May 312010

Mike Ruppert, a former LAPD narcotics officer who first became famous for whistle blowing the War on Drugs, alleging the CIA was importing drugs into the US.

I first became aware of Mr. Ruppert when we both lived in Ashland, Oregon and he made the local paper for a variety of charges against him which ultimately turned out to be false. Mike Ruppert claims he has been the victim of harassment and intimidation to the point that his health and finances were destroyed and, for a period of time, he gave up the fight, left the country and vowed not to speak again about his views on the drug war, 911 and Peak Oil.

That vow of silence has been broken with the publication of his new book, Confronting Collapse: The Crisis of Energy and Money in a Post Peak Oil World, and the release of a positively reviewed documentary film also called Collapse (now number 1 in our Netflix queue).

Ruppert’s blog From the Wilderness’s Peak Oil Blog has long been an excellent aggregator of economic news articles and an occasional provocative piece by Mike Ruppert. His newest project is which will be on line soon and proposes to bring people who are building a “lifeboat” for survival together with other people in their areas with similar skills.

Recently, Ruppert gave a talk in Burlington, Vermont which was recorded in full by the local community access channel. He claims he’s right 80% of the time and can back it up with the result of previous predictions. Here’s a chance to view the unedited views of a contrarian who makes no apologies for his point of view: $2000 gold by the end of the year. The possibility of oil spiking to $200. The cataclysm in the Gulf of Mexico. The breakdown of industrial society. The necessity of doing something to prepare your life boat.

Sit back and take in the views of a guy who’s been on the front lines of alternative theories of what is happening for many years and, literally, has the bullet holes to prove it. The video is 82 minutes.

May 282010

The Gulf Crisis illustrates the inevitable result of our insatiable demand for oil (meaning our ability to get in our private auto and go where ever we want when ever we want). We know little about the oil industry and how it operates though diligent digging through the internet provides some insight. This website is excellent.

We hear much about the potential of the oil sands of Canada as source for oil. Here’s some information on what is going on north of the border:

May 272010

Steve Solomon, who started Territorial Seed and has written books specifically for NW gardeners now lives in Tasmania and is writing for a web site down under. You can read about COF (Complete Organic Fertilizer in his books Gardening When It Counts and Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades. But he has also written a very detailed article on fertilizers including manures which is worth a read for any gardener.

“The perfect fertilizer for home-garden vegetable crops would be a dry, odourless, finely-powdered, completely organic material that would not burn leaves”

Steve tells you how to make it at home and why it will work.

Gardening requires extreme patience. Here’s a quote from Steve Solomon from his Yahoo Group yesterday:

“I’ve been veggie gardening for 35+ years now and did not start being really good at it
until I had close to 20 years experience.”

May 262010

Jeremy Rifkin is the founder of The Foundation for Economic Trends and is an “economist, writer, public speaker and activist (whoe)… explores the impact of scientific and technological changes on the economy, the workforce, society, and the environment.

In the following ten minute video he explores the development of “empathy” in humans and comes to some interesting conclusions that impact the subject of community and transition. Worth watching as it is one of the most interesting and engaging animated short lectures I’ve every watched. (H/T to Dave. A for the video).


May 252010

When Totnes, UK was preparing their Energy Descent Plan they asked community members to visualize writing stories from the future. This perceptive poem emerged written by a poet named “Roz.”

“My grandma ate a mango every morning in her day.

Each one wrapped in a plastic pack that she’d just throw away.

She had strawberries in winter – and apples in the spring

She must have been quite special to deserve so many things

Grandma’s house had many rooms but she resided all alone

And a hideout in the countryside made up a second home.

And she had energy to burn at the flick of any switch.

If everything she says is true she must have been quite rich.

The Garden of my grandma was the prettiest you’ve seen

She never grew a single grain or vegetable or bean.

She never had to work the land and get her clothes all mucky

She never had to lift a hand, how could she be so lucky?

Grandma had her very own car, to go just where she’d like

One didn’t have to walk so far, or take the bus, or bike

She didn’t need her neighbours, she knew city folk instead.

I hope that she was grateful for the amazing life she led.

Gran would get on aeroplanes if she fancied taking flight

She’d disappear once every year – for maybe just a fortnight!

She must have been contented when her life was so carefree

I like to hear her stories and pretend that it was me.”

May 242010

For several months we’ve been faced with the possibility that the Lummis might decide to get rid of the ferry dock at Gooseberry Point or drive such a hard bargain that the County would not be able to afford to use it. In the intervening months all the energy of the community has been directly toward lobbying to maintain, in perpetuity, the Gooseberry Point connection.

But what happens if negotiations fall apart completely? What happens if we end up with a passenger ferry to Fairhaven? The answer is we start from zero with no prior planning by the community for how to deal with this contingency. All of our eggs, all of our gooseberries, are in one basket.

