Peak Oil, Climate Change and Permaculture. Presented at Park Slope Methodist Church, Brooklyn, New York


Park Slope Methodist Church: April 30, 2006

by Andrew Leslie Phillips

It’s a real honor to be here today to think about our Earth – there’s a lot to think about!

Park Slope Methodist Church is not new to me. I’m an old friend of Finlay and Nancy Scheff – your garden is named after them – I remember when Nicaragua’s Sandinista President, Daniel Orgega, came to New York more than twenty years ago and stood where I stand today to share the good news of people’s revolution. And in some way I bring you the same message today.

Except this revolution will not be won with Uzis and Kalashnikovs, but with water harvesting swales, compost heaps, pitch forks and shovels. In a real sense the revolution we need today is in the garden.

The world can no longer sustain the damage caused by modern agriculture – we have lost two-thirds of our topsoil – blown and washed away – between 200-400 tons of top soil per acre per year, are lost because of modern agricultural practices which includes mechanized farming and monoculture of the five remaining major world crops –wheat, rice, corn/maize, soy and potatoes. We should also note that the number of major crops is getting smaller – in the 1960’s there were twelve major crops.

As we enter the new millennium we find global food production now in decline. We destroy more forests to uncover more land but such destruction accelerates soil loss and climate change.

Human settlement without attention to nature and local natural patterns and resources, detracts rather than adds to our environment. And water is a critical diminishing resource. A bottle of water purchased at a gas station is already more expensive than gasoline.

Destructive post-war industrial agricultural methods have poisoned our land and water and reduced biodiversity. Modern agriculture has removed billions of tones of soil from previously fertile landscapes. A design approach called permaculture has evolved from this disaster and was first made public with the publication of Permaculture One in 1978 in Australia.

Perhaps it is not surprising that the idea of Permaculture grew out of the oldest and driest continent where per capita, humans have inflicted enormous damage to Australia’s fragile, strangely beautiful landscape.

What is Permaculture? Care of Earth. Care of people. Return of surplus to both. These are the stated ethics of culture. And on the official permaculture certificate awarded after completion of the world famous Pdc course is written “Ingenio patet campus” – the field lies open to the intellect.

Permaculture is a holistic approach to land use design, based on ecological principles and patterns. Permaculture aims to create stable, productive systems that provide for human needs, harmoniously integrating the land with people. The ecological processes of plants, animals, water, weather and nutrient cycles are integrated with human needs and technologies for food, energy, shelter and infrastructure.

Elements in a system are viewed in relationship with other elements, and the outputs of one element become the inputs of another.

Within a Permaculture system, work is minimized, “wastes” become resources, productivity and yields increase, and the environment is restored.

Permaculture principles can be applied to any environment, at any scale - from dense urban settlements to individual homes, from farms to entire regions, even continents.

Permaculture seeks to design sustainable human settlements whilst preserving and extending natural systems. It seeks to develop and maintain a cultivated ecology in all climate zones and includes principles of design, understanding natural patterns in nature, climate factors, aquaculture, social, legal and economic aspects of human settlement.

Permaculture has been adopted by corporations, governments, the UN and there are literally thousands of projects and many times more students all over the world. In fact you can travel the world

EVIDENCE - CLIMATE[1]

2005 was warmest year since recording began in the 1860’s.

Humans are responsible. Science has eliminated 99% of all other possibilities. Greenhouse gases and aerosols have changed climate.

The polar ice sheets reflect sunlight back into the atmosphere and into space but greenhouse gases bounce heat back to the planet which further warms the ice sheets to increase melting in a vicious feedback mechanism.

Fresh water, locked in the ice since before Christ was born, flows into the ocean affecting salinity, temperature, currents, fish movement - there is as much melt each day as flows down the Amazon River (each day) and the Amazon contains as much water as all the world’s great rivers combined.

More than 70% of the world's population lives on coastal plains, and 11 of the world's 15 largest cities are on the coast or estuaries and sea level is rising. It is impossible to know when Wall Street will be drowned but it may be sooner than we think. It seems all the climate models turn out to be conservative. Things are happening more quickly than they thought.

Since 1994 we’ve known about deep ocean warming (2-4 miles) in all oceans.

Eighty-four percent of last centuries warming was in deep oceans. The deep ocean has warmed more than twenty times faster than atmospheric temperature rise over the same time. (Tim Barnett, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA.).

Slow sea level rise is one thing but increasing severe weather events and storm surge is another. Waves are bigger now, winds more ferocious and damage will be worse.

As the ocean warms they gives more moisture to the atmosphere already heated by solar energy reflected and refracted by stuff we put in the atmosphere. This warm moisture is fuel for hurricanes. And hurricanes are growing more powerful, more erratic and there are more of them in both hemispheres – Brazil got hit for the first time last year.

The insurance industry understands these trends. People will not want to settle in these vulnerable locations (once recognized as prime real estate) and insurance premiums already high will be out of sight! In the 1960’s-1990’s there was $4 billion in climate related damage. In 2004 the figure was $140 billon. In 2005 Katrina pushed the number to $240 billion. We have been subsidizing bad planning.

Paleontology, the study of fossils, shows that climate changes can happen very quickly and we don’t understand mechanisms of change.

But even if the climate was normal and their was no immediate oil and water crisis, another approach to agriculture would be necessary – another way of organizing cities and communities – the kind of work people like you have always done. This church is in the vanguard – this church understands the importance of stewardship of Earth.

Even as we speak today a small permaculture community is growing at the Methodist Camp and Retreat Center in High Falls, New York. There’ll be a gathering there

The Hudson Valley Permaculture Spring Gathering happens May 6-7) and people will descend from all over the Northeast to teach + learn + talk + party Permaculture. You can register by emailing Ethan Rowland - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . It’s a potluck.




[1] Adam Aston, Business Week; Dr. Paul Epstein, Center for Health and the Global Environment; Dr. Gerard Schmidt, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Columbia University. (Gerard Schmidt works with Jim Hensen who blew the whistle recently on the [1]politicization of climate change “debate”), NPR, Lenny Lopate Show.  

Implementing Efficient & Renewable Energy Systems in the Urban Environment

 

Bronx Community College: May 16, 2006
Sponsored by New York Energy Smart, NYSERDA, Public Service Commission, SOBRO, Center for Sustainable Energy.
By Andrew Leslie Phillips

It’s a great pleasure to be here today – and an honor to be invited into the dialogue. And I particularly welcome the young who will be the ones to implement many of the ideas we’ve heard today.

What is the potential for low energy permaculture in the dense urban environment?

There is no doubt that we live in interesting times. Climate change is real, the world’s oil supply has peaked and we are beginning an energy decline that could be quite steep.

We have lost two-thirds of the world’s top soils. We lose about 200 tons of soil per acre per year because of the way we farm - to produce sub-standard food – lacking basic nutrition – an organic tomato picked fresh from the vine yields thousands of times more nutrition – it’s a living food full of enzymes and life.

And today a small plastic bottle of water you buy at the bodega on the corner costs more than gasoline.

And all that transportation - thousands of miles - all that oil. It takes one hundred years of sunshine on one acre of forest to yield one gallon of gas to carry our food to the supermarket.

We drive on thousands of year of liquid sunshine every day, millions of us and here comes China and India – oil is a very precious commodity - we use it to drive to the corner - there are no sidewalks – footpaths for children and the dogs - to walk to the store.

This is our world today but tomorrow will be different.

The native American thinks ahead seven generations – more than 100 years – they think of the world out that far – seven generations. Wise people.

The Australian aborigines have lived on the oldest continent, the driest continent – the only one that never experienced an ice age – lived in Australia for 60,000 years.

There are still Aborigines in Australia - who live in the dreamtime - when earth and man were one with the animals and the land and the plants and the world was dreamed into being – that’s how their society prospered and grew, following and learning in songs, the songlines - and in their tattoos and paintings - the great narrative of nature.

And then in 1769, we came along and look how quickly things changed. Exponentially.

When we think about permaculture we think about context – we try to recognize the problems and the energy flows and blockages, we study the waste stream and look for opportunities - to tease out the parameters - and apply a few directives we’ve developed - to encourage solutions..

What is the potential for low energy permaculture in the dense urban environment in the context of peak oil, energy decline, climate change and in a disrupted economic system?

Energy will grow more expensive, it will cost more to heat and cool our buildings and there will be fresh food shortages. We will need to work closer to home and hence there will be more community – the geography of our lives will change and foreshorten

There will be change but change is difficult. Most of us need to hit the wall - bottom out – before we agree to change and this will probably be the case in this country and our city.

We are seeking sustainability. We need to understand how energy runs through the system. We need to do an energy audit. A sustainable system is one that creates more energy than the system consumes over its working lifetime.

And what is energy – really – not just gasoline and electricity. Energy can neither be created or destroyed but it can be transduced. When we put a water wheel in a stream we take energy from the stream and ingeniously capitalize on the energy yield - its just a matter of pushing the energy the right way and following nature’s patterns, constants and constraints.

A permaculture directive is that a system should fulfill multiple functions and synergy with other systems

Consider a compost heap. We can compost our waste vegetables, all the vegetable chucked in containers - out the back of nearby restaurants too – and they all got oil for bio diesel – and you can shred discarded cardboard boxes and leaves and manure - nitrogen and a little water and in four days your compost heap will heat to 150 degrees - and if you turn it every couple of days, in eighteen days you’ll find rich humus colloidal humus like the forest floor where soil grows. We can build soil this way in our urban gardens and communities.

In our energy audit we will add up our yield from this compost heap - which includes the compost itself, its ability to retain more moisture and conserve water as it insulate and fertilizes and inoculates plants from disease and build soil as it does. Elements play many roles - multiple functions – we are using more available energy – there is less entropy – we are slowing the transfer of energy and reaping the benefits for free over time.

But there are less visible assets like exercise and the good feeling of working with the earth and the knowledge gained each time – the Zen of it.

We can make compost tea, a rich cocktail for plants and we can even use the heat of a compost heap to warm buildings – in France they warm whole villages with a compost system like this.

A directive of permaculture is that it can be applied on all natural scales.

Remember that plastic bottle of water? In our audit we need to include the cost of producing that plastic water bottle - the cost of the plastic – petro-chemical bottle – the real cost of the oil used to make and transport all those bulky plastic bottles all over the world when fresh water falls from the sky in great deluges on all of our roofs.

Rain falling is a constant and water flows down hill another constant and in both cases there is imbedded energy in the movement of water that can be used passively in permaculture systems.

The rain that floods our basements, and jams up the traffic and even shuts down the subway sometimes - we just let it wash away - down the sewer -- all that fresh water wasted. Causing problems. Washing the soil off the land.

Permaculture examines the waste stream seeking ways to tie them back into the system.

Water is life – we are mostly water – in permaculture we try to slow water down – water is life so we want to rub it up against as many surfaces as possible – in slow curves like in nature – not a straight lines – in swales and on edges.[2]

Swales are water-harvesting ditches on contour. They can be passive, holding water that will gradually plume through the garden and over time recharge springs and aquifers. And they can be active, feeding dams and aquaculture systems.

In an urban space with a little bit of slope, you’d install swales across the contour of the land - to catch and slow down the water-run-off. You’d dig the swale at least a foot deep – maybe deeper and fill with mulch, shredded cardboard boxes and leaves, cut branches, anything that will, like a sponge, gather moisture and insect life and feed the soil.

This is where we start to plant our nitrogen fixing plants and we restore the landscape this way as we eat fresh, healthy food from out the back or around the corner or off the roof.

People used to keep pigeons on their roofs and some still do – but not many these days – pigeons make good quality manure for the compost heap. And you can eat pigeons too. Pigeon is good tucker.

The solution lays in finding passive inter-connecting systems that build in redundancy, ideally, each system performing synergistic functions towards multiple objectives. There will be intended and unintended consequences but by following nature’s patterns we will learn and change.

Think of a spiders web, how strong it is as a system of design – it takes many threads to break before the web is no longer useful.

Green roofs in dense urban environments will insulate, provide healthy food and places for recreation and totally change the cityscape. They will transpire moisture – one tree can release as much as 5,000 gallons. It will literally air condition the environment in summer.

Water can be collected from roofs. Simple charcoal filters, gravel beds and plants - and limestone will neutralize acid if necessary. We drink water from the tank in Australia all the time. Water is usually pH 5 to 6, a little acid. Seven is neutral. Acid rain is pH 4.5 and will affect plants over time. pH 4 dissolves toxins like aluminum which will be taken up by the plant.

But before we get to pH 4.5, the toxins are locked up and the plants won’t absorb them. If you use good compost, the colloidal quality of the mixture – very small nutritious solids - will be taken up by the plant – the plant will go for the good stuff – not the bad. And the inorganics in the compost are cooked by the heat, in the process, bound up and no longer available to the plant.

Inorganic fertilizers leach quickly through the soil on their way to the water table – in about a year. Compost lasts much longer – up to 17 years – you can still measure it in the soil.

Green algae like the one we pay so much for at the health store, grows on the inside of water tanks and helps purify the water. And certainly the water can be used on the garden.

As momentum of energy descent increases there will be increasing incentives to introduce soft-energy technologies and create urban gardens on the land and in the sky. Each will provide micro-climates of interesting diversity. And they will be self-sufficient, net energy producers that will cost the city nothing in the big picture.

We can grow everything from figs and paw paw, kiwi fruit, plums and cherries, nuts of many kinds, grapes and all the leafy greens and mushrooms and medicinal herbs you’d ever want.[3]

There’s plenty of vacant lots – perhaps 10,000 throughout the city, even after the short-sighted land grabs that are part of urban living – the “high-rise fetish” that’s only going to create more problems in an age of oil deficiency.

That’s why its important to explore Land Trusts and ways to wrest back the commons – so communities own land that cannot be so easily taken. Churches and other communities might become land holders of urban farm land rather than expensive to heat old buildings.

There will much more openness to green ideas and green politics – it is inevitable that more than a tree will be growing in Brooklyn. In five or ten years – there will be gardens all over the city and beyond. There will have to be - to feed us.

We will need many satellite farms to supply the city but if we are smart and follow a few simple directives it need not be such a problem and the descent more gentle in even enjoyable. It is already happening.

In permaculture we view the problem as the solution. One of the problems is over-consumption of oil, we waste it on stupid things like leaf blowers yet there are other ways to view the world. There are other ways to tap energy and interact with the landscape.

When the Dutch Parliament passed a sweeping National Environmental Policy Plan called the Green Plan, in 1989, its stated task was to create, in one generation, a society of negligible risk for humans and ecosystems.

Holland is meeting most of its toxic-reducing, energy-saving, and land-use goals, on schedule. More impressive, it’s doing so without harming gross domestic product.

Since 1989, industry has reduced its waste output by 60 percent, sulphur dioxide emissions have declined by 70 percent and pollution from volatile organic compounds like dioxin has been halved.

Holland has almost completely phased out ozone-depleting chemicals, and 20 percent of its households use green-power, largely solar, wind and biomass. That’s more than anywhere in Europe, and far more than in the U.S., where one percent of households use renewable energy, excluding large-scale hydropower.

The Dutch are easily on target to meet, by 2012, their Kyoto Protocol (1998) obligation of a 6 percent reduction in greenhouse gases, relative to 1990. By comparism, under the Bush Climate Change Initiative, the U.S. will increase emissions by 32 percent over the same period.

Of all countries, the United States has the brain power, equipment, organizational structure and money to make the change late thought it may be.

They say President Jimmy Carter was a bad president and Ronald Reagan a great one – well it was Carter who put primitive photovoltaic solar cells on the White House roof thirty years ago and Reagan who took them down. We’ve wasted thirty years and now we are way behind. Even so, this country can change and certainly we can change regardless of government policy. But it has to be done soon and it has to be quick. There’s not much time left.

It may sound silly and useless in the big scheme of things but most of our problems can be solved in a garden. We must remember where out food comes from – take inventory of our lives. It will not the first time societies have gone through this – the Soviet Union did when it collapsed and they survived.

Of course they have oil and gas enough to export and vast wheat lands. The Soviets are used to a simpler family life and they lost 20 million in the second world war. They understand hardship and know how to survive it.

We are not well equipped to handle such a situation in the West and perhaps the United States is least prepared.

We can grow food and sell food from out urban gardens. We can attach greenhouses on roofs and south facing walls and use plastic wisely to construct low-cost green houses to protect food from the cold and pollution. We can learn from others for it is done all over the world.

According to Cornell University Cooperative Extension you can grow 50 to 80 pounds of tomatoes on one tomato bush - at $1.50 a pound you’ve got $75 per plant. That’s a delicious, nutritious tomato for you and your neighbors and a few dollars in your pocket.

One acre of farmed land currently yields $10 - $12,000 a year to the grower - from one city farmer’s market. Attending two markets a week can yield $20,000 – that’s two markets a week.

Michael Guerra is the author of The Edible Container Garden, it is available from Permaculture Magazine’s Earth Repair Catalogue, priced £11.99 www.permaculture.co.uk/mag/Articles/10%20Years%20After.html

“We remember those early (before children!) years as particularly fulfilling from a personal growth point of view. We were able to grow, in one good year 550lbs of raw unprocessed food from 800sq.ft, the equivalent of 13.5 tons per acre.

Most of it was annuals grown with every intercropping, stacking and season-extending method we had to hand. We were importing about a ton – 2,000 lbs - of well-rotted horse manure a year (a lot of that was for building up the poor soil), and making plant feeds from comfrey, nettle and urine. It was a good time. I was mostly unemployed (Julia was working for some of that time – though we were both unemployed for a year). We spent time growing together, enjoying each other’s company, reading and having lots of visits from folk from all over the world.”

Pemaculture has been around since the 1970’s – it came from Australia and its taught all over the world. Permaculture’s’ founding father, Bill Mollison, traveled through these parts twenty years ago tells of visiting the Bronx -

“The land was very cheap there because there was no power, no water, no police, and there were tons of drugs. This little farm grew to supply eight percent of New York’s herbs. There are now 1,100 city farms in New York.”

That was twenty years ago – anyone know where that farm is today?

They are bridge between the city and satellite farm communities everyone benefits and that fits right in with permaculture – synergy is good.[4]

But we could grow more food in the urban environment.[5] Cuba did when the Soviet Union collapsed.

Cuba lost its life line and at least 50% of its oils supply. Cuba, like most of the world was based on a petro-chemical economy and it quickly collapsed.

The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil by Megan Quinn and published in the Permaculture Activist magazine. www.permacultureactivist.net/

Havana, Cuba – At the Organiponico de Alamar, a neighborhood agriculture project, a workers’ collective runs a large urban farm, a produce market, and a restaurant. Hand tools and human labor replace oil-driven

machinery. Worm cultivation and composting create productive soil. Drip irrigation conserves water and the diverse, multi- hued produce provides the community with a rainbow of healthy food.

In other Havana neighborhoods lacking enough land for such large projects, residents have installed raised garden beds on parking lots and planted vegetable gardens on their patios and rooftops.

Since the early 1990’s, an urban agricultural movement has swept through Cuba putting Havana 2.2 million people on a path towards sustainability.


A small group of Australians assisted in the grass-roots effort – they arrived in 1993 to teach permaculture, a system that uses far less energy than other practices.

The need to bring agriculture to the city began with the fall of the Soviet Union and the loss of more than 50% of Cuba’s oil imports, much of its food, and 85% of its trade economy. Transportations stopped, people went hungry and the average Cuban lost 30 pounds.

…Cubans started to grow local organic produce out of necessity – they developed bio-pesticides and bio-fertilizers as petro-chemical substitutes and incorporated more fruits and vegetables into their diets Since they couldn’t fuel their ancient automobiles, they walked and biked and rode buses and car pooled.

They were forced to return to oxen to plough their fields. But today 50% of Havana’s vegetables come from inside the city, while in other Cuban towns and cities, urban gardens produce from 80% to more than 100% of what they need. (Permaculture Activist, March 2006 "How Cuba Survived Peak Oil by Megan Quinn).



[2] Edges are important in permaculture because there is more life on the edge; at the sea shore were the land meets the water. Mangrove systems contain the world’s richest bio-mass. On the edge of the forest where it meets the field is abundant life. It is nature’s gathering place for species from field and forest to intermingle, manure and mix and edges hold more water. In permaculture we call this “edge thinking”.

[3] Although commercial truffles are more plentiful in Europe than in America, fewer are found there now than in the past. A harvest of 2,200 tons was reported in l890. Three hundred tons were harvested in l914, but lately only 25 to 150 tons per year have been found.

Truffles appear to have predictable life cycles. To ensure future production, appropriate tree seedlings are inoculated with truffle spores, and when the sapling tree is established, it is transplanted to the proper environment, usually a barren, rock-strewn calcific soil. It takes about seven years before the first truffle begins to grow. A bearing tree will produce for about fifteen to thirty years. For the European market to survive it is necessary to regularly replenish the population of truffle-bearing trees. Inoculated trees have been brought to North America, but it is too early to predict how successful these experiments will be.

Truffles are also found in North Africa, in the Middle East, and in North America. On the desert after rainfall, knowledgeable Middle Eastern people collect the "black kame," Terfezia bouderi, and the "brown kame," Terfezia claveryi. They prefer the darker ones. In Texas, Tuber texensis is collected, and in Oregon, the white Tuber gibbosum.

Gaining in popularity and comparing favorably with the Italian truffle, the Oregon truffle is harvested in sufficient quantity to support commercial sales. Although the Oregon truffle industry is in its infancy, it commands as much as $150 per pound for its truffles. James Beard claimed that the mature Oregon white truffle could be substituted for European varieties.

From the Desk of Jac Smit – “Urban Agriculture”

Jac Smit is the President of The Urban Agriculture Network an information and consulting organization founded in 1992. It has visited over 30 countries in its advocacy. Their urban agriculture written for the United Nations is the 2nd best selling book ever published by the UNDP. http://www.cityfarmer.org/deskSmit.html

Here he is writing on truffles -

Truffles create:

1. Jobs,

2. A Healthy Environment for Living, and

3. Economic Stability

What could be further from the common perception of urban agriculture being related to low-income residential areas and farmers' markets than Truffles?

a) The US$ 800 per pound wholesale price of truffles can return $220,000 per acre per year.

b) Truffles lose their all-important pungent scent during the second day after harvest.

c) It takes three days or more for European of New Zeeland truffles to hit the wholesale market in North America, too late!

d) Truffles are produced on the roots of trees that enhance the environment.

e) In the late 19th century France produced +/- 675 tons of truffles a year. In 2000 it was 35 tons, and demand is growing.

Given this information, the reader can write his or her own script. Charles Lefevre the CEO of 'New World Truffieres' says this "Think of it like having $ 20.00 dollar bills scattered thick all over the ground of your orchard."

There is a clear opportunity and large benefit for small-scale urban fringe truffle production that can deliver to restaurants and retail outlets on the day of harvest [morning to evening].

[4] Since 1973 green guerillas™, www.greenguerillas.org/ has helped thousands of people realize their dreams of turning vacant rubble-strewn lots into vibrant community gardens. Each year they work with hundreds of grassroots groups throughout New York City to strengthen underserved neighborhoods through community gardening helping more than forty projects.

Just Food www.justfood.org/ seeks new marketing and food-growing opportunities addressing the needs of regional, rural family farms, NYC community gardeners, and NYC communities. They build partnerships among diverse groups to advance dialogue and action on farming, hunger and nutrition.

[5] 1. Mushrooms. Gourmet-quality mushrooms can be grown in little space and low-light conditions are not only possible but necessary. Yields are high, and there should be a ready demand close to you.

2. Vermiculture. If you have a place for it (even, on a small scale, indoors), it is quite possible to produce incredibly rich soil from various forms of waste. Worm castings should be a very easy product to sell to the nurseries and florists and garden centers and to many of the container gardeners in your area.

3. Container gardening. A surprising amount of your own fresh vegetables and herbs can be grown that way--especially if you are producing the sort of compost that vermiculture creates.

Producing your own rich compost is an inexpensive way to make a income with limited space. Urban dwellers are just as fond of fresh herbs as anyone anywhere.

Analysis of the market yields rewards in deciding what to grow using the space, time, effort, and money you have available. With so many restaurants it should be fairly easy to establish a market for the more exotic and delicate fresh produce.

You can develop a ready market for the started containers--and offer classes in "urban agriculture" where you demonstrate what you do. A few bins of the right earthworms creating compost serve as "breeding stock" for others who want to do it, too.

Environmentalism Makes Money - How the Dutch Do It.


Outside Magazine, June 2003, by Florence Williams - adapted by Andrew Leslie Phillips

With their nifty new windmills, tidy techno-homes enviro-crusading queen, the Dutch are busy creating the cutest little ecotopia on earth – while stoking a booming hypercapitalist economy. What does tiny Holland know that America is too big and dumb to figure out?

Queen Beatrix of Holland, better known as “Trix“, stirred the Dutch into action in her Christmas address to her nation in 1988.

“At Christmas, the joyous anniversary of Jesus’ birth, Beatrix began, “light breaks through in a world darkened by man’s egotism and lust for domination over his fellow man and nature”.

“We feel the darkness today in all its frightening gloom, as the future of creation itself is at stake.” She called her subjects to task and told them it was high time “the position was reviewed and our way of life adjusted accordingly.”

Everyone in Holland remembers that speech and a radical 25 year plan was enacted that would in a decade and half later, turn Holland into a world model for environmental and economic sustainability. By 1999, the country had spent $66 billion on the effort.

