Will peak everything bring peak resilience?

A few years ago, author and activist Derrick Jensen wrote in Orion magazine, "The most common words I hear spoken by any environmentalists anywhere are, We’re f***ed." I'd say that assessment - that a lot of environmentalists say that anyway - is pretty accurate.

Face it. Current and coming generations of people and other organisms face a wicked problem of interconnected wicked problems. Here are six:
  • Global human population will hit 7 billion this October and is projected to climb to 9 billion by ~2050.
  • Global warming has already reduced sea ice in the Arctic Ocean and caused extensive ice cap and glacial melting from Greenland to Argentina to Antarctica. Projected warming from the IPCC and other scientific bodies will cause further melting which will raise sea levels over the coming century, flooding coastal cities and sinking islands.
  • Deforestation, especially tropical deforestation, prevents carbon sinking and increases other greenhouse gas emissions while also changing the way equatorial weather patterns that regulate other weather patterns.
  • Industrial production is increasingly toxifying air, water, and land in many different places across the Earth and the most educated societies in the world do not understand the interactive effects of tens of thousands of unregualated chemicals.
  • Anti-biotics and vaccinations drive bacterial and viral virulence.
  • The modern industrial and post-industrial economies have been built with fossil fuels, mostly oil for transportation. Coal and oil peak production has more or less been reached while natural gas from deep shale gas is on the rise.
These problems all feed one another. Peak everything is here or coming and the response to it by big government and big industries is, well, sorely lacking according to today's guest.

Janaia Donaldson hosts Peak Moment TV, "online television series featuring people creating resilient communities for a more sustainable, lower-energy future. Programs range from permaculture farms to electric bikes, ecovillages to car-sharing, emergency preparedness to careers for the coming times." Like other guests on our show working with the "transition" and "slow money" movements, Donaldson has focused on how the big wicked problems above can be tackled by resilient and skilled people working together. She has interviewed women who have worked to bring gardens to school, psychologists examining reactions to climate change, economists critiquing growth economics, and environmental activists rallying people to find strength within themselves.

If there is anything we can be sure of, Donaldson has witnessed and soaked up a lot of wisdom on sustainability and resilience.

Hear her on today's Sustainability Now on the Lion 90.7 from 4-5 pm.


EPA Air Quality Hearing

On our last show, Peter Buckland announced an Environmental Protection Agency "first-ever emissions standards to control and reduce toxic air pollution from oil and gas wells that are hydraulically fractured like those tapping into the Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania and other Appalachian states" according to the Post-Gazette. Buckland said it was on Wednesday, September 27th. A listener corrected him. It is on Tuesday, September 27th from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.


Does ozone create the no zone?

On today's show, we will discuss air quality in the United States and in Pennsylvania.

A lot of the United States lives with a lot of smog a lot of the time. That puts a lot of people - especially children and elderly Americans - at risk for health problems like asthma and other respiratory illness. That's the gist of a new report Danger in the Air, released on Wednesday, from PennEnvironment.

The report tells us that some of our large and mid-size cities have pretty awful air from smog. Not surprisingly, cities like Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Houston have bad air a lot more often than they should. But even idyllic places like State College, PA have higher levels of ambient air pollution more often than we might suspect.

The report takes aim at the Obama administration for its recent decision not to tackle ozone standards. As Charlie Dorsaneo of PennEnvironment said, "They chose to kick the can down the road until 2013." PennEnvironment recommends policy makers take positive action to alert the public with a stricter standard, to reduce air pollution through tighter regulation on emissions sources like cars, trucks, industry, and power plants, and finally to invest in renewable and less wasteful energy sources like solar and wind.

On that last note, you might be interested to see that even in the wake of the Solyndra controversy, that Republican Congressman Joe Barton agrees:

Sustainability Now's Peter Buckland joined State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham, Sierra Club Moshannon's Gary Thornbloom, and PennEnvironment's Charlie Dorsaneo at the State College press conference on the report. Buckland;'s remarks are included here:
I don’t know if anyone here knows, but this week is No Impact Week. It’s a funky approach to reduce our individual and collective negative impacts and increase our positive impacts. I think those are just plain good things to do.

