All posts by fredk6@gmail.com

Prefab & Tiny houses

oh! what a romantic concept: designing & building  your own tiny house.  It’s smaller, cheaper, simpler, moveable… and it’s caught the fancy of many.  I’d like to delve a bit further into the reality of this phenom.

Are tiny homes really all they’re cracked up to be? I think  it’s narrow niche concept and (tiny home communities) could turn into a modern version of the 60’s housing development fiasco.

My reasoning:  I’ve yet to hear or meet someone who has lived full-time in a tiny house for more than a year or two.  The ones that do stay in them more than a year are located within beautiful natural locations of dense urban jungles. They are claustrophobic and ill-suited to our modern life style.   Tiny homes are great for  sleeping & working (bedroom/office)  but for not so much for full-on living.

But on a more technical basis, tiny homes are misconceived and will run their course (again).  This is not the first time we’ve had a ‘tiny home’ explosion.  First, let’s look at the eco, and carbon footprint of building a floor, walls, roof for <500sf for 1 or 2

 

people and compare that to a multi-unit housing footprint.

 

Tiny home footprints in development…

The real allure to tiny homes is the American culture of independence/pioneering and individualism (narcissism).  And the huge swaths of available land.

 

Prefab

Is pre-fab (fabricated off-site) the wave of the future?  Some people think so, and several regulatory agencies are demanding it.  Let’s look deeper into pre-fab and see what really happens behind the curtain.

With all its efficiencies and advantages of assembly line production, pre-fab started in the early 1900’s when Sears offered mail-order ‘kit’ homes.
They soon turned into mobile and pre-manufactured or modular homes.

 

Can you tell – I am not a fan of tiny or pre-fab homes.  I’m a fan of local.  Local everything.  Local materials, local labor, local smarts, local loco…  And Prefab construction is anything but local.  It’s another version of globalization, centralized (usually far away) production and …    The eco-footprint of prefab and tiny homes is WAY higher than site-built homes.

 

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under construction… being revised:


 

I can see the allure. They have a small footprint – physically. They mostly skirt under the regulatory radar screen. Some of them are affordable (the $20k+ ones are not.

‘prefab’

this is getting to be a dirty word in the developer vernacular. The more PC terms are ‘modular’ or ‘smart’ construction. European & Asian countries are going ga-ga for these developments because they are a shortcut to address dire affordable housing shortages.

I like the FT Times quote: ‘A prefab tiny house is ‘a very good-looking’ impractical building’ ‘. (FT Sept 9,10 thinking inside the boxes’)

Ikea has a ‘BoKlok’ flat-pack house that’s popular in Scandanavian countries. Malaysia has stipulated that 70% of all housing construction must be pre-fab, in Japan 16% of all new housing is prefab…

Is this a solution for the West Coast’s dire affordable housing crisis? I hope not. While it sounds good up front, when you fast-forward a couple decades… one can see a troubling scenario reminisce of the 50’s/60’s housing development slum-like fiasco in the making.

Solitude & Loneliness*

These two words seem taboo in our Western culture.  How dare you admit you’re lonely!  And solitude?  ... best ya’ll suffer alone….  it’s (way) different than just being alone.

* NOTE: It’s taken me over two months to put this blog up, because it’s personal.  The words ‘solitude and loneliness’  tend to have negative connotations of isolation and being an outcast or just plain depressed and weird. There‘s neither empathy nor reverence for people who are either. How sad. No wonder so many people ‘lead quiet lives of desperation’ .

So, let’s look at these two phenoms in a more upbeat way:

——————————————-  Loneliness is the human condition. Cultivate it. The way it tunnels into you allows your soul room to grow. Never expect to outgrow loneliness. Never hope to find people who will understand you, someone to fill that space. An intelligent, sensitive person is the exception, the very great exception. If you expect to find people who will understand you, you will grow murderous with disappointment. The best you’ll ever do is to understand yourself, know what it is that you want, and not let the cattle stand in your way.” ~ Janet Fitch

The below is a great quote…reminds me of Robin Williams’ “I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is ending up with people who make you feel all alone.”

i went to the woods because….