We have had time (seven months) to develop contingency plans for transportation and supply in the event that we are no longer able to make the quick trip by private auto to Gooseberry Point and thus to other destinations in Whatcom County and beyond.

As I understand it, even the Lummi Nation was ahead of us on this as they had already made provisions for a water taxi to get their island employees across the passage to work.

Talking about a passenger ferry to Fairhaven doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. Nor does it mean you want to happen (though it might surprise people that those who put themselves in the “economic doomer” category could make a case for why limited future access to the island is preferable to easy access).

The worst thing that can happen is to be caught with no planning. We can’t rely on government to bail us out but because of our small population we will be well down the priority list. And, because of economic decline, government may not be able to afford to help us. Lummi Island needs to do some thinking about how it would be possible to cope without a car ferry. People say it’s “inconceivable” that we could lose the ferry. The fact, is that possibility is very real and the motivation for PLIC, the ferry forum and hours of discussion.

Chances are still good that the County and the Lummis will work something out. In the meantime, give some thought to what happens if they don’t and which existing or new organization(s) should take the lead in planning for all contingencies.

May 212010

Doing something as simple as heating water in an emergency can be problematic. In winter one can cook on the wood stove you use for heating. In summer this solution could be a toasty one. You could use the barbeque if you have propane or bricquets. There’s always a campfire. However, the Rocket Stove seems like a useful, low cost appliance to have on hand. For $45 you can heat things up quickly with minimal use of fuel and very little smoke.

My friend Dave on Whidbey Island just bought a Stovetec Wood Stove  and here is his report:
“I fired it up today with a bit of paper and very few scraps of wood from the garage — I’m talking about  three little pieces of wood.  A bit of smoke when it first gets going but then the smoke all but disappears when it heats up. 5 minutes to heat a quart of water for tea.  It heats almost as quick as a gas stove.  Almost smokeless. Just a little ash left. The kettle/pot will, of course, be blackened on the bottom: the easy solution is to keep a dedicated pot to use just for the rocket stove since it can only handle one pot at a time. Rating: 5 stars (of a possible 5) absolutely performs as advertised.”

If you are handy, they are supposed to be easy to make.

There is also the Grover Rocket Stove which is more expensive ($125) but appears to be sturdier and larger.

Back to Stovetec, they are involved in a project donate stoves to people who cook over open fires. They claim that 3 billion people around the world cook at an open fire and that there are a 1 million  and a half deaths annually caused by breathing this smoke. For $9 you buy one of them a stove .

This video review of the Stovetec Rocket Stove answers all your questions:

May 202010

Old School Garden in Totnes, UK

An Energy Descent Plan is the a significant achievement in the Transition Town Movement. I’ve been interested to read one in it’s entirety. Totnes, UK has one of the first and it’s available on the web as a hyperlink file.  They describe their plan:

“What you are about to read is as much a story as it is a community plan. It is a story about how a Devon town and its surrounding parishes embarked on an extraordinary journey, starting in 2009, harnessing all of its creativity and brilliance to re-imagine itself for a rapidly changing world. It is the story of ordinary people who came to see that their future would be very different from the present, and that that change was an inevitability. Rather than panic, switch off or slump into denial of the changes building around them, they took the braver, more testing, but ultimately more nourishing route, of seeing that change as a tremendous and historic opportunity.
Like all great adventure stories, it begins with ordinary people faced with a task the scale of which initially looks impossible. By taking the first steps and rediscovering how to work with each other, skills, strengths and previously unimagined inner resources were uncovered, and a scale of transformation was achieved that 20 years later, (will be) the subject of the songs and stories of the generation that followed them.”

This is a book length piece of work that begins in the past, visions the future then adds layers of detail.

Worth taking a look at what a community has planned for itself.

May 192010

We live in a comfortable cocoon on Lummi Island, tucked into the larger cocoon of the Pacific Northwest where, comparatively speaking, things aren’t too bad. But with 40,000,000 Americans on food stamps and with many regions having housing markets that will never recover, with cities, counties and states laying off people in record numbers, it’s time to get serious about the future.

“Municipalities (Federal states, counties, cities and towns) are firing employees by the dozen even though they have still a few more weeks to benefit from funds from the economic stimulation package initiated a year ago. New York has planned to fire 14,000 teachers between now and summer and the state of New York has just authorized unpaid leave one day a week for 100,000 civil servants, i.e. half of the state’s employees. Illinois isn’t even paying its bills any more. California is falling to pieces: 23,000 teachers are threatened with the loss of their jobs, numerous aid, prisons, police, firemen programs cancelled…  Hundreds of towns and cities across the… country are selling their drinking water and sewage systems to private enterprise to make short-term savings.
These same municipalities are increasing their efforts to promote casinos, gaming, sale of alcohol or marijuana, … in order to generate new tax receipts.
Layoffs continue to increase throughout the country and, from this summer, 2.5 million jobs created these last few months by the census are going to disappear! California has a rate of almost 25% unemployed and under-employed.
The Federal near-monopolies for real estate loans, the famous Freddie, Fannie,… GSEs continue to lose money quarter after quarter, requiring the Federal government to provide unlimited financing. Just for the last quarter, another 20 billion USD at the taxpayers’ expense has been injected. In two and a half years Fannie Mae alone has cost Washington more than the forecast Greek rescue package over three years, that’s to say 136.8 billion USD.”
Gold continues to rise because of a lack of faith in the US dollar.