Today North Sea winds spin turbines to make electricity, toilets are flushed with rainwater and everything from dead cars to manure gets recycled. In one of the biggest national makeovers in history, this boggy, industrialized country has become one of the greenest societies on earth.

When Parliament passed a sweeping National Environmental Policy Plan, a.k.a. the Green Plan, in 1989 its stated task was to create, in one generation, a society of negligable risk for humans and ecosystems. Holland is meeting most of its toxic-reducing, energy-saving, and land-use goals, on schedule. More impressive, it’s doing so without harming a gross domestic product that totaled $419 billion in 2002.

Since 1989, industry has reduced its waste output by 60 percent, sulphur dioxide emissions have declined by 70 percent and pollution from volatile organic compounds like dioxin has been halved. Holland has almost completely phased out ozone-depleting chemicals, and 20 percent of its households use green-power, largely solar, wind and biomass. That’s more than anywhere in Europe, and far more than in the U.S., where 1 percent of households use renewable energy, excluding large-scale hydropower.

The Dutch are easily on target to meet, by 2012, their Kyoto Protocol (1998) obligation of a 6 percent reduction in greenhouse gases, relative to 1990. By comparism, under the Bush Climate Change Initiative, the U.S. will increase emissions by 32 percent over the same period.

While most of the world ratified the Kyoto accord in spring 2004, the U.S. said no. The Bush administration says the U.S. opted out to protect the economy, because compliance would be too expensive and trampled on competitive enterprise.

Holland’s environmental gains in the 1990’s were achieved while the economy grew 3.5 percent a year, the highest rate in Europe. Holland has had the lowest unemployment on the continent, and personal incomes continue to rise despite hefty eco-taxes on transportation, conventional energy, and waste disposal – which make up on quarter of the tax burden. Meanwhile, Dutch industries now lead the world in clean technologies and super-efficient manufacturing.

Denmark and the U.K. have announced similar climate-saving plans. The European Union is basing much of its emissions-reduction policy on the Dutch model. New Zealand, China and even New Jersey are mimicking parts of the blueprint.

How does a country dispose of manure, an increasing problem in the U.S.?

The Dutch carefully regulate manure, dry it and burn it as biofuel.

Holland 16 million population is the most dense in Europe. It’s the world’s third larger exporter of agricultural goods. The Dutch make money by being green, exporting their innovative environmental technologies a round the globe.

The Dutch are a Calvinist society and have an extensive social welfare system and yet still give 1 percent of GNP in aid to developing nations , a figure rivaled on my Norway and Denmark. Dutch military spending is at 2 percent (the U.S is 3.5 percent)

Almost all of Holland is below sea level so rising sea levels are a problem.

Both conservative and liberal governments have supported more enlightened and profitable environmental platforms. To fulfill the post-Kyoto Accords the Dutch have created the most widely used climate-modeling software in the world, the Integrated Model to Assess the Global Environment

They’ve pioneered an interlinking system of computer models to apply economic factor to environmental problems, calculating the cost of pollution in terms of sick days, disability and adjusted life expectancy.

The Unholy Trinity: Peak Oil, Climate Change and Soil Loss.


PERMACULTURE IN CONTEXT.
By Andrew Leslie Phillips.
Permission granted to use with due credit.



Graph courtesy of David Holmgren

When Hurricane Katrina roared across the Mississippi Delta and flattened New Orleans, she knocked out 167 of 4, 000 oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. Gas prices shot up all over America – yet we lost less than five percent of inventory. The results of Katrina vividly reveal the fragility of our infrastructure to climate change and oil shocks.

Industrial civilization has changed the weather. There will be more droughts and floods, more devastating storms, entire climate zones are shifting as ancient glaciers and the polar ice caps melt. The seas are rising reclaiming the land and will force large-scale human resettlement.

More than seventy percent of the world's population lives on coastal plains, and eleven of the world's fifteen largest cities are on the coast or estuaries. It is impossible to know when Wall Street will be drowned but it may be sooner than we think. Most climate models turn out to be conservative. Things are happening more quickly than we think.

Oil is the lifeblood of modern civilization. It fuels most transportation worldwide and is the basis of pharmaceuticals, agriculture, plastics and other products used in everyday life. Without oil and petro-chemical fertilizers, the world’s food system cannot survive.

Destructive post-war industrial agricultural methods have poisoned our land and water and reduced biodiversity. We have lost two-thirds of our topsoil, blown and washed away. Between 200 - 400 tons of top soil per acre per year are lost because of modern agricultural practices which includes mechanized farming and monoculture of the five remaining major world crops – wheat, rice, corn, soy and potatoes. In the 1960’s there were twelve major crops.

As we enter the new millennium food production is now in decline. We destroy more forests to uncover more land but such destruction accelerates soil loss and climate change. Human settlement without attention to nature and local natural patterns and resources, detracts rather than adds to our environment.

Soil grows in forests. When we cut down trees and create grasslands we reduce nature’s ability to create soil. Already the world’s food system is struggling to feed rising populations as soil loss increases.

Modern agriculture replaces the loss of soil nutrients with petro-chemical fertilizers. The modern farmer burns oil sitting in air-conditioned machines equipped with lasers and global satellite positioning technology, installing millions of miles of straight line, monoculture agriculture that slowly kills the
land.