Some consider Henry Thoreau to be the epitome of Western solitude.  He was anything but solitary: he was a fully engaged & passionate activist his entire life. Yet our romantic stereotype of ‘Walden’ with him living a luxurious life of solitude in a cabin in the woods next to a pond is in-escapable. I was drawn to the deep forest by this view. A  wonderful new book does a great job of updating this view of Thoreau with a twist on our present political dilemnas… what would Henry do?  worth a read: NYTimes Book Review Link here . 

my experience at WinSol

For the past 12 years I’ve gone into purposeful exile from the artificial stresses of the ‘dreadmill’ (modern slavery in urban jungles), to solitude and isolation at WinSol. From running three Aptek offices, having a dozen+ employees, a handful of big clients, and jetting around the world – it all came crashing down in a couple years that included:  a Northrup Grumman (last big client) meeting in El Segundo, the high Himalayas,  and finally the fire that destroyed WinSol2.  I moved into WinSol3 full-time around 2006 and avoided the crash of 2008. WinSol is surrounded on three sides by NFS (National Forest) and one side leads to unlimited trails and abandoned logging roads through deep forests.  Walking these endless trails and meditating for years changed me.

Fast forward ten years: In the last five years I’ve had many wonderful helpers and friends spend time at WinSol. I’ve learned how to avoid letting my peers’ & society’s judgment, enticements,  and social pressures affect my chosen lifestyle. It hasn’t been easy.  I’ve learned so much in a decade of solitary deep forest walks and suffering through bouts of cabin fever.   I’ve found new appreciation and purpose in living alone at WinSol. The continual peer pressure from society and my ego to ‘rejoin the treadmill’ and many friends’ view that WinSol is too far out there, have contributed to this difficulty. I am more steadfast now that my initial sojourn to WinSol (~20 years ago) was well-founded. But lately I’ve evolved to seek a more mainstream balance and to re-enter the dreadmill again –  to dance with the devil – albeit with a more centered ‘self’. Turn it around to being self-centered.  It’s a fine line between being self-centered and being selfish/narcissistic – but it’s worth struggling for the balance.

LC Dome cupola

My meditations and a local Buddhist sangha has helped me.  There’s a wonderful book by Sarvananda: ‘Solitude and Loneliness: A Buddhist View’: 

In his new book,Solitude and Loneliness: A Buddhist View, Sarvananda explores the themes of solitude and loneliness and how a Buddhist might deal with these emotions. He suggests that, despite the statistics, we still ‘very skillfully, and often unconsciously, organize our lives in such a way as to avoid loneliness.’ Although increasing numbers of us live alone, we are also continuously coming up with new strategies to distract ourselves from our solitude.

Human societies throughout history and all over the world have organized Themselves around living with others. Yet in the last 15 years, there has been an 80% global increase in people living alone. We’re wealthier than our ancestors and the cultures we live in value individualism and independence – we have the freedom to house ourselves in smaller family units or without a family at all. 34% of UK households now have just one person living in them. So is the modern individual more familiar with solitude than ever before?

Yet Sarvananda suggests that facing up to our essential aloneness is ‘where the spiritual life begins.’ ‘Buddhism challenges us to train ourselves to be more and more at ease in our own company,’ he writes, ‘to try and be with ourselves without distraction.’ This means confronting our habitual and repetitive responses to solitude which rely on the approval and reassurance of others. ‘Distrusting our capacity to alone, we too quickly look to others to save us, often from ourselves,’ Sarvananda argues. ‘We become addicted to other people.’

People say they need time alone. But what do they do?  They end up being physically solitaire, yet stay continually connected through emails, facebook and countless web sites. Being alone at a cafe or driving alone is still avoiding the richness of truly being alone.

Getting rid of all distractions of post-modern society’s latent addictions is not easy. Take a solitary long meditative walk in a deep forest or isolated beach and you’ll come to slowly recognize and reclaim the beauty that is within you – you alone. You might even start finding some peace, some centered-ness, some self-love and kindness to yourself. It’s always there waiting for you to be present without distraction. Enjoy – it just is.

Repeat after me:  I love me, I love me….

I take solace in the concept that we are slowly re-invigorating what solitude really means in our modern, technological, world wide web, social media based life.

