Oct 302012

October 30 is a day our family has been waiting for a year. Our youngest son Noble’s book, The Wisdom of the Shire, will be released today in the US. Editions in the UK, Brazil/Portugal, Finland, Bulgaria, Spain, France and Italy will soon follow. it’s a big deal to get a book published by a major publisher. An even bigger deal to sell foreign rights and have the work translated. So, we are proud as punch.

Prouder still of the content of the book because it has real value. The Wisdom of the Shire could be the guidebook for the entire Transition Town Movement. Briefly, the Shire wisdom speaks to the lessons to be learned from the small creatures (Hobbits) created by JRR Tolkien in his much read and reread book The Hobbit and elaborated in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Most people see The Hobbit and TLOTR as a fantasy/adventure packed with amazing heroes and villains and imaginative settings. Tolkien created an entire world, even languages, and piqued the imagination of generations of readers.

Sometimes the obvious isn’t so obvious but Noble has shown some real genius in distilling life lessons from the behavior and habits of the Hobbits that would benefit all of us if we would pay attention and apply them to our own life. In a series of short essays, Noble details how Hobbits “walk the walk”—quite literally as Hobbits love to walk. They are connected to their environment and their locality (the Shire), to their food which they grow themselves, to friendship and community, to hearth and home. Chapter 1 is titled, “How Snug is Your Hobbit Hole?” You can read it here.

The Wisdom of the Shire tells us that “Your true home is inside your heart and stays with you wherever you go, but a nice snug room is a lovely thing to come back to.”

The Hobbits can teach us many things about integrity, dealing with others, managing our obsessions (“Bearing the Burden of Your Ring”), singing, partying and dealing with the more powerful.

In his introduction, well-known fantasy writer and acknowledge Tolkien expert Peter Beagle writes: “The Wisdom of the Shire reminds the reader that our world isn’t—or doesn’t have to be—all that removed from Middle-earth, the Shire and the Party Tree.”

You’ll find value in The Wisdom of the Shire whether or not you are a Tolkien fan. And, if you’ve been confused about what I’ve been trying to get across in this blog, Noble’s book will explain whatwe need to do as a individuals and a community to make ourselves ready for an uncertain future.

UK Cover

Oct 242012

This coming Saturday (Oct. 27), at 10am at the Grange Hall, Brad Hippert, formerly CEO of Porteon, an electric (NEV) car company will talk to those interested about what he calls, “Civic Ecological Transportation”.

With everything that we might face in the future such as climate change, rising fuel prices or fuel shortages, declining economic situation, demographic change, even health considerations looking at alternative ways to get around the island make sense. And, it makes sense to do it sooner or later.

James Kunster has written consistently about “happy motoring” and the end of suburbia suggesting that the future might limit our ability to globe trot and trade requiring strong local economies. Take a trip to Seattle on I-5. Note that most of the vehicles are not in car pool lane. One car; one driver. Going where we want, when we want is an insatiable habit.

Some people, many in fact, believe that technology will find a way to solve our problems and let us continue happy motoring. Unfortunately, most technology is driven by fossil fuel and the ability to process heavy metals and other materials required for batteries, etc. Perhaps we will discover free energy, develop water powered engines or other technologies that have been discussed for many years.

In the meantime, if we want to be powered around we have but few choices: line up at the pump, bike, walk, get a horse or experiment with electric powered vehicles (cars, scooters, bikes).

It makes for an interesting discussion and I’ll be interested in what Brad has to say on Saturday.

Oct 012012

If there were a sudden fuel shortage and we needed to ration gas or if gas was really hard to come by, there is certain equipment that most of us would want to keep going on the island: ferries and working boats, dump trucks, tractors, backhoes, delivery vehicles, shuttles, and working vehicles of all type including contractors pickups. Priority should be given to people making a living or providing services to the rest of the island. I can’t visualize a situation with no fuel but I can imagine conditions where fuel is hard to get. (I still suffer from PTSS caused by the fuel rationing in 1973-1974 when I had a 60 mile round trip to work).

Businessman hitchhiking in Beaverton, OR 1973

One way to avoid having to worry about this potential problem is to use an NEV as an island car. These come in a variety of manifestations from golf carts to passenger type vehicles to trucks. Most people could look in their driveway and replace one of their vehicles with something electric. Even if there were no gas shortage an electric vehicle would be beneficial to one’s life on the island simply because there is no need to put it on the ferry to go get fuel. As long as there is electricity or a generator you can recharge the vehicle.

This island is a perfect crucible for an NEV experiment because of 1) a 25mph speed limit throughout, 2) no on-island source of petroleum fuel, 3) only 18 miles of road and a 30-60 mile range on NEVs, 4) a fairly reliable source of electricity from NW hydro-electric power and a significant number of generators on the island, 5) no difficult terrain or severe elevation gain.

The NEV is a niche product. It has limited range and limited speed and isn’t a fit for a lot of communities. Surveying the internet I can see that the marketing emphasis is toward resorts, college campuses, military bases and other locations where range and speed isn’t a problem. Small islands are obviously a good match for the NEV. Range is adequate as is speed. The only concerns are comfort and carrying capacity. Since the average trip on Lummi is probably no more than a couple of miles I’m guessing that even an open golf cart could work for most of the year.

There is really no question that NEVs can serve the island effectively. The big objection to electric cars has been range. It’s hard to rationalize the cost of having an island only vehicle. To get an electric car like the Nissan Leaf that will take you to Bellingham and back you have to spend full-size car dollars. However, the NEV as an island car will actually extend the range of your gas powered vehicle by allowing you to save gas on the island. An increase in the number of NEVs would make the island a more pleasant place as would increase use of scooters, bicycles and electric assist bikes. And, if we ever reach the point of a passenger ferry and limited car ferry service an NEV would relieve you of a great deal of stress and allow you to continue Happy Motoring all over the island.

For the record, this would be my ideal island car when we get approved as a golf cart zone: a golf cart with a dump bed that I could use for chores around the property as well as drive on island roads.

As a point of interest Tesla has exciting plans for increasing the range of electric autos—a network of free charging stations already under construction announced this past week.