Reinvigorating Mid-Atlantic Waterways – Traditional and Artisanal Fishing


long island sound oystering

Third in a Series: Preserving the Past to Serve the Future

Scooped by Global Aqua Link

For centuries before and after the European colonization of the Mid-Atlantic region of North America, fishing and shell fishing, using traditional methods fed the people of our Bio-region.  There are still remnants of that hook and line, passive fishing gear, clamming and oystering, pound nets, dory and net surf fishing, and small trawler fisheries throughout the region, however those fisheries have been diminished as a result of pollution and over fishing. 

As the regional waterways become cleaner, mainly as a result of the Federal and State laws and regulations like the Clean Water Act , the Resource Conservation Recovery Act, and “Super Fund” or CERCLA (enforced in part by Waterkeepers and other organizations cso'slike the Natural Resources Defense Council), sewage discharges, contaminated sediments, and “combined sewer overflows” are being addressed, starting to make our local waterways “fishable” again. It is imperative as we transition to a “post carbon” future that those discharges be reduced and eliminated, so that the fisheries will begin to recover and these traditional and artisanal fisheries will once again be a resource for feeding the Bioregion.

Factory Fishing

Unfortunately unsustainable “factory” fishing,” like factory farming is the norm rather than factory fishingthe exception.  The global fishing fleet is 2-3 times larger than what the oceans can sustainably support. In other words, people are taking far more fish out of the ocean than can be replaced by those remaining. As a result:

 

  • 53% of the world’s fisheries are fully exploited, and 32% are overexploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion1
  • Most of the top ten marine fisheries, accounting for about 30% of all capture fisheries production, are fully exploited or overexploited1
     
  • Several important commercial fish populations have declined to the point where their survival is threatened
     
  • Unless the current situation improves, stocks of all species currently fished for food are predicted to collapse by 2048.

In the US, fishing is being consolidated under corporate control…..companies such as American SeafoodsTrident Seafoods, and True World Foods (owned by the Unification Church) have transformed fishing into a “global extraction industry.  They have made fishing “not about a way of life,” or about feeding people and providing economic sustenance for local coastal fishing communities, but rather about “making a good rate of return on their global investment capital.  However not all the news is bad.

 Tools for a Post Carbon Regional and Durable Fishery

Standing on the banks of the Passaic River with Robert Kennedy Jr. on a blustery fall day in the late 1990’s, we talked about how pollution has robbed families of a valuable right – to enjoy a day of fishing and eating their catch from the waterway nearest their home.  The same could be said about traditional commercial fishing on the Hudson and other water bodies in the Mid-Atlantic Bioregion where the present generation of fishing families cannot fish where – and – how the generations that preceded them could.  Retaining “know how” over the gap of time it will take for the water to be clean enough and the fish plentiful enough to revitalize this traditional knowledge base will be the work of Transition. 

”Today, traditional knowledge is in danger and its disappearance would not only cause the loss of people’s capability to keep and pass on the artistic and natural heritage, but also of an extraordinary source of knowledge and cultural diversity from which the appropriate innovation solutions can be derived today and in the future.”

Community Supported Fisheries, Helping Fishermen Fish Smarter, Not Harder:

There are places where traditional fishing is still practiced, and fishermen have the knowledge to pass on.  From Maine to the Carolinas, fishermen and the communities in which they live are starting to “take back” the management of their fisheries.  Commercial fishermen long thought of as “ocean rapers” and “bottom scrapers” are at the heart of a “community based fisheries management and science movement,  and community supported fisheries.

With the constant changes in the life of fishermen, one place where they can begin to takecommunity supported fisheries back some control is their relationship with those who eat their catch, the price they get paid for their day’s work and the food systems into which their catch enters.

It makes no sense any more to pay fishermen a price that doesn’t cover their real cost of operation while the consumers are paying much more than they should for packaged, frozen or days-old seafood trucked hundreds or thousands of miles when it was caught steps away from our homes.

In addition to getting fishermen a better price for their catch, Community Supported Fisheries allow fishermen to have a conversation with seafood consumers about the entire food-supply-chain process of what swims in the ocean to what lands on our plates.

“By creating transparency around our seafood production processes, CSFs help define the importance of local food sources by emphasizing sustainable fishery practices; encouraging environmental sensitivity among fishermen; ensuring higher quality processing standards; providing a direct-to-consumer, low-carbon foot-print; and ultimately, a competitively-priced, higher quality seafood experience for the consumer.”

 Community-Based Fisheries Management

 community based fisheries management

Who knows better how to manage the fisheries of the commons?  Should it be some agency from far away or the fishermen, their communities, and the scientists working with them to develop a sustainable fishery?

Mounting pressure on marine fisheries, in the Mid-Atlantic and worldwide, calls for concerted action by coastal communities and local fishermen that have for generations played a vital stewardship role. “The goal of community-based fisheries management, is to act on current market- and policy-driven opportunities to establish a community-based, self-supporting model for achieving healthy fisheries and fishing economies.”

Community and Regional Fishing Associations (CFAs and RFAs), as provided through the 2007 Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, (MSA, section 303A) present opportunities for reasserting the role of fishing communities in the pursuit of economic, social and environmental success through the implementation of catch share programs that foster resource and community sustainability. CFAs/RFAs can effectively act as Trusts, holding limited access privileges (catch shares) to anchor access to fish in a community, and could lease catch quota or other access privileges to individual fishermen.

Participant Organizations in the Mid-Atlantic and New England include but are not limited to the following:

The Goals of each of these organizations is:

  1. To deliver programs and services that local fishermen need now to succeed and adapt to changing fisheries.
  2. To educate and support the next generation of fishermen, managers and scientists using new tools and approaches.
  3. To establish a pilot program fisheries are co-managed on an ecosystem    basis by a collaboration of federal and state government, scientists and local fishermen.
  4. To contribute to local, national and global learning for sustainable fisheries. Continue reading

Slow Tech Solutions Reinvigorate Water Highways

Second in a Series; Preserving the Past to Serve the Future 

Erie Canal Boat going into Lock, Rexford Flats, Schenectady, N.Y.

The idea of Slow Technology or “Slow Tech” has its roots in the ideological movement called “appropriate technology,” a term coined by E.F. Schumacher in his book  Small is Beautiful,  first published in 1973.  Slow  Tech should be thoughtful  about how devices shape our relationships to time, emotion,  energy, and bioregional environment.

 Transition fosters and supports the revitalization of Slow Tech skills and asks us to relearn the proficiency needed to reanimate the skills need to build and navigate sailing vessels and canal boats while reinvigorating our bioregional  water highways for a post carbon future.

 The Hudson River and the New York Harbor once formed a bustling highway linking evenNewYorkHarbor1879CliffordBrowder8 the smallest communities to a web of regularly scheduled commercial routes. Schooners, sloops, barges, and steamboats provided a unique way of life for early river town inhabitants. Farmers, merchants, and oystermen relied on this vibrant and diverse fleet of vessels to bring in supplies and deliver their goods to market. The sea was an integral part of the lives of those who worked the oyster buy boatinland waters of New York City Bioregion.

