Alternative Energy: Business as Usual. With Less Carbon.

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I’m looking at the party-line storybook future, and it seems that they all lived happily ever after!

It’s a win-win.  Big Carbon gets to stay in the game for another generation by offering a golden “natural gas bridge” to a better future for mankind and the planet. For our sakes, they will drill baby drill any blessed (or cursed) place on earth til the last drop. And we should thank them for fracking us into tomorrow. (Or maybe not.)

The ALT folks ramp up, best they can, without much love from petroleum-romanced governments, but the assumption is that once we survive and make it to the other side of the bridge at exactly the same level of consumption, remaining carbon stays in the ground, ALT carries the day and in the long run, we’ve not broken stride at all. It’s business as usual with less carbon.

And the beauty of this model is that there was never any of the messy, inconvenient whining about our energy, water, nutrient, forest or other “footprints” insisting that we make do with less of everything in the “developed” world.

Conservation is such a bummer. So let’s avoid ever talking about it. Or population stuff–such a buzz kill! No our future is a win-win. Big Carbon is happy. Big ALT is happy. Western Consumers are happy, and the new ones in India and China can play too!

IMG_0230energyModel3_480I’m sorry. That story of a big-as-ever foot-printed future that is “sustainable”—or desirable–is a work of fiction. The world’s biomes will not stay viable enough for long enough under this plot-line to reach the happily-ever-after final chapter where our hero walks hand and hand with flower-garlanded Mother Earth surrounded by butterflies and bluebirds and every one of her people drive poop-powered HumVees.

In this draft of the future, there are too many taking too much for too long to give us eternal golden eggs like the ones our brief fossil fuel romance have provided. Big ALT is not a permanent solution at global scale since it will ultimately be limited by escalating demand for vanishing stocks of metals and rare earths for construction and replacement.

Sorry, Big Carbon–your fate is already visible in today’s divestment movement.  So the Good for Biz model is a happy fiction. The real future is not so rosy, and we are not doing ourselves or our children any favors pretending this blue marble can support 10 billion of us extracting, consuming and disordering the planet at the present Western World pace.

And who is talking today about what comes after Big ALT? Why are we not hearing NOW about pushing back from the table, voluntarily, pro-actively so remaining carbon and expanding ALT goes farther? Do we have to wait on our governments to insist that the engines of our economy throttle down before it is too late? Can the steady-state economy of the future be driven from bottom to top?

We could eat less meat; drive fewer miles; keep the unnecessary electricity turned off for x hours a week. I would be willing to conserve, to tighten my belt, to do without and with less.

But if our corporate-national and corporate-global machinery keeps saying bigger, shinier, faster and our species procreates like bacteria on a dead carcass right down to the bone, we’ll hit the wall. That’s not a happy ending we want our kids to be a part of. In OUR lifetime we are writing the final paragraphs for this particular chapter of Earth history. Fellow writers: how shall we make it end, do you think?

Earth Day on Floyd Time

Yes, the official Earth Day was Wednesday, April 22. We’re just being very intentional and making the day accessible to working parents and their children, farmers and out-of-town visitors.  Below are the details. See you there!

Floyd Virginia Earth Day Celebration on Saturday, May 2, 2015, at the Floyd EcoVillage on Franklin Pike. This is a FREE, FUN educational event. Guest speaker from Mother Earth News to describe tips on growing ginseng. Eco activities for children.

Free local tree seedlings. Local ecological businesses explain products and services. From Nature walks, forestry, medicinal herbs, organic gardening tips and kite flying to the latest in solar panel technology.

Homemade food and drinks made with local ingredients will be available all day.  There will be lots of local organizations and businesses showcasing eco-oriented products, conversation  and information.

For Kids  – free Caterpillar bouncy, Garden hat making, seed planting, FAMILY NATURE WALK AT 12:00
Free toy swap – bring some clean toys  to exchange.

FABULOUS Speaker Schedule

• 10:30 – Barbara Pleasant from Mother Earth News– Managing Monarchs and Milkweed
• 11:00 Jeanine Davis from Mother Earth News    – Growing Ginseng, Goldenseal and other medicinal Herbs
• 12:00 Family nature walk with Fred First, local botanist, naturalist and author
• 12:30 Jason Rutledge – Managing your Woodlot
• 1:30 David Grimsley from Appalachian Medicinal Herb Growers Consortium – on Chinese Herbs
• 2:30 Floyd Eco news – The latest projects & how you can participate
○ — EcoVillage, Solarize Floyd, Sustain Floyd, Preserve Floyd & Blue Ridge Land Conservancy
○ 3:30 Guided EcoVillage tour

Earth Day: We Couldn’t Stay Here Without You

April 22, 1970.

None of the students I spoke to recently could tell me the year of the first Earth Day. After all, some of their parents weren’t even born yet. Those young people had no historical context of the event, had no sense of what lead up to that important day.

And yet, it was largely the energy and passion and concern of people their age 44 years ago that propelled Earth Day into a global event now celebrated every year in more than 100 countries.

The roots of passion and zeal that lead to that first April 22 event were many. Rivers were catching on fire from the volume of volatile chemicals dumped into them; downtown buildings were invisible in the ozone and nitrous haze that made American cities look like today’s China; and birds were dying in large numbers because–as Rachel Carson sounded the alarm–we were very wrong about the long-term effects of man-made chemicals in the air, soil and water.

And that was not okay. We became convinced that our presence here was making the planet sick. It was time to change our ways, and we did so with a level of commitment and focus that really made a difference.

Forty-four years from now, those students I shared my story with will be my age. What will their Earth be like? Will their generation take the reins or let business as usual take its course? Did they even know the deeper issues behind the obvious failures like Love Canal, Deep Water Horizon or ocean dead zones?

