You know you’re a Green-Neck when…

You get excited when you see a hybrid car.

You like the way solar panels look on the roof of a house.

You download music to your music player instead of buying the CD — because it reduces pollution and waste.

You think people who drive Hummers are stupid.

You don’t use bug spray in your home.

You’d rather plant a bush than elect one.

You feel sorry for trees when they get cut down.

You know intuitively than global warming is real and caused by pollution.

You wonder how the people who run Exxon sleep at night.

You’d rather visit a mountain waterfall than a shopping mall.

You know that trout are the "canaries in the coal mine" for water quality.

You’d like to see the OPEC countries run out of money before they run out of oil.

Your mouth doesn’t salivate when you see a deer.

You hunt bears with a camcorder.

You know Cradle To Cradle does NOT involve babies.

You tinker with the power-saving features of your computer.

You invest in green companies even when their track record doesn’t look good.

You are suspicious about Wal-Mart selling organic food.

You don’t scare a snake in your backyard even when you have a shovel in your hands.

You can’t get all the stuff to be recycled into your car when its time to haul it off.

Green-Necks Unite!!!

Copyright © 2007 The Better Information Group, Inc.

Longing for Beautiful Places

image copyright Fred First

Once upon a time I spent a lot of time in places. I really miss the sound of running water, the clean air, the shadowy shapes of trout feeding, the call of a kingfisher taking flight from an overhanging tree limb, and the possibility of seeing bear tracks or a bobcat.

When the door opens, we will leave the Atlanta suburbs to live in an area where beautiful streams are within a short walk.

Photo by Fred First from his back yard in Floyd, VA. He’s a lucky man to have such beauty so close. Here are more of Fred’s photos on Flickr.

Most Biofuels Are NOT Viable for Producing Energy

Adam Fenderson at New Matilda describes why we can’t use corn and wheat for fuel for our cars. Excerpts below. Warning: These facts may cause indigestion.

Link: The Real Green Revolution | EnergyBulletin.net | Peak Oil News Clearinghouse

In searching for a green alternative to fossil fuels, everyone from Willie Nelson to the Governor of California , from prominent environmentalists to General Motors and Monsanto, has promoted ethanol or other biofuels. While it’s true that we desperately need alternatives, biofuels based on industrial agriculture, are in no sense ‘sustainable.’

Post-war technologies made possible the so-called ‘Green Revolution,’ or industrialisation of agriculture. From chemical warfare came the pesticide and herbicide industry, from military vehicles came the technology for improved farm machinery. They proved very effective. Between 1950 and 1984 world grain production increased a remarkable 250 per cent, while farm labour dropped, enabling the rapid rise in human population over the same period.

Unfortunately, the relationship between food and war does not end there.

The rise in agricultural production was particularly suited to grains. Grains are a special type of food. Excluding fossil fuels, they represent some of the most densely packed chemical energy in the natural world. As Richard Manning writes in his essay ‘The Oil We Eat: Following the Food Chain Back to Iraq ’, grains also lend themselves to very destructive farming methods.

Grains are adapted to disaster. In nature, they dominate land only after catastrophic events such as floods. Their short lives are devoted to putting as much energy as possible into their seeds, so that they may spring up first, as pioneer species. In order to grow them, year after year, we turn over the topsoil and spray for weeds to artificially create the conditions of catastrophe they favour.

Every time we plough, it is like a high stakes game of Russian roulette. Plants and soil organisms can (very slowly) create topsoil from the subsoil below. But, truly revitalising fertility on a large scale requires geological assistance in such forms as ash from volcanic eruptions, or rock-crushing glaciers.

A handful of good soil contains more living creatures than there are human beings on the earth. The little we know about these creatures reads like an Alice in Wonderland adventure — amoeba with temporary feet, vampiric protozoa, fungi with elaborate communication systems and symbiotic relationships with trees. When we pour nitrogen-based fertiliser and agricultural poisons onto the soil, or expose it to the sun, we destroy this life.

As the life dies, we lose the humus, the organic component of the topsoil. As it rots it releases methane, becoming a major contributor to global warming. Without the ecosystem services provided by the soil life, the soil is left as nothing more than a dead medium to hold plants upright in. We then have to supply more fertilisers artificially – and the sad cycle continues.

Each year, more and more virgin forested land and fossil fuel energy must be fed into the agricultural system simply to maintain current levels of production. Yet, each year, insects are becoming more resistant to pesticides, water must be pumped from deeper down in the earth, weather conditions are becoming less stable, and less ecosystem services are being provided by soil organisms, without cost. We are facing diminishing returns.

