Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Traveling band of eco-friendly educators comes to UT

The Sustainable Living Roadshow's goal is to educate and inspire anyone who is interested in making the world a greener place.
The Sustainable Living Roadshow's goal is to educate and inspire anyone who is interested in making the world a greener place.
published: September 24 2008 07:43 PM updated:: September 24 2008 09:28 PM

Don't know much about living green? No problem. The University of Tennessee will host the Sustainable Living Roadshow Sept. 27-28 on Fiji Island.

Everywhere the "Be the Change" national SLR tour stops, a group of dedicated eco-friendly volunteers do their best to inform inquisitive residents how to most efficiently live green.

Marty Driggs, A spokesperson for the SLR, said the caravan hopes to bring "edutainment" to campuses like UT. By creating an arena to focus on different aspects of sustainable living, the SLR hopes attendees will feel engaged and motivated, but not preached to.

The group achieves this "edutainment" feel by bringing information to the consumers in a fun and festive atmosphere.

To that end, several bands will be playing at this weekend's event:

  • Artvandalay
  • Ga-Na-Si-Ta
  • The Andy Show
  • Natti Love Joys
  • The Charles Butler Experience
  • Grandpa's Stash
  • Booze Hound Gandy Dance
  • DJ Snack Attack & special guests
  • Beats Antique
  • Monkey Spores
  • Thomas Clever

"People think green living is a sacrifice, but by taking a holistic approach to green living, you don't see it as a sacrifice," Driggs said. "Instead, you see that there is a whole community to rely on. There is a lot to gain from it."

The SLR heavily promotes the idea of community-based living. Driggs advocates locally grown produce and meats. "By focusing on having a local diet, you see a big reduction in pollutions. For areas that can't grow their own produce year round, there are other options like canning and food fermentation, and the SLR is looking to create workshops about these methods of storing food."

The SLR focuses on a holistic view of the green lifestyle, which includes natural health, green technology, localization of food and power, consumer choices, and alternative transportation. It does this through various elements:

  • Solar sound stage - A venue for local and national acts powered solely by the sun.
  • The Conscious Carnival - Eight interactive games including a nine-hole "global warming mini-golf course."
  • Green Screens Film Festival - An opportunity for event-goers to watch and discuss videos concerning environmental and social issues.
  • Workshop tents - Speakers from across the world will be leading discussions about everything green.
  • The Green Market Place - A medium for introducing various eco-friendly companies to consumers.
  • Natural Health and Healing Farmacy - An area dedicate to selling a wide range of natural healing aids.
  • The Eco-Info Zone - The caravan's mobile bookstore.
  • Clean Energy Showcase - The road show's biofuel buses and vehicles are used to show viewers ways to improve energy usage.
  • Awakened Art Garden - A gallery of various art mediums themed about the environment

Tossing fossil fuels is a prevalent topic of the road show's discussions, Driggs said.

But isn't a mobile caravan adding to the problem of using fossil fuels? According to SLR's Web site, all of the tour's buses run on sustainable biofuels, the events use power from solar and biofuel generators, and the events are "zero-waste."

The next question one might ask is: isn't that more expensive?

Driggs explained, "The dichotomy between the economic and environmental solutions is quickly becoming outdated. The costs of externalities from fossil fuels are much higher. Switching over would actually cost less."

But setting up a mobile education festival is by no means cheap. Driggs estimated setting up each event, including fuel to the event, would cost around $10,000.

And yet, the event is free for everyone. So how do they afford to travel from campuses to conventions?

A large portion of the groups funds come from large individual donors, Driggs said. But volunteers do their part as well. Local farmers and co-ops donate food. The SLR does sell some merchandise.

The group went out to thrift stores, purchased affordable used T-shirts, and printed the SLR logo on them. The road show also sells books on everything from alternative medicine to vegan cookbooks.

"The real goal of the SLR," Driggs explained, "is to make itself obsolete. It should serve as a model for people around the country. We all sense something isn't right. Realizing that there's others out there with the same way of thinking as you is empowering. Going to the show makes you more motivated to be green."

The Methane Time Bomb

This article is making its way around the climate action community. Looks like those feedback loops are kicking we go!

Tuesday 23 September 2008

by: Steve Conner, The Independent UK

Arctic scientists discover new global warming threat as melting permafrost releases millions of tons of a gas 20 times more damaging than carbon dioxide.

The first evidence that millions of tons of a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide is being released into the atmosphere from beneath the Arctic seabed has been discovered by scientists.

The Independent has been passed details of preliminary findings suggesting that massive deposits of sub-sea methane are bubbling to the surface as the Arctic region becomes warmer and its ice retreats.

Underground stores of methane are important because scientists believe their sudden release has in the past been responsible for rapid increases in global temperatures, dramatic changes to the climate, and even the mass extinction of species. Scientists aboard a research ship that has sailed the entire length of Russia's northern coast have discovered intense concentrations of methane - sometimes at up to 100 times background levels - over several areas covering thousands of square miles of the Siberian continental shelf.

In the past few days, the researchers have seen areas of sea foaming with gas bubbling up through "methane chimneys" rising from the sea floor. They believe that the sub-sea layer of permafrost, which has acted like a "lid" to prevent the gas from escaping, has melted away to allow methane to rise from underground deposits formed before the last ice age.

They have warned that this is likely to be linked with the rapid warming that the region has experienced in recent years.

Methane is about 20 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and many scientists fear that its release could accelerate global warming in a giant positive feedback where more atmospheric methane causes higher temperatures, leading to further permafrost melting and the release of yet more methane.

The amount of methane stored beneath the Arctic is calculated to be greater than the total amount of carbon locked up in global coal reserves so there is intense interest in the stability of these deposits as the region warms at a faster rate than other places on earth.