PennEnvironment’s report today shows us some challenges we face from our society’s and our economy’s impacts. This is about us.

Every year, thousands of people get sick from ambient air pollution. Every high-risk ozone day brings thousands of asthma attacks. It harms elderly people and young children disproportionately. 92% of ozone comes from fossil fuels and the lion’s share from transportation and industry. We in central Pennsylvania live downwind from coal plants and industrial hubs to our southwest. The pollution they pour into the air hurts us. It illustrates how we all live downstream, or downwind in this case.

Now I don’t know about you, but I love being outside. For years I have been riding mountain bikes like they are going out of style. I quit smoking and have since ridden my bike more than most people think sane. It’s fun. It’s also healthy. My wife rides. I have ridden with hundreds or thousands of people across this lush and verdant state. Just about every day, my wife and I play outside with our four-year-old son. We play baseball. A lot. He and the other kids on Chestnut Street run around constantly. Riding, running, and playing should to be healthy.

But what the Danger in the Air Report shows us, and I am not being an alarmist, is that I might actually get sick from exercising. Moderate to intense exercise for a few hours puts people at higher risk of respiratory dysfunction on high pollution days. As we’ve just heard, the alerts are lower thresholds than they should be according to the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee. In places like Philly and Houston, you’re talking about regular health threats to people doing the right thing. I quit smoking for a reason.

Governor Corbett says Pennsylvania has the opportunity to be the next Texas because of the Marcellus and Utica shale natural gas booms. Take note of Pennsylvania’s air quality now. It’s not so different from Texas’. Philly is just a bit worse than Houston but Fort Worth is just a little worse than Pittsburgh. Now add tens of thousands of wells, compressor stations, pipelines, and the trucks to service it all and let’s talk about Pennsylvania air quality. As a bike racer I like to rank high. But this is no race for Pennsylvania to win. I say “No thank you” Mr. Corbett. So should you.

We need real action for health. Regulations are structured for polluters’ exorbitant profits. They say they fuel progress. More asthma and chronic breathing conditions – in humans or otherwise – is not progress. Progress is not pollution.

Health and happiness are progress. Congress and the President must act. We must also call our power companies to initiate switches from toxic power to less wasteful and renewable energy.
It can’t stop with phone calls, policies, and techno-fixes. Just like healthy diets and exercise, live to reduce pollution. Don’t go for no impact. Go for better impacts. Today, eat lower on the food chain. Tomorrow carpool, ride the bus, or ride a bike. Next week, figure out ways to throw away less stuff. Trash here travels 75 miles to Somerset county in 4 mpg trucks. Next month, get an energy audit and work your way toward a high efficiency low impact house.

Those impacts aren’t no impacts. They are much better impacts. That’s progress. It’s work. Let’s work together.

Listen in today from 4-4:30 pm on The Lion 90.7. Call in at (814) 865-9577.


Catering for the local economy by sustaining a healthy appetite

Krystn Madrine, the "kitchen maid" of the Sustainable Kitchen came on the show yesterday and served up some great thoughts on how we feed ourselves and how we can do it better. To Madrine, sustainability means, "being able to keep it going... and with food the path we're on is not sustainable." Listen to her talk with us about food security, regional food systems, sustainable food systems, seasonality, health, and knowing about your food.

What we found so great to hear about are all of the people Madrine gets to know from her work and the web of pretty direct benefits buying her food brings. Learn more about her work with Chef Andrew Monk and the Sustainable Kitchen by listening to the show at this link. You can find them each week at the Boalsburg Farmer's Market on Tuesday and on Saturdays at the North Atherton Street Farmer's Market at Home Depot. They also cater lots of events. To see what they are about you can go to the State Theater in State College on Wednesday Sept. 21st for the showing of Forks Over Knives.

