’ Super(freaky)star status has the problem of giving it credence due to non-truthful truthiness and misleading mediocrity on the critical issue of climate change science and other issues. There essentially innumerable works more worthy of our attention and engagement, even if we constrain ourselves simply to books also published in 2009.
Mar 05 2009
This is a diary about the social imaginary — those aspects of our everyday practice that depend upon our imagining the existence of social institutions. As our social institutions are increasingly inappropriate to our physical survival on planet Earth, we should be in the business of imagining new institutions which will give us a fighting chance. I will investigate the case of global warming to discuss why this is so, and end with a series of photographic reflections.
The concept of “social imaginary” was developed as a tool of social critique by Cornelius Castoriadis, a philosopher whose pessimistic assessment of the present-day “social imaginary” will be examined in detail here.
(crossposted at Big Orange)
Nov 28 2008
It’s ironic that WalMart has become an iconic symbol of the very same small towns that they’ve destroyed. Main Street sits, rotting if even in a beautiful way, as a vacant reminder of the not-too-distant past when we built walkable communities that worked. Places worth caring about, aesthetically pleasing mixed-use human scale neighborhoods that grew organically over time as the need arised. Buildings designed and built by real people, kept up with pride by the business owners who lived in an apartment on top of the store itself, or in a house a few blocks away. One with a long porch, on a street with sidewalks…so they could greet their neighbors as they walked by on a Sunday morning.
I’m not gonna think that I can influence the shopping habits of America with one blog post, but I am going to ask you the favor of at least considering what I have to say. If you’re gonna shop tomorrow, at least consider our neighbors and our neighborhoods. America is in the late stages of a serious disease, but fortunately there’s a cure…
Oct 13 2008
There has been some debate over the impact of this financial crisis on President Obama’s ability to address global warming. Well, UN leaders and top economists are not buying the can-not-do meme. Instead, they are drafting a “Green New Deal” to “create millions of jobs, revive the world economy, slash poverty and avert environmental disaster, as the financial markets plunge into their deepest crisis since the Great Depression.”
Sep 19 2008
In June 2008, a derelict parking lot at the corner of N. Williams and Fargo here in Portland was de-paved to make way for what will soon be a public park of fruit trees and native plants. This project especially stands out to me not only because I pass it every day on my bus ride into work, and the fact that it’s also only 3 blocks from our building…but also because of the neighborhood the site is located in. One block up from a very recent makeshift memorial to a slain neighborhood resident, and two blocks down the other way from an abandoned industrial building with multiple bullet holes in the street-facing windows.
This is one of the few neighborhoods in Portland I’d say qualifies as a food desert, and probably the only one in our inner city core that would qualify as same. The only food stores within walking distance are two corner markets which sell almost exclusively snacks, soda and beer…and a gas station c-store 6 blocks over on MLK which sells the same. The largest food retailer in the area? The “Hostess / Wonder Bread Factory Warehouse Store” on N. Vancouver, one block up and over from the Fargo Garden site. And of course, the sole reason for that place’s existence is to sell nutritionally bankrupt ‘food’ items like white bread and Twinkies. Would it surprise you to also find out that this neighborhood has historically been one of Portland’s very few majority African-American neighborhoods?
Below the fold, more words and a look at other successful examples of reworking cities to the advantage of people over machines…