With one of the world’s greatest ice-free harbors on earth, New York City was built on a shipping industry that has over time become a dangerously tenuous lifeline to the outside world for the bioregion. Today the far-flung international trade network that once pumped vibrant economic life into the region threatens to collapse as imported natural resources and the fossil fuels needed to transport them become increasingly scarce and expensive. Higher petroleum costs, and higher wages in countries in which much of our imported goods are made could snap that lifeline. 

The solution may be a return to the “Slow Technology” of our recent past — sail powered Pretty Kwai smallerfreight ships or invoke the future of solar powered ferries and barges.  According to Low Tech Magazine, wind powered freighters may be just as fast as the largest most “modern” container ships, and recently a vessel powered entirely by the sun circumnavigated the globe.  “Tomorrow,” New York City will likely to continue to be a commercial hub due  to its strategic location, but it’s harbor will likely resemble its 18th and 19th century self rather than the port we know today. 

What existing and potential waterways could be reinvigorated to move cargo and people between ports on the Hudson River, the Long Island Sound, and New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut’s coastal waters using the Slow/Appropriate Technology of sailing or hybrid freight vessels?  

The Web of Navigable Rivers, Bays, and Sounds of our Bioregion:

NEW YORK FROM SPACE

When viewed as a geographic entity, the Mid-Atlantic Bioregion is an intricate web of Rivers, Bays, Sounds, and canals.  Up until the mid- 20th Century, these waterways worked seamlessly as water highways connecting hubs of commerce and farming with small ports and large cities.  In a post carbon future Slow Tech vessels, built by re-skilled artisans, and crewed by re-skilled seafarers will repair that link.

The Hudson is the largest river in the region but other rivers, bays and sounds are navigable and appropriate for sailing and hybrid Slow Tech vessels.  These include Barnegat Bay, Raritan and Newark Bays in NJ. The Upper and Lower New York Bays are connected to Newark and Raritan Bays by The Arthur Kill and The Kill Van Kull tidal straits.

lake tear of the clouds The Hudson River rises in the mountains at Lake Tear of the Clouds in Essex County, NY and empties into Upper New York Bay.  The Hudson is a drowned river as its bottom is below sea level almost all the way to Albany.  The Hudson is also considered a fjord one of very few in North America.  The River was a commerce highway for as long as USEastHudson (1)humans have inhabited the North American continent.  Henry Hudson and other early European explorers were convinced that the River was part of the Northwest Passage.

The Raritan River in New Jersey is navigable to New Brunswick where the entrance to the Delaware and Raritan Canal begins.  The Passaic River is navigable from Newark Bay to two and a half miles downstream of the Dundee Dam at the Eighth Street/Locust Ave Bridge in Wallington, NJ.  The Hackensack River is navigable to the City of Hackensack.  Newark Bay is the location of the large container ports and has historically been a center of maritime commerce. 

 The East and Harlem Rivers are straits that connect the Harbor to Long Island Sound. The Connecticut River is also navigable as are other tributaries to the Sound.  Long Island Sound is a large estuary separating Long Island from Connecticut.  There are small ports on each of these navigable waters that are of an appropriate scale for the type of vessels required for post carbon “short sea” transportation.

 Canals past present and future:

There are also “manmade” waterways still in use such as the Eire and Champlain Canals, as well as historical but now abandoned canals like the Delaware and Raritan Canal, and the Morris Canal both in New Jersey that could be converted back to use, connecting The canal boatsHudson and Raritan Rivers to interior New Jersey and to Philadelphia by way of the Delaware River

During the early nineteenth century, when the United States was becoming and industrial power, canals were built as transportation routes to link resources, manufacturing centers and markets.There were roads but hauling freight by horse or oxen and wagon was expensive and slow. Continued growth demanded a more viable means of transporting goods. Canals seemed to be the answer. Two mules could pull a canal boat with a twenty-five ton cargo.

Erie Canal mapThe Eire Canal begins on the west side of the Hudson River at Albany.  It runs just east of the Niagara River, where it reaches its Western Terminus. With the recent re-watering of  the Commercial Slip, a water route from the eastern terminus at Albany to the western terminus at Buffalo is once again open and being used by commercial and recreational vessels.

The canal system gave New York State a competitive advantage, helped New York City Erie canal bargedevelop as an international trade center, and allowed Buffalo to grow from just 200 settlers in 1820 to more than 18,000 people by 1840. The port of New York became essentially the Atlantic homeport for all of the Midwest.

The Champlain Canal one of America’s first canals, opened up vital shipping routes along the Hudson River in upstate New York.  The Champlain Canal’s impact was substantial, opening up shipping lanes from New York north to Lake Champlain and on to the St. Lawrence Seaway, spanning from Waterford to Whitehall.

The Delaware and Raritan (D&R) Canal connects Bordentown on the Delaware DandR_canal_1976River to New Brunswick on the Raritan River in central New Jersey. The canal was built in the 1830’s and connected the Delaware River to the Raritan River. It was intended as an alternate means of transportation of freight between Philadelphia, PA and New York City, especially coal from the anthracite coal fields in eastern Pennsylvania. Before the railroads, the canal allowed shippers to cut miles off the route from the Pennsylvania coalfields, down the Delaware, around Cape May, and up along the Atlantic Ocean coast to New York City.

The Morris Canal left the Delaware River at Phillipsburg and across the mountains of morris canal map  high resolutionnorthern New Jersey. Locks were used to overcome small changes in elevations. Inclined planes overcame changes in elevation greater than twenty feet. The canal went across lakes and rivers, until it reached the Lake Hopatcong area, its summit level. From there it climbed down to the tide level at Newark.

Today, these water highways still exist and need to be reinvigorated.  Maintaining maritime trade routes is more than just a celebration of tradition. In a carbon constrained future sustainable water transport will be necessary and in the event of a regional disaster water-based community links can serve Morris canal basin 2as vital infrastructure. 

 

 

 

 

 

Waterways Information List

PRESERVING THE PAST TO SERVE THE FUTURE

Transition, Permaculture, and Slow Technology

Slow Tech referenced Preserving the Past to Serve the Future

A version of this article first appeared on the Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub (MATH) of Transition US, blog

Transition US has published Preserving the Past to Serve the Future http://www.transitionus.org/stories/preserving-past-serve-future-using-pre-fossil-fuel-technology-regional-waterways

OpEd News has published Preserving the Past to Serve the Future http://www.opednews.com/articles/Preserving-the-Past-to-Ser-by-Andrew-Willner-130731-538.html

Keene Transitions has re-published Preserving the Past to Serve the Future, http://keenetransition.wordpress.com/events-calendar/re-skilling-workshops/

The Permaculture Research Center has posted Preserving the Past to Serve the Future http://permaculturenews.org/2013/08/23/preserving-the-past-to-serve-the-future/

Resilience re-posted Preserving the Past to Serve the Future http://www.resilience.org/stories/2013-08-27/preserving-the-past-to-serve-the-future-using-pre-fossil-fuel-technology-on-regional-waterways

oyster sloop2

 “Today, traditional knowledge is in danger and its disappearance would not only cause the loss of people’s capability to keep and pass on the artistic and natural heritage, but also of an extraordinary source of knowledge and cultural diversity from which the appropriate innovation solutions can be derived today and in the future.”

