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7.31.2009

Top 10 checklist: How societies can avoid ‘ecocide’


By Moises Velasquez-Manoff

In his book “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed,” Jared Diamond explores why some societies fall apart, and why others endure.

He uses the term “ecocide” to describe humanity’s penchant for ignoring signs that current behavior is unsustainable, environmentally speaking, and effectively committing suicide.

Accepting that the human sphere exists within the larger biosphere, you might further generalize Diamond’s idea to: “cultures that ignore the limits of the biosphere in which they exist tend to fall apart.”

But not every human society collapses. Some heed the warning signs, adjust their behavior, and keep on keeping on. Human cultures can evolve to fit within – rather than overstep – environmental limits. Mr. Diamond counts Java, Japan, and Tonga among his successful case studies; Easter Islanders, the Greenland Vikings, and the Anasazi of the Southwest failed, by his criteria.

So what made the difference? What do some cultures respond and change while others collapse? What are the attributes of long-term success?

Full article here

7.23.2009

Abeilles urbaines et miel de béton

Le Devoir - Édition du 4 & 5 juillet 2009 (Isabelle Paré)

Certains jours de la semaine, Mélanie Coates troque ces talons aiguilles d'attachée de presse de l'hôtel Royal York de Toronto pour enfiler sa coiffe métallique d'apicultrice afin d'aller rendre visite à des milliers de petites butineuses.

Pas besoin d'aller très loin pour rendre visite à ses nouvelles protégées. Au plus fort de l'été, près de 100 000 abeilles bourdonnent au coeur des gratte-ciel, sur le toit du célèbre hôtel Royal York de Toronto, dans l'une des quatre suites royales nichées au 14e étage.

Depuis l'an dernier, le Royal York, qui abrite un vaste jardin d'herbes et un petit potager sur son toit, a décidé de se convertir aux joies de l'apiculture urbaine. «Notre chef voyait des tonnes d'insectes et d'abeilles butiner ses plantes, même en plein centre-ville. Il s'est dit: pourquoi ne pas avoir nos propres ruches et produire notre propre miel?», raconte Mélanie Coates.

Ces abeilles urbaines, qui vont butiner jusque dans les îles de Toronto, sur les penthouses et les parcs environnants, ont produit pas moins de 160 kilos de miel à la fin de l'été dernier. Cette année, on prévoit en tirer 450 kilos. De quoi répondre à 70 % des besoins annuels en miel des cuisines du Royal York. Appelé «Rooftop Honey», ce miel de «béton», qui a remporté quelques prix, est maintenant servi avec l'assiette de fromage aux clients de l'hôtel. «Non seulement les abeilles ont survécu à l'hiver, probablement grâce à la chaleur du bâtiment, mais nous avons ajouté trois nouvelles reines cet été, ce qui accroîtra la production», ajoute Mélanie, qui se fait depuis apicultrice à temps partiel.

Article complet ici

www.urbanbees.co.uk

7.20.2009

Road Map for New Brunswick

By Roy MacMullin

Some provinces take modern autoroutes for granted. Not New Brunswick. Frank McKenna, then-Premier, began a major capital program in the early '90s to upgrade the Trans-Canada Highway to four lanes. It seemed like a good idea at the time. A number of deaths had been caused by collisions, and besides, didn't we deserve highways as good as Quebec and Ontario anyway?

With a small population of 750,000 people, road construction has left the province saddled with debt. The recent burgeoning debt load hasn't stopped our present premier, Shawn Graham, from proposing to spend another $1 billion expanding Route 11 between Shediac and Miramichi into four lanes. Before we allow him to bet the farm on highway construction, perhaps we should examine the implications of this adventure.

Read full article here


7.17.2009

Quand les citadins américains élèvent des poules

À la faveur de la crise, les poulaillers réapparaissent dans les jardinets de banlieue. Il n'y a pas de petites économies.