Despite the rapid growth in agricultural production over the past 35 years, per-capita levels of grain production peaked in 1985. Distribution politics aside, it is only this century, however, that the problem has become critical. In every year bar one since 2000, the world has consumed more grains than it has produced . Less than two-months worth of grains are now in storage around the world. Last time stores were this low, in the early 1970s, global wheat and rice prices doubled.

The promise, and perhaps the greatest challenge ever faced by our species, is that these destructive forms of agriculture cannot continue. The Green Revolution has increased energy inputs to agriculture to levels around 50 times those of traditional agriculture. Yet energy availability will soon fall. The increasing unavailability (and therefore increasing cost) of oil and gas means that we will need to begin to de-industrialise and re-localise our food systems.

To succeed is to survive – to avoid more widespread hunger, and develop sustainable, healthy food systems. We need great efforts to enable farmers to produce food with less energy and less destruction to their own land, encouraging innovative designs and techniques inspired by permaculture, incorporating traditional systems and modern science, such as keyline ploughing and swale building. We need to produce more food in and around the cities, while changing our relationship to food so we eat it fresh and in season.

We are lucky that one country has been through such a process and survived already: Cuba. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba lost most of its oil and fertiliser imports virtually overnight. With research, institutions turned over to low energy food production techniques, and organic food production encouraged in the cities, Cubans’ life expectancies and infant mortality rates now rival or better the United States, while using around one eighth of the energy per capita.

via EnergyBulletin.net | Peak Oil News Clearinghouse

More posts about Monsanto:

Are you eating Monsanto’s genetically modified crops?

Monsanto’s Government Ties

Monsanto Backs Off Bio-Wheat

Shining a Light on Agribusiness and It’s Poster Child Monsanto

Monsanto Files Patent for the Pig

Greening of Chicago Starts at the Top Floor

The Washington Post describes Chicago’s leadership in planting flowers and trees and greening rooftops. Excerpts below.

Link: Greening of Chicago Starts at the Top Floor

Atop the scalding eighth-floor roof of the Chicago Cultural Center, workers dripped sweat as they planted row upon tidy row of hardy plants, the latest signal of one big-city government’s determination to be green.

On other downtown rooftops, tall corkscrew-shaped turbines will bridle the winds that race across the plains. A new roof on Chicago’s vast convention center will channel 55 million gallons of rainwater a year into Lake Michigan instead of overburdened storm drains.

Skeptics snickered 17 years ago when Mayor Richard M. Daley added flowers and trees to the city’s honey-do list.

Since Daley began investing tax dollars in greening the city, Chicago has planted as many as 400,000 trees, according to city spokesmen. It employs more arborists than any city in the country. There are 2.5 million square feet of green roofs completed or under construction, boosted by expedited permitting and density bonuses for developers who embrace the concept.

Daley is an especially big fan of green roofs. The City Hall roof, planted with more than 150 varieties of plants, is often 50 degrees cooler in summer than nearby asphalt roofs, whose temperatures can reach 170 degrees. It also houses beehives.

Earlier this year, the city issued $1 million in grants for solar thermal panels that generate hot water. Staffers focused on high-volume water users, including laundromats and health clubs. For the past year, the city has waived a service fee — typically $5,000 to $50,000 — for developers willing to install a green roof. The projects are assigned to reviewers empowered to expedite approval.

Good News from the Middle East

Good news from the Middle East is a pleasant surprise. Yet here’s an amazing transformation that occurred when intelligence overcame ignorance. If you don’t have time to read the article, watch the movie.

Link: Permaculture Research Institute of Australia ? The Dead Sea Valley Permaculture Project.

The Dead Sea Valley Permaculture Project

Commissioned in August 2000 by a Japanese aid organization to work in association with a Jordanian aid organization their first visit involved the design of a flat 10 acre, highly salted, very alkaline, piece of land in the Dead Sea Valley, 400m below sea level and just a few kilometers from the Palestinian border. The aim was to demonstrate sustainable farming practices. A plan was drawn up and accepted and arrangements were made for them to return in December during the cooler time of the year.

The local agricultural department described the land as useless for any serious production. With a soil salt level of 5,000ppm, the only available irrigation water at 4,100 ppm salt content, and a pH of 9.5, even10 in places it was considered impossible to grow figs and many other fruit trees and crops.

