RSS Entries ATOM Entries

Archive for October, 2012

Teaching neighbours to build small renewable energy projects for resilience

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on October 31st, 2012

Source: Resilience


Photo via JfS

From “Transition Town Fujino goes for local energy independence” by Carol Smith via OurWorld 2.0:

Fujino is one of three fully functioning Transition Movement initiatives in Japan, although over twenty are in the works. Established in the fall of 2008, Transition Fujino (which we’ve featured on Our World a few times in the past) started up by sharing information on the core issues through events like briefings and film presentations.

Then a local currency, the Yorozuya (meaning “general store” in Japanese), was launched and began playing a major role in stimulating local networking. The Yorozuya project started with 15 members in 2009 and has now grown to include 150 households. Those participating can exchange goods and eat at restaurants using the currency. The network also thrives by targeting local needs, such as providing pet care, weeding vegetable gardens, and picking up children. It further serves to connect those in need with those who can give a hand. Following the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, the network displayed a great ability to support disaster-affected areas by collecting cash donations, gathering and sorting emergency relief supplies and regularly holding charity events.

In the wake of the [March 03 2011] disaster, the working group Fujino Denryoku (“denryoku” meaning “electric power”) was established to help people break away from their dependence on electricity provided by the traditional power utilities and transition towards self-sufficient, locally-distributed energy created with the participation of local people.  The group’s first project was to supply power for lighting and sound systems at a local festival. Project teams also went out to festivals in the earthquake disaster zones in the Tohoku region and offered support to the affected areas by supplying power generated with renewable energy.

The working group also holds monthly “Solar Power System Workshops”, where participants, including beginners, can easily assemble a home system by connecting photovoltaic (PV) panels and batteries, etc., as part of a campaign called “An Energy Shift Starting at Home”.  At the first workshop in December 2011 participants initially learned from one another, but the workshop began to attract attention from a wider public and within six months it was being introduced on TV and in magazines. Now the workshops host not only local residents, but increasingly people from outside communities.

Read the full article on the Resilience website to find out more about Transition Towns in Japan, energy independence and local resilience, or read the Japan for Sustainability (JfS) newsletter article by Yuriko Yoneda that this article was based on.

 


Intelligent Farming Can Reduce the Need for Pesticides and Fertilisers: Research

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on October 29th, 2012

“Figure 3. Multiple indicators of cropping system performance” from Increasing Cropping System Diversity Balances Productivity, Profitability and Environmental Health

From “A Simple Fix for Farming” by Mark Bittman:

It’s becoming clear that we can grow all the food we need, and profitably, with far fewer chemicals. And I’m not talking about imposing some utopian vision of small organic farms on the world. Conventional agriculture can shed much of its chemical use — if it wants to.

This was hammered home once again in what may be the most important agricultural study this year, although it has been largely ignored by the media, two of the leading science journals and even one of the study’s sponsors, the often hapless Department of Agriculture.

The study was done on land owned by Iowa State University called the Marsden Farm. On 22 acres of it, beginning in 2003, researchers set up three plots: one replicated the typical Midwestern cycle of planting corn one year and then soybeans the next, along with its routine mix of chemicals. On another, they planted a three-year cycle that included oats; the third plot added a four-year cycle and alfalfa. The longer rotations also integrated the raising of livestock, whose manure was used as fertilizer.

The results were stunning: The longer rotations produced better yields of both corn and soy, reduced the need for nitrogen fertilizer and herbicides by up to 88 percent, reduced the amounts of toxins in groundwater 200-fold and didn’t reduce profits by a single cent.

In short, there was only upside — and no downside at all — associated with the longer rotations. There was an increase in labor costs, but remember that profits were stable. So this is a matter of paying people for their knowledge and smart work instead of paying chemical companies for poisons. And it’s a high-stakes game; according to the Environmental Protection Agency, about five billion pounds of pesticides are used each year in the United States.

