October 23, 2007

Eating Local Enhances Sustainability

Here are a couple of excellent thoughts on the many, many benefits of eating local from Paul Hawken’s recent book, Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming.

Eating local foods “…creates food webs that produce fresher, higher quality food, and provides food security, because it lessens dependence on distant sources. It reduces shipping, energy, and packaging and engenders farmer’s markets, festivals, and engagement. Localization strengthens the economy, as money circulates when spent on locally produced items. It also functions as a response to climate change. A growing post-carbon movement is trying to organize communities to reduce their energy use and, as with food, reduce their dependence on imported energy.”

“The term solving for pattern was coined by Wendell Berry, and refers to a solution that addresses multiple problems instead of just one. Solving for pattern arises naturally when one perceives problems as symptoms of a systemic failure, rather than as random errors requiring anodynes.

For example, sustainable agriculture addresses a number of issues simultaneously: It reduces agricultural runoff, which is the main cause of … dead zones in lakes, estuaries, and oceans; it reduces use of energy-intensive nitrogen-based fertilizers; it ameliorates climate change, because organic soil sequesters carbon, whereas industrial farming releases carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, and is the second-greatest cause of climate change after fossil fuel combustion; it improves worker health because of the absence of toxic pesticides; it enables soil to retain more moisture and is thus less reliant on irrigation and outside sources of water; it is more productive than conventional agriculture; it is less susceptible to erosion; and it provides habitat for pollinators, birds, and beneficial insects, which promotes biodiversity. On top of all that, the resulting food commands a premium in the market, making small farms economically more viable.”

October 19, 2007

Work Plan for Future Generations

This is an interesting idea from Bill McKibben’s book, Deep Economy.

“It’s that emphasis on community, on people working together, that really counts.

‘Change doesn’t happen because of how we invest our money,’ says Daniel Taylor [from the non-profit Future Generations]. ‘Change happens because of how we invest our human energy. Everyone’s got a margin of discretionary energy – ten percent, twenty percent – that isn’t used up making their way in the world. That’s the energy available for social change.’

The key document in any development program, then, is not a budget, but … a work plan, which details the next project the community has decided on and describes the steps necessary to make it happen.

It barely matters where people begin, and in a certain sense it doesn’t matter what they accomplish at any given time. What’s crucial is the process, the momentum.”

If Bill is right, perhaps the crucial question we should be asking ourselves is – What is the next project we want to work on in each of our communities?

I really like this idea of "Ok, what's next? and how do we get started?"

October 17, 2007

Sustainability - Intention

Here are a couple more thoughts from Paul Hawken’s book, Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming.

“Sustainability; ensuring the future of life on earth, is an endless game, the endless expression of generosity on behalf of all.”

“What is the intention of the movement? If you examine its values, missions, goals, and principles, and I urge you to do so, you will see that at the core of all organizations are two principles, albeit unstated: first is the Golden Rule; second is the sacredness of all life, whether it be a creature, child or culture.”

According to Paul Hawken, he initially estimated that there were a total of 100,000 environmental organizations and social justice organizations, “but the more I probed, the more I unearthed, and the numbers continued to climb…. My initial estimate of 100,000 organizations was off by at least a factor of ten, and now I believe that there are over one – and maybe even two – million organizations working toward ecological sustainability and social justice."

He goes on to name a few prophets of the movement, including Bill McKibben.

“Bill McKibben has been unwavering and unerring in his cautions about climate change.”

I would highly recommend Deep Economy by Bill McKibben. It is an excellent book.

October 14, 2007

Slow Food Movement

There is an excellent book written by Paul Hawken, Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming that talks about local communities response to the systemic problems we are facing. The focus of the book is on what is going right in the world and how people are using imagination and conviction to perform daily miracles which are redefining our relationship with the environment and with one another.

In Blessed Unrest, Paul Hawken talks about the Slow Food movement.

The Slow Food (alimento lento) movement "... began as a protest against the opening of a McDonalds in Rome's PIazza di Spagna. [Slow Food] has bloomed into a booming international movement that defends small farmers, local markets, agricultural diversity,… the environment, human dignity, small business and human health."

"... we have forgotten the simple satisfaction of eating, that sharing food is communion with friends and the earth, and that hosting is more 'art than philanthropy'."

"Slow Food supports the re-creation of networks of traditional food producers with customers so that both may thrive. It is about conserving the heritage of the exquisite variety of tastes humankind has created, which means organizing farmer's markets and ensuring both that varieties of fruits and vegetables and rare breeds of animals do not become extinct, and that the people who are artisans of food are supported and can pass on their craft to future generations."

"...When we lose a flavor, we lose a recipe, and when a recipe is lost, the use of a natural food is lost and when the use of a food is lost, the cultivation and source of that food is lost, ... and when local food production is lost, people are forced to become consumers of food produced far away by multi-national companies."

“… food lovers who are not environmentalists are na├»ve, and an ecologist who does not take time to savor his food and culture leads a deprived and sad life.”

"Slow movements are not anti-globalization, they are pro-localization. Savoring something - a spice, a radish, a piece of cheese - brings us back home to the world in which we walk and breathe. It slows us down. Taste is social. We come together, sit and talk together around food... It is how we share being alive."

October 10, 2007

Greenhouse gas levels much higher than expected

An Australian scientist, Tim Flannery, after reviewing the technical data for an upcoming report on climate change says that greenhouse gas emissions have exceeded a level that they were not expected to reach for at least another decade.

Flannery said the data showed that the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions had reached about 455 parts per million by mid-2005, well ahead of scientists' previous calculations. This is "....beyond the worst-case scenario as we thought of it in 2001," when the last major IPCC report was issued.

Gas Emmissions at Unsafe Threshold

Tim has written a book on the subject. The Weather Makers : How Man Is Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth