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Climate Change

In her book This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein suggests that a survivable endgame for our society depends on “a realizable, if distant, vision” of a better and more sustainable future.

“This means laying out a vision of the world that competes directly with today’s vision, one that resonates with the majority of people on the planet because it is true: that we are not apart from nature but of it… This is a vision of the future that goes beyond just surviving or enduring climate change, beyond ‘mitigating’ and ‘adapting’ to it… It is a vision in which we collectively use the crisis to leap somewhere that seems, frankly, better than where we are right now.”

-Naomi Klein

To stabilize the climate by sharing survivable greenhouse gas emissions equally among all people, Americans will have to reduce their CO² output by about 90%. Most of the systems and services now powered by fossil fuel will have to be abandoned, or changed to operate on renewable energy. The energy of choice—renewable solar and wind energy— is decentralized. To minimize the transport of food, recovered nutrients, energy and people, our societies and systems of life support must also be decentralized. It is most efficient to grow food near to where it is consumed and to power homes directly and simply with local solar resources.

The most promising way to produce basic human needs of food, water and shelter sustainably is to combine Chinese permaculture, bioshelters, and nutrient recycling. For more information, please read Moving On – Better Homes and Habitats by Earle Barnhart, excerpted below.

Traditional Chinese agriculture

IMG_0182Agriculture in China evolved over 6,000 years from the collective experience of several hundred generations of farmers. Their methods produced the highest possible agricultural yields on an area of land, higher by area than modern industrial agriculture, while using no fossil fuels. Their fundamental practices include growing food crops in polyculture year round on all available soil, controlling and using rainfall and water efficiently, recycling all organic waste nutrients back into agriculture and employing human-powered transport. Today we call this method “permaculture.”

Agricultural bioshelters

ark lemonsBioshelters are food-producing greenhouses heated primarily with passive solar energy and containing diverse plants, ponds, insects and soil life. They are essentially an agricultural ecosystem contained within a greenhouse. In temperate climates with sunny winters, agricultural bioshelters can produce food year-round food without fossil fuel. Aquaculture ponds inside produce edible fish while also storing solar heat for greenhouse heating. When bioshelters are linked with outdoor agriculture (such as by producing spring seedlings), the yields of both can be improved and fresh food can be provided year-round.

Residential bioshelters

Loek in Ark with OmaResidential bioshelters are designed to provide both food production and housing, powered primarily by solar energy. A residential bioshelter can produce sustainable services of housing, food, and water supply, while greatly reducing the use of energy for agriculture and transport. Ideally, residential bioshelters would be modular, mass-produced for rapid implementation, and engineered to be combined into networks and ecological neighborhoods.


Local nutrient recycling

Recovery & Recycling food-ET-compost-food cycleThe last frontier of sustainability for humans is the recovering and recycling of waste nutrients, an ecological link missing in our society and agriculture. We currently consume, waste and pollute, instead of recover and recycle.

Recycling of nutrients makes permanently sustainable food production possible. The technology of safe recycling is simple, low-tech and energy-efficient. Safe recycling back to agricultural and natural ecosystems on the home and community scale is necessary and crucial for the survival of a future population of 10 billion people.

Nutrient Recycling

The urgency of our efforts is based on our belief that the industrial societies which now dominate the world are in the process of destroying it. It is our belief that ecological and social transformations must take place at the lowest functional levels of society if humankind is to direct its course towards a greener, saner world. …Society, like the planet itself, can be no healthier than the components of which it is constructed.

-Fall 1970 Bulletin of the New Alchemists

Time is not on our side. As long as we continue to depend on our existing industrial societies , the Earth’s ecosystems will continue to degrade, threatening our societies, our civilization and possibly our very existence.

The way to a more sustainable future will necessarily involve the three strands: practicality, ecological science, and a willingness to change the way we live. Our civilization must learn to think, not just about a planet, but as a planet. Only by passing through the portals of Nature can our species begin to restore, reconstruct and heal the Earth.

The following slideshow is our presentation “Let No Waste Go To Waste”, a call for an ecologically-based water, nutrient and energy management scenario.

Pause and continue the slideshow using the buttons on the bottom of the image.

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The POOP Maniefesto

The following manifesto was submitted by reader Paul Glover of POOP (Proud Of Organic Philadelphia). We think it encapsulates much of our mission, and encourage other readers to get in touch with their ideas.

poopgoodExcrement is not America’s favorite subject. Flush it and forget it. Toilets are the butt of jokes and the joke of butts.

Yet more than two billion people have no toilet. They shit into rivers and in fields. Millions die every year from poisoned water and land. This toilet crisis endangers not just the Third World. America’s modern cities urgently need sewerage reform. We know that cattle feedlots pollute water, but our cities are human feedlots.

Philadelphia is watered by two rivers. The Schuylkill contains outfall from 100 sewage treatment plants above us. The Delaware contains runoff from 400 sewage treatment plants. Sewage treatment does not remove pharmaceuticals. Plus, industrial goo drains into sewers.

Philadelphians drink, bathe, launder and poop into this water. Then it is poured treated or stinking back into the rivers, sickening people downstream.

Although our sewers are invisible, we might as well be dumping chamberpots on neighbors below.
We smear poop on ourselves too –the sludge that’s spread on farms contains herbicides, insecticides, arsenic, lead, mercury, cobalt and other carcinogens. We grow our food with poisons.

At same time, Philadelphia’s old sewers are cracking and overflowing. Basements fill with shit. Sewer repair is estimated to cost $8-$14 billion.

Perhaps it’s time for a change. What can we do?

The modern sanitation tool is the biodigester toilet,which does not use water. These convert crap into safe, sweet-smelling soil right at home. Then the soil is taken away to rebuild healthy forests and fields. Since soil is the food of food, this clean fertilizer can be used in urban and rural greenhouses and farms, as other countries do.

There is cultural resistance to composting, of course. We’d rather talk about recipes than receptacles. Or diets rather than diarrhea. Local institutions may resist as well, since hundreds of Philadelphia jobs and multimillion-dollar contracts also keep this game rolling.

Yet hundreds more jobs can begin here, to manufacture, install and repair compost toilets, then to recycle and/or sell nutrients.

At full flush, composters are a key tool for rebuilding our cities and suburbs toward balance with nature, creating new jobs, reducing infrastructure expenses, making our rivers clean enough to swim in, and repairing public health.

We begin with whoever is ready to begin.