The level of awareness was mixed in that class of freshmen to seniors and hard to judge from the front of the classroom. Mostly, I’d say they are “younger” than their age peers from 1970. They may have the facts but they aren’t looking ahead and the costs their choices today will make in the lives and environments of their kids and grandkids.

Flower power. Tree huggers. Back to the land.

Those clichéd phrases of those days seem silly or trite or eccentric because they’ve been played that way by the media for the most part. They were the stoner generation, a bunch of idealistic hippies who fried their brains on drugs and needed to just get a job.

IMG_0626BESusans480I will have to confess in 1970–the year I started grad school as a zoology major– I didn’t get it. I had not been not an activist. I was generally oblivious to environmental issues until that year. But today I look back and have great respect for the values at the root of these trivialized phrases that describe the vision of the Earth Day generation.

Those “movements” expressed a kind of generational repentance to repair broken relationships to nature, the planet and each other. We had not honored the Earth as the material source of life and our well-being but treated it in ways that were making it sick. We had lost the sense of wonder and reverence for the life we share with all things. The youth of that time had become part of the machinery that was eating us up, and they rejected the future where that would lead them.

Many in that generation did more than wear flowers in their hair. They came back to the land and turned away from the systemic evils of the consumer economy that treated trees and people as commodities.

It was a genuine, future-changing phenomenon, and Floyd County is different today because of the tide of change represented by that first Earth Day.

The influx of young people in the 70s into Floyd consisted of people–potters, farmers, painters, herbalists and poets– who wanted to use their hands in a place not sold out to or uglified by fast-lane busyness–a place where the greatest goods were not profit and efficiency; a place where they could practice their farming, their arts or crafts and have the worth of their lives measured by their relationship with the soil, the mountains, the people around them.

A telling fact: until just a few years ago, of the 105 counties in the Commonwealth of Virginia, Floyd County was 102–three from the bottom–in per capital income.

And while it has not been measured, I would be willing to bet that, if you could measure the general sense of well-being, our county would have the highest “well-being index” of any in Virginia–a state of mind and relationship with place brought about to no small degree by those Earth Day pioneers.

And so there are lessons learned from Earth Day in the decade after that event that have been forgotten, obscured by the engines of empire, commerce and wealth-generation. They can and they must be re-learned.

It is today’s young people who must hug trees, wear metaphorical flowers in their hair, honor the Earth and come “back to the land” in their attitudes, their lifestyles and their politics.

Failing that, there may not be a high level of perceived well-being in their grandchildren’s generation.

 

 

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Creek Jots ~ April 19

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▶ First off, let me say the the doctor discounted the sudden lesion I reported yesterday as being related to or resulting from a tick. He called it a skin infection (one odd-looking puncture wound?) and put me on Doxycyclin–which is the same med that would be effective against Lyme Disease. So we’re letting sleeping ticks lie. I was not comforted when he said that the arm pit was “an unusual place for a tick to be.” I’d put it right up there with behind the knees and in the groin area. Makes me think he’s a city boy, though we talk gardening every year at my annual checkup–which until now has been the ONLY time I see him; and I want to keep it that way!

▶ Spring is coming on with a vengeance now. Yesterday, in addition to several wild flowers appearing in first bloom, we saw four snakes. Ann saw two snakes mating on a tree root that stretched out over Nameless Creek.

▶ If you have not yet marked your calendars for the Virginia’s Blue Ridge Music Festival events (May 29 to June 9) you need to do so soon. Last night’s performance was incredible. Ann especially liked the last piece–one written by maestro David Steward Wiley as part of the soundtrack for a locally-produced movie called “Lake Effects.” It was quite haunting.

▶ Last reminder that Floyd’s Earth Day is tomorrow. Even if you only come because you’re curious about what an “eco-village” is, we’ll be glad to have you. Here are the details. I’ll be speaking as part of the “Ecology of Floyd” panel discussion (five minutes, promise) on “getting back to nature”–as my topic has been billed.  So we must have left nature (as if that were possible.) We must want or need to get back. So there must be a way. What’s that all about, anyway?

▶ Lastly, as if there were any doubt, dogs are man’s best friend, and they leave their mark on us–by tongue and by paw. NPR  Microbes we get from our dogs.

CAPTION: Hepatica is in bloom everywhere now. Unfortunately, as is the case for other wildflowers like Bloodroot, the blooming flowers and the new leaves happen at different times, so it’s hard if not impossible to get both new blooms and new leaves in the same composition.

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A Small Town Earth Day: Floyd, April 2009

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Image by from eye to pixel via Flickr

Here’s a question begging real opinions and suggestions, so do weigh in.

Given a short time to prepare, competition by little out of the way Floyd County for speakers invited the same April weekend to Earth Programs in other larger cities, and a short block of time in which to hold the attention of an audience (perhaps in the high school auditorium again)…

What should be the focus of such a program? It should inform and be relevant to the average citizen, not simply preaching to the choir. It should have a take-home actionable response by adults and children alike. This couple of hours should result in changes in the community for the common good. If done well, it might be exemplary to other small communities encouraging them to move in a similar direction on…

On what? Last year’s topic was water resources. I have some thoughts and preferences. But I wonder what you think. And if you have suggestions about speakers, canned programs (DVD documentaries and the like), demonstrators or vendors of hand-out information (we didn’t allow sales last year) or any other pointers, we’re a week or so away from our first meeting.

I’m thinking we need to make the general public understand the immediate nature of the problems and predicaments we will soon face. If you don’t comprehend the magnitude and personal nature of the problem, you’ll not move with adequate haste and in the right direction toward the solution–is my view. And yours?

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