Posts filed under ‘Permaculture’
I am reading stories about how not many economists saw “The Crash” coming. Are you saying that all the punks I know are smarter than Wall Street and Washington analysts?
Of course it’s bullshit. Any smart person saw it coming, and the military started their peak oil campaign back in 2001. Venezuela – your oil is in our scope sights now!
There are many Americans working for peace, however. Remember – they track you with your cell phone, and you can eat dandelions!
Recently, we have had amazing breakthroughs in human communications. We have broken the four-minute mile, and the real-time web of living in the moment has arrived. You can now be instantly witnessed around the world by anyone with a modern communications device. There are useful applications for this technology that can be immediately applied to community-building.
By Randy White
@randywhitepdx and @brightneighbor
The authors of a recent PEW Internet Project report write that
” …developments in social networking and internet applications have begun providing internet users with more opportunities for sharing short updates about themselves, their lives, and their whereabouts online. Users may post messages about their status, their moods, their location and other tidbits on social networks and blogging sites “
The rapid spread of Twitter and Facebook adoption these days is mind-blowing. Twenty percent of online adults 18-34 are on Twitter, and even grandmothers are getting onto Facebook. That is a hefty chunk of the population. While tech-savvy money sharks are figuring out how to carve up profits to be made from selling deep-search stats to Tostitos or whoever, I am thinking about how we can use technology at local levels to deal with economic and ecological collapse. The cool part is that we are starting to quickly track our progress and observe how one’s social influence in a community can help to shape other people’s sustainability actions. Imagine when we will track how neighborly people are:
As exciting as these new technology achievements are, we still have real problems to work out. Families are suffering as relationships are becoming more and more strained by financial pressures. Throughout government, business, and communities – our high standards of living have been supported by cheap, easily available energy. President Obama hasn’t told you the super-bad news about our immediate future. In materialistic terms, we have arrived in the gates of hell and now we get to Tweet each other about it. With a second energy shock and major spike in oil prices on the way, communities need to get prepared. Now.
The problem is that even though so many Americans have cell-phones and blinking blue Borg-like communication contraptions glued to their heads, there are still large swaths of communities across America not taking action to build resiliency at hyper-local levels. And if any new political group was able to actually overthrow the existing Democratic / Republican system – who would pave our roads? How does a society run without money? What is money, really?
It seems we are still in shock and awe that things are so messed up, yet so cool at the same time.
As Americans, we subscribe to a social contract that states to be ‘normal’ we must spend time trying to earn this stuff called money. Since we have to constantly chase the stuff to live comfortable lives, it is literally impossible to get to deeply-know all of our neighbors because there is not enough time or desire to do so. On this planet we are physically limited to caring for small tribes of core humans in our lives. We can’t possibly get to know everyone or have them know us back. But, with technology, we have cobbled together ways to build community relationships while tracking local leadership and involvement in communities at the same time.
The significance of this insight is that we can actually report on local neighborhood influence, carbon emissions saved, energy not used, and many other earth-preserving behaviors. For instance, in the following screenshot, you can see I’m communicating with a local neighborhood organizer, a popular radio DJ, a concerned citizen, and a reporter for the Wall Street Journal.
Marketers pay millions of dollars to achieve the kind of free PR, influence, and tracking now easily achieved for free on the Internet. Money aside – If you can get others to pay attention to you, you can improve your sphere of influence at a hyper local level to achieve sustainability. The idea is to be a local leader and use your results to help others at the national level through showcasing your success. Other influential leaders can easily amplify your message, creating near instant consciousness of thousands of individuals.
In order to focus these breakthroughs, I have been experimenting with ways to use Twitter to track items lent out to neighbors and friends, and many upcoming Bright Neighbor 2.0 features will continue to innovate in these areas. In the meantime, here is a 10-step action plan on how Twitter can help people that live in close proximity to one another get to know one another better:
1) Go to your local neighborhood meetings
This may seem so simple that it’s stupid. Get involved! There is a local neighborhood organization that you can join and if you can’t find one, you can start one. This way you can place faces with people you will be connecting with.
