Category Archives: 4 Energy

Unplanned and Unexpected – A Vision of the Future

Life’s journey has no beginning or end yet events, like seasons and birthdays, mark its progress. So, in anticipation of astraea turning 20, and to say “thank you” to all the people who had helped us along the way, we thought about having an exposition of our work and a party.

Many people around the world have helped and supported us, so, while we would gather here at Ballin Temple, we wanted to share with everyone who couldn’t come. We planned to broadcast the event on the web.

We planned to share a broad, experiential perspective on our adventure over the past two decades. We’d give a walk around the vegetable plots, tool shed and so on offering little demos such as digging, harvesting, chainsawing, splitting logs and so on. Then we’d have a chat in The Tent on big picture perspectives like holonics, metaphysical dynamics, money, nature, consciousness and more. Followed by “tea” and chat (to include drinks, snacks and music).

Continue reading Unplanned and Unexpected – A Vision of the Future

Fossil Free Food

There’s no such thing.

Everyone knows that fuel is used to grow our food and that petrochemicals are used to feed and protect food. But it’s probably worse than we realise. Most food has more fossil fuel energy in it than natural, current energy. It takes about 10 fossil fuel calories to produce and transport each food calorie in the average American diet. That’s about three times as much fossil fuel as we spend on transport.

We’ve been trying to take fossil fuel out of food we grow here for a couple of decades now. If you’re realistic about it, there’s hardly any chance to make fossil free food these days. In the garden here we make a pretty good attempt. There are organic or self-grown seeds, no sprays, no artificial fertiliser, etc. We do use a two-wheel tractor (diesel so can use biodiesel), chainsaws, cutters, mowers etc, but we use a lot of Tommy Power!

There are always fossil fuels involved somewhere. It’s hard to avoid. Starting with me. I eat food that comes in a bag. Paper or plastic that bag was made with energy from fossil fuel. And of course I drove to town to pick it up, and it came to town on a big truck running on fossil fuel. And the food was made almost entirely with fossil fuels – big tractors (possibly with auto-satellite drive), loads of chemical fertiliser, pesticide, herbicide, transport, sorting (by machine) etc etc The saga of our reliance on, our addiction to, fossil fuel continues. But if you want food with less fossil in it, buy local, organic, or grow your own. 😉

Where the rubber hits the road, or the spade hits the soil, we do a pretty good job. We use a lot of physical effort, sowing, weeding, harvesting. Here is a little glimpse of what it’s like to grow natural food avoiding fossil fuel and fossil chemicals.

There are three tools on show here: spade, 3 prong hoe, and swivel hoe (aka hoop/stirrup/oscillating hoe).

The spade, being used to dig and turn between rows of carrots. The ground in the patch is very weedy because it was broken, turned and planted for the first time this year. (The ground above and below has been cultivated for over a decade.) You can see the physical effort and technique employed. You can get an idea of the rate of progress – much slower than a big ol’ tractor! But no fossil fuels are being burned and no chemical sprays are killing the soil.

The 3 pronged hoe is being used to drag away the couch grass, and other weeds turned over by the spade.

The swivel hoe … ahh the swivel hoe. What would we do without the swivel hoe? It was one of the first tools we bought 20 years ago when we started. We have a 175mm (used in the clips) and 125mm. They are still going strong. The blades and handles wear out. We’ve replaced the handle on the 125 but had to use a broom handle replacement. The 175 handle is still original and we like it because it’s long and has a concave taper which enhances its handling. We replaced blades on both. (Check Dunmore Country School for them if you’re in Ireland.)

The clips are an example of light weeding potatoes, weeding tomatoes in the greenhouse and one of heavy weeding along the back wall of the greenhouse.

