New Book: Fifth Risk

We are lurching forward into an unknown and unchartable future where there are no rules or precedents in the halls of government. Where might we end up when uninformed democracy breaks down and unconstrained capitalism drives us to the brink?

“Willful ignorance plays a role in these looming disasters. If your ambition is to maximize short-term gains without regard to the long-term cost, you are better off not knowing those costs. If you want to preserve your personal immunity to the hard problems, it’s better never to really understand those problems. There is upside to ignorance, and downside to knowledge.

Knowledge makes life messier. It makes it a bit more difficult for a person who wishes to shrink the world to a worldview. If there are dangerous fools in this book, there are also heroes, unsung, of course. They are the linchpins of the system—those public servants whose knowledge, dedication, and proactivity keep the machinery running. Michael Lewis finds them, and he asks them what keeps them up at night.”

Read more about and from the book…

The Future We Want

Blue Ridge Mountains from the air

The future we want begins when we find and pursue the greater good for each other, other living things, and future generations in place, in the small pockets of belonging, in the rural and urban places of America. My place is Floyd County, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. This essay was part of SustainFloyd’s annual report for 2017, and it seems fitting to offer it more widely at a time when we need hope and vision.

Read more at Medium.com

Field To Fork: Food Choices and the Future

From BBC Science https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-46384067

Near Coles Knob in eastern Floyd County, many acres of former mature forest are being cut (down to what’s left of the topsoil) to create pasture to grow beef cattle. (Wood chips likely now on a freighter ship to Europe.)

The carbon footprint of those cattle that will graze on land where carbon-storing oaks and hickories stood until this summer, would fall near the “high impact” range in this chart, especially if they are shipped to a feedlot for finishing and sold to consumers hundreds of miles from here.

“Low impact” pork would be my meat of choice. The half-a-pig we purchased a few years back from our neighbor a mile up the road was probably the lowest-impact non-avian meat we’ve ever enjoyed (except maybe redfish caught off Ann’s homeplace in Biloxi back when.) Home-raised eggs served us (and the carbon load) well for a dozen years.

I am considering a pledge (which doesn’t have to wait until Jan 1 to become a “resolution”) to eat no more beef. It won’t be that hard, frankly, since we don’t eat steaks and rarely grill hamburgers at home. I would have to forgo my quarterly Mushroom Burger at Parkway Grille, alas. But I guess I should put my money where my mouth is.

There are a number of places in Floyd County where you can purchase locally-grown grass-fed beef. The PRICE is higher than stockyard chain-grocery beef, but the field-to-fork COST is much lower if we consider all environmental inputs and outputs–and we must.

If we could all shift our diet as far as possible towards the low impact version of our protein of choice–but especially do this for beef for those who are not already Vegans–it would have a measurable and important impact on CO2 entering rather than leaving the air.

We (all 10 billion of us soon) will have to eat far lower on the food web than we have, if profound suffering is to be prevented, and hopefully not at the cost of further fouling our nest. Change is coming. We should start making individual decisions about diet very soon. Towards that end, I saw the relevant quote below recently, from an article about which I will have more to say soon:

One hectare of land yields one metric ton of soy protein, a common livestock feed, a year. The same amount of land can produce 150 tons of insect protein.

 

Leaf-Peepers Are Readers

Every autumn, I tend to get a little bump in book sales.

This autumn, I’m pleased to let visiting leaf-peepers know that my books can be found in an additional location: the new Maggie Gallery at the corner of Route 8 (Locust Street) and Oxford Street, across from the bank parking lot.

Ron’s artwork and crafts are familiar to and appreciated by many in Floyd County. And now he and wife Lenny are hosting the work and crafts of others in a fine old home right in the middle of Floyd.

The folks whose work is displayed in the gallery have their own little web nook. Here is mine: Fred First at Maggie Gallery.

If you’re visiting Floyd, the gallery is a short walk from The Light, and well worth your time. Here’s a little more about the history behind the building, the builders and the idea of the gallery.

Maggie Gallery Open House | NRVNews

Another reason to visit Maggie Gallery soon: You get a bonus when you buy one of my books: a copy of the pen and ink drawing of our barn by Ron Campbell (while supplies last)–an image that he graciously allowed me to use for the front pages of my second book, What We Hold in Our Hands. This is really a very generous compliment to me from the owners, and a high-value bonus to you, the patrons of the gallery!

What is Your Barbeque Footprint?

Labor Day for many marks (or used to mark) the end of summer and the return of the kids to school. By that time, Floyd County students will have been in sweltering classrooms for almost a month. But that is not the point. Labor Day may also be at or near the end of the outdoor grilling season. And that brings us to today’s burning questions:

► Where does my charcoal come from?

► What is my BarBeQue Footprint? and…

► What is this stuff anyway and now does it compare to Propane?

All this was triggered a few weeks back when I was at Lowes (a once or twice a year visit) and found on sale two huge bags of Kingsford Charcoal. Heck, this might be a lifetime supply at our age!

But given the fact that wood from just behind and above us most likely ended up as pellets for European Power Plants, I wondered about the history of these particular black briquets and how responsibly they are produced, and where.

Well first I found out that all sorts of organic matter can be burned while oxygen-starved to create the high-heat low-smoke product we call charcoal. It contains no COAL, by the way.

Olive pits, grape vines, and corn cobs make good charcoal. Hmmm…

► Idea: a corn-cob to charcoal industry from ag waste in Floyd and other rural counties?

Barbecuing sustainably: How not to burn rainforests in our grills | Environment| All topics from climate change to conservation | DW | https://www.dw.com/en/barbecuing-sustainably-how-not-to-burn-rainforests-in-our-grills/a-44543655

Comparing the BTUs of charcoal to propane, here’s the scoop: There are 91333 BTUs in a gallon of Propane and 4.7 gallons of propane in a 20 gallon tank. So that’s about 430,000 BTUs in a typical full tank.

There are 9700 BTUs in a pound of Kingsford briquets. This makes a tank of propane approximately equal to about 44 pounds of charcoal. You can price the two and do the math. Only consider that charcoal burns hotter, gives your grilled meats and veggies the smoky taste most folks want from cooking outside, and did not come from fracked gas through pipes in sone good person’s former back yard.

The Science of Charcoal: How Charcoal is Made and How Charcoal Works https://amazingribs.com/more-technique-and-science/grill-and-smoker-setup-and-firing/science-charcoal-how-charcoal-made-and

But where DOES Kingsford charcoal come from—and one should ask because SOME comes at the cost of burning tropical trees. I asked Kingsford and was told they product comes from domestic lumber mill waste only.

Kingsford (charcoal) – Wikiwand https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Kingsford_(charcoal)

And final trivia fact: this well-known company derived from Ford Charcoal–as in Henry and Ford Motor Co. Early on each car was trimmed with wood and there was a lot of waste. So the idea: let’s make charcoal. And early on, the only place you could get it was at your Ford Dealership!

So get grillin before the autumn’s chillin.

Everything You Need to Know About Charcoal | HuffPost https://www.huffingtonpost.com/craig-goldwyn/charcoal_b_858606.html

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