2) Create A group and go back to old-school promotions
Being in a rock band helped me learn this one. If you are ready to be a local leader, then go old-school and hit the streets. Putting flyers up at local shops and into people’s hands still works. The constant real-time flow of communications data goes away in seconds, and if someone has calendared one event and learn via Twitter or whatever where other cool people have gathered – they will alter their plans to go where the people are that can help them advance their social status. Offline flyers help build your online reputation to achieve this by putting your group’s Twitter name or hashtag on the flyer and asking neighbors to join your group.
3) Ride sharing
“Can anyone give me a lift downtown? I’m at the corner of SE 39th and Stark.” If you get a big enough group of followers in your neighborhood, that message could score you a lift if your friends are too lazy or broke to come pick you up.
4) Resource locator
“Does anyone have a ladder I can borrow”? The more you know your neighbors, the more people that will follow you and that will see your plea for help when your bushes go wild and need a trimming. With the ability to add pictures and video to Twitter, soon people will be able to discover a person in close proximity who has what they need and communicate in real time to strike a deal.
5) Saving money
“Does anyone have a coupon they can forward for the India Grill?”
Offering people coupons used to be a paper-only option, and times have made it such that there are multiple online methods to save big money on stuff like:
* Health & Beauty
Because that’s the kind of stuff we humans value right now. And in order to keep getting it, we are looking for ways to save money on it. One way is to call out to our social networks to see if anyone can forward access or knowledge of a money-savings deal without everyone becoming annoyed by cheap people looking for deals.
6) Work with your local government
In Portland, the Office of Emergency Management has set up a Twitter feed. If each neighborhood leader subscribed to the emergency feed and vice-versa, top-down communications could mingle with grassroots reporting to keep communications clear in an emergency.
7) Tap into your neighbor knowledge base
My raspberries developed a bunch of ugly yellow spots on them, and with a click of the camera in my phone, I sent out messages to neighbors and friends asking if they knew what the disease was. While I didn’t get a solid answer back on that try, I found out the solution to the by walking next door and asking my 93-year old neighbor instead. Take care of our old-time gardeners!
8) Give help, get help
As technology allows us to define our roles in society, it also helps define each of us because people are judgmental. The more projects you get involved with, and the more people Tweet about them, the better your Karma Card looks. Your actions and activities are now transparent in real-time and the historical record, and people will be able to see how much you give back in addition to asking for help.
9) Showcase your breakthroughs
Don’t just send out a picture of that new rainwater catchment system you built out of spare parts, invite people over to learn from it! We have so much waste in our system, we can repurpose woods and plastics to help retrofit our homes to prepare for climate change. If it’s too expensive to go buy new stuff like solar arrays or hybrid-cars, then we can help each other by teaching useful, sustainable behaviors that we know how to do. Online video has not yet replaced human-to-human team learning.
10) Make people laugh
Because laughing is a part of healing.
Leaked footage of a street interview with me.
It’s no secret that Portland is a pretty radical city. While mainstream America is still learning how to make the leap to full-time sustainability activities, Portland, Oregon is a major hot zone and leader in the human revolution. The intent of this article is to offer an opinion and insight into strategies, collaborations, and technologies that are occurring in our city to solidify life-supporting social constructs.
We All Have Our Problems
Portland is dependent on energy and money just like any other city. With over 500,000 people, we have the 23rd largest economy in the US at $88.6 billion dollars. We have crime, poverty, homelessness, and hard-working people who would love more time off to pursue more joys in life if only they didn’t have debts to pay.
The fact is, not enough people here have the skills, resources, or contribute to the system to say Portland can become a completely self-sufficient city. While science has determined the amount of calories and nutrition needed for human bodies to survive, only each individual can determine what is needed to satisfy each of our own living requirements. Right now, people around the world are searching within themselves to determine what this mother-of-all-market-corrections means in the context of their own life. In countries around the world, people are reflecting on survival, whether it means scrambling to meet basic needs such as food and shelter, or committing one’s life to helping others survive as we dismantle nuclear weapons.
