Building A Cob House – It is not what you think

When I first saw the headline of this next site, I thought: can this be? I had heard of actual corn cob houses in rural America. They are basically slatted walls filled in with corn cobs and then finished inside and out. They are sort of a variation of hay bale houses. But this is way different.

http://www.livingoffgrid.org/building-a-cob-house/

Building a Cob House

By Off Grid Ebert

In a time in which we are increasingly hearing scary statistics about the fate of our planet, the way forward in the field of sustainable, green building may just be to go backward.  This is certainly the case for people demonstrating a growing interest in building earthen homes and structures using an ancient method known as cobwork or cobbing.  Cobbing, believed to have originated in the Maghreb as early as the 11th century, spread into wide usage across many parts of the rest of Europe as the main building style for homes.  The name of this style of building comes from the word cob, which is the name of the building material itself, formed of a mixture of earth (such as clay, sand, and other soil), straw, and water.  Despite what the materials may imply, this substance, when dried, is fireproof.  It is also inexpensive, and naturally cool in the summer heat and relatively easy to heat in the winter.

Many homes built of this material centuries ago still stand and remain in use.  Pictured here to the left is a cob house in England, believed to have been built in the late 1700s. (Photo by Tim Green, http://www.flickr.com/photos/atoach/4927564858/) These homes typically have thatched roofs, while small but efficient fireplaces with chimneys provide warmth when the weather is cold.

The appearance and texture of cob varies from region to region, depending on the available natural resources and their characteristics.  As such, cob is one of the most versatile building materials on earth.  It can be molded and shaped into whatever form is framed by the builder.

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Go there and read. More tomorrow.

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Off The Grid – We move into survivalist land

Like I said in the beginning there are many types of people that want to be off the grid. The rich do it because they can. Many people do it to save money. Some people, like Thoreau, like the solitude or are paranoid. Then there are the survivalists. I do not agree with their theories or their ideology, but they are a part of the mix and this site is pretty explicit.

http://offgridsurvival.com/preppingfriendsandfamil/

Talking to Friends and Family about Prepping

A number of readers have emailed me lately asking how they can convince their friends and family to start prepping.

To be honest this is a touchy subject, one that can often make even hardcore preppers feel a bit uncomfortable.

For some, the thought of talking to anyone about prepping fills them with feelings of anxiety. Just the thought of others knowing what preps you have is enough to fill anyone with a sense of paranoia . And who can blame them, lately it seems like every time we turn on the news another government agency is warning people about those dangerous preppers.

For those that do try to talk about the subject, trying to get their family and friends on board can be a headache to say the least.

From friends and family members that truly believe the government will save them in a time of crisis, to those that have been brainwashed by the media to believe that preppers are all  tinfoil hat wearing nutjobs, prepping can often be a touchy or even taboo subject to talk about. While we have touched on the subject in the past, I thought it was important to take another look at how we can help those we care about prepare for an uncertain future.

Dealing with those who believe the Government will help them in a time of crisis.

As a reader who recently wrote to me pointed out, 50 years of being programmed to believe that the government can help is hard to undo. We live in a society that is becoming increasingly reliant on the government to help them in every aspect of their lives. In fact over 67 million Americans now rely on government aid to pay for either housing, food, health care or education. That’s 1 in 5 Americans!

Most people simply don’t realize or believe that they are in any kind of danger. Most Americans live under the belief that the government will be there to help them in a time of crisis. So what can you do to change this mindset and protect those that you care about?

Use the Governments own advice.

Even the government advises people to be prepared. They will be the first to admit that during a time of crisis it’s highly unlikely that they’ll be able to respond in under 72 hours.

At the very least your friends and family should be prepared to survive at home without power, water and utilities for a minimum of 72 hours. While most of the governments advice is rather simplistic,  it may help you introduce the subject to those who depend on the government for everything.

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It is a huge site. Go there and read. More Tomorrow.