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These four lines from Jack Kornfield are my daily affirmations:

May I be filled with loving kindness

May I be safe from inner & outer dangers

May I be well in body and mind

May I be at ease and happy

summer Ramblings…

summertime and the livin’ is easy… sounds SO good on the grand in the dome..… as aspirations continue and emptiness resides…ok, glad I got the rambling part over with 🙂 onto more salient items:

Energy outlook

$50/barrel, give or take…

Oil hovers around $50/brl and gasoline prices are about 25c higher than last year. OPEC’s still trying to get non-OPEC (most notably Russia+Iran) to stick with production cuts. It’s a tenuous situation that ONE little spark can ignite and drive prices way up. Inventory and reserves are shrinking and demand is increasing…slowly, ever so slowly. The ‘Catch-22’ is as prices go up, USA shale gas/oil drillers increase their margins.  OPEC is playing a chicken game: so far USA wildcatters are winning. The really COOL thing is that we’ve hit an oil demand peak!  Everyone was betting on an oil supply peak.  With more efficiencies, electric cars,  LEDs, consumers getting smart & driving less (despite the USA fed policies), etc  Stay tuned… it’s bound to change when we least expect it.

Electric cars
As more countries adopt all electric car infrastructure, look for the oil companies to react: either trying to kill the electric car again (especially since the former Exxon CEO is now secretary of state), or to join them and install electric chargers at gas stations – kinda like ARCO becoming a solar panel company for a while.

Formula 1 racing has an all electric version: FormulaE  …”seven manufacturers have produced new motor, invertor and gearbox solutions, as Formula E inspires development in electric car technology”

They’ve demonstrated a quick way to get recharged: just jump into another full-charged car! Now that would be the ultimate in overcoming limited e-car range… wonder when Tesla will provide that?  I can’t wait for a driveless electric car – especially when DMV tries to yank my drivers license when I’m 100 years young.

AI will be good for you…

 

Just like you survived spreadsheets, you’ll survive artificial intelligence (AI) the singularity, transhumanism, etc.

There were a few million bookkeepers before VisiCal, Lotus and Excel emerged in the 80’s and 90’s. Now those bookkeepers have been replaced by even more auditors. I guess all the macros and complexities of spreadsheets can help some people to get a bit too creative. So, if a bookkeeper wanted to keep their job, they had to up their skills. So too with AI.
Car mechanics are a great example. If a young mechanic isn’t getting proficient in computer hardware and software and even coding, they’ll be bypassed very soon by those who have those skills. Gone will be the need to overhaul an engine, pull a transmission and all those wonderful grease-monkey jobs that I even enjoyed doing for too long. With more cars getting electrical assist drives and eventually everyone adopting an electric car infrastructure (the utilities will be pushing this to a parking lot near you very soon). This’ll help offset some of the lost revenues from solar homes cutting the cord. Don’t think that Eon Musk’s ‘battery house pack’ is so pure and green – it’s tied to a major strategy with utilities and contractors.

Just remember you were in on the ground floor.  Prove that you’re human, and not an android.  It all started with these ‘captcha’ eye tests…

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Bonus:  Think Fake News was one of the first disrupters to our comfy zone?  Now there’s Fake voice algorithms that can make anyone say anything… just listen to Donald fake talking... yikes! (from Lyrebird)

But when ‘anonymous anarchists’ hack and hold my AI driveless electric car for ransom until I pay bitcoin… then I’ll wish I was in my 1960 Chevy! 

Abundance vs scarcity

Life is filled with scarcity and abundance at the same time. Whichever view we take will impact our own course through life.  Are you a scarcity thinker, or full of abundance everywhere?

I’d like to drill down into this, because lately they’ve been impacting WinSol’s Learning Center future:  whether we’ll live a world of plenty & free energy, or in an apocalypse of scarcity where we’re scourging for every last BTU.

Back to the future

First, let’s take a trip back to the 70’s… That’s when the first big modern public standoff  took place between abundance and scarcity mindsets:   Paul Erlich made a bet in 1980 on the impending scarcity of materials (partially based on his books ‘population bomb & limits to growth’ ).  Simon challenged Ehrlich to choose any raw material he wanted and a date more than a year away, and he would wager on the inflation-adjusted prices decreasing as opposed to increasing.

Ehrlich chose copper, chromium, nickel, tin, and tungsten. The bet was formalized on September 29, 1980, with September 29, 1990 as the payoff date. Ehrlich lost the bet, as all five commodities that were bet on declined in price from 1980 through 1990, the wager period.[1]

I’d like to believe that I am an abundant thinker (without the rose colored glasses) without the utopia of a ‘full-speed ahead’ mentality. But deep down, maybe I’m really a scarcity kinda guy. I still scrounge around for the best deal, hardly leave anything on my plate, and am prone to negative thinking.  Try as I may, having been born into a poor immigrant post WWII family.  Perhaps I am wired to think life is filled and will be filled with scarcity.  The laws of entropy and finite global resources tend to back that view up.