Indeed, finance industries and governments continue to try and figure out how they can game the now collapsing currency market, and around the world thousands of loose-knit social movements and groups are acting together, radically altering the balance between commercial and non-commercial economies. Portlanders are trading sink repair for firewood, worm castings for books, and organizing into sustainability groups, meeting to discuss a multitude of survival strategies. The cool part is that it is in the most relaxed manner I could have imagined. You know something cool is happening when the art community gets involved. To see scholars, artists, chefs, teachers, farmers, faith leaders, bureaucrats and other various communities coming together to discuss survival in a civil manner is surreal. It is also the beauty of the Portland conversation, because empathy, understanding, and cooperation are now winning out over personal greed.
Let’s examine some of the conversations taking place, and how people are organizing to do what we can locally:
Food, Food, Food
Portlanders will practically strip naked and make love to the soil. Our city is full of a diverse ecosystem of people and cultures who love and worship local food, soil, and farmers. The cool thing to ask at parties is “So what do you grow”? Little kids wear shirts that say “I Love My Farmer”. They worship apples – and I’m not just talking about their phones and computers.
As mobile as the city is with its fantastic bus and rail system, we have no problem getting around to all the amazing restaurants that showcase seasonal, locally grown vegetables in their menus. Our chefs strive to use local ingredients, as long as the cost doesn’t put them out of business. Our citizens have one of the highest percentages of CSA subscriptions. The fact is, we love food. So when it comes to loud-mouthed know-it-alls, you can bet Portland likes to brag about it’s success with food.
Using a variety of technologies to list events, food experts are leading the conversation. If you know how to grow food, fix soil, and install edible landscaping, you are all the rage. Take a look at this quick video and you will see what the job of the future looks like.
Presently, Bright Neighbor offers a “Lawns to Gardens” service, helping match people to homeowners willing st share their lawns. We are connecting Gerding Edlen’s newest building CYAN/pdx to Portland land owners to help create more garden activity and boost our local local food system.
Our April 17th kickoff of the Bright Neighbor Community Revolution Tour will include boosting lawn farming production, water harvesting, and permaculture practices throughout the city.
This one is real easy. Portlanders either walk, bike, drive, ride, or rail it to and from where they need to be. If you need to get there, you can get there cheap, you just have to consider whether you will be exposed to the elements and how much time it will take. But we know we will get there somehow.
When it comes to fuel supply solutions, some Portlanders have electric vehicles, and many are discovering that you can make ethanol from hundreds of non-food supply threatening feedstocks other than corn. As for ride-sharing, people are getting to know their neighbors to work on cooperative projects and partake in resource sharing. For instance, if you need a ride right now, you can just call up your friends or discover your neighbors via one of the many Internet technologies. You can always use the Internet and phone to find a ride and share resources. The question is which technologies to use will make it easiest for communities.
Fixing our local commerce system
One high-brow conversation among Portland communities is talk of fixing our money system and the restructuring of the economy based on a non-fiat based local currency. The challenge with this movement is an assumption that outstanding debts can or will be canceled or repaid using any new system. The beauty of this movement and conversation is that even if we don’t solve the new riddle right away, the conversation is fascinating and the beer is great. Even thinking about the idea of replacing the world’s current broken money system is exciting in and of itself. The questions being asked have to do with real value, the meaning of real wealth, and property rights. It is being talked about by all political parties, all religions, and all citizens.
We are asking:
Who grows my food?
Who supplies my fuel?
Are my water need secured?
What is worth more, a knife or a variety bag of seeds?
How does the community determine each person’s value?
How do we know who is trustworthy and who isn’t?
How long will dollars matter?
Am I capable of doing what it takes to survive?
What is my purpose if not to make money?