[…]

Read the full article by Mark Bittman on the NY Times Opinionator blog, or check out the research paper, published on plos one:

“Results of our study indicate that more diverse cropping systems can use small amounts of synthetic agrichemical inputs as powerful tools with which to tune, rather than drive, agroecosystem performance, while meeting or exceeding the performance of less diverse systems.”  Davis AS, Hill JD, Chase CA, Johanns AM, Liebman M (2012) Increasing Cropping System Diversity Balances Productivity, Profitability and Environmental Health. PLoS ONE 7(10): e47149. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047149


Mapping Global Climate Action

Posted in Models, Tools by Jessica Bird on October 25th, 2012

Source: The Climate Institute


Screenshot from the Global Climate Action Map website

An initiative of the Climate Institute, the Global Climate Action Map is an interactive tool for exploring what countries around the world are doing in terms of policy action on climate change. It’s a great way of learning about how governments are addressing issues such a renewable energy and emissions targets, carbon pricing, energy efficiency, forest and farming emissions, and emissions standards.

From the Global Climate Action Map website:

Aim: All major emitting countries are implementing policies to reduce emissions, drive clean energy investment and improve energy efficiency. This is driven by a range of factors including the need to reduce local and global air pollution, avoid environmental degradation, improve energy security and build new industries and employment opportunities. This map, while not exhaustive, seeks to provide a summary of high-level national actions on climate change.

Purpose: While countries representing over 80 per cent of global emissions have now committed to reduce or limit greenhouse gas emissions, the current commitments on the table mean the world is still heading for 3-4 degrees of global warming. Current national policies are a foundation to build upon, but more cooperation and increased ambition is needed to truly address the challenge.

Visit the Global Climate Action Map to explore the map yourself.

 


Visions of Resilience: Anglesea 2037

Posted in Research, Visions by Jessica Bird on October 23rd, 2012


Image by D. Armellin

A local resilience-building project about climate extremes.

Visions of Resilience: Anglesea 2037 is part of a larger research project Transforming Institutions for Climate Extremes. This project is led by Che Biggs at the Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab (VEIL) at the University of Melbourne. It aims to understand how communities and institutions can prepare and become more resilient to disruptive climate conditions. Anglesea was chosen as an ideal case-study site because it faces multiple climate hazards such as fire, drought and sea level rise but it also has a creative community and a strong local identity.

What is the Visions of Resilience: Anglesea 2037 blog about?

The images and articles you see on the Visions of Resilience: Anglesea 2037 blog are glimpses of possible futures. They depict strategies and ideas about how Anglesea could become more resilient to the more extreme possible impacts of climate change. The ideas represented have been developed from a workshop involving Anglesea community members. In the workshop people were asked to propose adaptation strategies in response to a series of challenging future scenarios that describe Anglesea in the year 2037. These scenarios were built from an assessment of climate model projections, historical records from along the Great Ocean Road and interviews with Anglesea residents. The small number of glimpses you see were combined and synthesised from more than 100 ideas developed in the workshop. Treat them as a window into a range of possible futures that might exist. We encourage you to comment on what is good or not good about the way they respond to challenges from climate change.

Why this project? When managing disaster risk, government and private sector organisations often rely heavily on ‘probability’ or ‘expert’ assessments of the likely type, extent and frequency of negative impacts. This can come unstuck when disasters occur outside what has been predicted and planned for. Transforming Institutions for Climate Extremes is a response to this problem. It responds to the call for new methods to improve community resilience and help communities improve disaster planning. It seeks to explore how prepared our communities, our decision-makers and decision-making processes are for the challenges of ‘new’ climate conditions. It will consider what institutional changes are needed to meet those challenges whilst ensuring community ownership.

Climate change in Anglesea? Anglesea lies in an area of southern Australia that will be affected by climate change in many ways. Climate models project that the most likely direct impacts will include changes to rainfall (drier but with more intense rainfall events), changes in temperature (warmer with more heatwaves), increasing acidity of oceans and rising sea levels. In-turn, these impacts are expected to affect a whole range of factors including increases in coastal erosion and days of extreme fire danger to increased risk of heat-stroke and changes to when plants flower and birds migrate. Climate Change is the effect of heat from the sun being trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere by gases produced by human activity. While some of these gases (like carbon dioxide) are found naturally in the atmosphere, as we increase their concentration above natural levels, they trap more heat from the sun – a bit like an insulation blanket.

You can view the glimpses of a resilient Anglesea in 2037 and comment at www.anglesea2037.com. You can also like the Facebook page to be kept up to date with the project.


How Can We Age Well in our Communities?