 Slow Money is a movement to organize investors and donors to steer new sources of capital to small food enterprises, organic farms, and local food systems. The Slow Foodslow food movement aims to preserve cultural cuisine and in so doing to preserve the food plants and seeds, domestic animals and farming within an eco-region. It is also a social and political movement that resists the dehumanizing  effects  of fast food and corporate farming.  Slow Tech is about the re-invigoration of heirloom technologies and traditional skills needed to thrive in a carbon-constrained future.

Transition is the movement by which people are re-skilled in heirloom technologies.  Permaculture gave birth to the Transition movement and offers guidance on how to use those skills to design resilient lives.  Transition HandbookThe ethics; earth carepeople care, and fair share  form the foundation for Permaculture and are also found in most traditional societies.  Permaculture incorporates knowledge from cultures that have existed in  balance with their environment for much longer than our consumer centered fossil fueled society. We should not  ignore the positive accomplishments of modern times, but in the transition to a sustainable future, we need to consider values and concepts different from what has become the social norm.

Slow Technology:

C. Milton Dixon, interviewed in The (Chicago) Examiner, May 2011, said:

 “(high tech is) industrial technology and refers to things that are out of your control, as opposed to low technology, which is simple things done in a smart way. Low technology is using the intelligence of nature to accomplish tasks. High technology is buying an apple from the store; low technology is getting an apple from a tree you planted yourself. One of the big differences is in high technology you are disconnected from cause and effect relationships. So if you pollute through high technology, you may not feel the direct result. Low technology is connection because you are involved in the process and you are directly affected by the consequences.”

The idea of Slow Technology has its roots in the ideological movement called “appropriate technology,” a term coined by E.F. Schumacher in his book “Small is Beautiful,” first published in 1973.  Slow or appropriate technology centers on ideas of proper scale: technology should be “people-centered.”  “Slow technology as an ideology that extends smallisbeautifulandbordthoughtfulness about how devices shape our relationships to time, emotion and energy. Slow Technology is articulated in an article by two Swedish designers, Lars Hallnas and Johan Redstrom, who in 2001 described Slow Technology as “a design agenda for technology aimed at reflection and moments of mental rest rather than efficiency in performance.”

….. the central condition of empowering people to develop to the best of their abilities and to have freedom to succeed or fail based on their own efforts is critical.  The appropriate technology movement has at its philosophical heart the desire to capacitate people of all walks of life to create (1) Meaningful Employment, (2) Comprehension of Technology, (3) Self-Reliance, and (4) Reduced Environmental Impacts. 

Transition fosters and supports the revitalization of Slow Tech skills and Permaculture asks us to consider relearning the proficiency needed to reanimate wind mills, watermills, and sailing vessel while putting hand tools, levers, and blocks and tackle back into service.

Technology can be Slow in various ways: 

  • It takes time to learn how it works,
  • It takes time to understand why it works the way it works,
  • It takes time to apply it
  • It takes time to see what it is
  • and it takes time to find out the consequences of using it

woodworking toolsNo woodworker’s first project is a chair, a house, a mill, or a boat.  My first woodworking lesson was to take a rough piece of lumber, and using hand tools that (I sharpened) to shape it into a three dimensional absolutely square finished piece of wood.  It took me a full day and I used every tool on my bench.

Once my practice was established I developed a method that worked for me.  First I sat with a piece of tracing paper and did a rough sketch of the final product.  Then I drew it full scale in three views.  From that drawing I could determine what amount of wood was needed, where each joint would go, and how the pieces would transition from one toandy chair and table another to create an aesthetically pleasing whole.  Then the sawing, planing, joinery, shaping, and finishing would take place.  Each of those steps were learned by doing, learning from others, by using traditional references, and knowing that the dimensions and materials were appropriate for the final use.

I was lucky both to have mentors, and to have the time to hone my skills first as a student, then an apprentice, and then as a resident woodworker at Peters Valley Craft Center in New Jersey.  Peters Valley gave me the opportunity, and the time, to learn the business, practice my craft, and teach.  It also was a community of like-minded professional potters, weavers, metal workers, and woodworkers that supported one potter at peters valleyanother.  If we are to learn the skills necessary to survive and thrive in a post carbon world, more places like Peters Valley will be necessary, more experienced craft workers will have to open their shops to apprentices, and more people are going to have to be willing to take the time, resources, and effort to learn.

I left a “Deep Transition” course at Genesis Farm in New Jersey where we decided that one of the “take aways” was to look for streams in our home watersheds called “Mill Creek,” and streets in our towns called, “Mill Road.” In doing so we might find a mill converted to another use. I easily found at several Mill Creeks and one Saw Mill Creek in my watershed.

red mill clintonNear a farm where I work part of the week In Clinton, NJ one mill is an art center and the other is operating as an exhibit. In Thompson PA the old grain mill is operational but abandoned. Many mills are currently used as educational tools by historical societies or operated as restaurants and shops rather than for the purposes for which they were built.

Water mills are being built and rebuilt for grinding grain, pressing cider, as well as producing electricity for individually owned operations and nearby communities. Building, restoring, preserving, and actively using these technologies is key to preserving the past to serve the future. In order to support these efforts, Transition advocates must make alliances with historical societies who use these mills as educational tools but are not operating them for the purposes for which they were built; with restaurant owners and antique stores that are using the mills for a completely unrelated purposes; and to identify locations where mills can be built or rebuilt in order to re-skill the woodworkers, millwrights, and inform farmers about the advantages of water power for the future.

Commerce and water transport of farm and manufactured goods flourished for millennia before cheap fossil fuels became readily available.  Short Sea Shipping:  i.e. carrying freight that does not cross oceans,  is having a resurgence particularly in Europe as more people build and rebuild  ships for the transport of goods along coastal waters.  The inland waters of the mid-Atlantic is a region where sailing cargo vessels may well be competitive right now for certain cargoes.

Erik Andrus’ Vermont Sail Freight Project is the most viable such project in The Mid-Atlantic region. Thevermont sail freight vessel Ceres, built on a farm near Lake Champlain will carry Vermont farm goods to New York City and ports in between, and return to Burlington with fair trade goods, like cocoa beans that have been delivered by sailing vessel to Brooklyn from the Caribbean.

The Vermont Sail Freight Project is worthy of our support, but Transition advocates must encourage the owners of small sail freighters like the South Street Seaport’s Pioneer to put her back into that service for the part of the year she is not carrying passengers, and for other vessels like Clearwater to become pilots for the Slow Tech freight carriers of the future.

The Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub (MATH) of Transition US will support these efforts in the fall of 2013 by bringing together builders, millwrights, boat builders, woodworkers, crafts persons, and historical societies to participate in a Powered Down Waterways Reskilling Festival. Jim Kricker, preeminent restorer of traditional waterwheels, windmills and sailing vessels, rondout woodworking 2will anchor a two-day Reskilling Festival featuring demonstrations, talks, and hands-on instruction. Jim’s website, Rondout Woodworking  is a valuable resource for locating working and restored mills.

The International Traditional Knowledge Institute gathers and protects historical knowledge, promotes and certifies innovative practices. Using traditional knowledge does not mean direct reapplication of techniques from the past, but rather seeks to understand the logic of past models of knowledge. It is a dynamic system able to incorporate innovation subjected to the test of the long term and thus achieves local and environmental sustainability.

Lewis Mumford wrote in 1970:

The great feat of medieval technics was that it was able to promote and absorb many important changes without losing the immense carryover of inventions and skill from earlier cultures. In this lies one of it vital point of superiority over the modern mode of monotechnics, which boast of effacing, as fast and as far as possible, the technical achievements of earlier periods.

There are schools and apprentice shops for learning large-scale woodworking skills that are and will be needed for Slow Tech water-driven mills, and wind-driven vessels that will be part of the continuum that supersedes the “blip” of petroleum powered short term thinking and consumption.

The following are some links to the resources, skills, and techniques that are needed to Transition our Bioregion to one that is carbon constrained yet resilient, abundant, and equitable. Let the following list be a starting point – an opportunity to contribute your water wheelown favorite sites, books, , drawings, and especially experiences with humans with these skills.  Perhaps this list can be the beginning of a Bioregional Traditional Knowledge Database  that will gather and protect historical knowledge and promote innovative practices based on traditional skills.

 

 

To Small to Fail

Too Big to Fail versus Too Small to Fail

Buy Locally, Hire Locally, Invest Locally

Buy local  poster

 I first heard the term “Too Small to Fail” as the title of a CD by satirists Mikhail Horowitz and Gilles Malkine  I then did a little more research and found a book by Louis Hernandez,abc_ann_mm_hernandez_110223_mn Too Small to Fail, about community banking.

I have been thinking and writing about how local food, local energy, local businesses, community/public banking, local currencies, and resilient communities are strategically positioned to be “too small to fail” as opposed to bloated Wall Street financial Institutions, “sunset industries,” and corporate farming that have been, and probably will continue to be bailed out because they are “Too Big to Fail.”  The term “too big to fail” may have been first used by  Congressman Stewart McKinney in a Congressional hearing, discussing the FDIC’s intervention with Continental Illinois in 1984.

“Nearly a century ago, Justice Louis Brandeis railed against what he called the “curse of bigness.” He warned that banks, railroads and steel companies had grown so huge that they were lording it over the nation’s economic and political life.   “Size, we are told, is not a crime,” Brandeis wrote. “But size may, at least, become noxious by reason of the means through which it is attained or the uses to which it is put.”

too big to failFederal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke also defined the term in 2010:

A too-big-to-fail firm is one whose size, complexity, interconnectedness, and critical functions are such that, should the firm go unexpectedly into liquidation, the rest of the financial system and the economy would face severe adverse consequences.” He continued that: “Governments provide support to too-big-to-fail firms in a crisis not out of favoritism or particular concern for the management, owners, or creditors of the firm, but because they recognize that the consequences for the broader economy of allowing a disorderly failure greatly outweigh the costs of avoiding the failure in some way. Common means of avoiding failure include facilitating a merger, providing credit, or injecting government capital, all of which protect at least some creditors who otherwise would have suffered losses…If the crisis has a single lesson, it is that the too-big-to-fail problem must be solved.” 

 In Andrew Ross Sorkin’s book, Too Big to Fail, the Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System and Themselves, he wrote that in a “Too Big to Fail”  scenario, assertions have been made that certain financial institutions are so large and so interconnected that their failure would be disastrous to the economy, and they therefore must be supported by government when they face difficulty. The book Too_Big_to_Fail_filmwas adapted in 2011 for the  television movie Too Big to Fail. The financial meltdown and
the global economic crisis resulting from the sub-prime mortgage debacle began to change the public’s perception of previously trusted financial institutions. 

 Some economists such as Paul Krugman have asserted that economies of scale in banks and in other businesses are worth preserving, so long as they are well regulated.  Other economists, financial experts, bankers (like Former Citigroup Chairman & CEO Sanford I. Weill), finance industry groups, and banks themselves have called for breaking up large banks into smaller institutions and assert  that a companies that benefit from these “too big to fail” policies will deliberately take risky, unsound positions, without being responsible for the losses.

Louis Hernandez, Jr., said in his book, Too Small to Fail:

  “….. using historical examples, points out that the rate of change impacting the financial services industry is accelerating. The industry has been slow to respond to change, and the focus on the recent crisis has uncovered fundamental problems that financial institutions have been avoiding…”

Too Small to Fail:

 Resilient communities are at the core of a Too Small to Fail future. If we don’t plan for more robust communities, and implement solutions for undeniable problems, a catastrophic crash seems inevitable. However crisis can equal opportunity as we saw during the Great Depression and during World War II. But unless sensible plans to manage disaster are formulated and put forward now, the opportunity afforded by crisis could be hijacked by a more organized well-financed minority with an authoritarian agenda.

“Our economic system has failed in every dimension: financial, environmental, and social. Moreover the current financial collapse provides an incontestable demonstration that it is unable to self-correct.… The need is not to repair Wall Street but to replace it with institutions devoted to serving the financial needs of ordinary people in ways that are fair, honest, and consistent with the reality of our human dependence on Earth’s biosphere.” David Korten,Agenda for a New Economy Continue reading

The New Economy and Alternative Currencies

Transition NYC Bioregion

The New Economy and Local and Complementary Currencies

Transition US, Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub UNPLUGGED published, Local Currencies and the New York Metropolitan Bioregion 

 

 The New Economy is an emerging system of values, practices, institutions, policies and laws that support an economy designed to maximize current wellbeing and social justice without sacrificing the natural world or the resources available to future generations. Greetings from the New Economy 

Those advocating a transition to a New Economy support an evolution where the priority is to sustain people and the planet; where social justice and cohesion are prized; and peace, communities, democracy and nature all flourish.

The New Economy is one in which real wealth – something that has intrinsic value – forms the basis for enterprises that provide for their employees, the community in which they are located, as well as making a profit for the owners.  Local currencies are one tool by which communities can support a main street economy, assure that money stays in the community, and that local food and goods with intrinsic value are made and sold locally.  

 BerkShares, an Example of a Local Currency:

In an article by Bill Mckibben in Yes magazine in October of 2010 he describes how BerksharesBerkShares work, “You walk into any branch of the five banks that offer the notes and hand the teller $95 in U.S. dollars. She hands you 100 BerkShares. You spend them at the deli, the bar, or the bookstore. The bar owner then takes her BerkShares from the till and spends them at the deli, the bookstore, or, if she has to pay for something that nobody local is producing, she takes her BerkShares back to the bank and reconverts them into dollars.”