The conversation in Portland revolves around a common realization that our community is quickly developing an entirely new system of accepted social values, logistics, and supply chains. I will end this postcard from a transition hotzone with the opinion that emerging businesses are using a variety of technologies to bring new food supplies into pop-culture at maximum velocity. More of our citizens are contributing real value to the community through hyper-involvement at the neighborhood level, and Portland will continue to lead the way in defining modern community survival trends.
What’s cool that is going on in your city?
Hey America, if you are paying attention, you can make a lot of money right now!
President Obama just told us his shopping list for his three year plan (funny, it takes three years for fruit trees to produce). Obama is about to get a check for $825,000,000,000 dollars and he wants to buy all sorts of cool new things for America, such as:
10,000 school renovations – Great for all the folks who can help kids learn about chickens and growing vegetables and neat stuff like that
Improved local community communications networks – Hey, I sell those things!
75% of Federal building to be more energy efficient – You mean like ride sharing? Light bulbs? Turning computers off?
2.5 Million weatherized homes – Wow, whoever makes bricks and insulation from waste plastic bags & stuff will make a killing!
Double America’s renewable energy – Woo hoo! I sell hooch making machines! I’m gonna be rich!
Anyway, I am writing about this because the secret is, and always will be, to be a master of markets for things people really need. That means neighborhood collectives can team up and go legally harvest firewood and split it up among the community, where people volunteer their labor in exchange for good and services they need.
Money, as we know it, is just a means of representing value. What has real value to you? Probably the same things that have value to everyone else: Food, shelter, transportation, water, electricity, friends, resilient neighborhoods and communities, skills and stuff the community can use.
That’s the power behind Bright Neighbor. We offer a machine that helps fix community economies and ecology. Think about it this way…
Chickens are egg machines.
Gardens are fruit and vegetable machines.
Trees are fruit and nut machines.
Worms and mushrooms are soil fixing machines.
Bright Neighbor is a communications system, a carbon reduction machine, a money saving machine, and a community repair machine all-in-one. We have implemented it in governments, businesses, faith communities, private corporations, and with individual community organizers who want to fix their community. Our customer base now ranges in all of these markets, and if President Obama wants to buy any of these things, Bright Neighbor is one of America’s post-petroleum startups now open for business.
Three cheers for the Three Year Plan! I hope you make oodles of money.
- Randy White
PS: If you are interested in setting up a Bright Neighbor community communications system, please fill out this form.
My buddy Sam Drevo is a world class kayaker. He has navigated some of the fiercest waters on planet earth while simultaneously making love to and taunting mother nature. Sam looks at rapids ahead, and paddles straight into what could be the last moments of his life every time. It is his confidence, training, and humility that always allow him to come through alive, even if he knocks his head along the way. At least he has a plan for rough waters, and knows how to navigate new, uncharted territory like an expert.
And Sam has known adventurers who have made mistakes and paid with their lives. We are all fallible, right? You know you yourself have made miscalculations in the past just like everyone else, and things haven’t gone according the exact way you thought they might go.
Oh sure, you must have been smart about your plans, made all your mental details, laid out your strategy, and went for it, right? You were plotting, you see. We all plot every day, because we have to in order to survive. It could be anything from what to do in case you wash your cell phone and lose all your stuff, get that hot person to go out with you, or try to get away with something naughty. It could have be anything from trying to fake your own death, to helping fix your community. As long as you have a plan.
And right now, it seems many people have been caught off guard with this economic hardship and are just now scrambling to make a plan.
Who usually makes the plans for you? Is it your faith leader? Your boss? Your spouse? Henry Kissinger?
As we continue along the timeline of our lives, we are at the mother of all crossroads in human history. Everyone knows something really, really big is going on, but no one seems to know who to listen to about it anymore. Even as Obama takes his place on the throne, I am finding people asking themselves “what is my plan, and do I know exactly what to do?”
We can certainly make up for our past mistakes, we absolutely must. We blew it, America. We screwed up, bigtime. I have screwed up , you have screwed up, we all screwed up. Now we are facing the consequences, and we need plans that are not only ready to go, but that are already working.