Whether we like it or not, we have to change and seek more sustainable ways to produce energy and food. We need to audit energy use at every level with the objective of reducing energy inputs as we concentrate on designing softer energy outputs like solar and wind power as other industrial nations have done. But we will have to do much more.


The term “peak oil” describes the tipping point when world oil supplies reach projected maximum output. It occurs when about half of the total resource is used. From now on we are literally running out of oil. Gas reserves are the only high quality energy which can substitute for oil with high energy returns but gas production is set to peak in about a decade.

China and India, with one-third of the world’s population between them, know that their economic future is directly tied to finding sufficient energy resources to sustain rapid economic growth. They are negotiating with anyone willing to sell them an energy lifeline.

The peaking of world oil production presents the U.S. and the world with an unprecedented risk management problem. As peaking approaches, liquid fuel prices and price volatility will increase dramatically, and without timely mitigation, the economic, social and political costs will be unprecedented.

An unholy trinity of climate change, peak oil and soil loss will force humankind to change.

It is possible that peaking of oil may not occur for a decade or more, but it is also possible that peaking is occurring right now. We will not know for certain until after the fact. However, the date is almost irrelevant because mitigation will take much longer than a decade to install.

Chinese officials have forecast the peaking of world oil production around the year 2012. China continues to make huge investments in oil and procurement deals internationally. China attempted to buy the U.S oil company, Unocal above market price. China is paying premium prices in many countries in order to secure future oil supplies.

Over the past century, world economic development has been fundamentally shaped by the availability of abundant, low-cost oil. Previous energy transitions
Like wood to coal, coal to oil, etc., were gradual and evolutionary. Oil peaking will be abrupt and revolutionary.

The world has never faced a problem like this. Without massive mitigation, at least a decade before the fact, the problem will be pervasive and long lasting.

Until recently, OPEC assured the world that oil supply would continue to be plentiful, but now their position has changed. Some in OPEC now warn that oil supply will not be adequate to satisfy world demand in ten or fifteen years.
Dr.Sadad al-Husseini, retired senior Saudi Aramco oil exploration executive, is on record as saying that the world is heading for an oil shortage.

We live at a confluence in history. Peak oil and climate change have arrived at the same time. Unfortunately our leaders have been slow to act and we are not ready for what is to come. The debacle following Katrina and the subsequent attempt to rehabilitate New Orleans indicates our government doesn’t have a clue or is simply venal.

The year 2005 was the warmest year on Earth since recording began in the 1860’s. Humans are responsible. Science has eliminated ninety-nine percent of other possibilities. Greenhouse gases and aerosols have changed climate. This information is acknowledged by the world’s leading scientists despite the fudging protestations and manipulations of some in government and industry.

Climate models predicted climate change. But it has been very difficult for science to get the word to the public. In America, the Bush administration has actively discouraged discussion of climate change. Of course many in the Bush administration have vested interest in the oil industry.

Neither has the media been able to tell this story for fear of being branded Cassandras. It is not an easy story to tell as change happens incrementally. But according to scientists, climate change actually happens in jerks, called “magic gates” Paleontology, the study of fossils, shows that climate changes can happen very quickly and we don’t understand mechanisms of change.

The insurance industry understands these trends. People will not want to settle in vulnerable locations (once recognized as prime real estate) and insurance premiums already high will be out of sight! In the 1960’s-1990’s there was $4 billion in climate related damage. In 2004 the figure was $140 billon. In 2005 Katrina pushed the number to $240 billion. We have been subsidizing bad planning.

Current increases in green house gases are very fast compared with changes in the past one million years. Fifteen thousand years ago New York was covered in ice. The earth warmed by just eleven degrees in 7,000 years. The rise in temperature over the past 100 years has been thirty times faster.

Computer modeling of climate change has been conservative. Over the past 30 years hurricane events have increased 60 times. As we warm the atmosphere it becomes more energetic with more moist air to feed hurricanes. Warm summers are more frequent and there is a decline in snowfall and fresh water.

According to the New Scientist, the massive west Antarctic ice sheet, previously assumed to be stable, is starting to collapse. Antarctica contains more than 90% of the world's ice, and the loss of any significant part of it will cause a substantial sea level rise. Scientists used to view Antarctica as a slumbering giant but now see it as awakening. Glaciers on the Antarctic peninsula, are retreating. And glaciers within the much larger west Antarctic Ice sheet are also starting to disappear.

Ice reflects 90 percent of sunlight back into space. As ice melts there is less reflection and more dark color density on earth to absorb heat energy and it accelerates climate destabilization.

Thawing glaciers contribute fresh water to the oceans and affect the currents and marine life. The amount of daily melting has been compared to the daily flow of the Amazon River, the biggest river in the world with a flow volume equal to all the major world rivers combined.

By the end of this century there maybe no ice left at the poles. As the polar icecaps melt, polar bears and oxygen producing plankton move north to cooler waters. Everything is shifting. Nobody knows the tipping point. But we are probably close.

Since 1994 we’ve known about deep ocean warming - down two to four miles - in all the world’s oceans. And most warming occurred in the past century. The deep ocean has warmed more than twenty times faster than atmospheric temperature rise.