BerskShares was originally a project of the E F Schumacher Society (Schumacher Center for a New Economics).  BerkShares are a local currency for the Berkshire region of Massachusetts.   BerkShares are a tool that enables merchants and consumers to planSchumacher for an alternative economic future.  Plans include ATM’s, checking accounts, electronic transfers, and a  loan program to make possible the creation of new, local businesses manufacturing more locally produced goods.

Benefits of Local Currencies:

  • Local currencies tend to circulate much more rapidly than national currencies. The same amount of currency is employed more times and results in far greater overall economic activity.
  • Local currencies enable the community to utilize its existing productive resources that has a catalytic effect on the rest of the local economy.
  • Since local currencies are only accepted within the community, their usage encourages the purchase of locally-produced and locally-available goods and services. Every dollar spent at a locally owned business generates two to four times more economic benefit than a dollar spent at a globally owned business.  
  • Growing evidence suggests that every dollar spent at a locally owned business generates two to four times more economic benefit – measured in income, wealth, jobs, and tax revenue – than a dollar spent at a globally owned business. 

 The Outlook for the New York Metropolitan Bioregion:

 Wall Street and Main Street are names given to two economies with significantly different priorities and values that are often in competition. Wall Street is in the business of making Michael-Douglas-Wall-Stre-006money to make money. Any involvement in the production of real goods and services is an incidental byproduct. Once a company, even one that started by making a useful product, begins to sell shares through exchanges or to private equity investors it becomes an agent of Wall Street. As a former executive of Odwalla told David Korten, “So long as we were privately owned by the founders, we were in the business of producing and marketing healthful fruit juice products. Once we went public, everything changed. From that event forward, we were in the business of making money.”

Creating this kind of entrepreneurship with “Main Street values” is much more difficult today. There is no easy way to start a new local business that creates real wealth and something with intrinsic value, in part because it is difficult for individuals to put money intoMain_Street,_Salinas worthy small businesses in need of capital. Our financial markets have evolved to serve big business even though small enterprises create three out of every four jobs and generate half of GDP. If you add in other “place based” nonprofits, co-ops, and the public sector, it is nearly 58 percent of all economic activity. Why then are we not investing some 58 percent of our retirement funds in Main Street enterprises?

The New York Metropolitan bioregion needs new mechanisms, like local currencies to boost investment in local, place-based businesses.   There is no easy way to start a new local business that creates real wealth and something with intrinsic value, in part because it is difficult for individuals to put capital into worthy small businesses. Our financial markets have evolved to serve big business even though small enterprises create three out of every four jobs and generate half of GDP.  The result is that we who invest do so in Fortune 500 companies we distrust, and under-invest in the local businesses we know are essential for local vitality.

Amy  Cortese, author of Locavesting, asks: If Americans have about $30 trillion invested, “imagine if half of that, $15 trillion, was invested in local communities rather than multinational conglomerates that are outsourcing jobs and not investing domestically. I think we’d be living in a far different world. (Even) One percent of $26 trillion is $260 billion Locavestinggoing to the Main Street economy and that’s a lot.….. (T)here is a very compelling case to be made for local investments as an asset class in a diversified portfolio.”

We urgently need to replace the current system with one that reasserts the right to a safe, healthy, productive environment for all; where “environment” is considered in its totality, inclusive of ecological, physical (natural and built); social, political, aesthetic, economic environments; and environmental justice. A community in which poverty and inequity are considered acceptable will always be prone to environmental and economic crises. 

In Thriving in the Age of Collapse,” Dymitry Orlov describes the predicament and options of typical Americans:  A middle-aged couple with grown children are in for some bad five stages of collapse Orlovnews; The first piece of bad news is that their retirement is going to be cancelled;  Living out their “golden years” in a suburban house and continuing to drive will be impossible because of gas rationing and shortages. Their house will become too expensive to heat;  Electricity will be cut off, then food may have to be provided by a some community-based service, and at some point when they can no longer stay in their home they may be evacuated to some hastily organized compound….

 “Just when you are thinking Orlov is heartless in describing the futures of most of us hapless Americans, he switches to a brighter mode. (That middle aged couple) might very well rise to the occasion of the crisis, putting their career skills as a teachers to work in their community by creating a school, growing food, (or) negotiating a rainwater-capture system for their neighborhood…..  Orlov’s faith in human resilience is variable, but present.” Andrae Collier, Grist Magazine, May 2010.

In a world of sprawling multinational conglomerates and complex securities disconnected from place and reality, there is something very simple and transparent about investing local currencies in a local company that you can see and touch and understand. As investing guru Peter Lynch has counseled, “It makes sense to invest in what you know.” 

So we have choices to make as a community and a bio-region.  Do we hope for “divine or alien” intervention, or do we start making our communities more resilient, invest in local businesses, and start local public banks and community based currencies?

There will be life after the age of “limitless growth,” and it will be a better life if our Bioregion’s priority is our people and the integrity of the biosphere, rather than high stockhudson-river-estuary prices, corporate profits, and the reckless wasting of irreplaceable natural resources. It will be a challenging but exhilarating journey to develop and implement pragmatic positive change for the New York City  Bioregion – to hospice the end of one era and midwife the beginning of another. 

Developing a Food Security Plan for the New York City Bioregion

 

Is it Possible for the NYC Metropolitan Area Feed Itself From Its Foodshed?

nyc_foodshedmap

This map is from the Food Systems Network NYC website 

We are living in an age of unprecedented violent change, where three highly disruptive crises – global economic instability, climate change, and peak everything are converging Container_ship_Hanjin_Taipeiinsidiously to shred the fabric of society. The coming shocks: international financial collapse, epic flood and drought, energy and natural resource shortages, and extreme price spikes are likely to be catastrophic if we do not prepare. The New York City Bioregion is especially vulnerable to these disruptive changes. With one of the world’s greatest ice-free harbors on earth, New York City was built on global commerce. But today, the far-flung network of international trade that once pumped vibrant economic life into our communities threatens to collapse as imported natural resources along with the fossil fuels needed to transport them become increasingly scarce and expensive.

The inevitable decreasing availability of cheap fossil fuel will eventually make the transportation of food over long distances economically unfeasible, and the phrase “local Vietnam Fish Processingfood” will acquire an urgent, vital meaning beyond the current limited lifestyle implications. Local food will become less about maintaining eco-correctness and more about whether we’re going to have enough to eat. Urban/suburban agriculture is one solution, as is a food security plan that includes low carbon transportation and a new relationship between city dwellers and the farmers in the food shed.  