Read the full article.

MLK Speech on Civil Disobedience, I mean, “Terrorism”

MLK the TerroristI’ve written before about how Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. would be labeled a “terrorist” for his tactics, and radical politics. But when I heard these speeches by Dr. King about his opposition to the Vietnam War (when others were urging him to remain “single issue”) and his unwavering support for civil disobedience… well, it gave me chills.

I certainly found this at the right time. I was in dire need of some inspiration like this. Funny how it always seems to come along right when you need it most. Here’s a link to the MP3 from Democracy Now (the excerpt below is near the end).

"I say to you, this morning, that if you have never found something so dear and precious to you that you will die for it, then you aren’t fit to live.You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be, and one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls upon you to stand for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid.

You refuse to do it because you want to live longer. You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab or shoot or bomb your house. So you refuse to take a stand.

Well, you may go on and live until you are ninety, but you are just as dead at 38 as you would be at ninety.

And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.

You died when you refused to stand up for right.

You died when you refused to stand up for truth.

You died when you refused to stand up for justice.”

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Wild-rice, Horses and Environmental Justice

After a wholesome meal of wild rice and wild-crafted mushrooms, I find myself inspired to recount my experiences at the Anishinaabeg reservation, home of the White Earth Land Recovery Project, a program founded by Winona Laduke. And with the excitement of recent actions against Dominion coal still ringing in my head, her words carry a timely significance; "If I can stop a few coal plants from being built, or put up a some wind turbines, I can go the Creator knowing that I tried."

We met Winona at the Ripple Effect concert at the RNC. She enjoyed the fun yet sophistacted spectacle that is the Sustainable Living Roadshow, and invited us to her reservation. They were having a pow-wow that weekend, and would be blessing a piece of land set to receive a new structure, a symbolic device offering a degree of independence for the reservation: a 20 kW Mitsubishi wind turbine. It was a momentous and appropriate invitation, we could not refuse.

I woke up on the bus in the early morning, having fallen asleep during the late-night ride to the res. I walked outside into a field, immediately struck by the air. I wasn't prepared for this kind of cold.

The people of at the pow-wow welcomed us warmly to this cultural event. Rotating crews of men beat drums and sang unfamiliar words with powerful and hypnotizing voices. Men and women in traditional and semi-traditional clothing danced their respective dances in circles, in a sort of competition. The dresses of some women jangled as they walked. Their clothes had many ribbons, with small cones of metal hanging from their ends. I was intrigued to learn that sometime in recent history, a woman was instructed in the dream to replace with traditional sea-shell dangles with aluminum can lids, rolled into cones.

The kids at the pow-wow were off the wall, to say the least, free to run around and have fun. Ofcourse, with our games and free giveaways we were honored by their constant attention. It was cool seeing 8 year-olds running around with RYSE stickers on them. Three little kids were interested in our Dr. Bronner's soap samples. So interested, in fact that they ended up opening the packets and squirting them at me.

By the end of the day, I was exhausted. The bitter cold had returned, but fortunately a man at the pow-wow was selling winter hats! I spent some time hanging out with a veteran named Doug, while others chilled at a small fire. I turned in early. We had another important day ahead of us.

We had been invited to see a part of the long process of obtaining wild rice. Unfortunately the timing wasn't right in order to see the harvest, where canoes are used to float by the rice, and sticks are used to knock the rice into the boat. It's a skillful art as old as time. The process of rendering the final product, however, has been modernized to an extent. We were brought to the processing facility, where a half-dozen men (and one boy) operate decades-old furnaces, shaking and rotating machines. The grain pods must be heated, rotated, heated again, filtered and separated. I can't imagine how much work it took before the machines. Of course, these people are making more rice then they can ever eat. They sell the high-quality wild rice to small health-food stores and individuals across the country via their website.

Proceeds from rice sales constitute a major source of income for the people of the reservation. They are able to continue their ancient practice of harvesting and share their gift with the world. This gift, however is being threatened by industrial agribusiness. In an attempt to streamline the production of the highly-valued rice, the University of Minnesota is attempting to grow genetically modify "wild rice" to make it easier to harvest and process. There, of course, would be no control of genetic contamination, which could cross-pollinate with and effectively take the "wild" out of the rice.

Wild rice sales (and other Wild Harvest products) help to fund the White Earth Land Recovery Project, which has been fighting agribusiness corporations to keep the rice GMO free. The Project is set up as a land trust, buying up land previously inhabited by the Anishinaabeg tribes.

The Project is also working to address issues of environmental and energy justice. Like the people of Southern Appalachia, Native populations have been continuously oppressed by the energy industry. Native reservations are disproportionately affected by uranium and coal mining, processing, and waste.

Recognizing the true cost of coal, the White Earth Land Recovery Project and members of the reservation have worked to make their homes more efficient, install solar water heaters, and will soon be getting more of their electricity of locally produced wind power.

In order to prepare the land for a new 20kW wind turbine, a ritual was performed which, according to an elder, had not been performed for over 100 years on that land. Our crew was lucky enough to be invited to participate in the ritual. I will close this post with my previous recollection of that event.

"Thirty-three living beings stood in a circle, meditating, blessing this piece of earth. Twenty-nine humans and four horses. These four special individuals stood facing the four directions, wearing the four colors of the four races of man, linking us all to our past and to the Creator. These strong and dependable creatures took part in the ritual with a solemn humility. We could all sense an enchanting connection with those great beings. It was as if they knew of our intent, and encouraged us with their blessing.

This horse ritual had not been performed on the land for more than 100 years, and its revival was as momentous as it was mesmerizing. It was performed in order to prepare the earth for a landmark of both purpose and function. On that spot will soon stand a new wind turbine."