As the oceans warms they gives more moisture to the atmosphere already heated by solar energy reflected and refracted by carbon dioxide, back to earth in a vicious feedback loop. This warm moisture is fuel for hurricanes.

Most climate change occurs at the periphery of human experience so up to know it has been easy to ignore. But increasingly frequent and severe weather events all over the world are pressing the message home. Waves are bigger, winds more ferocious, floods more devastating, heat waves hotter and more sustained. Climate change is happening and the world is not ready.

Burning coal contributes 40 percent of greenhouse gases. The acid fallout kills trees and coral reefs. In Australia, the world’s largest coal exporter, the Great Barrier Reef is dying because of acid rain and the Australian government encourages more and larger coal exports. China burns very dirty coal to drive its industrial expansion that includes a massive infusion of automobiles and most of America’s electricity comes from burning coal.

At the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C. in March, 2006, Senator Richard Lugar delivered a paper on energy security:

“With less than five percent of the world’s population, the United States consumers 25 percent of oil. If oil prices remain at $60 a barrel throughout 2006, the United States will spend about $4,320 billion on oil imports in one year.

Most of the world’s oil is concentrated in places that are either hostile to American interests or vulnerable to political upheaval and terrorism and demand for oil will increase far more rapidly than we expected just a few years ago. Within 25 years, the world will need 50 percent more energy than it does now.”

Senator Lugar went on to say:

“…life in American is going to be much more difficult in the coming decades. We have entered a different energy era that requires a much different response than in past decades. What is needed is an urgent national campaign, led by a succession of presidents and Congresses, who will ensure that American ingenuity and resources are fully committed to this problem.

We could take our time if this were merely a matter of accomplishing an industrial conversion to more cost-effective technologies. Unfortunately, the United States dependence on fossil fuels, and their growing scarcity worldwide, already has created conditions that are threatening our security and prosperity and undermining international stability.

In the absence of revolutionary changes in energy policy, we are risking multiple disasters for our country that will constrain living standards, undermine our foreign policy goals and leave us highly vulnerable to the machinations of rogue states.”

Government supported research favors bio fuels, a hydrogen economy and nuclear power. In all cases the net energy produced is low and these systems are predicated on maintaining an economic systems based on the current unsustainable growth model.

There are commercial options for increasing world oil supply and for production of substitute fuels from tar sands but the scenario includes extracting lower grade heavy oils from tar sands which will also soon run-out.

So along with climate change, peaking oil, soil and water depletion we have a recipe for world economic collapse and massive human die-off the likes of which we’ve never seem. The confluence of peak oil with climate change means steep energy descent for America and the world. The effects will be far reaching.

In the 1970’s the U.S. had the lead on sustainable energy development but now has been left far behind. Under President Jimmy Carter, there was a great leap forward. But Ronald Reagan tore down the solar panels symbolically mounted by Carter on the White House roof and we squandered the years that could have made the difference between crash and burn energy descent and more subtle change that alternative energy systems and food production can supply.

Traditionally, native American thinks ahead seven generations. This is common in all traditional societies. They plan for the future. It is evident that much of Western Civilization forgot that part.

The Free Market in India - commentary by Arundhati Roy.


Arundhati Roy, writer and activist on Democracy Now, Pacifica Radio. 05/24/06


Tens of thousands of farmer landholders have died in India each year because of the government’s agricultural and land-use policies. This does not include women who are not considered farmers, and the children of farmers as they are not the landholders.

Arundhati Roy calls these policies which are based on the values of the “free market” a “history of incineration”

When Pres. Bush visited India he went to Gandhi’s grave but before he did the secret service had dogs sniff the grave. “It was not he dogs that bothered me, it was the President visiting Gandhi’s grave. It was equivalent of a butcher spilling blood on the grave.”

The coverage by the servile Indian press was beyond black humor.

The “free market” has shown fifteen years of growth and yet half the world’s children are under nourished and the system has reinforced feudalism in India.

Institutions are openly aggressive towards opposition. In New Delhi where the Commonwealth Games will be in 2008, the poor are being swept off the streets and their homes bulldozed to make way for modernism. Officials ask: “If the poor can’t afford to live here why do they come?”

New Delhi is being prepared for the Wal-Mart’s of the world – being cleaned up supported by the courts who grow increasingly powerful and intrude more deeply into daily life in India.

As the state works to reverse urban drift, farmers are forced off the land by litigation and soon the dams follow. All the rivers of India are to be linked and millions of people displaced by court order. The judgment to displace was made by a man who retired to the board of the Coca Cola company.

Bauxite is big issue/police state/village control
Maoists have moved in.
Steel factories replace villages, land is taken at cheap price and marked up ten times and then four times to market price. They steal from the poor and give to the rich and call it free market.

Highways are blocked and people with bows and arrows are called terrorists. Thousands disappear and are called political prisoners and held in detention in unknown places.

Indian army has become experts in occupation and they teach their occupation skills to even the U.S. army. In Kashmir there are 700,000 Indian troops.

The brutality of a system unable to protect the people but ruthlessly efficient at looting the country.

Where live in a world where Americans can detain “terrorists” anywhere in the world and define them as an enemy combatant and try them in an American court.