 Of course, the critical and immediate question is – what, exactly should we do: How should the New York City Bioregion respond productively to the end of cheap oil and the failure of our “growth at any cost” culture? How can we act proactively to rising sea levels, and less abundant, more costly natural resources including oil and food? Also, how do we finance the dramatic enhancements that must be made to the natural and human landscape for our Bioregion to survive and prosper? Finally, how can you and I, and other private citizens, join together to hospice the decline of the current system, and midwife the vital transformation into A Bright Green Future for the New York City Bioregion?

 The seminal question about food security for the NYC Bioregion — How can the New York City metropolitan area community develop a food security plan to feed itself from farmshudson-river-estuary within 100 miles of the Battery? — is discussed in the “Take Action” page of this website and more specifically by Slow Money an organization  ”advocating investing 50% of our money within 50 miles of our home, specifically in organic and sustainable local food, farms, and processing.”

 A local or regional “foodshed” could be defined in a variety of ways. A simple 100-mile radius, for example, is often used in “eat local” campaigns. Workable, sustainable foodshed mappings tend to take into account time and ease of travel, density of population, where and how natural water sources travel, and the innate productivity of land.”

Molly Watson defines a foodshed as  “everything between where a food is produced and where a food is consumed. It includes the land it grows on, the routes it travels, the markets it goes through, and the tables it ends up gracing.  First used in the early 20th century to describe the global flow of food, “foodshed” has recently been resurrected to discuss local food systems and efforts to create more sustainable ways of producing and consuming food.

Economist Michael Shuman has investigated the potential economic impacts of food localization. Recent research conducted by Shuman in Colorado, New Mexico, and Northeastern Ohio suggests that investment in local “food-sheds” can substantially increase both demand for, and supply of local food creating thousands of new jobs, generating hundreds of new businesses, and producing millions of dollars in revenues to support the local economy.

Shuman’s 2010 Cleveland study  found that 25 percent food localization by the year 2020 would result in more than 27,000 new jobs. It would also generate $4.2 billion in economic activity, $868 million in added wages, and $126 million in state and local tax revenues – each year.

In a study for Transition Colorado Shuman found similar economic benefits. He local eating bookdetermined that a 25 percent local food shift in Boulder County (including the City of Boulder) would create 1,680 jobs with wages of $82 million, new economic activity of $137 million, and $12 million in Taxes. 

Using Shuman’s findings to inform the next steps of our own Food Localization movement, we could create a detailed strategic and economic plan for food localization in our own Bioregion now. Continue reading

The “Long Emergency,” Permaculture, and Towns that Food Saved

The Permaculture Research Institute has published The Long Emergency and Towns That Food Saved 

Waking Times has re-posted “The Long Emergency, Permaculture, and Towns that Food Saved 

LIfe Wise Be the Change has reprinted The Long Emergency, Permaculture and Towns that Food Saved. 

We live in dangerous times, when economic collapse, climate chaos, and peak oil peak waterthreaten the foundations of society, abundance, and all we hold dear. “Business as usual” will no longer suffice, because that way leads to certain pain, peril and impoverishment.  

Unspeakable acts of violence like the slaughter at the Sandy Hook school or at the Boston Marathon bombing; natural disasters like Katrina and Sandy; economic uncertainty; technical failure; “peak everything;” and climate change can offer opportunities for either despair and disengagement or innovative collaboration.  In the aftermath of such disasters communities often experience a surge of purposefulness to deal with the crisis.  As a result, there is a need for better understanding of the specific and general resilience of communities, ecosystems, organizations, and institutions to cope with change.

This post examines the use of Permaculture principles to harness purposefulness for collaborative planning for resilience and regeneration by examining two communities that are surviving and in some cases thriving by building on the
images“sense of purpose” that occurs after a disaster or downturn.

This collaboration can take many forms including but not limited to defining “place” and by building consensus.  In order to work there needs to be agreed upon definitions of place, resilience, regeneration, and Permaculture.

“Spirit of place symbolizes the living ecological relationship between a particular location and the persons who have derived from it and added to it the various aspects of their humanness.  The reason we are now desecrating nature is not because we use it to our ends, but because we commonly manipulate it without respect for the spirit of place.” – Rene Dubos

“Where sustainability is abstract, Place  is intimate, personal, filled with meaning and potential.  Place arises from the rich connections among the earth, local nature and spirit.  Regenerative development captures the unique rhythm and spirit of a place, partnering people and their place to create enduring value for all life.  It helps people truly experience place, growing the caring required to make sustainability real.”  Resilience may be defined as: “The capability to anticipate risk, limit impact, and bounce back rapidly through survival, adaptability, evolution, and growth in the face of turbulent change.   Regeneration is the process of “building local capacity for sustainability that endures.” 

The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-first Century is a book by James Howard Kuntsler  written in 2005 explores the consequences of a DSCF7029world oil production peak, coinciding with the forces of climate change, resurgent diseases, water scarcity, global economic instability and warfare that causes chaos for future generations.  Kunstler argues that the economic upheavals caused by peak oil will force Americans to live in more localized, self-sufficient communities.

Permaculture is method of building on the “sense of purpose” that can be born from crisis resulting in a “new localism,”.  Permaculture  is “Consciously designed landscapes which mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature, while yielding an abundance of food, fiber and energy for provision of local needs. People, their buildings and the ways in which they organize themselves are central to Permaculture. Thus the Permaculture vision of permanent or sustainable agriculture has evolved to one of permanent or sustainable culture.” The core tenets of Permaculture are:

  • Take Care of the Earth: Provision for all life systems to continue and multiply. Without a healthy earth, humans cannot flourish.
  • Take Care of the People: Provision for people to access those resources necessary for their existence.
  • Share the Surplus: Healthy natural systems use outputs from each element to nourish others. We humans can do the same. By governing our own needs, we can set resources aside to further the above principles.

Consciousness of place and helping to shift belief systems can be encouraged by applying the common sense Permaculture ethics of care for the earth, care for people, and fair share – and by application of P.A. Yeomans’ functional relationship analysis to map, examine, and analyze the community or bioregion’s climate, landform, water, access and circulation, micro-climates, vegetation and wildlife, buildings and infrastructure, zones of use, soil fertility and management, and aesthetics and culture to Brooklyn Grangegive us the basic information we need to plan for more resilient communities and bioregions. The following are the basic tenets for community and bioregional sustainability. Communities can take advantage of the sense of purpose that results from crisis by exploring, and if there is consensus, implementing some or all of the following:

  •  Operate as a self-contained economy with resources found locally.
  • Be carbon-neutral and become a center for renewable energy production.
  • Achieve a well-planned regional and local transportation system that prioritizes movement of goods and people as follows: walking first, then cycling, public transportation, and finally private and commercial vehicles.
  • Maximize water conservation and efficiency of energy resources through conservation.
  • Design and construct a zero-waste system.
  • Restore environmentally damaged urban areas by converting brownfields to greenfields.
  • Ensure decent and affordable housing for all.
  • Improve job opportunities for disadvantaged groups, and allow seniors and young people to play useful and meaningful civic roles.
  • Support local agriculture and produce distribution.
  • Support cooperatives and worker-owned commercial and manufacturing enterprises.
  • Promote voluntary simplicity in lifestyle choices, decreasing material consumption, and increasing awareness of the environment and sustainability

Detroit, MI, Hardwick, VT, and Facing The “Long Emergency”

Detroit was once one of the wealthiest cities in the world and now is the face of an almost dystopian failure while the small town of Hardwick, VT grappled with a changing economy and the loss of a once thriving regional industry.   Both of these communities are examples of “towns that food saved.”