In 1999 we guessed that we had 20 years to change systems if natural cycles were to be protected from anthropomorphic destruction. Our guess was pretty good – nothing changed and here we are with climate breakdown …

Now we reckon we’ve got 20 years of fossil fuels left. They’ll always be around, but only in small quantities, as was the case before the industrial revolution. Why do we think they’ll run out? Because we passed peak oil some years ago and consumption is increasing. When everyone realises oil is running out, things are going to be very difficult as food supplies will shrink, transport capacity will shrivel and no one has any useful life skills any more – like carpentry, gardening, metallurgy, … Infrastructure will disintegrate as all those little plastic washers, valve, osmotic barriers etc which allow high tech to function will not be available …

So in the meantime, we’re enjoying growing fossil free food and eating and sharing it.

Time to get a swivel hoe?

Justice and Morality vs The Law

A fitting reminder of our past and current failing to live up to the moral code we all profess.  Personally, I know my direct ancestors have been party to self-aggrandising laws and behaviour which was wrong.  As have I …Laurie Embree, having been arrested for protesting the Kinder Morgan pipeline, speaking eloquently to the court on 31 July 2018:

Your Honour, I have lived my 70 years abiding by the law. But, if we look back into our history, there have been many times when our laws have supported injustices.

In the 18th century there were laws that supported child labour to the benefit of the Industrialists of the times.

In the 19th century, laws were created to support the ownership of black people to the benefit of Plantation Owners.

In the 20th century, we made laws that allowed us to take native children away from their parents and to place the rest of the family on reserves, to the benefit of Europeans that wanted their land.

And again, laws that suppressed women’s rights, to the benefit of their husbands.
All of those laws were created through the judicial system- that you are a part of, sir – but they were actually designed by influential people behind the scenes that would profit from them.

As much as we think we have come a long way, the mentality behind the Industrialists, the Plantation owners, the European lust for Indigenous land, and the men that wanted their wives to do their bidding, is still very present in our society.

Our judicial system is still being manipulated by rich and powerful people that have the influence to make our legal system work for them.

I truly believe that when we have laws that support injustices, it is the duty of all good men and women to stand up and challenge those laws.

A prominent and recent case in point would be when Director Chatenay of the Canadian Wheat Board was jailed for protesting the Canada Customs Act and its restrictions on grain exports. In his own defence, Mr. Chatenay stated that, “The greatest respect for the law is to change an unjust one.”

Subsequently, on August 10th of 2012, Mr. Chatenay, and others jailed for that protest, were pardoned by then – Prime Minister Harper who, in doing so said, and I quote,

“These people are not criminals. They are our fellow citizens who protested injustice by submitting themselves peacefully to the consequences of challenging injustice.”

I believe the man I just quoted is the person who appointed you to the position you hold today.  This law sir, that you have created, and that I, and many others are peacefully challenging, is unjust.  It supports an industry that is not just harming children, or black people, or women, or Indigenous peoples. Your law, in fact, is supporting an industry that has been scientifically proven to be harming the whole world and every living thing on it.

Where the world is going, today.

If you are an expert in your field you have a good idea of what is going on in that area.  That’s how you make a living.  Most of us express views about news and events that are outside our area of expertise especially if we think that they might effect us in some way, like politics and economics.  The Presidency of the United States of America is one of those things.

Everyone will be talking about the new US administration in America today.  Some will be earnest, some dismissive, some joyful, some sad or angry.  Irrespective of your emotions or political leanings, its impact will affect you. Continue reading Where the world is going, today.

The Silk Roads: Two and a half millennia telling us to stop fighting.

Book review:

The Silk Roads

A New History of the World
by Peter Frankopan

Yes please!

The title and the book’s intention, to offer a global perspective, were intriguing to me.  Though not a history fan, it is increasingly clear that it is no help to see history from your own perspective because it is blinkered, full of self-serving interpretation and fails to expose the reality of the past.  This book offers a big picture perspective.

Continue reading The Silk Roads: Two and a half millennia telling us to stop fighting.

Global perspectives: Technology, Growth, Money, Politics and what to invest in

The Long Termworld-300px

We’re talking 20 years or so here.

In 20  years we’ll be facing Big Stuff.  Climate change, weather volatility, species loss, clean air, clean water, … that whole environment thing will be getting much more serious and everyone will be dealing with it in some way or another.  I’m hoping it’ll make Ireland a bit more like the south of France, and it might, but whatever else, it’s going to make the simple things in life more difficult.  For most of humanity that will include feeding themselves and getting clean water.