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Couple Tries Life Of Sustainability – In response to Peak Oil

I am not sure that I believe in Peak Oil. At one level it is actually a distribution problem and the chaos that results when that distribution systems capacity is exceeded. Not an issue of how much oil is left. I think that global warming will get us much more quickly than Peak “any resource”. I also have my doubts about the sustainability of global capitalism and the devastation that may occur when it falls apart. But seriously, whatever the reason, living an uncomplicated, simple and frugal life is such a good thing. If we all did that the world of consumerism would go BOOM overnight. As always I have issues with videos. So:

http://peakoil.com/consumption/a-young-couple-find-freedom-in-simple-living/

A Young Couple Find Freedom in Simple Living

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gn3AX540j20

Rather than follow the customary American dream, Tammy and Logan sold their home and car, and moved to a bikeable/walkable neighborhood in Sacramento, California. After reading Derrick Jensen’s writings, this couple used Your Money or Your Lifeas a means to get out of debt and, they feel, regain their lives and their future. While they recount the psychological challenges of facing a future of declining resources, the catalyst that continues to move them forward is a dream of living in an affordable tiny house within a supportive community. (rowdykittens.com).

Listen to audio. Read in Janaia’s Journal about our visit to tape them.

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I found the video on Youtube and put the link in the story where it would be in the brief piece. But the video was posted 2 years ago and that means that it is probably older than that. Why is Peak Oil going with old content. Go there and read. Peak Oil is an interesting site. More tomorrow.

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Rightwing Rant From A Probable Oil And Gas Stock Holder – Or is it coal

I normally would not put up a rant against alternative forms of energy which I believe are the energies of the future. But I love how they all make the same mistake. We as a society must use the CHEAPEST forms of energy. Yet we as a society get to SAY what kinds of energy are used and then it is up to businesses to get on with what they do best – steal us blind. Resources are not free to those that just dig them up and they can not be allowed to destroy the world while they are at it. This shouter and denier from Northern Wisconsin is all about preposterous side arguments that are not even true in his political wet dreams.

http://madisle.info/2012/01/30/renewable-green-energy-yields-very-poor-results/#axzz1lLKfgK9z

Renewable “Green” Energy Yields Very Poor Results

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Yeah, yeah. I know. You’re tired of me telling you “I told you so,” but once again, as usual, I am right and you are not.

Why we’re even fiddling around with this green alternative energy crap is beyond me. It doesn’t work for the most part, and what does work is extremely expensive and highly inefficient.

Renewable electric energy from nonhydroelectric sources — chiefly wind and solar — contributed only 3.6 percent of total U.S. generation in 2010 — yet received 53.5 percent of all federal financial support for electric power.

And wind power alone, which provides 2.3 percent of generation, received 42 percent of all support.

Wind and solar renewable energy have failed to thrive despite government support because they face substantial “market impediments,” according to Benjamin Zycher, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

“Energy policies in the United States for decades have pursued energy sources defined in various ways as alternative, unconventional, independent, renewable, and clean in an effort to replace such conventional fuels as oil, coal, and natural gas,” Zycher states on the AEI website, and “renewable electricity receives very large direct and indirect subsidies from the federal and state governments.

“These long-standing efforts have, without exception, yielded poor outcomes.”

 

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Go there and read the rubbish. More tomorrow.

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Aral Sea Shrinks To A River – More damage from the Soviet Union

You can read either article below. The facts stay pretty much the same but  each has one of my favorite pictures of the horrible damage. The overhead shot is the most compelling:

http://www.global-adventures.us/2010/04/05/aral-sea-shocking-disaster/

Then there is the “boats and camels” shot:

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/07/16/the_world_s_worst_ongoing_disasters?page=0,3

The World’s Ongoing Ecological Disasters

While it’s probably still too soon to celebrate, BP appears to finally be getting the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico under control. But many of the world’s greatest environmental catastrophes continue, with no end in sight.

