Posts filed under ‘environmental’

Eat The Suburbs: Gardening for the End of the Oil Age


February 16, 2009 at 2:08 pm Leave a comment

Fixing Peak Oil Is Easy

That’s right, I said it. Peak Oil is a straw man argument.

If you want to understand what I mean, watch this alternate ending to “The Lord Of The Rings”. You will quickly understand.

See what I mean?

What it sums up is that fixing Peak Oil all comes down to the community’s decision to follow a smarter plan, act accordingly, and share collective resources and talents with one another. That is how you win.

Think about it this way. The “Lord of The Rings” movie everyone has collectively seen presents a story the way it was written. Everyone leaves the theatre thinking that was the way the story had to be. But Ho Ho! If J.R. Tolkien had written “The Fellowship Of The Ring” to actually follow the course in the alternate ending, people would have had a much shorter movie and still had a happy ending.

And this is our society’s problem. We love thrillers. The story of “Peak Oil” is currently being presented as a potentially cataclysmic global energy problem. It is not. Peak Oil is a communications problem among a spoiled, techno-zombie culture. We have communicated with one another for so long about the story ending, we can’t decide what our global population’s story of continuity should be.

In America, the lagging economy is driving a dramatic move back to basics and a reversal of decades-long trends of convenience. Roughly half of all consumers with incomes less than $55,000 per year say they have trouble affording the groceries they need, while nearly a quarter of those earning between $55,000 and $99,000 also say so. Among those with incomes over $100,000, 16% report having trouble. 42% of consumers say they have given up favorite food brands because of rising prices and economic concerns. Source: IRI Economic Trend Database/AttitudeLink, May 2008

Also, large numbers of Americans face the prospect of energy shutoffs during the coming months because of rising energy prices and stagnant wages.

And so communities around the world are going to have to grapple with dwindling resources at the community level. You will not get help from the folks at the top. Anyone over 30 knows that money drives politics, and money is presently tied up in oil. This will remain true until communities free themselves from the global money system and start basing values on things that matter, such as services you provide that benefit the entire community and that do not cause harm to the environment or other people.

I would argue that hemp does not cause harm to people. It is a renewable energy resource and medicine. It’s human laws and lawns getting in the way of nature that are stopping us from having enough food and fuel for everyone.

Because cars are cool. I like walking, but I still want to drive, damnit! And right now, I am making my own fuel – which can run in any car with a combustible engine. The oil companies took over the fuel market a long time ago, and they are defending their money with as much vigor as they can.

So until local communities start firing up moonshine and having their local farmers plant sorghum as a better feedstock alternative than corn, we aren’t really serious about fixing our problems. Until we each begin to learn about the soil food web, we aren’t serious about fixing the problem. Until we each accept one another’s faiths, and work together to improve earth’s life support systems, we are not serious about fixing the problem. If we aren’t willing to help more than just ourselves, our family, and our friends, we aren’t serious about fixing the problem.

It’s going to take collective action from each of us, as well as the truth to emerge about certain solutions that have been suppressed, to implement desperately needed changes. Changes that allow us to continue to live happy lives, eat better, and travel from one place to another. Changes that are possible, given that we take away so much power from corporations and weapons companies that run the world.

Unless communities immediately create renewable local food and water systems, it means even more war and death. Until a majority of us are ready to act on the advice of innovators with proof that we don’t have to be less than human to one another and that there is plenty of land to grow enough food to feed the entire planet, we will just keep on reading headlines about bombs dropping.

If you are ready to listen to a leader that offers real ways our children of tomorrow can be proud of the actions we take today, my company has created a proven path of how we can get there. It’s a positive, loving, and life-affirming alternate ending to the Story of Peak Oil, and I am launching it in Portland.


June 26, 2008 at 9:01 am 10 comments

Chickens: The New Family Dog?

Chickens as pets urban living trends

By Randy White
Editor Lawns to Gardens

Move over Rover, and make way for the new family pecker.

Yes folks, we have arrived at a crucial turning point and marker of change. If you plot major Peak Oil and system change events in terms of time, we have a new historical marker to add to the chart. The Age of Urban Chickens has returned!

I wish I knew about raising chickens. Here is a blog that knows everything about it. But what I do know is many Portlanders are now entering the “Chicken as a Pet” market, creating new job opportunities along with it.

After all, when the economy is tanking the way it is, people are looking for ways to sustain themselves. Chickens scratch up the ground, poop on your lawn, and give you free eggs. What pet can give you more? The best part is that the cat may chase it around but can’t really do anything to it since the chicken can peck back. Like my friend Mark says “It’s like any great disfunctional family.”

