Friday, June 30, 2017

Drawdown - Guidance for Policymakers

In The Humanure Handbook, Joseph Jenkins assails our habit of wasting things.
We have kitchen “waste,” garden “waste,” agricultural “waste,” human “waste,” municipal “waste,” “biowaste,” and on and on. Yet, our long-term survival requires us to learn to live in harmony with our host planet. This also requires that we understand natural cycles and incorporate them into our day to day lives. In essence, this means that we humans must attempt to eliminate waste altogether. 
In Don DeLillo's novel, Underworld, the waste underlying modern life resurfaces throughout the tale. The advocates at eco-cycle Solutions are all about solving the waste problem. They and the folks at Trash-Free Maryland were surely disappointed when Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced an end to Maryland's Plan to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle Nearly All Waste Generated in Maryland by 2040.

Stepping away from waste reduction is a mistake. We can benefit both economically and environmentally by improving industrial and residential recycling. According to research in the Drawdown project, household and industrial recycling each have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2.77 GtCO2 eq if practiced globally. They also bring lifetime savings of $71 billion apiece. Those savings do not even include related solutions such as paper recycling, biochar, and composting. The solutions to global warming in Drawdown are posited as
“no regrets” solutions—actions that make sense to take regardless of their climate impact since they have intrinsic benefits to communities and economies. 
Hogan's decision to set aside the zero waste plan may be defensible if he, instead, prioritizes other, higher ranking solutions in the Drawdown list. There are several for him to choose from. They will all be needed soon, so he shouldn't neglect waste reduction for long.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Save up to $100K through this Eco-lifestyle Adjustment

Slums constitute the living arrangement for one-fourth of today's world population. In the least developed countries, those living in slums exceed three-fourths of the population. Any urban area can descend quickly into slumdom when water and sewerage stop functioning. This can happen in any urban environment where the electric supply is lost for a week or where general mayhem prevails. Take Yemen, for instance. Facing a crisis of war, famine, and social collapse, 14 million people there lack access to safe drinking water or sanitation. The conditions are ripe for outbreaks of disease, which is currently appearing in the form of the most massive cholera epidemic this century

Cholera is spread by ingestion of Vibrio cholerae, which lives in the water where infected people have released sewage. If not quickly and properly treated, it can cause death in 50 to 60% of those infected. Currently, the number of cases in Yemen is 200,000 carriers of the bacteria. In the 2008 - 2009 Zimbabwe epidemic, the average infected individual transmitted the disease to 1.1 - 2.7 others. Those statistics are the reproduction rate (R0) of the disease. Predictions of 300,000 new cases in Yemen by August must use the lower of these rates.

It is conceivable that conditions in the U.S. could deteriorate to bring about local outbreaks of cholera or one of the other many diseases associated with lack of clean water and sanitation. Sewer systems are susceptible, but a heavy septic system load in a concentrated area could also become a major source. My own neighborhood is reputed to have 70% of its septic systems in a failed condition (my own included) with a 2000% overload to the watershed due to the concentration of homes. 

If you are one of the approximately one-third of homeowners in the U.S. with a septic system, it would behoove you financially to limit your inputs. The typical septic system fails after 15 to 30 years of service. Replacing it might cost up to $20,000 (not to mention the effect of heavy machinery on areas of your property you never planned for). Extending the life of a septic system by using biodegradable soaps and having the tank pumped every three to five years helps, but an unconventional measure that could allow your system to last a lifetime is to not use it for sewage, period. This simple lifestyle adjustment could save you $100,000 over a lifetime.

Loveable Loo - well worth the $400. Detailed instructions included. (An $18 economy unit also works fine.)

Instead of using your drinking water to flush away sewage, take up meticulous composting with your bodily byproducts. Joseph Jenkins tells you all about it in The Humanure Handbook. In the process, do everything necessary to avoid spreading of pathogens to your environment. Don't let your septic system get to the point that mine is, where it is a major health hazard. Humanure composting, even done half well, is better than this. 

Fortunately, when I found out that my septic system had failed, I was already well along with my humanure collection and composting program. With a little luck, I can restore my drain lines to the point that they will drain "greywater" for several more years and all of our sewage will go into the humanure toilets for composting with the biochar, coffee grounds, and small wood chips that I generously smother it with. If you think that sounds slummy, just wait until your community's water or electricity stops flowing.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

You Can't Be Green Enough These Days

Helpful as their contributions are, the efforts of most established agricultural literacy organizations do not extend to encouraging young people to take up farming. Aside from the Future Farmers of America (which I've always seen as geared to keeping the kids down on the farm) and 4-H, organizations like National Agriculture in the Classroom and the American Farm Bureau Foundation seem to be geared toward PR for agribusiness. The mission of FoodCorps is somewhat better because it involves children in gardening and appreciating healthy, fresh food that they help to grow.

Though all those organizations raise agricultural literacy, none of their programs will prepare the next generation of adults for what they are about to face. For that, permaculture education must be emphasized. Big Ag will go away with deindustrialization. Folks are going to have to know how to provide for themselves without relying on lengthy, automated supply chains.

Since the public school system does not appear to recognize the need to prepare the young for a hardscrabble future, permaculture schools are doing what they can to make up for it. One program that is heavily youth oriented is John Liu's ecosystem restoration camps. Their proposition seems to be, 'come and help heal the land, and we will teach you some vitally useful things.' Those things include formal permaculture training.
By Eatswords

There are also children's programs teaching permaculture. If only the lower income schools adopt this curricula, wealth inequities will shift in favor of today's poor once the economy collapses into agrarianism. The good news is that there is a curriculum offered online that parents can take along with their children. Agricultural literacy must set a higher bar than just getting kids to realize that chocolate milk doesn't come straight from the cow's udder.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Apprenticeship - a Short-Lived Remedy for a Dead End Economy

Old Blowhard doubled the federal dollars to administer the apprenticeship advocacy program run by the Department of Labor. Secretary Acosta said the redoubled effort, "helps states expand apprenticeship, an evidence-based approach to preparing workers for jobs." A model program is found in South Carolina, yet Germany's program is the sine qua non that appears currently out of reach for the U.S.