 

I like this definition:  The Scarcity Mentality is limiting. It may seem  like a good plan at first, but over time too much  energy is wasted on conflict, negative thinking, and stifled creativity. On the other hand, the Abundance Mentality is beyond one’s ego.It’s fearless, it’s free, and it’s immune to criticism. It is beneath no one and superior to no one. It is full of magic.

And once I look at this chart of the two mindset’s characteristics, well it becomes way clearer which way I lean. How about you?

Solutions…

My favorite example of everything that’s right with society is when one person lights another’s candle with their own, and the next one, and next… until thousands are lit.  There is nothing lost from each person or their candle, and yet one flame lights thousands of others.  Togetherness, sharing, abundance, beauty, MAGIC.

Gratitude is a powerful enhancer of an abundant mindset.

From Steve Covey to Wayne Dyer to Anthony Robbins and so many more – getting an abundant mindset is a life changer.

On a personal note, I’ve been re-examening my whole life-style choices (something I do every few years – some people call it a vision quest or long retreat) : Why shouldn’t I just get back on the treadmill and live it up? …enjoy the modern luxuries of endless energy, food, water, materials and join the rest of society in its feast of endless luxuries…

It’s really all about scale.  On the long horizon we live in a finite world. There’s only so much of anything and everything. We may have enough oil in the ground to last another hundred years…

And then there’s the famous quip that ‘… we didn’t stop using whale oil to light our street lamps because we ran out of whales…’ the answer being that we discovered natural gas and kerosene.

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….under development… stay tuned:….And so today, we can see that electric and hydrogen cars will replace fossil fuel cars, and that instead of an oil peak in supply, the industry today is faced with an oil peak in demand: something Hubbert ………….. did not forsee.

But getting back to the dilemna: whether to live with a scarcity or abudnant world view.

I like to live with the thought that our energy/water/material world is one of increasing scarcity while within my spiritual heart I live with the thought that abundance is everywhere – the universe is one of abundance.

We gotta live within our means.   Wasting a resource is crazy, no matter if it’s plentiful or not. 

modern slavery

Social justice  is one of the trifecta  of sustainability (the other two are environmental and economics).  But modern slavery still exists, in our own backyards…and most of us unknowingly contribute to it. Sure, Apple i-phones and apparel, food, etc. are sometimes purchased from dubious factories that are not exactly upward on the scale of social justice, BUT…

….if you get frequent package shipments to your home,  you are contributing to the work load of truckers and mega-warehouse workers – both working within slavery conditions.  Consider this:

Truckers

Most of our packages are delivered from a seaport to a central warehouse to our homes by trucks.The next time you’re rollin’ at 70+mph next to a couple 18 wheelers, consider the condition of the driver.  Here’s one of the stories behind truckers. A recent USA Today Report shows one truck driver making 67cents/week!

Thousands of drivers work up to 20 hours a day, sometimes for pennies. When they get sick or refuse to keep working, trucking companies fire them and take their truck lease payments and more.  USATODAY.COM article link here:
 “A yearlong investigation by the USA TODAY Network found that port trucking companies in southern California have spent the past decade forcing drivers to finance their own trucks by taking on debt they could not afford. Companies then used that debt as leverage to extract forced labor and trap drivers in jobs that left them destitute.”
Amazon warehouse slaves
We’re all into instant gratification.  You order some stuff on the Internet and it shows up three hours later. How could all the things that need to happen, make that happen so fast?
And soon a drone may deliver it within the hour, and teleportation coming soon…  yikes!
Warehouse handlers making $7.25/hour and hundreds of people anxiously on the wait list for these jobs that are way below the poverty line.   Stress leave,  illnesses,  quitting and reapplying, are all part of the daily grind of warehouse slaves.
Do you really want to support the corporate behemoths that continue this by design?  Can’t we put robots in place of humans for this?
some links to explore:
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Solutions?  Until driverless trucks and robotic warehouses are a reality,  I minimize ordering ‘stuff’.  I do things this way:  1) Do I really need this?  2) Can I borrow it from somebody?  3)Does the local HfH Resource/hospice/SaverMart have it?  4)Can I buy it locally? And after a few weeks if I still really need it, I’ll order it along with a whole bunch of other stuff and get it delivered to a post office.
Outside of not using a shipping service, there’s only so much you can do.  Combining orders, picking up your package at a brick&mortar store, using a mail center or post office where thousands of packages are delivered more efficiently are all better than a UPS/FedEx driver trucking all the way to your home to deliver one small package.

