Alternatives to Political Systems, Community Projects, Economics, People Systems, Society, Urban Projects, Village Development — by Marcin Gerwin May 10, 2011
On the 6th of May the city council of Sopot in Poland has passed a landmark resolution that starts the process of participatory budgeting in our city. It means that the citizens of Sopot will have a direct say in what the public funds are spent on. We’re beginning with a modest amount of 1.1 million USD – I say “modest”, because it’s less than 1% of the total budget expenditure. Nevertheless, in the city of 37,000 residents many small projects can be funded with this amount.Comments (7)
Alternatives to Political Systems, Economics, Nuclear, People Systems, peak oil — by Thomas Fischbacher April 29, 2011
One thing that often is forgotten in discussions about nuclear energy utilization is that it involves quite a lot of very dirty and dangerous work. According to Bill Mollison, Uranium mining companies in Australia often employed Aborigines as miners, knowing that they would not go to court should they develop cancer. The situation in the U.S. was fairly similar, with the Navajo Indians in the role of the miners (1).
Further down the chain, there is chemical processing of Uranium ore to "Yellow Cake" (Uranium oxide), which then undergoes isotope separation and is turned into nuclear fuel. While I would have an interesting personal story to share about Yellow Cake production in Germany, let us skip this step and look a bit further down the chain. The most interesting step in the life of nuclear fuel is perhaps when it is subjected to an environment in which fission occurs in a controlled way inside a nuclear reactor. Here, nuclear fuel becomes seriously radioactive.
Clearly, nuclear reactors are very complicated machines that need a lot of maintenance effort. Who are the people who do the dangerous tasks that involve serious contamination risks inside nuclear power plants? I was quite amazed when I first learned that professional divers can specialize in nuclear diving — which means you will end up diving and doing underwater welding in environments such as spent fuel pools (2). Who is doing such work?Comments (6)
Building, People Systems, Village Development — by Oyvind Holmstad April 21, 2011
While the corporations and the starchitects (walking hand in hand) try to sell us “freedom” through techno-utopia, using images of anti-nature-architecture as the future of sustainability, like Masdar City, we still have teachers showing us the Timeless Way back to Earth. One of them is David Sheen, the creator of the documentary film First Earth: Uncompromising Ecological Architecture. In the following movie you can see him at his TEDx-Talk in Johannesburg, South Africa, discussing the true future of sustainable architecture. This future is of course timeless, and what can be more timeless than earth, a fundamental part of human biophilia since the down of man.
Economics, Food Shortages, Global Warming/Climate Change, People Systems, Society, Village Development — by Joan Baxter April 20, 2011
Proposing ‘grandiose solutions without first diagnosing the causes of what ails Africa and her people has never stopped the World Bank, corporations and the odd billionaire from prescribing the wrong medicine for the continent,’ writes Joan Baxter, as the Bank makes plans to ‘unlock’ the future of African agriculture.
by Joan Baxter, originally published on Pambazuka News
A vivid image of rural poverty?
The opening line in the World Bank’s ‘World Development Report 2008 — Agriculture for Development’ goes like this: ‘An African woman bent under the sun, weeding sorghum in an arid field with a hoe, a child strapped on her back—a vivid image of rural poverty.’
With all due respect to the team of World Bank experts who put together this extensive (and no doubt very expensive) 365-page report, there are problems with this picture. Conspicuously absent are the woman’s family members and other women with whom she may be chatting and laughing as she weeds. And she may be quite happy to have her baby snuggled against her back – where better for both mother and child?
But its lack of context and narrow focus are not the only problems with this World Bank ‘vivid image of rural poverty’. It’s a one-dimensional stereotype concocted to arouse pity rather than inspire the respect that Africa’s farmers deserve. It ignores their intricate knowledge of local resources, the crop varieties they have developed to cope with a wide range of soil and climatic conditions, their complex and resilient agro-ecological family farming systems. It misses the bigger picture, the myriad other crops that the woman undoubtedly cultivates on a very agro-biodiverse family farm, the valuable trees that she and her family depend on for income, food, fibre, medicine, wood and that the soils depend on for fertility and protection. It perpetuates the false notion that Africa’s family farms are inefficient and non-productive.Comments (7)
Alternatives to Political Systems, Consumerism, Economics, Food Shortages, Global Warming/Climate Change, People Systems, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss, peak oil — by Earth Policy Institute
by Lester R. Brown, Earth Policy Institute
We need an economy for the twenty-first century, one that is in sync with the earth and its natural support systems, not one that is destroying them. The fossil fuel-based, automobile-centered, throwaway economy that evolved in western industrial societies is no longer a viable model—not for the countries that shaped it or for those that are emulating them. In short, we need to build a new economy, one powered with carbon-free sources of energy—wind, solar, and geothermal—one that has a diversified transport system and that reuses and recycles everything. We can change course and move onto a path of sustainable progress, but it will take a massive mobilization—at wartime speed.