BY JOSHUA E. KEATING | JULY 16, 2010

UZBEKISTAN/KAZAKHSTAN

Disaster: The shrinking of the Aral Sea

Going since: The 1960s

Damage done: Straddling the border of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, the Aral Sea was once the world’s fourth-largest inland water body and home to at least 20 species of fish and a thriving coastal economy in the surrounding towns. In the early 1960s, the Soviet government built more than 45 dams and 20,000 miles of canals in an effort to create a cotton industry on the desert plains of Uzbekistan, depriving the sea of its main sources.

Over the next three decades, the sea shrank to two-fifths its original size, turning fishing villages into barren desert outposts. Thanks to the high salt content in the remaining water, all 20 fish species are now extinct. Drinking water supplies in the area are dangerously low and the ground contains dangerous pesticides from the cotton farms. When the wind sweeps across the now-dry sea bed, it spreads up to 75 million tons of toxic dust and salt across Central Asia every year.

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Go there and read. More tomorrow.

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A Positive Review Of The Durbin Climate Conference – I guess I will rant tomorrow

I like Eugene Robinson a lot. I think he is wrong here because of the time frame. I do not believe we have 9 years to address these things because the sun is heating up. By next year we should be seeing a marked increase in sun spots and the weather is going to go from creepy to scary. But it is a well thought out position nonetheless.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/reason-to-smile-about-the-durban-climate-conference/2011/12/12/gIQA80nZqO_story.html

Eugene Robinson
Eugene Robinson
Opinion Writer

Reason to smile about the Durban climate conference

By , Published: December 12

I’m inclined to believe that the apparent result of the climate change summit in Durban, South Africa, might turn out to be a very big deal. Someday. Maybe.

After the meeting ended Sunday, initial reaction ranged from “Historic Breakthrough: The Planet Is Saved” to “Tragic Failure: The Planet Is Doomed.”

My conclusion is that for now, at least, the conceptual advance made in Durban is as good as it gets.

This advance is, potentially, huge: For the first time, officials of the nations that are the biggest carbon emitters — China, the United States and India — have agreed to negotiate legally binding restrictions.

Under the old Kyoto Protocol framework, which for now remains largely in effect, rapidly industrializing nations refused to be constricted by limits that would stunt their development. The United States declined to sign on to the Kyoto agreement as long as China, India, Brazil and other rising economic giants got a pass.

This meant that while European nations worked to meet emissions targets — or, in some cases, pretended to do so — the most important sources of carbon were unconstrained. When Kyoto was adopted, China was well behind the United States as an emitter; now it’s far ahead. India recently passed Russia to move into third place.

The Durban talks seemed likely to go nowhere until the Chinese delegate, Xie Zhenhua, announced that Beijing was willing to consider a legally binding framework. With China now responsible for fully 23 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, this was an enormous step forward.

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Go there and read. More tomorrow.

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Australia To Help India Walk Away From Nonproliferation – That’s too damn bad

This piece dithers on a bit before getting to the heart of the matter and offers few solutions. But, that may be because there are not any. Russia has sold uranium to India before and probably will again. I do not know whether China has sold uranium to India or not. I know they would in a heart beat.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/can-we-talk-reversal-on-uranium-sales-to-india-opens-up-a-whole-new-world/story-e6frg7ax-1226212701769

Can we talk? Reversal on uranium sales to India opens up a whole new world

WE should be thankful for small mercies. Before delivering a triumph to Julia Gillard on selling uranium to India, Labor’s national conference this weekend is having a debate on the issue.

That will be a change because so far we’ve heard little more than applause for the Prime Minister’s announcement three weeks ago that she would seek to change party policy to allow sales to a country that has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

She says it is time to modernise the party platform. Those who agree present the change as little more than tidying up a diplomatic anomaly.

There is a case for a change in policy, including the contribution nuclear power can make to reducing India’s carbon emissions, the practical reality that other countries are willing to sell uranium to India and that we already sell to countries like China and Russia.

But there is more to it than that.

“I am horrified that the media have not explained the enormity of this proposal,” says Ron Walker, a former diplomat.

As a head of the nuclear division in the Department of Foreign Affairs in the 1990s and chairman of the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency in 1993, his views are worth considering.