‘Drawdown’ update

I’ll let Paul Hawken do the talking:

(see an update from Tom Brady’s wife on Drawdown below)

I want to share three important areas of interest with you.

First, the Drawdown book took off like a rabbit on its release date April 18th and became the #9 New York Times bestseller in its first week. This is the first time a climate or environmental book achieved this distinction in over 25 years. The last two were Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature in 1989 and Al Gore’s Earth in the Balance in 1992. After only eight weeks, it is in its fourth printing. After two decades of books, blogs, and articles that have been unrelenting in terms of threat if not fear, the world is hungry to know what we can do together as communities, parents, companies, schools, students, churches, cities, and more.

Our Advisor, Jon Foley, head of the California Academy of Science, believes the world does not need more climate science or facts in order to change. Society has been hammered by them. The climate movement has often operated from a “science deficit model,” the idea that if people have more facts about what is going wrong and how things are worsening more quickly, that will solve the problem in terms of lack of engagement. It has the opposite effect as psychologists are quick to point out. The Drawdown approach has gained a large following quickly because it does not make people wrong or invoke fear and doom as a motivating method. We believe the science is impeccable. The IPCC has created an astounding problem statement. The daily reports about climate impacts reinforce the accuracy and rigor of the problem statement. Given that, we need to work vigorously on the solutions, all of the solutions. People have never before seen a comprehensive, science-based list of solutions until Drawdown.

Second, we are now working directly with the Commonwealth of Nations based out of London. Formerly the British Commonwealth until 1969, it comprises 52 nations with nearly one-third of the world’s population. Under the leadership of the Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, the Commonwealth is initiating with its member nations an initiative based on Drawdown: Regenerative Development through Reversing Climate Change (RDRCC). We work hand-in-hand with the Secretary General and her staff. Our research team led by Chad Frischmann will be endeavoring to map applicable solutions onto specific nation-states to measure the beneficial impacts, the positive externalities. We believe, based on analysis and data, that economic regeneration, ecological regeneration, social regeneration, and the regeneration of the atmosphere are identical. We are the only species without full employment, and never has so much work needed to be done. My personal motto for the RDRCC is “Let there be jobs.” We firmly believe that the only way to reverse global warming is to meet human needs. Providing dignified, family-wage employment that provides people world over a sense of worth and meaning is the pathway to reversing global warming. Our data show that is is profitable on virtually every level. Please see the link below for more information.

Third, and this is critical, we truly need your support. People may believe that having a best-selling book and a wonderfully designed website indicate that we are well-funded organization. Because the entire staff had been devoted to both the creation and promotion of the book, we were not able to direct our attention to fundraising. It was all hands on deck. If you believe in the importance of the work, if you want comprehensive, science-based solutions to lead the climate movement instead of fear and despair, if you appreciate what we have been able to do with very modest amounts of money, know that we urgently need your financial support. Please help us help the world to pursue the reversal of global warming. Thank you.

Paul Hawken

Regenerative Conference UK May 2017

——————————————–UPDATE——————

Even Tom Brady is supporting Drawdown with his wife Gisele Buenchen:   http://www.cbsnews.com/news/gisele-bundchen-evironmentalist-paul-hawken-climate-change/

“….Tom Brady says, ‘Unless I had this plant-based diet, I would not be the player I am and I would not be — have the career at 39 that I do,'” Rose said.
 
“He’s almost 40, right? … But the thing is, he said he’s been feeling so much better, I have to say it’s amazing. You know? The way he feels, he doesn’t feel achy. He just feels so much more energy,” Bündchen said.  …”http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/gisele-bundchen-on-tom-bradys-concussions

Pipelines & microgrids

Gas & Hazardous Liquids Pipelines

Pipelines are everywhere. There’s probably one near you right now  delivering hundreds of cubic feet of a fossil fuel allowing you to live comfortably.  Whether you’re in the countryside or downtown of a big city – pipelines are everywhere.  There is a solution to get rid of pipelines – and it’s right there waiting in your hood… just like your farmers market!