As we each can at least pitch in at the local level, we need to be asking ourselves:
- Do I have a good relationship with my neighbors?
- What skills do I have that can help the community?
- What can I do to help others that will make me feel better?
- Do I really need all this stuff I have acquired to be happy?
- How will I make rent / the mortgage this month?
In globalism, we are expected to either be a producer or a consumer. You either make something, or you use something. Then there are the middlemen – called markets. And it is the markets that are collapsing, along with the ability for people to earn money as markets cease. If you get laid off, and no one else will hire you, what are you going to do to survive?
It is for this reason that I created Bright Neighbor. We are setting up communities across the country right now, and we are here to help governments, communities, businesses, and faith groups. We are already doing it, and are teaming up with Powell’s Books to offer the new Bright Neighbor University lecture series.
In April, I will be presenting an hour long workshop called “Lawns to Gardens: 10 Strategies For Thriving Through The Recession“. Or a title like that. More details to come!
- Randy White
Sam Drevo and the Down The River Cleanup Crew
This video is from when I brought David Blume to Portland before his book was published a couple years ago. Man, this dude has the total plan that can get us out of this Peak Oil and ecological destruction mess we are in.
Remember, we have to not only help secure food supplies, but also stop mankind’s madness. Three cheers for missions with purpose!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is time to kick farming into high gear and start producing sugary sweet hooch across America. And some entrepreneurs have just released a machine that opens the innovation doors to partially kick peak oil’s butt.
Introducing the Efuel100 Microfueler. Fuel for the very rich so they can still ride in their FlexFuel high-end vehicles.
This this is so rad, I can hardly contain myself. But at the same time, I am not too excited.
I have been working hard to promote David Blume’s work while ignorant journalists have been poo-pooing ethanol. Now, not only has the truth emerged that we can sustainably make alcohol fuel, but this amazing machine has been released to kick the home-brew fuel market into high gear. Sort of.
For a cool $10,000, you can join the ranks of big oil and start making your own fuel without doing any of the hard work like chasing down plans and building your own small scale ethanol still. You can simply buy this fabulous machine and PRESTO! You are on the road again.
The problem is that it is a membrane system, which means there can be no solids in the mash. This means you are limited to a complete liquid feedstock (namely bags of sugar). And if you sink in $10,000 for a fuel machine that makes alcohol fuel at a rate of let’s say $2.00 per gallon and can make about 35 gallons a week, it would take you many years to break even on your fuel investment.
But hey, if oil crashes, at least you can still get from A to B, right? As long as Costco still carries big bags of sugar. The good news is that David Blume is working on a larger scale still that will deliver the convenience of the EFuel100, but it will crank out many more gallons per week for less money using multiple feedstocks (he is looking for investors to help fund his venture).
Not that I believe we should continue as-is with our car culture. Riding a bike now and then feels great! And we must consume MUCH less per-person in America, and make intensely smart decisions. But before all of you Food VS FUEL hotheads go on a tirade, you need to know that alcohol fuel can be made from a hell of a lot more than bags of sugar and corn. Go and read the MANY posts on Lawns to Gardens sharing the truth with you. But let me sum it up:
1. Almost every country can become energy-independent. Anywhere that has sunlight and land can produce alcohol from plants. Brazil, the fifth largest country in the world imports no oil, since half its cars run on alcohol fuel made from sugarcane, grown on 1% of its land.
2. We can reverse global warming. Since alcohol is made from plants, its production takes carbon dioxide out of the air, sequestering it, with the result that it reverses the greenhouse effect (while potentially vastly improving the soil). Recent studies show that in a permaculturally designed mixed-crop alcohol fuel production system, the amount of greenhouse gases removed from the atmosphere by plants—and then exuded by plant roots into the soil as sugar—can be 13 times what is emitted by processing the crops and burning the alcohol in our cars.
