Monday, June 29, 2009

Repurposing buildings to a higher end: a shade-free vegetable garden!

Rooftop FarmNow THIS is enough to make you hum "New York, New York" . . . Image by mkebbe via Flickr

Great stuff here.
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Why Waxman-Markey Should Die

Instrumental temperature record of the last 15...Image via Wikipedia


Rep. Dennis Kucinich - I oppose H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. The reason is simple. It won't address the problem. In fact, it might make the problem worse.

It sets targets that are too weak, especially in the short term, and sets about meeting those targets through Enron-style accounting methods. It gives new life to one of the primary sources of the problem that should be on its way out - coal - by giving it record subsidies. And it is rounded out with massive corporate giveaways at taxpayer expense. There is $60 billion for a single technology which may or may not work, but which enables coal power plants to keep warming the planet at least another 20 years.

Worse, the bill locks us into a framework that will fail. Science tells us that immediately is not soon enough to begin repairing the planet. Waiting another decade or more will virtually guarantee catastrophic levels of warming. But the bill does not require any greenhouse gas reductions beyond current levels until 2030.

There are several aspects of the bill that are problematic.

1. Overall targets are too weak. The bill is predicated on a target atmospheric concentration of 450 parts per million, a target that is arguably justified in the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, but which is already out of date. Recent science suggests 350 parts per million is necessary to help us avoid the worst effects of global warming.

2. The offsets undercut the emission reductions. Offsets allow polluters to keep polluting; they are rife with fraudulent claims of emissions reduction; they create environmental, social, and economic unintended adverse consequences; and they codify and endorse the idea that polluters do not have to make sacrifices to solve the problem.

3. It kicks the can down the road. By requiring the bulk of the emissions to be carried out in the long term and requiring few reductions in the short term, we are not only failing to take the action when it is needed to address rapid global warming, but we are assuming the long term targets will remain intact.

4. EPA's authority to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the short- to medium-term is rescinded. It is our best defense against a new generation of coal power plants. There is no room for coal as a major energy source in a future with a stable climate.

5. Nuclear power is given a lifeline instead of phasing it out. Nuclear power is far more expensive, has major safety issues including a near release in my own home state in 2002, and there is still no resolution to the waste problem. A recent study by Dr. Mark Cooper showed that it would cost $1.9 trillion to $4.1 trillion more over the life of 100 new nuclear reactors than to generate the same amount of electricity from energy efficiency and renewables.

6. Dirty coal is given a lifeline instead of phasing it out. Coal-based energy destroys entire mountains, kills and injures workers at higher rates than most other occupations, decimates ecologically sensitive wetlands and streams, creates ponds of ash that are so toxic the Department of Homeland Security will not disclose their locations for fear of their potential to become a terrorist weapon, and fouls the air and water with sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, particulates, mercury, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and thousands of other toxic compounds that cause asthma, birth defects, learning disabilities, and pulmonary and cardiac problems for starters. In contrast, several times more jobs are yielded by renewable energy investments than comparable coal investments.

7. The $60 billion allocated for carbon capture and sequestration is triple the amount of money for basic research and development in the bill. We should be pressuring China, India and Russia to slow and stop their power plants now instead of enabling their perpetuation. We cannot create that pressure while spending unprecedented amounts on a single technology that may or may not work. . .

8. Carbon markets can and will be manipulated using the same Wall Street sleights of hand that brought us the financial crisis.

9. It is regressive. Free allocations doled out with the intent of blunting the effects on those of modest means will pale in comparison to the allocations that go to polluters and special interests. The financial benefits of offsets and unlimited banking also tend to accrue to large corporations. And of course, the trillion dollar carbon derivatives market will help Wall Street investors. Much of the benefits designed to assist consumers are passed through coal companies and other large corporations, on whom we will rely to pass on the savings.
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Cool idea for Bike Parking Parity

Salem, like all cities, needs to stop giving people in cars special privileges and perks.

For starters, we need to establish the basic principle of "parking parity" -- that is, equal parking for bikes and cars. That would mean, for example, that in every street with a row of car parking spaces, one or two of the central spaces would be reserved for bicycles, preferably with a rain cover, like this fascinating design, which combines bike parking, a bus waiting bench, and a certain elegance, an economy of materials, and a rain/wind barrier if the rack is oriented to protect against the prevailing wind direction. There's even a fully enclosed model that is also attractive (below).

Greywater -- a second step towards reviving sustainability instincts in Salem

Cover of "The New Create an Oasis With Gr...Cover via Amazon - but for best sustainability results, try the library, the author, or your locally owned bookseller

Sooner or later Salem will (again) permit households to keep some laying hens. The next step towards allowing, if not encouraging, sustainable behavior might be revising the city codes to permit collection and use of "greywater" (used kitchen sink, dishwasher, and clothes washer water).

Like electricity, greywater is not without hazards. And, like electricity, it's perfectly safe if used intelligently and "in the open." The danger comes when the law forbids (and, therefore, drives underground) valuable, useful activities by presuming that we are all children who must be controlled and protected by eliminating any activity with any risk. (Considering how the hen debate has gone, thank goodness the Salem City Council isn't considering whether to permit electricity here for the first time!)

We need to retrain our elected officials to remind them that we are at least as intelligent as the pioneers and the natives in this place, who had an ethic of not wasting much and of getting as many uses out of each thing as possible. While the brief period of unprecedented affluence that is now drawing to a close has dulled our instincts for acting sustainably/economically around the home, those instincts are still there, waiting to be developed and employed again.

(Of course, budget problems have a way of cutting through red tape. The more greywater that Salem households use on their flower gardens, shrubs and trees, the less has to be chlorinated and delivered to the house and the less that has to be pumped and put through wastewater treatment facilities.)
Greywater reference
Create an Oasis with Greywater

Greywater is the term for all household wastewater except for the toilet and kitchen sink. This is the only comprehensive book I know of on the subject, and in this fifth and expanded edition, Art Ludwig explains how to choose, build, and use a variety of simple greywater systems. There are clear drawings for sending washing machine water into the garden (with or without a drum), for putting diversion vales on bathtubs or showers, for creating "mulch basins," for ultra-simple setups like "Garden Hose Through the Bathroom," and "Dishpan Dump (Bucketing)" -- the latter of which I've been practicing lately to the great benefit of both septic system and compost piles.

There's a large section on branched drains -- splitting the flow and dispersing greywater to a number of mulch basins in the garden -- using gravity flow, no pumps or electricity. Mistakes made in greywater systems over the years are documented here, along with suggested improvements, and there's a two-page System Selection Chart with a comparison of 18 different systems.

-- Lloyd Kahn

[Complete plans for one of the book's most broadly appealing projects -- a Laundry to Landscape Grey Water System -- are available, free, on the Oasis Design site. -- ES]

The New Create an Oasis with Greywater
Art Ludwig
144 pages

Published by and available from Oasis Design

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