San Bruno 2010 Gas Pipe explosion

The people of San Bruno, CA.  discovered their pipeline in a violent way on September 9, 2010  when a PG&E gasline exploded underneath their homes killing eight people and destroying 38 homes. That pipeline was 30” in diameter going right underneath a major suburban area. It was part of PG&E’s 1800 miles of major gas transmission feedlines.

1st hand PG&E experience
When I was doing intense six month training period at PG&E in 1977, a gas department VP  explained how their piplines were used as storage tanks and the pressures could vary 10x fold depending on various demand and supply needs within the system. At that time I thought it was an ingenious, multiple use for a simple underground pipeline system, now we know different.

I’ve come to discover since that the utilities also have massive ‘natural’ underground storage caverns… but that’s a whole different topic.

Other pipelines    Even low pressure pipelines like the infamous DAPL and Excel oil pipelines present unseen hazards to our comfortable living environment. Any and all pipelines present hazards to modern living – even the countless little gas/electric/water/sewer pipes in and under your home.  A low pressure water pipe can create an immense sink hole.  In last year’s DAPL demonstrations, the chant ‘Water is Life’   

DAPL demonstrations

resonated with me.   Even tho oil is now flowing (for now) through the DAPL line, we need to remain vigil and insist that no pipeline be placed within 150 feet of a body of water.  Is that so difficult?  Is that so outrageous?  We don’t allow oil refineries next to schools and hospitals, why should we tolerate pipelines close to our homes any less?  It’s a simple resolution to start on.

We need to get around in our cars.  Pipelines are safer than railcar delivery. Pipelines are here to stay.  Let’s just stop polluting countless underground aquifers and geological formations for centuries to come with pipelines that will satisfy our appetite for gasoline for only 30 years??  We have rules that we  shouldn’t piss within 150 feet of a river or lake when you’re out hiking – so why not the same for pipelines?  It’s just common sense!

The case for microgrids        

Power island

 

The ultimate solution is to wean ourselves away from all this massive, centralized infrastructure and just like our food supply (local farmers markets and not big Ag), take control of our own community’s energy needs.  Several cities are already well on their way in taking control of their energy needs.

 One example:   

MAKE  BROOKLYN  LOCAL  “In New York, the Brooklyn microgrid is conceived to work with the conventional grid, which is in the midst of a reboot under Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s directives to make it more flexible, resilient and economically efficient while reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. That effort, known as Reforming the Energy Vision, or REV, includes encouraging the development of microgrids and more active community participation.” ….    -New York Times

REAL microgrids

I’d take it one step further like some European cities are doing: cut the cord to the main grid completely and embrace your neighbors’ microgrids for backup and resilience.  With all the renewable choices out there, a symbiotic relationship between microhydro, geothermal, wind, solar, and biogas/mass can easily be tailored to each community’s needs.

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eating local

You’ve heard that eating local is the thing to do.  But how about sourcing all your food locally – is that even possible?  From your tea/coffee to your starches (rice, potatoes, pasta), to your drinks.  I’m lucky if I can  arrive at 50% – and that’s in Northern California – where we have ample fruits, vegies, rice, wine, etc.

I would be fortunate to get 50% of my food intake locally.   Starting with my first morning routine: coffee.  How can I  get local coffee when the nearest coffee plantation is in Santa Barbara – 400 miles away?  … and they have 5 acres with beans selling at $60/lb.  How can 90% of consumers in 1st world countries get their coffee or teas locally? Where are the large tea/coffee plantations in the USA or Europe?

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Another consideration in going local on all  food is the seasonality.  It’s easier in summer, difficult in winter.  They say an apple stored in a warehouse for several months, is way carbon intensive than an apple shipped from Chile.  That gives me pause.  Maybe the best solution is dehydration or canning.  Freezing in my book uses way too much energy, although it is quick and convenient.

Again, I am spoiled in California – we have year round greens:  the Salinas valley on the coast has year-round moderate temperatures and hectares of greenhouses.

I think greenhouses, vertical and urban farming have tremendous bright futures as fresh, local food becomes more important to every human.

Is it really local?