My neighbor happens to be a man who has skills in woodworking. In this crap economy, he could easily start building and selling custom chicken coops. I know this because there are people, right now, willing to shell out between $100 – $300 for a chicken coop, depending on features.

Features, you ask? That’s right. This is the coolest time ever to be alive, because as Peak Oil kicks in, entrepreneurs and engineers get to redesign civilization in real time. With all the low-cost technologies that make it easy for engineers and artists to build prototypes at a low cost, there are going to be some awesome new things that people build while we reorganize our hyper-local human ecosystems.

By that, I mean that in order to functionally navigate the downward slope of the energy crash, we need to be fun and creative. Life could really suck if we let it and don’t grasp onto this opportunity to reorganize our lives for the better. So imagine the kind of creative chicken coops that people like my neighbor will be building (from scrap and reclaimed materials, of course).

Prefab chicken coops

Smart builders can make the coops include dual functioanlity, such as adding in a a storage shed or make it a portable Rave station as this example shows:

There is no limit to our creativity. All we need to do in order to save ourselves are a few simple things. Here they are, in order:

1) Take the top 20 artists from Burning Man
2) Pair them with the top engineers of our day
3) Fund their projects such as cool, low cost chicken coops that serve multiple functions

And think beyond existing demand. Marketers today are thinking like today. Uh uh. Think like tomorrow. Right now.

While you do that, I’m going to think up names to call my chickens.

March 21, 2008 at 2:55 pm 5 comments

Creating Your War Gardens

Peak Oil Victory Canning

Don’t look now, but we are at war!

No, I’m not talking about the War in Iraq, Afghanistan, or other politically driven war. I am talking about the war within ourselves. The war to cling and hang onto what is unsustainable. Seriously, did we really think we could Burger King and McDonald’s our way into the future?

It’s just not healthy, folks. The way we have been living, that is.

So, we are certainly headed for a lot of boo-hooing as reality renegotiates our lives for us. But hey, living is awesome! It sure beats dying. And our former behaviors have to die a quick death so we can reinvent America again. The great news is that it is a whole lot of fun!

There are plenty of leaders in this country that can teach people how to sustainably grow, prepare, and preserve local foods. No matter if you haven’t ever picked up a shovel… even lazy TV zombies can help in our transformation as we turn open land into productive soil.

If you haven’t seen the episodes of the Lawns To Gardens videos I have posted, let me assure you as a card carrying Nintendo geek – YOU CAN GROW FOOD! As things get more and more expensive and more people are laid off from the information economy, we will need to do physical work. And that’s okay, we need the exercise anyway.

war gardens victory gardens
There are plenty of gardening How-To sites on the internet, so I suppose Lawns to Gardens is meant to be more of a motivator. The cheerleader and “We Can Do It!” website meant to help people get over themselves. Especially since it looks like with so many people on planet earth, we had better sign peace terms with our own souls first.

Only then will we be ready as a society to high-five one another and put together local coordinated teams for gardening, exercise, community activities, and other sustainable behaviors. I very much look forward to our rebirth.

March 19, 2008 at 10:44 am 2 comments

Peak Oil Is Here: How Will Young People Deal With The Next “Great Depression”?


By Randy White
Editor, Lawns to Gardens

Oopsy. Looks like America was caught off guard from reality. I still am in awe some “News” outlets are still debating whether a recession has arrived.

1) What schools did they go to?
2) Don’t send your kids there

Just today, oil scored a new high price record at $101 a barrel.

The logic of OPEC’s argument makes no economic sense. They report:

“Market analysts say OPEC producers might cut production in response to the slowdown of the US economy, which is world’s biggest oil user.”

Excuse me, but does that make any sense? Have we seen a drop in demand? Why would they decrease the amount of oil when the demand is rising? To me, this screams geological realities and market distributors making excuses for an inability to add more oil to the market. And that constitutes post-peak. Here is another comical take on peak oil, this one is from MSNBC:

“Oil futures shot higher Tuesday, closing above $100 for the first time as investors bet that crude prices will keep climbing despite evidence of plentiful supplies and falling demand. At the pump, gas prices rose further above $3 a gallon.

There was no single driver behind oil’s sharp price jump; investors seized on an explosion at a 67,000 barrel per day refinery in Texas, the falling dollar, the possibility that OPEC may cut production next month, the threat of new violence in Nigeria and continuing tensions between the U.S. and Venezuela.”

See the contradiction? Wake up to real economics, folks.

Since the new Depression is most definitely here, and it is only going to get worse before things get better, how are young people reacting?

Young people do not have to be defined by their age. Normally, youth is associated with inexperience and naivety, which is why they are often discredited by the more entrenched, ‘experienced’ adults, right?