No anti-nuke activist, he subscribes to the policy first adopted by the Fraser government: that we should use our position as a major uranium supplier to demand strict safeguards against nuclear non-proliferation.

Leaving aside its surreptitious development of the nuclear bomb, India has been presented as the model nuclear citizen. Unlike China, Russia and Pakistan, it has not exported its nuclear weapons technology and expertise, at least on any significant scale.

Therefore, so the argument goes, India deserves to be made the exception to the rule that we do not sell uranium to countries that do not sign the NPT.

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He writes plenty more. Go read it. More next week.

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Corporate Colonialism – They are carving up Africa again

When are the poor countries of the world going to catch a break. First they are conquered by the countries of Europe. Then they are handed over to corrupt and inept “local” leadership. Finally they are bought and paid for by the new corporate elites. This is just to0 nasty for words. But this is humans finest hour.

Africa: The New Land Grab in Africa – An Alarming Scramble for the Continent Is On

Agazit Abate

3 November 2011

Multinational corporations are buying enormous tracts of land in Africa to the detriment of local communities. Agazit Abate warns that the land grab puts countries on the path to increased food insecurity, environmental degradation, increased reliance on aid and marginalisation of farming and pastoralist communities.

The recent phenomenon of land grab, as outlined in the extensive research of the Oakland Institute, has resulted in the sale of enormous portions of land throughout Africa. In 2009 alone, nearly 60 million hectares of land were purchased or leased throughout the continent for the production and export of food, cut flowers and agrofuel crops.

Land grab was in part spurred by the food and financial crisis of 2008 when international bodies, corporations, investment funds, wealthy individuals, and governments began to re-focus their attention on agriculture and food as a profitable commodity. As outlined in the reports, the consequences of land grab include increased food insecurity, environmental degradation, community repression and displacement, and increased reliance on aid.

MEET THE INVESTORS

While media coverage has focused on the role of countries like India and China in land deals, the Oakland Institute’s investigation reveals the role of Western firms, wealthy US and European individuals, and investment funds with ties to major banks such as Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan. Investors include alternative investment firms like the London-based Emergent that works to attract speculators, and various universities like Harvard, Spelman and Vanderbilt.

Several Texas-based interests are associated with a major 600,000 hectares South Sudan deal which involves Kinyeti Development LLC, an Austin, Texas-based ‘global business development partnership and holding company’ managed by Howard Eugene Douglas, a former United States Ambassador at Large and Coordinator for Refugee Affairs. A key player in the largest land deal in Tanzania is Iowa agribusiness entrepreneur and Republican Party stalwart, Bruce Rastetter.

US companies are often below the radar, using subsidiaries registered in other countries, like Petrotech-ffn Agro Mali which is a subsidiary of Petrotech-ffn USA. Many European countries are also involved, often with support provided by their governments and embassies in African countries. For instance, Swedish and German firms have interests in the production of biofuels in Tanzanian. Addax Bioenergy from Switzerland and Quifel International Holdings (QIH) from Portugal are major investors in Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone Agriculture (SLA) is actually a subsidiary of the UK based Crad-1 (CAPARO Renewable Agriculture Developments Ltd.), associated with the Tony Blair African Governance Initiative.

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I just wanted to post the villains. For the rest of the analysis, go there and read that. More tomorrow.

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The International Year Of Sustainable Energy – Did you know

I had no idea this was declared by the UN. I have no idea how I missed it. Sustainability is the only way the human race will survive. Steady state economies can attain just as big aspirations as corporate capitalism without the environmental degradation. It is just that a lot more people would have to agree to the giant goal. Like space travel for instance.

http://www.un-energy.org/stories/860-international-year-of-sustainable-energy-for-all

International Year of Sustainable Energy for All

Publication Date: May 31, 2011

 

“Expanding access to affordable, clean energy is critical for realizing
the MDGs and enabling sustainable development.”
-Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations

 

The Challenge and the Goal

 

Access to clean and affordable modern energy is critical to fostering lasting social and economic development and to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Worldwide, some 2.7 billion people rely on traditional biomass for cooking and heating, and 1.4 billion have no access to electricity, with one billion more having access only to unreliable electricity networks.