The label ‘local’ and ‘regional’ are not regulated.  I don’t trust my local farmer markets anymore.  There are unlabeled white trucks from industrial farms 500 miles away pretending to be local organic farmers.  I ask questions and am connected with local farmers and CSAs where I volunteer and help out on.

For most people the best they can do is join a local CSA and  get to know their own local farmers and pay them fairly.   I find that many local farmers discard  ‘not-so-perfect’ food since customers won’t buy them – so you probably get a bounty of imperfect produce at  low cost.

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Here’s a great article on one European’s experience in sourcing all their food locally…German DW article

http://www.dw.com/en/would-you-eat-local-for-a-week-i-tried-and-discovered-what-eating-green-really-means/a-36751273

 

my eco-dilemna

I constantly live at the intersection of  mainstream or ‘alternative’ lifestyle. Living at WinSol,  there is no cost:  no energy bills, no garbage bills, no water bills, no sewer bills… nada!   Is that alternative? or just nice, even cool?  So when I go live in the mainstream for a few days, I quiet all my judgment, evaluations and comparisons. Over the years I have arrived at a state of equanimity: it just is. I used to just ‘let go’ but eventually found that letting go is the negative form of attraction and is as much of a trap as outright judgment is. So ’empty mind’ and ‘metta’ (as the buddhists say)  fills my mind and heart. But lately, something has come to the forefront of my mind, and I can’t let it go: crockpots!

Lately, I have circled around and focused on crockpots as being the poster child of our continued western decline.  A crockpot by its innocent self contains all the trademarks of our declining civilization going down the rabbit-hole.

At best a crockpot produces a beautiful savory food dish. At worse it could burn your house down. But it’s the space in-between where my judgmental mind can’t seem to let go. Maybe it’s this: in order for WinSol to have a working crockpot I would need to spend over $5,000 increasing my solar panels/controller/battery storage – just to accommodate a 1500watt constantly on electrical heating element. And maybe – just maybe – I am envious of mixing up a casserole, soup or other delicious dish, plugging it in,  walking away… and 5 hours later I can enjoy a savory dish. How convenient is that!!? But the ‘real’ price that I would pay for that is beyond my ‘alternative life style budget’ and WinSol’s philosophy.   Let me explain…

…First of all at WinSol, we live by the sun. We are immersed in the nuances and cycles of nature (real nature). One of our founding principles (WinSol’s manifesto) is that electricity cannot be used for heating and cooling. I’m about 95% there in reality – due to a small solar electric driven freezer.

On a technical basis:  WinSol’s current solar & wind electrical system cannot accommodate a microwave (high-surge induction load), or any electrical heating elements like a toaster, convection oven, space heater, or crockpot. I miss the convenience of a toaster more than anything, but have developed a work-around using a gas burner. I could probably develop an alternative to a crockpot using a pressure cooker or a double pot over a gas burner – but why?  I remember a past eco-dilemna that had to do with making bread….

Bread maker?   I think the easiest explanation for my behaviour change is an electric breadmaker. Before I moved to WinSol , I used an electric breadmaker twice a week to make beautifully home-baked, healthy bread without chemicals. But was it really ‘home’ made? I think it was closer to being ‘microprocessor’ made. A few years back, a friend and I decided to make bread the old fashioned way, and I reconnected with the passion of true artisan bread. There’s something
very cool and ‘right as rain’ about kneading, rising, kneading, rising and baking a loaf of bread from three ingredients… talk about being a purist!! And that’s really what an electric breadmaker and crockpot takes away – the artisan element.  (besides using a WHOLE bunch of electricity, high-embodied energy, shelf space, another convenience contraption, another appliance that’ll break and has designed obsolesce built in… geezh! tell me how you really feel :-)!

Artisans   What would our world be like without artists and artisans? As technology encroaches further and further into minimizing real artistry I will stubbornly cling to WinSol’s ‘alternative’ and artisan lifestyle and not enjoy the conveniences of crockpots.

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Sidebar….What’s ‘Alternative’ ?

Everywhere we hear ‘alt – right’, alternative news, alternative energy… I really dislike the word: ‘alternative’. Alternative to what? Is it a good or bad alternative? Does something really need an alternative? Isn’t it really just different rather than alternate?

Take alternative energy for instance. Most (all?) people know that alternative energy is that green stuff: solar, wind, geothermal. But oil, coal, natural gas are the REAL alternatives, because ALL our energy comes from our only energy source: the sun. One of my fun sound bites is: ‘Oil is renewable, you just have to wait a couple million years’.