3. We can revitalize the economy instead of suffering through Peak Oil. Oil is running out, and what we replace it with will make a big difference in our environment and economy. Alcohol fuel production and use is clean and environmentally sustainable, and will revitalize families, farms, towns, cities, industries, as well as the environment. A national switch to alcohol fuel would provide many millions of new permanent jobs.
4. No new technological breakthroughs are needed. We can make alcohol fuel out of what we have, where we are. Alcohol fuel can efficiently be made out of many things, from waste products like stale donuts, grass clippings, food processing waste-even ocean kelp. Many crops produce many times more alcohol per acre than corn, using arid, marshy, or even marginal land in addition to farmland. Just our lawn clippings could replace a third of the autofuel we get from the Mideast.
5. Unlike hydrogen fuel cells, we can easily use alcohol fuel in the vehicles we already own. Unmodified cars can run on 50% alcohol, and converting to 100% alcohol or flexible fueling (both alcohol and gas) costs only a few hundred dollars. Most auto companies already sell new dual-fuel vehicles.
6. Alcohol is a superior fuel to gasoline! It’s 105 octane, burns much cooler with less vibration, is less flammable in case of accident, is 98% pollution-free, has lower evaporative emissions, and deposits no carbon in the engine or oil, resulting in a tripling of engine life. Specialized alcohol engines can get at least 22% better mileage than gasoline or diesel.
7. It’s not just for gasoline cars. We can also easily use alcohol fuel to power diesel engines, trains, aircraft, small utility engines, generators to make electricity, heaters for our homes—and it can even be used to cook our food.
8. Alcohol has a proud history. Gasoline is a refinery’s toxic waste; alcohol fuel is liquid sunshine. Henry Ford’s early cars were all flex-fuel. It wasn’t until gasoline magnate John D. Rockefeller funded Prohibition that alcohol fuel companies were driven out of business.
9. The byproducts of alcohol production are clean, instead of being oil refinery waste, and are worth more than the alcohol itself. In fact, they can make petrochemical fertilizers and herbicides obsolete. The alcohol production process concentrates and makes more digestible all protein and non-starch nutrients in the crop. It’s so nutritious that when used as animal feed, it produces more meat or milk than the corn it comes from. That’s right, fermentation of corn increases the food supply and lowers the cost of food.
10. Locally produced ethanol supercharges regional economies. Instead of fuel expenditures draining capital away to foreign bank accounts, each gallon of alcohol produces local income that gets recirculated many times. Every dollar of tax credit for alcohol generates up to $6 in new tax revenues from the increased local business.
11. Alcohol production brings many new small-scale business opportunities. There is huge potential for profitable local, integrated, small-scale businesses that produce alcohol and related byproducts, whereas when gas was cheap, alcohol plants had to be huge to make a profit.
12. Scale matters—most of the widely publicized potential problems with ethanol are a function of scale. Once production plants get beyond a certain size and are too far away from the crops that supply them, closing the ecological loop becomes problematic. Smaller-scale operations can more efficiently use a wide variety of crops than huge specialized one-crop plants, and diversification of crops would largely eliminate the problems of monoculture.
13. The byproducts of small-scale alcohol plants can be used in profitable, energy-efficient, and environmentally positive ways. For instance, spent mash (the liquid left over after distillation) contains all the nutrients the next fuel crop needs and can return it back to the soil if the fields are close to the operation. Big-scale plants, because they bring in crops from up to 45 miles away, can’t do this, so they have to evaporate all the water and sell the resulting byproduct as low-price animal feed,which accounts for half the energy used in the plant.
By combining permaculture, smart agriculture and market forces, we can turn Peak Oil on its ugly head and not have to have a collapse. It will be interesting to see how many people actually buy these personal fuel units. In the meantime, get together with your neighbors and start to learn about how you can start making changes to deal with peak oil – whether you buy one of these machines or not!
This Lawns to Gardens post can be read here. I figure it’s a good way to help people discover the Peak Oil social network I have set up.
* Note – The article was written by Tad Montgomery, an ecological engineer living in Brattleboro, Vermont.