The lack of modern energy services stifles income-generating activities and hampers the provision of basic services such as health care and education. In addition, smoke from polluting and inefficient cooking, lighting, and heating devices kills nearly two million women and young children prematurely every year and causes a range of chronic illnesses and other health impacts. Black carbon emissions from these devices worsen global climate change, and foraging for fuel contributes to deforestation.

In response, the Secretary-General’s Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change – composed of global business leaders and heads of UN agencies – has called on the United Nations and its member countries to commit themselves to ensuring universal access to modern energy services by 2030. UN-Energy a collaboration of 20 UN agencies will lead the effort.

Why Energy Matters 

Energy Lifts People From Poverty:
Energy is essential to economic development and to meeting the Millennium Development Goals, yet 1.4 billion people have no access to electricity and 2.7 billion people lack clean cooking fuels and stoves.

Clean Energy Saves Lives:
Nearly two million women and children, die prematurely every year (that’s four every minute) due to illnesses caused by indoor air pollution.

Energy is the single biggest contributor to climate change:
Energy accounts for 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

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More tomorrow.

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Transition Community In Houston – One of hundreds around the US

I leave you this week in Houston. An oil ton if there ever was one. Got to love a group that is trying to do without hydrocarbons altogether. They claim they are moving to a new site BUT I couldn’t get there yet, so here is a sample of their old site.

http://transitionhouston.wordpress.com/

Movin’ on…

The website subgroup of the Outreach and Education Action Group has been working on an updated website for Transition Houston for some time, and all that effort is paying off!  We are going to concentrate our information share and move content to the new site:  www.transitionhouston.org.  Please bookmark that location and check with us often for news about Transition in the Houston region, Neighborhood Initiative and Action Group updates, calendar, newsletter archive, and more!

Once again, the new Transition Houston website:

www.transitionhouston.org

 

There are several other options for connecting with us.

We are on Ning.

We are on Facebook.

We are on Twitter.

And you can subscribe to our Newsletter!

Permaculture goes mainstream, hope rises

Sometimes little things give hope that progress is possible, and that maybe “if we act as communities, it might just be enough, just in time,” to quote the Cheerful Disclaimer.  This last week the little thing for me was the discovery of permaculture by the New York Times.  Now, I’m not so naive to believe that seeing permaculture in the mainstream press is going to make a lot of difference immediately, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see a surge of interest in permie classes across the country with long-term benefits to both participants and the environment (FYI, classes are offered here in Houston by the Permaculture Guild of Houston, through Urban Harvest).

I think the important point is that awareness is growing in our country:  awareness of our ecosystem impacts, awareness of the lack of sustainability in our lifestyles and economy, and also awareness of that which is missing in our lives–community, connection, purpose.  Permaculture is a positive response to that growing awareness, as is the permaculture-based Transition movement.

There are a couple of opportunities to join with others in our Transition Houston community this week and next.  Please avail yourself of these options to increase your awareness and find connection with a community of folks working for a resilient Houston region.

Transition Houston Hub meeting, Tuesday, August 2, 7:00pm to 9:00pm

Green Film Series Presents Blue Gold: World Water Wars, Tuesday, August 9, 6:30pm to 9:00pm

Transition Houston Hub meeting, Tuesday, August 2, 7:00pm to 9:00pm
We hope to see you at Tuesday’s Transition Houston meeting, which will feature a guest speaker in addition to news from the Transition Neighborhoods and Action Groups.

We are very fortunate to have Peter Wang, League of American Bicyclists Cycling Instructor, as our guest speaker.  Peter is considered a local biking expert.  He’s everywhere as a go-to guy for media interviews about bikes, and has been involved in a lot of bicycle issues.  He is risk-averse–exactly the kind of guy you would want to help you practice being safer!–and has taught a lot of these safety classes.

Peter will present a video screening followed by a discussion. The video is Enjoy The Ride, about essential bicycling skills.

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More whenever.

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