As Jim Kunstler points out in this week’s essay: “Meanwhile, a giant oil blob lies quivering in deep waters off the Gulf coast, like some awful amorphous Moby Dick full of malice waiting to sink Pequod America — or at least the economies of five states.”

Things are not so good. Sadly, we have virtually no control over the mega events of the world. At best we can only do something in our own neighborhood. There is a high probability that things will get pretty bad before they get better.  Resilience is important. Preparedness is also important.

In the Transition Town Movement “localisation” is a key part of any energy descent (or shall we also say, economic descent plan). Localisation pertains to relocalising the economy, recognizing that relying on the global economy leaves us very vulnerable. We want to shift the focus and support local business and organizations like Sustainable Bellingham which nurture local business.

It’s not likely that Lummi  Island could become economically self-sufficient but we can much closer to it that we are now. Food security is the most important thing and anything we can do as a community to support or develop agriculture (beyond the home garden) on the island (beekeeping, dairying, cheese making come to mind) will benefit us in the long term.

An interesting exercise would be to brainstorm how we would operate here with out a car ferry but no one wants to think about that. It’s our version of the “giant oil blob.”

May 182010

The Transition Town Movement, started by a young guy named Rob Hopkins, has spread around the world even to Whatcom County. Transition Movements are in different phases of development but the goal of each is to develop a community Energy Descent Plan, a plan that will describe how the community will function to cope with changes brought about by climate change, Peak Everything or economic disruption. Key to every plan is the concept of “Resilience.”

Totnes, England is one of the first to develop a complete Energy Descent Plan. They define “resilience” as: “… the ability of a system, whether an individual, an economy, a town or a city, to withstand shock from the outside…Resilience is about building the ability to adapt to shock, to flex and modify, rather than crumble. You can think of it as being like building surge protectors into an electrical system.”

Lummi Island recently experienced a “shock from the outside.” That was, of course, the specter of losing the Whatcom Chief. The natural reaction was/is to lobby to keep the ferry and maintain the status quo. But it’s very clear that there is no guarantee that the island will always have a car ferry, or even passenger service for that matter. The future is very uncertain. Tax revenues are down. Federal, state and local governments are in trouble. Politicians will be looking for ways to cut costs. Whatcom County voters are not excited about paying for public transportation as evidenced by the failure of the recent vote on buses.

So, the question is: how resilient are we? If the Chief goes away, will islanders fold their cards and move to the mainland? Or, will we figure out how to change our lives to cope with a different situation? Will we be forced into Energy Descent?

What would an Energy Descent Plan look like for the island? PLIC is an organization formed to protect the community. Perhaps PLIC will establish a subcommittee to consider a broad range of alternatives in the event resilience is required of us.

May 172010

Soft fruit, particularly raspberries, blueberries and strawberries are at risk this year from a new pest to the West Coast called Spotted Wing Drosophila, a particulary virulent pest which can lay up to 400 eggs per day. Entimologists are concerned because the fly was found last year all up and down the Pacific Coast. Cloud Mountain Farm has alerted its newsletter members to the probability that we will have the fly. Action must be taken to make sure they don’t ruin the fruit.

The fly can be identified fairly easily because of the black spots on the wings of the male.

The organic method of ridding your fruit trees, and berry bushes is to make a trap of apple cider vinegar and hang it from the lower branches or lower wire of raspberry trellis. I’m going to use plastic containers and rig a hangar from some wire. Drill some 3/16″ holes around the sides of the container, fill with about an inch of vinegar and put the lid back on.

The fly is expected to show up in late May if it deems to make an appearance so traps best be set out soon.

May 142010

The most famous urban homestead in America is in Pasadena and operated by the Dervaes Family . The Dervaes’ demonstration project shows what is possible when you walk the walk.

They are so good at what they do that the homestead has become a business and tourist attraction.

Take a few minutes and watch this video report done by the NY Times Magazine.

Though they are in principle off the grid, they are totally plugged in via solar power with the internet through their interesting website, Facebook and Twitter.

The name of the Homestead is “Path to Freedom.” Somehow their project on sustainability on a city lot reminds me of the House of the Future at Disneyland back in the 50’s which was brought to us by Monsanto and featured a microwave oven and wall-mounted TV. It was a future made of plastic (petroleum). The plastic future is passing us by.

The Path to Freedom Homestead is, most likely, our actual “house of the future” featuring a bicycle powered blender, solar oven and backyard chickens and goats.

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