Transition Whatcom

Here's a place to share what you're reading - whether online or from a book or magazine. Let's try to keep this related in some way to the general issues we're facing in Transition work.

I'll start. These are items I'm putting into the 'Recommended Reading' section of the next "Sustainable Bellingham Community Newsletter" (if you want to subscribe, ask me). You get to read it here first!

City of Seattle Halts Biodiesel Purchases, Looks for Greener Fuel, by Chris Grygiel, Seattle P.I.
The city of Seattle has temporarily stopped buying biodiesel fuel for its fleet of vehicles because of concerns that the soy-based mix it was using was more harmful to the environment than regular diesel. But Brenda Bauer, director of Seattle's Fleets and Facilities Department, said the city could start using a different type of biodiesel made from waste grease -- byproducts of food production. "Not all biodiesels are the same," Bauer said.


'Humanure' Victory: Green Toilet Wins Austin City Approval, by Asher Price, The Austin-American Statesman
Composting commode is first to gain official stamp.
It took more than four years of negotiations and construction, but this month an Austin Water Utility inspector gave final clearance to a glorified outhouse that is on the vanguard of down-and-dirty environmentalism. Known as a composting toilet, the East Austin commode relies on the alchemy wrought by bacteria to transform human waste into a rich trove of soil. Specialists in so-called humanure have hailed the approval of the toilet as a watershed moment for common-sense environmentalism.


Phosphorous Famine: The Threat to Our Food Supply, by David A. Vaccari, Scientific American
As complex as the chemistry of life may be, the conditions for the vigorous growth of plants often boil down to three numbers, say, 19-12-5. Those are the percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, prominently displayed on every package of fertilizer. In the 20th century the three nutrients enabled agriculture to increase its productivity and the world’s population to grow more than sixfold. But what is their source? We obtain nitrogen from the air, but we must mine phosphorus and potassium. The world has enough potassium to last several centuries. But phosphorus is a different story. Readily available global supplies may start running out by the end of this century. By then our population may have reached a peak that some say is beyond what the planet can sustainably feed.

Moreover, trouble may surface much sooner. As last year’s oil price swings have shown, markets can tighten long before a given resource is anywhere near its end. And reserves of phosphorus are even less evenly distributed than oil’s, raising additional supply concerns.


Q&A: The Global Crisis Is Really About $140 Oil, Chris Arsenault interviews economist Jeff Rubin, IPS News
Sitting in the restaurant of Vancouver’s posh Fairmount Waterfront Hotel, the former chief economist for one of Canada’s largest banks doesn’t seem like the typical apocalyptic peak oil theorist.
But in his new book, "Why Your World is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization", Jeff Rubin argues that globalisation, fuelled by cheap oil, is finished. In the book, Rubin contends the current global recession is a result of expensive oil, rather than subprime mortgages in the U.S.

Frequently ranked as Canada’s top economist, Rubin predicts that one barrel of oil will cost 225 dollars by 2012. Other analysts consider that number outlandish; the conservative National Post newspaper, where he was frequently quoted as an economic expert before leaving his job at CIBC World Markets, accuses him of "anti-materialism" and "Big oil paranoia." But in 2000, Rubin correctly predicted that oil would top 50 dollars per barrel by 2005. And, in 2005 he got it right again, forecasting prices would top 100 dollars per barrel in 2007.Rubin sat down with IPS at his hotel after giving a lunch address to the Vancouver Board of Trade.



Stand Up for Rural America While You Still Can by Dave Murphy, Grist
The assault on rural America continues unabated. For the past six months dairy farmers across the country have suffered a historic drop in milk prices while operating costs remain high. Since December 2008, the price that farmers are paid for the milk they produce has plunged over 50 percent, the largest single drop since the Great Depression.

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The Gristle: TDR FUBAR by Tim Johnson, Cascadia Weekly
Bellingham faces two challenges related to growth. The first is an unprotected drinking water supply for 91,000 residents, an uncommon condition in the Pacific Northwest where most municipal water supplies are fenced and sealed off from the public, with increasing levels of urbanization (and lack of political will…



This is really good:
The Transition Initiative by Jay Griffiths, Orion
The core purpose of the Transition Initiative is to address, at the community level, the twin issues of climate change and peak oil—the declining availability of “ancient sunlight,” as fossil fuels have been called. The initiative is set up to enable towns or neighborhoods to plan for, and move toward, a post-oil and low-carbon future: what Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Initiative, has termed “the great transition of our time, away from fossil fuels.”