P.S. The Veggie Patty sandwich and the Italian Wedding soup is amazing.

Parking Day 2011 in State College

All over the world, people participated in yesterday's Parking Day, "an annual, worldwide event that invites citizens everywhere to transform metered parking spots into temporary parks for the public good." Listen and see some of the ways that three teams of Penn State landscape architecture students took part.

Kind of interesting how the noise of urban space proves some of the point for Parking Day. At the risk of being simplistic, don't you wonder sometimes if cities exist to help people be healthy and happy or do they exist for roaring cars and trucks? For humans or machines?

How would you like urban space to become more friendly? Participate in Parking Day next year. Better yet, work with your communities or planning commissions to redesign your spaces for more friendlier, safer, and healthier living.


Climate action in the name of God

This Sunday, September 18, 2 p.m. in the Foster Auditorium of the Pattee library Interfaith Power and Light and the Rock Ethics Institute are teaming up to show “The Human Face of Climate Change: Food, Faith and other necessities of life.” Prof. Bill Easterling, Dean of the Penn State College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, and Rev. Jim Deming, Minister for Environmental Justice for the United Church of Christ will be there to discuss the film with attendees.

There will be a Green Fair following the film from 3:30-6:00 p.m.in the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center. It will feature local vendors and non-profit organizations focused on sustainability. There will also be climate change workshops focusing on the drought in East Africa, local farmers, Marcellus Shale, congregational action and what one family can do to make a difference.

Learn more here.

A wellspring for Groundswell Pa

Last week we had Braden Crooks of Groundswell PA on the show. They're arguing for an Environmental Bill of Rights and they are filming the whole movement.

Check it out:

Contribute here to help them document it.


Getting real about the climate with Al Gore

For 24 hours Al Gore's newest project, the Climate Reality Project, will be addressing the scope and scale of climate change and some of the solutions at hand to mitigate and adapt. Watch Gore on the Colbert Report plugging it.


Josh Fox at Shale Gas Outrage

Gasland director Josh Fox all called on the Shale Gas Outrage crowd last Wednesday to keep gas drilling out of the Delaware River Basin. Having just been arrested for civil disobedience in Washington, D.C. over tar sands oil and the proposed Keystone XL pipeline (see here and here) he asked people to confront the Delaware River Basin Commission on October 21st and demand a basin-wide fracking ban. He distributed the DRBC's phone number to the crowd, some of whom called DRBC on the spot. You can call them at (609) 883-9500. If push comes to shove, he believes people are going to have to be civilly disobedient and be arrested. Watch his speech here.

We want to know, do you think that fracking is worthy of civil disobedience? Should people pursue the regular channels of regulation and legislation? Or is this all what former Governor Ridge called "phony hysteria"?


Is there a better way of dealing with shit?

Shit. Crap. Poop. Dung. Feces. Defacation. Pee. Piss. Urine. Call them by their coarsest or most sanitized names, we all make it and we spend a lot of money and use a lot of water coping with it. 3,000 gallons of potable water each year goes to flushing your excrement to sewage treatment plants. The rough back of the hand calculation would mean that America flushes a few hundred BILLION gallons of water to sewage treatment plants each year. And what do we do with all of that crap?

Like most people, you probably don't know. Whatever your answer is, think about something else for a minute. Shit and piss are organic right? It's not frack water or radium 226 or bisphenol-A. It's basically digested food and microbes. So's cow manure that farmers spray on fields. And manure is in many conventional fertilizers you can purchase in home and garden shops. Well, what about basically free human manure? Humanure for short.

Enter the composting toilet. Madhu Suri Prakash explains the what, the why, and the how in this video on ecological toilets.

Talk about closing waste loops. A human growing their own garden and being not just a consumer with her/his body but also a producer in the most fundamental way. With good methods and proper conditions, this takes a considerable step toward what Wendell Berry (whom Prakash loves) calls "solving for pattern" (pdf here).