In promoting apprenticeship, the Blowhard administration and the Green Party are agreed:

The Green Party views learning as a lifelong and life-affirming process to which all people should have access. We cannot state more forcefully our belief that in learning, and openness to learning, we find the foundation of our Platform... 
e. Promote a diverse set of educational opportunities, including bilingual education, continuing education, job retraining, distance learning, mentoring and apprenticeship programs.
However, the budget cuts from other workforce development programs leave me with the uneasy suspicion that apprenticeship was elevated more for the cachet attached to Blowhard's former TV series than for its "evidence-based" effectiveness.


While there are a few apprenticeable job titles that align with an emerging green economy, many more are environmentally neutral or antagonistic. Almost none lend themselves to preparing for a return to agrarianism. Keep in mind that before the industrial age, 90% of the population were farmers. I'm estimating that only a decade remains before the industrial age collapses. Note that an apprentice farmer must put in 8,000 hours of on-the-job training and about 600 hours of classroom instruction to become fully trained. There are many who won't be ready in time if agrarianism makes a quick comeback.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Road to Reparations

In the process of getting to know the Green Party, sooner or later you realize that we favor African Americans to the point of calling for reparations for over 200 years of discrimination. This is ultimately what it will take to heal race relations in our country, but rather than diving headfirst into what would quickly become a major bone of contention, we should practice the art of the possible by going for a series of small wins. Black women have it particularly hard, as detailed in a report put out this week by The National Domestic Workers Alliance. One of their priority recommendations is:
Policymakers and workforce development leaders should adopt
Photo by Jake Kitchener
strategies to promote gender and racial/ethnic equity in access to higher-paid career training opportunities. 
Workforce development programs that recruit and train Black women in specific skills can help them gain access to career ladders and upward mobility and can reduce their concentration in lower-paying jobs.
The Green Party prioritizes women's rights and racial equality in their platform section dealing with Civil Rights and Equal Rights. It also puts an emphasis on poor mothers of all races, though Black mothers are more than twice as likely to be under the poverty line than White mothers.
The Green Party supports real reforms to end poverty and return dignity and opportunity to all mothers. We call for implementing innovative programs that work with the particular and special needs of motherhood. 
and, under Livable Income, the platform calls for helping all impoverished citizens:
Workforce development programs must aim at moving people out of poverty.
It is very hard to accept one's own diminution while watching another group's ascension. Such acceptance disappoints both our expectancy and sense of equity. By taking small steps, such as reducing poverty among the most downtrodden by enabling them to become more employable, we can temper the resentment felt by both sides. At the same time, we must continue to press for many more measures such as the recommendations in the NDWA report and the 2014 Black Women in the United States report in order to make it over the high bar of granting reparations, thus upholding our values pertaining to social justice, gender equality, and diversity.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Giving Back

Andrés Manuel López Obrador is planning to pay salaries to housewives in Mexico. After yesterday's election, in which his leftist party narrowly lost a key race, his prospects of next year becoming president of his country are still strong. The race for governor in Mexico State was so close that the results are being contested. Regardless of who won, López Obrador's chances of winning the Presidency in 2018 are gaining momentum.

Mexico is not seen as having much influence compared to economic behemoths like the U.S., however ideas can penetrate walls and a socialist revolution in Mexico could catch on among the disenfranchised classes in neighboring countries. The idea of paying people in some way for their time and labor spent in fulfilling socially beneficial roles is, in fact, already included in the Green Party key values.
6. Community-Based Economics
We support redesigning our work structures to encourage employee ownership and workplace democracy. We support developing new economic activities and institutions that allow us to use technology in ways that are humane, freeing, ecological, and responsive and accountable to communities. We support establishing a form of basic economic security open to all. We call for moving beyond the narrow 'job ethic' to new definitions of 'work,' 'jobs' and 'income' in a cooperative and democratic economy. We support restructuring our patterns of income distribution to reflect the wealth created by those outside the formal monetary economy – those who take responsibility for parenting, housekeeping, home gardens, community volunteer work, and the like. We support restricting the size and concentrated power of corporations without discouraging superior efficiency or technological innovation.
López Obrador's National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) has not been specific as to how it would implement its "pink salary," but the way the Green Party describes a restructuring of income
Photo by Fred van den Driessche
distribution patterns using new definitions of 'work,' 'jobs,' and 'income,' it seems to lend itself to 'timebanking.' Timebanking is a way to earn credit for hours spent doing things for others, which you can use, in turn, to pay for things others are willing to do for you.

The timebank portal we use in my community is hOurworld. It hasn't taken off yet in the community, and, in fact, appears to have stagnated, but if inflation gets out of control (as I think it will), this alternative currency may become much more popular.

Timebanks are one step in the direction of localization into multitudes of semi-autonomous communities. +Albert Bates warns that "Designing... any future beyond mid-century  — requires redesigning a collective consciousness, our psychodemographic," and that "coming together can change your mind or open new frontiers." Successful establishment of timebanking requires a rewiring of our minds to devalue money and instead value local self-sufficiency. Perhaps, after next year's elections, alternative currency systems such as timebanks will become all the rage in Mexico and then migrate up here.

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