Part of the genius of the movement rests in its acute and kind psychology. It acknowledges the emotional effect of these issues, from that thirteen-year-old’s sense of fear and despair, to common feelings of anger, impotence, and denial, and it uses insights from the psychology of addiction to address some reasons why it is hard for people to detoxify themselves from an addiction to (or dependence on) oil. It acknowledges that healthy psychological functioning depends on a belief that one’s needs will be met in the future; for an entire generation, that belief is now corroded by anxiety over climate change.

... The Transition Initiative describes itself as a catalyst, with no fixed answers, unlike traditional environmentalism, which is more prescriptive, advocating certain responses. Again unlike conventional environmentalism, it emphasizes the role of hope and proactiveness, rather than guilt and fear as motivators. Whether intentionally or not, environmentalism can seem exclusive, and the Transition Initiative is whole-heartedly inclusive.

...In a sense the Transition Initiative places itself as a social tipping point, with dramatic and positive consequences where the sudden wisdom of communities breaks through the stolid unwisdom of national government.



A Look at Peak Oil Preparation Plans from Around the World by Rob Hopkins, Transition Culture
As part of the Totnes research, I have had a good rummage around, helped by the excellent Post Carbon Cities website, at peak oil plans developed thus far around the world. It has been a fascinating process, seeing what’s out there, so I thought I would share it with you. Here is the round up of the plans I have managed to find, whether developed by community groups, local authorities or national government.
You began this section with this invitation:

"Here's a place to share what you're reading - whether online or from a book or magazine. Let's try to keep this related in some way to the general issues we're facing in Transition work."

I've begun reading 'Find Your Power' by Chris Johnstone. I understand that a good deal of the 'Heart" section of the Transition Handbook is based on Johnstone's work about the heart and psychology of how change happens inside us. The ideas are clearly articulated and something I can put to use. I haven't read much of the book because I'm out in the garden a lot.

In the garden I'm 'reading' the plants or at least observing them. especially the weeds. I'm fascinated at how they seem to grow in their own guilds. I understand that many weeds have superior nutritional value and medicinal properties. Much more to learn here.

Lots of info on wild weeds and herbal medicine at Susun Weed's website: susunweed.com
Eat What You Grow, Grow What You Eat? by Sharon Astyk, Causabon's Book
...Why is all of this so important? Well, it comes down the question of why I include “eat the food” in my Independence Days project. It seems like so minor a thing - ”Of course we’re eating the food, we’re growing it, right?” But I think all of us have yet to fully grasp the magnitude of the food question from a eater’s perspective. Right now, the vast majority of our calories are coming from grain production, mostly not very sustainable grain production. Those of us most aware of the issue are at least buying our grains direct from sustainable farmers - this is excellent. A few people are eating mostly what is available in their regions. All of us are eating more out of our gardens. But it remains the fact that only 5% of US cropland is growing vegetables, nuts and unusual small grains - the vast majority of our agricultural land is growing either meat, dairy, grains or soybeans...



Grains and How We Get Them, by Energy Bulletin Staff
This article highlights several important issues. One is that local fruit and veg isn't going to save us. Most of our calories come from grains. Therefore we have to figure out how to grow, process, and transport grains more sustainably. Growing wheat organically and reviving the local supply chain infrastructure in Oregon looks to be a good start. KS
-- I've begun reading 'Find Your Power' by Chris Johnstone. I understand that a good deal of the 'Heart" section of the Transition Handbook is based on Johnstone's work about the heart and psychology of how change happens inside us. The ideas are clearly articulated and something I can put to use.

Speaking of the psychology of change, I have found the book "Seven Habits of Highly Successful People" to hit the proverbial nail on the head. Using the work of Victor Frankl (from his book "Mans Search for Meaning) as the cornerstone of the first habit "Be Proactive", it teaches how any individual can examine his/her paradigms and change them based or principles.

Regarding community, I have found "Deep Economy" to be a gem.

I also enjoyed "Affleuenza", "Animal Vegetable Miracle", Voluntary Simplicity", and "Your money or your Life"

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