If only I wasn't renting.

Dr. Prakash is a Professor of Educational Theory and Policy at Penn State, a contributing editor at Yes! Magazine, and a frequent speaker across the United States and world on education and development having worked with the Bhutanese government on educating for happiness and the United Nations Educational Program. She is also co-host Peter Buckland's graduate adviser.


Today's show: Groundswell and Outrage [Updated]

Today at 4 pm, we'll be airing our first show of the fall season. It will be as fresh and local as we can make it.

Braden Crooks, founder of Groundswell will be on to discuss the what and the why of an Environmental Bill of Rights and a ban on hydraulic fracturing proposed for popular vote in State College, Pennsylvania. [For more see last week's blog post.] What rights does the other-than-human environment deserve? What are our responsibilities to it? What are our responsibilities to future generations of people and their living places and the organisms and systems that will support them? It's no small thing to wrap your head around.

After the 4:30 break we'll be joined by Iris Marie Bloom of Protecting Our Waters. She is one of the principle organizers of Shale Gas Outrage rally and demonstration and the Freedom From Fracking conference this Wednesday, September 7th in Philadelphia. They write,
This demonstration is in response to the Marcellus Shale Coalition’s conference in Philadelphia on Sept. 7th and 8th. CEOs from major fracking companies will be plotting to expand their poisonous operations in PA, NY, OH, MD, WV, VA, and NJ. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett and former governors Tom Ridge and Ed Rendell will be speaking in support of the industry. Dubbed “Shale Gas Insight,” this is not only a key trade show for the industry, but also a brazen expression of its political muscle.
Today, Bloom will give us the rundown about what we can expect next in the continued wrangling over the natural gas rush in Pennsylvania.

Sustainability Now's Peter Buckland was at the demonstration on Wednesday [read here], doing interviews and getting the inside scoop. People from across the commonwealth were there demanding change, all while being called liars or hysterical by the gas industry.

Perhaps Groundswell's Environmental Bill of Rights is the wave of the future for communities seeking some respite from natural resource extraction, habitat fragmentation, and pollution. Bolivia, following in the footsteps of Ecuador, is set to pass a historic Law of Mother Earth that would grant other-than-human nature equal rights. Is State College next?

Listen this Friday from 4-5 pm on The Lion 90.7 fm. Feel free to call in at 865-9577.


Here is a copy of the Environmental Bill of Rights itself.


The Logic of Transition and Resilience

Last year, we talked to Katherine Watt and Bill Sharp of the State College Transition Town movement. They discussed the intertwining problems of climate change and peak oil in an oil-dependent society and economy. For some people, this is frightening and paralyzing. For others, it opens up new possibilities.

Enter Rob Hopkins, the founder of the Transition Towns movement who sees a new design to society and economy and culture based on moving past oil and living with climate change. Essentially, it's a new and positive vision that is transitional, adaptive, cooperative, and most importantly resilient. He does not think that high technology is going to save us. There is no techno-messiah. Essentially, he thinks that these are "solutions where they are" that is sensitive "to place, where they are" and "a process that is joyful."

Below is his TEDTalk.

People mix hope, rage, and resolve at Shale Gas Outrage

Yesterday, about 1,000 people attended the Shale Gas Outrage demonstration in Philadelphia. The events was convened as counter-voice to the Marcellus Shale Coalition's Shale Gas Insight conference for industry.

Individuals, community groups, and established organizations joined organizers Protecting Our Waters, Food & Water Watch, Marcellus Protest, and others to call for changes to the way gas drilling is proceeding in Pennsylvania. People joined in chants of "Shut them down!" and "Ban fracking now!"

Meanwhile inside, Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon derided the demonstrators as "extremists" and former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, who also headed the Marcellus Shale Coalition, called environmental concerns "phony hysteria." But former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell shot back in his own speech to the Shale Gas Insight attendees, saying that they needed to step up and pay a severance tax and that people's concerns over clean air, clean water, and health were legitimate.