Whenever I begin to feel overwhelmed by the scale and urgency of the changes we need to make, I reread the economic history of U.S. involvement in World War II because it is such an inspiring study in rapid mobilization. Initially, the United States resisted involvement in the war and responded only after it was directly attacked at Pearl Harbor. But respond it did. After an all-out commitment, the U.S. engagement helped turn the tide of war, leading the Allied Forces to victory within three-and-a-half years.Comments (5)
Alternatives to Political Systems, Consumerism, Economics, People Systems, Society — by Anton Lo April 12, 2011
People who are self-proclaimed "die-hard capitalists" seem to have a very simplistic idea of how capitalism actually works in the real world. They tend to dismiss valid, factual criticisms of the system as temporary problems in a system which will go on to benefit all. Any initial suffering caused by capitalism, they argue, will eventually be made up for exponentially as the poor gradually and unfailingly grow richer. The (minor) failings of capitalism are just the reality of living in an imperfect world. After all, they argue, what is the alternative? Socialism, which has never worked? Communism, which is a proven failure (as if these are the only options)?Comments (16)
Building, Consumerism, Eco-Villages, Land, People Systems, Society, Village Development — by Oyvind Holmstad April 6, 2011
Norway is said to be a social democratic country, which means a 50 – 50 percent mixture of socialism and capitalism. The catch is that in the end there is no difference between these two ideologies. It is like mixing water with water — no matter how well you blend them, or in what ratio, the finished product is modernism. A separation of function (and people) is one of, or maybe even the most important dogma of, modernism, with devastating consequences for human life. This separation was common in the former USSR, and is common in today’s USA.
Here we can see the radical nature of Berry’s vision. Our entire economy, our very culture of work, leisure, and home is constructed around the idea of easy mobility and the disintegration of various aspects of our lives. We live in one place, work in another, shop in another, worship in another, and take our leisure somewhere else. According to Berry, an integrated life, a life of integrity, is one characterized by membership in a community in which one lives, works, worships, and conducts the vast majority of other human activities. The choice is stark: “If we do not live where we work, and when we work, we are wasting our lives, and our work too.” - Wendell Berry and the New Urbanism: Agrarian Remedies, Urban Prospects
The artificial separation of houses and work creates intolerable rifts in people’s inner lives. - Christopher Alexander
Aid Projects, Community Projects, Consumerism, Demonstration Sites, Eco-Villages, People Systems, Society, Village Development — by Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor March 31, 2011
Already doing what it can to operate along sustainable lines, a homeless camp in Slovakia is looking for a permaculture makeover and evolution.
In little more than eight years, more than 800 homeless people have come and gone through this little site. For some it was temporary salvation, giving them a roof over their heads just when they needed it most, for others it meant even more — redirecting their life from its downward, sometimes criminal trajectory, to give them a sense of self-worth, a new skill-set and positive purpose.Comments (5)
Community Projects, Eco-Villages, Economics, Food Forests, Food Plants - Annual, People Systems, Plant Systems, Society, Urban Projects, Village Development — by Adrian Buckley March 22, 2011
This article’s about where, I think, the best place to invest our energy toward creating positive change lies in repairing community and the planet. We all have the power to be just as positive an influence on this planet as we are the negative element many environmentalists make us out to be. The thing is, the power of being positive is truly empowering; feeling negative is totally disempowering. Read on and learn about the case for making positive impact, and a strategy for doing so. This article starts off pretty stark, but I promise, you’ll reach the end of this post hopefully as charged as I am writing it!Comments (5)
Alternatives to Political Systems, Aquaculture, Biological Cleaning, Community Projects, Conservation, Courses/Workshops, Land, People Systems, Village Development — by Lindsay Dailey March 19, 2011
Lake County, California, is a rural area on the edge of the San Francisco Bay Area. Though it’s surrounded by extremely wealthy areas, Lake County is unique; it is one of the least densely populated counties in the state of California, with one of the highest rates of poverty and unemployment. The agricultural industries that once thrived in the area are mostly gone, and most people struggle to earn a livelihood.