Hardwick, VT population is 3000 and it is the commercial center for the region’s farming downtown Hardwickpopulation.  Granite quarrying was the predominant business after the civil war and railroads were built to get the granite to the cities in which it was used for city halls and post offices.  Hardwick is almost the antithesis of Detroit, it is almost exclusively white and rural, but two factors connect the two – agriculture and median family income. 

Hardwick came to national attention as a result of a 2008 New York Times article , Uniting Around Food to Save an Ailing Town, that said in part, “This town’s granite companies shut down years ago and even the rowdy bars and porno theater that once inspired the nickname “Little Chicago” have gone.” Continue reading

HARVEST

 

hARVEST LOGO

 Harbor and River Vessel Transport Company

The Sail Transport Network has printed an interview and my blog post about the Harbor and River Vessel Transport Company HARVEST

Since “Sail Transport for New York City Takes Shape” was posted on http://www.resilience.org/, and http://www.sailtransportnetwork.org/ , here are a few other websites that have picked it up using a “feed aggregator.” http://content.usatoday.com/topics/article/south+street+seaport/0cGO7ub82J1fc/1 
http://caledoniacapitalgroup.com/energy_news 
http://act-peakoil.org/
http://www.tpdx.net/aggregator/categories/3 
http://transitionus.org/aggregator/%3A%20http%3A/2009/2010/2009/09/2011/02/07/www.reconomyproject.org

There is also a new video about the Vermont Sail Freight Project

harvest produce

Why HARVEST? Why Now?

The New York City Bioregion is connected tenuously to the rest of the world by literally thousands of lifelines, including an aging and increasingly failure-prone power grid; an aging and leaky water system; and a vast network of roads, rails, shipping and air routes that rely exclusively on increasingly costly fossil fuels. Like a patient on intravenous life support, any major interruption in the flow of natural resources, energy, water or food to the metropolitan area could hamstring or permanently harm its economy and people. With global oil, gas and coal production predicted to irreversibly decline in the next 10 to 20 years, this collapse becomes not a question of if, but when.

 All three of these great calamities were born out of the world’s profligate use of cheap, non-renewable fossil fuels. Like so many past boons, this one has now become a bane. It’s important to understand that all three crises are intimately linked to each other, and magnify each other: For example, a severe drought that continues in the mid-west, could cut off our region’s supply of wheat, corn and soy, causing food shortages and a financial meltdown. Peak oil requires that we drill for fossil fuels in increasingly extreme landscapes, like the deep-water Gulf of Mexico, prone to more and more powerful hurricanes, or by using hydraulic fracturing that will likely contaminate groundwater in the heart of New York and Pennsylvania farming. Our sprawling global oil pipeline stretches halfway around the globe, making us vulnerable and dependent on volatile states. An economic crash or financially-sapping resource war abroad, could wreck our balance of trade, and shatter our tax base, making it fiscally impossible to harden our infrastructure against climate change impacts, which would lead to more economic disasters. The accumulation of shocks could be catastrophic, if we do not prepare.

 One of those tenuous lifelines is the global shipping industry and the NY/NJ Port.  Higher petroleum costs, and higher wages in countries in which much of our imported goods are made could tear that lifeline.  According to Low Tech Magazine, wind powered freighters may be just as fast as the largest most “modern” container ships. 

 Eugen Maersk“The Eugen Maersk (the world’s longest ocean freighter at 1,300 feet) left Rotterdam on the tail end of a journey from Shanghai. But the giant freighter is cruising at 10 knots, well shy of her 26-knot top speed. At about half speed, fuel consumption drops to 100-150 tons of fuel a day from 350 tons, saving as much as $5,000 an hour.

The German Preussen, the largest sailing ship ever built, was launched in 1902 andPreussen travelled mainly between Hamburg (Germany) and Iquique (Chile). It was rammed by a large steam vessel in 1910. A one way trip between Germany and Chile took the cargo vessel between 58 and 79 days. The best average speed over a one way trip was 13.7 knots. The lowest average speed was 10 knots.  Additionally, one giant container ship can emit almost the same amount of cancer and asthma-causing chemicals as 50 million cars.  It is time for a new age of sail.”

 Who is doing it Now?:

 The use of sailing vessels as transportation is nothing new.  Many coastal schooners and sailing vessels are still working in the trade between main ports and remote islands and harbors in Africa, Caribbean, South America, 

The Indian, Ocean and the Pacific.   From Northern Ireland to Fiji, freight carrying sailingPretty Kwai smaller ships are being planned, built, and sailing.  These first forays into what will become a huge post carbon enterprise are examples of how coastal short sea shipping along the North American coasts, bays, and rivers will be changing in the near and mid-term.    Some
operating and soon to be operating examples are, the SV Kwai, Tres Hombres Packet Company, Greenheart, and B9 Shipping.   These Ocean Going Ships Inspired HARVEST.

 The idea for a the Harbor and River Vessel Transport Company came from a discussion I had a few years ago with Christina Sun an artist who blogs about things maritime at Bowsprite, and Will Van Dorp who photographs everything about New York Harbor.  Will blogs at Tugster.  During those conversations and talking with others who love sailing vessels and would like to put them to work hauling farm goods and general cargo on the Hudson River, the Bays of New York Harbor, and Long Island Sound — the genesis on an idea for just such a venture started to come together.

B9 Ship Continue reading

Hubbert’s Peak, The Economy, and War for Oil

hubbert-bell-curve

This post was published by OpEd News,

Peak Oil , re-posted Hubberts Peak, The Economy, and War for Oil 

I came across an historic and seminal document on a website called Energy & Capital http://www.energyandcapital.com/articles/past-peak-oil/3109, that had a link to Marion King Hubbert’s 1956 speech about Peak Oil. Hubbert asserted that global oil production would follow a bell-shaped curve with a peak followed by an irrevocable decline.

Marion King Hubbert was an unlikely prophet. When he wrote this memo and presented it mkinghubberthe was working for Shell oil as a geologist.  In the paper that he presented to the American Petroleum Institute “Hubbert correctly predicted that production of oil would peak in the continental US around 1965-1970. Hubbert further predicted a worldwide peak at about 50 years from publication of his memo. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hubbert_peak_theory. Peak Oil is neither a theory, nor does it mean the world is running out of oil.  The question however is whether or not we’ll be able to economically produce that oil,and what the more expensive less easily recovered oil will do to our economy already teetering on the edge of an energy, environmental, economic, and equity crisis?