Outside, speakers shared a mixture of fear, hope, and calls to action. Pittsburgh Councilman Doug Shields riled up the crowd by highlighting Pittsburgh's unanimous vote to ban hydraulic fracturing within the city. Several speakers, including Delaware River Keeper Tracy Carluccio, Al Appleton, and Gasland director Josh Fox all called on the crowd to keep gas drilling out of the Delaware River Basin.

Fox, having just been arrested for civil disobedience in Washington, D.C. over tar sands oil and the proposed Keystone XL pipeline (see here and here) implored people to descend on the Delaware River Basin Commission on October 21st to demand that they ban fracking in the basin. He distributed the DRBC's phone number to the crowd, some of whom called DRBC on the spot. You can call them at (609) 883-9500. If push comes to shove, he believes people are going to have to be civilly disobedient and be arrested. Without civil disobedience, he and other said, blacks would still be riding in the back of the bus and women wouldn't be voting.

Whether this is hysteria or legitimate, people attending were very concerned. Here are four of them.

Tony Ruggiero is from Texas. His 10-acre $300,000 Texas property has almost completely lost its value because of gas operations.

Nathan Sooy of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania is a member of Clean Water Action.

Eric Weldman works for Food & Water Watch. They are asking people to call President Obama on October 13th to change federal policy on hydraulic fracturing.

Gary Thornbloom is the head of the Sierra Club's Moshannon chapter in central Pennsylvania. They are calling for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing.

Where do you stand?


One woman's commitment to solidarity and sustainability

Toni Brink believes there are so many things that people can do for a better world today and tomorrow. She really hopes that people can "live more harmoniously with the planet." Driven in part by a longtime commitment to social and environmental justice, the 66-year-old grandmother joined thousands of demonstrators in Washington, DC to oppose the proposed Keystone XL pipeline last week.

The 1,600-mile pipeline would carry heavy oil from Alberta's tar sands across Montana and the Midwest to Port Arthur, Texas. A broad range of environmentalists, scientists, farmers, politicians, and citizens worry about air, water, and land pollution, damaged habitats, and the climate impact of tar sand development. Proponents, including TransCanada who has proposed the pipeline, argue that tar sands oil could reduce U.S. dependence on oil from the Middle East and Venezuela. That claim is disputed by Oil Change International. [For background from Sustainability Now, read our previous story here.]

On Thursday, September 1st, Brink was arrested in front of the White House. [Picture below courtesy of Nick Brink] “It really solidified my commitment," said Brink. After a briefing the night before and joining three other women, two of whom were lawyers, she felt as prepared as she could be. Bill McKibben spoke to them as did Josh Fox, director of the film Gasland, who sees an intimate and destructive connection between tar sands development and natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale and elsewhere. Tar sands refinement to get bitumen requires enormous amounts of natural gas, enlarging its energy and climate impacts.

"I've been standing with 8 or 10 people opposing the wars [in Iraq and Afghanistan] for years." She sees joining the likes of Fox, Bill McKibben (who spoke at Penn State last year), James Hansen, Naomi Klein, Darryl Hanna, and 1,200 other people as a natural and necessary step for a better world. [Learn more from 350.org.]

She hopes people will make better choices. These can be as varied as growing your own food or purchasing from local markets to reduce energy waste and restore soil to organizing political actions to helping develop cleaner and more efficient technologies.

Asked what she took away from the experience, she said, “While the destination is a safe, sustainable, equitable future for all, the journey can be a joy. It can open up new creative avenues when we work together. We are not alone.”


Sustainability Now's co-host is Tweeting

If you're interested in following some of the news and views that Sustainability Now's Peter Buckland is reading, you can follow him on Twitter @PeterEvolves. He's following a fleet of organizations, news outlets, and people around the state and country weighing in on sustainability issues.