LE FIGARO - Édition Internationale

Pecky, Hattie et Lena sont bruyantes et ne sentent pas la rose, mais pour Greg Anderson, résident à Brooklyn, ce sont des compagnes irremplaçables. Elles pondent des œufs tous les jours et, en ces temps de crise, il n'y a pas de petites économies. Greg a rejoint il y a un an le club fermé des éleveurs de gallinacés en ville. Les poules sont illégales dans beaucoup de métropoles américaines, mais pas à New York, au contraire des coqs. Trop bruyants de bon matin, ils seraient responsables de surpopulation volaillère et de risques sanitaires.

«En Alabama, où je vivais quand j'étais petit, ma grand-mère avait des poules. Alors, avec la crise, on s'est dit avec ma femme : pourquoi pas un poulailler ? Surtout qu'on fait déjà pousser des légumes.» Les Anderson partagent un jardin communautaire avec dix autres personnes, qui n'ont pas été difficiles à convaincre, malgré des préjugés initiaux. «On leur donne des œufs régulièrement, ça aide», précise Greg.

Le New-Yorkais ne regrette pas son choix, même si ses «ladys», comme il les appelle, lui demandent du temps. Sa facture au supermarché est allégée. Bien sûr, il faut manger des œufs tous les jours, mais une fois qu'on a essayé un «vrai», on ne goûte plus aux autres, assure-t-il. Greg a reçu son poulailler gratuitement d'une association de «promotion de l'autosuffisance et de lutte pour la légalisation des poules en ville». Ses huit volatiles lui ont été offerts par un autre éleveur. «Mes poules ne sont pas très chères à entretenir», ajoute-t-il, le regard attendri.

Article complet ici

7.14.2009

Enjoying the sunset of the automobile era

Published in Times and Transcript
July 14, 2009
Tim Moerman

Last Friday I walked down Main Street, along with thousands of others out to enjoy the sunshine and ogle the dazzling array of classic cars at the Atlantic Nationals.

For all the merriment, to me it feels like the sunset of the automobile era -- the last couple of hurrahs before peak oil and climate change put the kibosh to this peculiar obsession of ours. And I'm not sure how I feel about that.

When I was a kid, I wanted to grow up (if that is the word) to be the Dukes of Hazzard, tear-assing around the countryside in a souped-up hotrod. I remember being very upset that by the time I was old enough to drive, the gasoline would be all gone.

My timing was off, but that day is coming, as surely as the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs. The fossil fuels we guzzled at pennies a litre are running out. We will soon face a whack of problems as a result. How to get our mini-vans to the mall may be the least of them.

Perhaps to the surprise to those who have read my occasional screeds in these pages, I don't actually hate cars. If I hate anything, it is what cars have done to our world. Or more properly, what we have done to our world, and to ourselves, in their name.

The Atlantic Nationals take place on Moncton's Main Street, a handful of lively, beautiful urban blocks of the type that were once commonplace across North America.

Full article here

7.13.2009

Gospel of Green


In case you missed this on CBC a few months ago

As the world confronts the reality of global warming and the inevitable end of oil, the questions of what to do and how to sustain energy without oil or fossil fuels becomes more urgent. Bob McKeown and a fifth estate team travel to Germany to meet Hermannn Scheer, called "Europe's Al Gore," a parliamentarian who is leading the way to increase Germany's reliance on renewable energy sources such as wind power and solar power. To date, 15% of Germany's energy comes from renewable sources. Scheer estimates that if Germany continues on this course, by 2030 that will be 100%. So, if one of the world major industrialized nations can achieve this, why can't a country like Canada? The answer may lie in the fifth estate's investigation of the influence, in this country, of conventional energy industry on politicians.

Video

7.12.2009

A Quiet Revolution in Bicycles: Recapturing a Role as Utilitarian People-Movers (Part I)


Bicycles were invented over 200 years ago and were used for many years as significant and efficient means of human transport. But over the past 40 years, bicycles lost their status in the US (and Canada) as human transportation vehicles, due to inexpensive oil and far-flung suburban development. Since both of those factors favored automobile usage, the bicycle industry responded by refocusing their marketing strategy to promote bikes as recreational objects, only to be carted out on weekends and vacation time.