But what happens when that experience turns into obsolescence, and the adults themselves have attention deficit disorders? To me, it would imply that they are losing control and don’t know how to solve their problems.

The most amazing thing happened the other day. I was home and there was a knock at the door. Two young giggling women opened their introduction with: “Hi. We’re a little short on Rent this month, and were wondering if you had any soda cans you might want to donate?”.

I must be turning into a bit of a scrooge, because while I invited them to go through my recycling containers, I certainly wasn’t about to give them money. Not after they showed up on my front porch with their cell phones in hand.

So it makes me wonder – just how are clueless dolts in America going to handle the severe lifestyle changes that are coming? Many people have never dealt with Trauma, choosing rather to tune out into whatever entertainment experiences have kept them distracted from dealing with pain. It’s always the easy way out, trying to take pills to mask symptoms rather than getting in shape.

Only something is different now, isn’t it? It sure is getting harder to live the same way, isn’t it? But, “like, everything’s gonna be all right though, won’t it dude? Won’t we be able to keep dancing like they do in those TV commercials, and keep buying all the neat products and services they tell me to purchase? If only I could afford it.”

Sorry kids, financial stress is just the beginning. Wait until you have to grow your own food. Ha! If only you knew how awesome gardening is, and how much food we can produce on a small piece of lawn.

I would like to know when people are going to put the math together and start waking up to the fact that money is about to go bye-bye and we may have a crash of civilized life. I just hope the Internet remains operational – I see it as one of our only hopes for communication and keeping things civil.

February 19, 2008 at 3:51 pm 14 comments

Researchers: Ethanol Blends Provide Better Fuel Economy Than Gasoline


Sweet victory! Lawns to Gardens has long been making the case that David Blume’s work “Alcohol Can Be A Gas” is a definitive “How To” plan for helping ween America off of oil, fix our food system, and slow down global warming. Now there is proof to back it up.


Newly released research suggests certain ethanol blends provide better fuel economy than gasoline, despite biofuel’s lower energy content. The research findings released show that mid-range ethanol blends – fuel mixtures with more ethanol than E10 but less than E85 – can in some cases provide better fuel economy than regular unleaded gasoline, even in standard, non-flex-fuel vehicles and despite the biofuel’s lower energy content. The University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) and the Minnesota Center for Automotive Research (MnCAR) conducted the tests, results of which are published in the report titled Optimal Ethanol Blend-Level Investigation.

Previous assumptions held that ethanol’s lower energy content – around 30% lower than gasoline – directly correlates with lower fuel economy for drivers. Those assumptions were found to be incorrect. Instead, the new research suggests that there is an ‘optimal blend level’ of ethanol and gasoline – most likely E20 or E30 – at which cars will get better mileage than predicted based strictly on the fuel’s per-gallon Btu content. The new study, cosponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), also found that mid-range ethanol blends reduce harmful tailpipe emissions.

“This is a compelling argument for more research on the promise of higher ethanol blends in gasoline. There is strong evidence that the optimal ethanol-gasoline blend for standard, non-flex-fuel vehicles is greater than E10 and instead may be E20 or E30. We encourage the federal government to move swiftly to research the use of higher ethanol blends and make necessary approvals so that American motorists can have the cost-effective ethanol choices they deserve at the pump.”

– Brian Jennings, executive vice president of the American Coalition for Ethanol

The University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) and the Minnesota Center for Automotive Research (MnCAR) conducted the research using four 2007 model vehicles: a Toyota Camry, a Ford Fusion, and two Chevrolet Impalas, one flex-fuel and one non-flex-fuel. Researchers used the Environmental Protection Agency’s Highway Fuel Economy Test (HWFET) to examine a range of ethanol-gasoline blends from straight Tier 2 gasoline up to 85 percent ethanol. All of the vehicles got better mileage with ethanol blends than the ethanol’s energy content would predict, and three out of four traveled farther on a mid-level ethanol blend than on unleaded gasoline.

In addition to the favorable fuel economy findings, the research provides strong evidence that standard, non-flex-fuel vehicles can operate on ethanol blends beyond 10 percent. The three non-flex-fuel vehicles tested operated on levels as high as E65 before any engine fault codes were displayed.

Emissions results for the ethanol blends were also favorable for nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and non-methane organic gases, showing an especially significant reduction in CO2 emissions for each vehicle’s “optimal” ethanol blend.


University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC), Minnesota Center for Automotive Research (MnCAR), Optimal Ethanol Blend-Level Investigation, December 2007.

American Coalition for Ethanol: Groundbreaking study finds that certain ethanol blends can provide better fuel economy than gasoline – December 5, 2007.

December 11, 2007 at 10:37 am 1 comment

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