That America’s oil would peak by 1970 was dismissed by everyone in the petroleum industry.  But when U.S. oil production did peak in November of 1970 Hubbert’s work began to be taken seriously by scientists in the petroleum industry, government, and academia.  This information did not make a media splash and the public was largely kept in the dark because the oil companies and the US government were reluctant to alarm the beneficiaries of the cheap oil that powered America and the developed world’s consumer based, fossil fuel addicted economy.

Hubbert predicted that world oil supply would peak around 2000 (many observers now Peak-Oil-Infographicagree that it actually peaked in 2004). But even today, few people in government or the corporate media have been warning the public about the implications for the economy.

This dearth of coverage is partly because the oil producing countries and the oil companies do not want to publish or confirm data on the amount of oil reserves because if the world has hit “Peak Oil” and is sliding down slope to scarcity, such a message could spark a panic in the markets or a rush to investment in alternative energy and fuels that would be damaging to the bottom line of fossil fuel industries.  It would also shine a bright light on America’s misguided strategy for keeping the oil flowing, and prices low.

The US government has done everything it can to keep the price of oil artificially low through subsidies, tax breaks, and incentives.  Some of the recipients of this government largesse have spent $ millions in lobbying to support their congressional cronies. The biggest contributors, Shell, Exxon, and Conoco Phillips, have spent over $105 million on lobbying Congress since 2011.  Oil PACs have donated over $2.16 million to mostly Republican candidates.  Koch Industries spent $16.2 million on lobbying and more than $1.3 million from its PAC.

To keep prices stable, oil producing countries look like they are competing to see which can “produce” the most oil. In reality they are vying to see which will reach the bottom of the barrel first. In this race to the bottom, these producers including the US are creating, environmental havoc.

The problem is exacerbated by the hype that arctic oil reserves, or Canadian tar sands, more off shore deep water drilling, or “fracking” will preserve the status quo or even reverse the slide to scarcity.  The problem with these solutions is the “energy return on investment” (EROL).  EROL is important because dwindling fossil fuels are beginning to use more energy to extract then they produce.

Although renewable technologies already have a better EROL than fossil fuels, very few countries (except perhaps Germany) are committed to the kind of program that would soften the “crash” that is likely to happen when energy produced by fossil fuels and nuclear become extremely expensive and scarce.  EROI is important because it’s falling fast in the fossil fuel space, as dwindling supplies take more energy to extract. The windmillsproblem is, we built industrial society on fossil fuels, while a sustainable society must be built on renewable energy.

Chris Martenson, on his blog, and in his book The Crash Course has a very scary chart illustrating how many thousands of nuclear power plants, hundreds of thousands of acres of solar arrays, hundreds of thousands  of wind turbines, or millions of  acres of soy beans or corn that will be needed to replace the liquid fuel equivalent needed to maintain a consumptive western society at 2009 levels.  In the case of bio fuels, the world would need to plant more acreage in soy and corn that is in total agricultural use in worldcorn today.  The notion that “they will come up with something to replace oil” is thoughtless and irresponsible.  Even in countries with a robust alternatives program there does not appear to be enough time, money, or “bridge fuels” to make the transition painlessly. Continue reading

Responsible Rebuilding After Sandy, New Jersey Needs Climate Change Leadership

Responsible Rebuilding After Sandy

Taking Climate Change Seriously

NJToday.net, The South Jersey Journal, and OpEdNews.com have published this as an oped and open letter to Governor Christie.  The Star Ledger published the OPED as well

Four Walls and a Roof quoted from the OPED “many New Jerseyans- among other concerned parties- are urging the New Jersey Coastal Commission and various state and local authorities to take a more proactive stance. In particular, Andrew Willner, past NY/NJ Baykeeper former scholar at Monmouth University’s Urban Coast Institute has called on Governor Christie and the  Commission to “make the hard choices…to retreat from the coast when necessary.”

NJ needs climate change leadership

NJ needs climate change leadership

The following link is the letter sent to Governor Christie Sandy Memo to Christie

 

The people of New Jersey have come through a hard time; Hurricane Sandy devastated Sandy NJour communities, businesses and homes. I want to thank the Governor for his strong leadership through it all. His swift action in ordering a mandatory evacuation saved lives, and his bipartisanship resulted in a comprehensive, coordinated state and federal response.

However, I am disappointed in the Governor’s failure, so far, to lead us in preparing for the dangers ahead. The Atlantic Ocean continues to rise and warm, making hurricanes stronger and every storm surge more harmful. Irene and Sandy were back-to-back warnings. Now is the time to prepare for the fiercer weather of the very near future.

Now is the time to launch an innovative N.J. Coastal Commission to address climate change and oversee the rebuilding effort. This body would assure the future safety of our communities, and the protection of our coasts against intensifying storms.

The N.J. Coastal Commission would use the best science and technical knowledge to implement climate change adaptation strategies. It would help us rebuild smarter, strengthening building codes, and generating strategies for flood-proofing homes, towns, and vital but vulnerable buildings, such as hospitals, police and fire stations.

The Commission would make sure our nuclear plants and other energy infrastructure; harbors, roads, railways, and airports; drinking water supplies; and wastewater treatment plants were built to withstand more violent storms.

It would oversee the re-mapping of our coasts to anticipate new trouble spots, suggesting
images “hard infrastructure,” such as sea walls, and “soft infrastructure,” like expanded coastal Islands, oyster reefs, dunes and greenbelts to reduce storm surges. It would help us to make the hard choices, retreating from the coast where necessary.

The N.J. Coastal Commission would create coastal resiliency and establish thorough storm emergency preparedness measures, anticipating and preventing future harm.

I also encourage the Governor to re-engage with other Northeastern state governors in
the Regional Green House Gas Initiative to address Irene, Sandy and the “new normal” which threatens us with more extreme storms. It is high time that our state took responsibility for our carbon contribution to climate change and made efforts to curb it.

We live in dangerous time, when “business as usual” will not suffice.That way leads to certain pain, peril and economic ruin. The more visionary path, to A Bright Green Future for our state is far more challenging. It is a road we must build as we walk it.

The most recent storms to impact New Jersey harshly pointed out flaws in our current development patterns. Hurricane Sandy, for all its devastation, was just a Category 1 storm, while last year’s Hurricane Irene was “only” a tropical storm. The landfall of far more ferocious, future storms is not only possible, but likely.

The unprecedented destruction from Hurricane Sandy and the public policy challenges of Wetlandsits aftermath make this a critically important transformative period in New Jersey history, and a singular moment to demonstrate leadership. I urge Governor Christie to seize this opportunity to initiate bold action resulting in lasting protections for New Jersey’s economy, environment, energy, and equity.

As the NY/NJ Baykeeper, I learned to see the New Jersey/New York Bioregion not as a collection of states or towns, competing industries or interests, but as a unified place. When seen from space our Bioregion is without seams. Its green mountains and hills feed thousands of tributaries, flowing into our magnificent estuary and the sea. Ours is a vulnerable state worth protecting, but protection now will take courageous leadership.