Leave it to the permaculturalists to find opportunity in this seemingly barren edge! And there is indeed permaculture activity on the rise, in the most unlikely of places… the county government.Comments (1)
Alternatives to Political Systems, Consumerism, Economics, People Systems, Society — by Simon Ussher March 18, 2011
Editor’s Preamble: Regular readers will know I’m fully behind any efforts to enact policy changes which would incentivise/facilitate/incubate a rapid and peaceful transition to a society that can live in harmony within the limits of Earth’s resources. The Simplicity Institute seems to be working to the same ends: "…by developing an understanding of the challenges people face when embracing post-consumerist lifestyles, we will be better able to develop policy proposals for the purpose of facilitating the transition to a world of sustainable consumption." I would therefore encourage readers to complete the survey linked to at bottom of this post.
If you live a ’simple’ lifestyle in one way or another, we need your help!
The Simplicity Institute is an organization dedicated to research and policy analysis around the topic of simple living, downshifting, and similar lifestyles. This research is profoundly important as it touches the core of global problems such as climate change, over-consumption, work-life balance and a host of other social and ecological issues.
The Simplicity Institute’s current research project is focused on people who have chosen a ’simpler’ lifestyle, including changes such as reduced or restrained income, reduced consumption or reduced working hours.
If this sounds like you, then you are part of the most promising social movement on the planet. Learning more about people like you is therefore extremely important, so if you can spare 4 minutes to answer some quick questions then please do! As an added incentive, if you participate you’ll go into the draw to win an exciting collection of the finest literature on ’simple living’.
To learn more and help build a better future, click here.Comments (4)
Building, Consumerism, People Systems, Retrofitting, Waste Systems & Recycling — by Oyvind Holmstad March 17, 2011
First Earth: Uncompromising Ecological Architecture by David Sheen is meant as an inspirational film about earthen buildings, or more specifically, what they call ‘cob’. Cob is the oldest and easiest way of building from earth. You can find information and relevant literature here, and inspiring pictures here.
The architect Rolf Jacobsen at Gaia Tjøme, Norway, has, together with his son, built an experimental cob building on their property. Because of the cold climate they chose a two layer wall with perlite in between for insulation. You can read a discussion about cob in humid climates in this article, looking especially at the comments thread.
No matter whatever you live — in a hot, cold, dry or humid climate — lean back and watch the video below. If you enjoy it the DVD can be ordered here. (The DVD version of the film has high-quality video and audio and includes extras.)
Chapter 1: What’s Wrong With Architecture
Consumerism, Economics, People Systems, Society — by Roger Burton March 16, 2011
I no longer work with corporations much because the heart of the conversation and action in my own life has to do with considering the implications of the industrial era and the anthropocenic era and working to dissolve and disentangle many of my associations and way of participating in that regard. I have found that this is increasingly difficult to consider these questions in organizations that are themselves self-identifying with the institutions of the industrial era or where people directly associate their well-being and ‘way of life’ with those institutions. I feel that the industrial era is over and that the institutions and epistemologies of this era are collapsing rapidly. My understanding of the anthropocenic is that humanity as a whole is acting (unconsciously) at the same scale as the systems of the biosphere and indeed, at the same scale as the biosphere itself. This brings up the question of systemic resilience. I have been talking with major corporations about this in one way or another for about ten years and the conversation has gotten very explicit in the past several years. Recently I have been discussing several things with organizations and individuals willing to talk together:Comments (2)
Developments, People Systems — by John Champagne March 15, 2011
Warm Greetings to all members of the Permaculture community,
The idea of unifying the many components that make up the Permaculture movement in Australia is not a new one, but after a rich 30-year history, it is an idea whose time has come. This survey initiative enables all of you that have completed a Permaculture Design Certificate course in that 30 years or are currently active within your local Permaculture group to provide input toward progressing this concept to the next stage.Comments (4)
Community Projects, Food Shortages, People Systems, Social Gatherings, Society, Urban Projects, Village Development — by Geoff Lawton March 10, 2011
O-Farm Hong Kong is championed by PDC graduate Yip Tsz Shing. It is a wonderful community garden where very small spaces, just a few metres (8 square metres on average), are rented by Hong Kong residents.
Some may travel up to an hour and a half each way to come and garden fresh organic food and have social interaction with other community gardeners.Comments (3)