So that will make food and land more important.

In 20 years we may well have passed “The Singularity“.  That’s a term coined by futurists, often with a trans-humanist bent, which denotes the inevitable point at which technology development starts happening “by itself”.  This occurs as humanity’s understanding of physics and biology enable the creation of thinking machines (computers) that emulate the brain, and then androids and cyborgs begin to be used in place of people.

Certainly in 20 years technology will have changed our world even more than in the past 20.   Do not imagine The Singularity to be fantasy.  We are close already.  The mobile phone/computer in your pocket is old technology compared with neuro-computers being tested in laboratories.  Robots are already becoming remarkably similar to C-3PO in looks and mobility at least.  Today the consequences are being felt in most professions as AI (artificial intelligence) takes jobs away from humans.  This is what we all wanted – automatic checkout, automatic cashier, automatic accountant, automatic lawyer, automatic vehicle … The challenge now being solved is automatic creativity.

Continue reading Global perspectives: Technology, Growth, Money, Politics and what to invest in

Global systems in transition – accountants seeing the light.

Dr Hazel Henderson has released a summary of her upcoming book Mapping the global transition to the solar age – From ‘economism’ to earth systems science.

Drawing on over 40 years of data and experience, it offers a comprehensive summary of the issues faced by global systems and indicates ways forward.  It is sponsored by people and organisations from a traditional mindset, such as the ICAEW,  which endorses its validity to conventional businesses.

It is worth downloading the free version and reading it while on train or plane going to your next meeting as it could stimulate new thinking that will help your business thrive.

Ethical Markets

ICAEW

 

The price of oil is under pressure – high stocks and soft demand

The oil price has been a focus of attention for half a year or so since it dropped rapidly last year when Saudi Arabia stopped restricting supply.  The immediate effect was to put pressure on marginal sources, like fracking, and to give consumers a break.

This report by The Economist offers valuable insight, saying that the industry believes that the decline in prices will be long term. While a recent bump in prices has been driven by production going to restocking rather than sales, inventory is nearly at full capacity and so restocking will not provide relief from the steady supply.

Large oil firms have cut capital spending budgets by 20% and see new discoveries falling.  That would suggest a rise in prices, but inventory is high, production is stable and demand is not growing.  As big business, government policy and consumer behaviour increasingly turns to sustainable energy alternatives, the demand for burning oil may decline.  Let us hope so.

The Economist: The Saudi Project, part two

 

“The Facts” about sustainability, the environment and your future.

Below are the facts stated in the film Cowspiracy and their references.  Which ever side you’re on it’s good to know them.   For example, one takeaway from the ideas presented is that we can resolve environmental problems, reform economic systems and still keep our cars, if we change our diet.  If you take that with a pinch of salt (ha ha) it actually sounds quite interesting.  Anyway that’s a conversation for another day.  Here are the facts:

Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, more than all transportation combined. [i]

Fao.org. Spotlight: Livestock impacts on the environment.

http://www.fao.org/ag/magazine/0612sp1.htm

Transportation is responsible for 13% of all greenhouse gas emissions.

Greenhouse gas emissions from this sector primarily involve fossil fuels burned for road, rail, air, and marine transportation.

Environmental Protection Agency. “Global Emissions.”

http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/global.html

Livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.

Goodland, R Anhang, J. “Livestock and Climate Change: What if the key actors in climate change were pigs, chickens and cows?”

WorldWatch, November/December 2009. Worldwatch Institute, Washington, DC, USA. Pp. 10–19.

http://www.worldwatch.org/node/6294

Methane is 25-100 times more destructive than CO2.

“Improved Attribution of Climate Forcing to Emissions.” Science Magazine.

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/326/5953/716.figures-only

Methane has a global warming power 86 times that of CO2.

NASA. “Methane: Its Role as a Greenhouse Gas.” Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/education/pdfs/podest_ghg.pdf

Continue reading “The Facts” about sustainability, the environment and your future.