Here’s the movie: The Dead Sea Valley Permaculture Project documentary

via GroovyGreen.com

Great Photos by Brad Washburn

If you like Ansel Adams’ photos, check this out.

View Brad Washburn’s gallery

Source: Brad Washburn Photos | Outside Online.

From the September issue of Outside magazine, an article about the life and photography of climber, explorer, and mapmaker Brad Washburn, courtesy of the Panopticon gallery in Boston, Massachusetts. To get your copies of Washburn’s work, check out Panopticon’s Web site at www.panopt.com

Organic farming produces same yields of corn and soy as conventional farms with less energy

Source: Organic farming produces same yields of corn, soy as conventional farms | Science Blog.

Organic farming produces the same yields of corn and soybeans as does conventional farming, but uses 30 percent less energy, less water and no pesticides, a review of a 22-year farming trial study concludes.

David Pimentel, a Cornell University professor of ecology and agriculture, concludes, "Organic farming offers real advantages for such crops as corn and soybeans." Pimentel is the lead author of a study that is published in the July issue of Bioscience (Vol. 55:7) analyzing the environmental, energy and economic costs and benefits of growing soybeans and corn organically versus conventionally. The study is a review of the Rodale Institute Farming Systems Trial, the longest running comparison of organic vs. conventional farming in the United States.

"Organic farming approaches for these crops not only use an average of 30 percent less fossil energy but also conserve more water in the soil, induce less erosion, maintain soil quality and conserve more biological resources than conventional farming does," Pimentel added.

The study compared a conventional farm that used recommended fertilizer and pesticide applications with an organic animal-based farm (where manure was applied) and an organic legume-based farm (that used a three-year rotation of hairy vetch/corn and rye/soybeans and wheat). The two organic systems received no chemical fertilizers or pesticides.

Inter-institutional collaboration included Rodale Institute agronomists Paul Hepperly and Rita Seidel, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service research microbiologist David Douds Jr. and University of Maryland agricultural economist James Hanson. The research compared soil fungi activity, crop yields, energy efficiency, costs, organic matter changes over time, nitrogen accumulation and nitrate leaching across organic and conventional agricultural systems.

"First and foremost, we found that corn and soybean yields were the same across the three systems," said Pimentel, who noted that although organic corn yields were about one-third lower during the first four years of the study, over time the organic systems produced higher yields, especially under drought conditions. The reason was that wind and water erosion degraded the soil on the conventional farm while the soil on the organic farms steadily improved in organic matter, moisture, microbial activity and other soil quality indicators.

The fact that organic agriculture systems also absorb and retain significant amounts of carbon in the soil has implications for global warming, Pimentel said, pointing out that soil carbon in the organic systems increased by 15 to 28 percent, the equivalent of taking about 3,500 pounds of carbon dioxide per hectare out of the air.

Among the study’s other findings:
# In the drought years, 1988 to 1998, corn yields in the legume-based system were 22 percent higher than yields in the conventional system.
# The soil nitrogen levels in the organic farming systems increased 8 to 15 percent. Nitrate leaching was about equivalent in the organic and conventional farming systems.
# Organic farming reduced local and regional groundwater pollution by not applying agricultural chemicals.

Pimentel noted that although cash crops cannot be grown as frequently over time on organic farms because of the dependence on cultural practices to supply nutrients and control pests and because labor costs average about 15 percent higher in organic farming systems, the higher prices that organic foods command in the marketplace still make the net economic return per acre either equal to or higher than that of conventionally produced crops.

Organic farming can compete effectively in growing corn, soybeans, wheat, barley and other grains, Pimentel said, but it might not be as favorable for growing such crops as grapes, apples, cherries and potatoes, which have greater pest problems.

The study was funded by the Rodale Institute and included a review of current literature on organic and conventional agriculture comparisons. According to Pimentel, dozens of scientific papers reporting on research from the Rodale Institute Farming Systems Trial have been published in prestigious refereed journals over the past 20 years.

From Cornell University

Three Views of the Tetons

Here are three photos of the Tetons (between Jackson, WY, and Yellowstone National Park).

Ann took the photo on the left from the Snake River overlook.

I took the photo in the middle as we were hiking around Jenny Lake.

Ann took the photo on the right as we were leaving the Gros Vendre campground.

(Click on the thumbnails to see photo.)

Tetons2_1 Tetons3 Tetons1_1