Posted in Models, Visions by Kate Archdeacon on October 11th, 2012

 Source: Place Makers via Planetizen


Photo: Julie70 via flickr CC

From Ready for the Geezer Glut? Then think beyond “aging in place” by Ben Brown:

[…]
Here’s a taste of how medical professionals are looking at the age wave, courtesy of Ardis Dee Hoven, MD, on an American Medical Association site in 2010:

The statistics are staggering. By age 65, around two-thirds of all seniors have at least one chronic disease and see seven physicians. Twenty percent of those older than 65 have five or more chronic diseases, see 14 physicians — and average 40 doctor visits a year. Situations like these are a nightmare for patients and the physicians who treat them.

Is any community ready for that?

What got me to thinking about this lately were two things. One was a timely diagnosis of the problem, especially as it applies to place, by Linda Selin Davis on The Atlantic Cities October 3 blog. Pointing to “the tainted legacy of age-segregated housing that is a $51 billion industry,” she nailed the unintended consequence of the “retirement community” movement:

We suffer from a severe lack of foresight, a shortage of personal and community planning when it comes to where and how to age. We’ve separated our elders from their extended families without replacing what their relatives might once have provided: a decent quality of life, until the very end.

The other insight feels like a solution, at least in a very targeted way. It comes from organizers of a senior cohousing initiative in Abingdon, VA called ElderSpirit Community. I’ve stayed in touch with them over the last decade because they provide one of my go-to antidotes for cynicism. Starting with few resources and little experience in neighborhood design, finance and development, they’ve assembled and successfully managed the intricate components of intentional community. And they’ve done that while measuring success against wildly idealistic standards. ElderSpirit members committed to a community designed for both physical and financial accessibility, for exploring spiritual purpose in broadly ecumenical ways and for supporting one another’s mental and physical well-being in the final stages of their lives.

[…]

Counting on volunteers to respond to those kinds of needs on a random basis doesn’t work. Some folks aren’t inclined to ask for help, so they don’t get it when they need it most. Meanwhile, dedicated volunteers over-commit and burn out quickly. The ElderSpirit answer – and the beginning of a new model for mutual support in community – is a system that matches people, skills and needs.

The community’s Care Committee established sort of a jobs bank of volunteers willing to take responsibility for tasks they felt best equipped to handle – transportation, say, or meals prep. Then they created a sort of buddy system, member-designated care coordinators to tap into the community support network. Each member was asked to pick two care coordinators, people they were comfortable confiding in and trusted to represent them. So when a need arises, the care coordinator activates the network.

[…]

Remember what Linda Selin Davis wrote in her blog post about “a shortage of personal and community planning.” That’s an understatement. Most Boomers will age in neighborhoods that are unlikely to sustain the kind of care network system ElderSpirit developed. They presume connectivity by car and exile anyone without the ability or desire to drive. The isolation that complicates every challenge in old age is designed into the places most Americans call home.

Arthur C. Nelson, director of the University of Utah’s Metropolitan Research Center, has been hammering away on this point for some time. Between 1950 and 2000, says Nelson, the share of Americans living in suburban areas rose from 27 percent to 52 percent; the suburban population grew by 100 million, from 41 million to 141 million; and suburbia accounted for three quarters of the nation’s population change.

The big push among advocates for seniors has been to build new homes and customize old ones for successful “aging in place.” Almost all of the emphasis has been on universal design, on assuring accessibility in individual homes through design and remodeling choices that make it easier to get around in wheel chairs, reach stuff in cabinets and on countertops and assure safety in bathrooms. But aging in places that isolate seniors in their homes, regardless of how easy it is to climb out of the bath tub, is not going to get at the bigger problem.  Especially in an era in which the very demographic forces that have served us Boomers so well turn on us when we need help most. Says Nelson:

The American dream of owning one’s own home may result in millions of senior households living in auto-dependent suburban homes which have lost value compared to smaller homes in more central locations where many of their services will be located.

We all should be for strategies that allow for successful aging in place. But for the strategies to offer meaningful advantages to both seniors and their communities, they have to begin with making the right places.

>> Read the full article by Ben Brown on Place Makers.
>>For an Australian perspective, check out the report Tomorrow’s Suburbs by the Grattan Institute.