So can we agree that ‘alternative’ is in the mind of the beholder?

two WOW’s

It’s a long time between my ‘WOW’s.  After decades and ramblings around, it takes something special & extraordinary to elicit this reaction. Here’s two in the last week:         1) DrawDown                           2) Scandanavian electric cars

Book

DrawDown is Paul Hawken’s latest (swan song?) endeavor along his philosophy of ‘natural capitalism‘ and ‘ecology of commerce‘… in other words they’re solution based. I’m a BIG fan of Paul over the decades, but he’s outdone himself on this one. I knew about drawdown a few years ago and could never quite figure out what it was about until recently. When I attended his sold out (250+) pre-release at the Oakland Impact HUB last week – a big WOW again. Paul’s original thinking and limitless passion are unique in the USA.  Dr. Michael Braungart told me 10 years ago that Paul was the best example of a ‘european eco-dude’ in our midst. I say that with all the love in the world:  a european eco-dude in our midst (sounds like a book or song title) is my way of saying forward thinking with social/economic/environmental balances on the cutting edge within a long-term systems thinking strategic view: like Michael’s green chemistry and C2C endeavors.

Drawdown’s mission & vision:

The Mission

Project Drawdown is facilitating a broad coalition of researchers, scientists, graduate students, PhDs, post-docs, policy makers, business leaders and activists to assemble and present the best available information on climate solutions in order to describe their beneficial financial, social and environmental impact over the next thirty years.

The Vision

To date, the full range and impact of climate solutions have not been explained in a way that bridges the divide between urgency and agency. Thus the aspirations of people who want to enact meaningful solutions remain largely untapped. Dr. Leon Clark, one of the lead authors of the IPCC 5th Assessment, wrote, “We have the technologies, but we really have no sense of what it would take to deploy them at scale.” Together, let’s figure it out.

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This solution based book (database/case studies) and website (which is VERY deep) is a compilation of the world’s best think tanks and scientific research on carbon reduction projects. In 2001, Paul asked: …‘what are the top five things we should be doing to reverse the CO2 trend?’… no one knew. Fifteen years later, there was still no consensus.  Three years ago, Paul decided to assemble a team of researchers and scientists to answer this question, and he has succeeded. It’ll be interesting to see how the vested interests and climate change mafia (Paul’s words) aka IPCC will react to this seminal work.

In a nutshell, drawdown has three CO2 forecast scenarios: business as usual, adopting 80 solutions, optimistic adoption. In the latter, we could start actually REVERSING global CO2 buildup by 2045. WOW – who would’ve thought that was possible even in the next hundred years! Most pundits including the IPCC, Bill McKibben, etc… have stated that even if we stop all CO2 emissions right now, levels would not go down for hundreds of years. Paul Hawken says otherwise – and more power to him.

Quick summary (spoiler alert) is that even though Refrigerant management is the #1 solution (HFC’s are 100X+ more potent than CO2) combining (#6) educating girls and (#7) family planning makes it over 119 Gton of CO2 reduction, AND combining (#3) reducing food waste and (#4) plant rich diet wheat food also makes it over 136Gton of CO2 reduction. So focusing on women and food instead of energy and transportation would be a better start.

Thanks for refocusing us, Paul. He’ll be at several book signings in the Bay Area if you want to thank him personally…. I know I will, again and again. Stay tuned for Drawdown #2 as there are another 100 coming attraction (solutions) in the works by Paul and his team.

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Electric cars in Norway: 40% of all cars sold in Norway are electric. Norway has set a goal to be 100% electric cars by 2025. WOW. Considering that StatOil is one of the world leading oil producers, and that Norway isn’t exactly located in the sunniest climate = it’s an ambitious and admirable goal.  For starters:  “Earlier this year, Norway opened the world’s largest fast-charging station, which can charge up to 28 vehicles in about half an hour.”  So maybe Germany, China, California can take a clue from Norwegians and emulate them.

One a side note, a couple weeks ago California crossed a milestone and produced 50% of its electrical demand from renewables. And they said it couldn’t be done… by 2020! That’s our current goal: 50% of our energy from renewables by 2020. And we crossed that threshold three years early. Now the challenge is to increase its frequency and duration.