For many years this has been the status quo, with the typical bikes available in many bike shops catering to the weekend warrior, not the utilitarian cyclist. But in response to concerns over oil dependency and the environment, a quiet revolution started brewing in the mid-1990s that produced new bicycle designs and features, reinventing the bicycle as a significant mode of transportation. These new developments include cargo-carrying capacity for passengers and their stuff, plus compact, quiet, efficient, electric-assist motors that can extend the biker's traveling range and encourage biking more often.

This article is intended to provide a broad overview of the recent developments that make the bicycle a practical utilitarian vehicle for daily transportation. In Part 1, I introduce the concepts of cargo bicycles and electrical bicycles and address the question, “Why do these developments help make a bicycle a great personal transportation option for those concerned about Peak Energy?” Then, in the upcoming Part 2, I will get into the nitty-gritty details of the products and designs available, addressing the questions, “What are the features, how much do they cost, and where can I buy one?”

Full article here

Part II here

7.10.2009

Happy Peak Oil Day


By Richard Heinburg

On July 11, 2008, the price of a barrel of oil hit a record $147.27 in daily trading. That same month, world crude oil production achieved a record 74.8 million barrels per day.

For years prior to this, a growing legion of analysts had been arguing that world oil production would max out around the year 2010 and begin to decline for reasons having to do with geology (we have found and picked the world’s “low-hanging fruit” in terms of giant oilfields), as well as lack of drilling rigs and trained exploration geologists and engineers. “Peak Oil,” they insisted, would mark the end of the growth phase of industrial civilization, because economic expansion requires increasing amounts of high-quality energy.

During the period from 2005 to 2008, as oil’s price steadily rose, production remained stagnant. Though new sources of oil were coming on line, they barely made up for production declines in existing fields due to depletion. By mid-2008, as oil prices wafted to the stratosphere, every petroleum producer responded to the obvious incentive to pump every possible barrel. Production rates nudged upward for a couple of months, but then both prices and production fell as demand for oil collapsed.

Since then, with oil prices much lower, and with credit tight to unavailable, up to $150 billion of investments in the development of future petroleum production capacity have evaporated. This means that if a new record production level is to be achieved, further declines in production from existing fields have to be overcome, meaning that all of those canceled production projects, and many more in addition, will have to be quickly brought on-stream. It may not be physically possible to turn the tide at this point, given the fact that the new “plays” are technically demanding and therefore expensive to develop, and have limited productive potential.

On May 4 of this year, Raymond James Associates, a prominent brokerage specializing in energy investments, issued a report stating, “With OPEC oil production apparently having peaked in 1Q08, and non-OPEC even earlier in 2007, peak oil on a worldwide basis seems to have taken place in early 2008.” This conclusion is being echoed by a cadre of other analysts.

Full article here

7.02.2009

Our idea of progress must change


The Sun Times - July 2, 2009

Everything comes from the land. Everything: the chair you're reading this newspaper in, this newspaper, the car or truck that delivered the newspaper, the gas in the car or truck, the computers used to typeset the newspaper, the reporters' desks and offices, you, me--everything.

We know this of course, and yet we don't.

That's because the more stuff we have, the more we are separated from where it all comes from. What does Wal-Mart or IGA or GM (General Motors aka Government Money) have to do with the land? Well, everything.

We've raised our standard of living to record heights -- so high, in fact that, if everyone lived like we do in North America, we would need three or four earths. To keep our way of life rolling along, we need to make more things. As the satirical newspaper The Onion put it, quoting a fictional Chinese worker: "Often, when we're assigned a new order for, say, 'salad shooters,' I will say to myself, there's no way that anyone will ever buy these . . . One month later, we will receive an order for the same product, but three times the quantity . . I hear that [North] Americans can buy anything they want, and I believe it, judging from the things I've made for them. And I also hear that, when they no longer want an item, they simply throw it away. So wasteful and contemptible."

But such is our personal measure of progress: whoever has the most stuff when they die, wins.

Full article here