Oil Addiction Denial

SUBHEAD: Yet many young people in particular seem to be culturally rejecting car ownership as a lifestyle goal.  

By Roger Baker on 23 May 2012 for The Rag Blog -  
(http://theragblog.blogspot.com/2012/05/roger-baker-oil-addiction-generates.html)
 
Image above: Political cartoon of oil drum syringe in L.A. Progressive. From original article.
It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled. -- Mark Twain
The major sin of the big oil companies was to get their customers addicted, to set up lobbies to keep them addicted, and to deny the looming shortage problem, including the threat of global warming. Denial is a basic symptom of addiction that involves hiding the truth, refusing to talk about the problem, rationalizing, or dismissing the situation -- defensive patterns of behavior that the addicted employ to avoid facing reality.

This same principle of denial holds true whether the addiction applies to an individual or to an entire nation.

  It is certainly no exaggeration to say that the United States has been a nation addicted to a continuous supply of cheap imported oil for at least the last 35 years. This has been so ever since President Jimmy Carter promised to take a leadership role in breaking our oil habit in 1976. At that time he characterized the U.S. energy crisis as the "moral equivalent of war." 

 The USA has been in denial ever since. By 2006, our imported oil habit was still growing and caused about 35% of our trade deficit. (See Figure 1 in this link.) Since then, we have been able to produce more oil and cut back on our oil imports (see Figure 3), but now it has risen so much in price that it constitutes about 60% of the total U.S. trade deficit. Transportation, mostly driving, still accounts for about 70% of U.S. Oil consumption, despite the fact that driving has declined slightly after peaking in 2007. 



Oilman and President George W Bush, who was in an excellent position to understand such things, openly declared our national addiction in his state of the union address in 2006:
Here we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world.
From President Carter to President Bush Jr., our imported oil habit became progressively less sustainable, as the cheap oil was used up. If the continuous stream of tankers that export oil from the Persian Gulf region should be interrupted now, the price would immediately rise to a level that would make fuel unaffordable to many U.S. drivers, and to a degree much more painful and disruptive than we experienced in 2008, or in recent months. Our continuing addiction to Mideast oil accounts for the vast U.S. military force that we have stationed in the Persian Gulf, which region provides a large and growing portion of the world's total oil supply. It is sometimes claimed that because the United States gets most of its oil from sources closer than the Gulf region, we are not highly dependent on this region. However, since the oil market is global, any oil supply interruption in the Gulf region would soon translate to high prices everywhere else. The Chinese would soon bid against the USA for the fuel produced from the Canadian tar sands, etc. Europe, by comparison, has been been largely shielded from big fuel cost increases by its already much higher fuel taxes. These taxes have forced its drivers to adopt lifestyles that minimize their fuel consumption, and thus protect them more from a global oil price rise. Whenever the U.S. supply of imported oil is threatened with interruption (or if the U.S. economy should recover much), the global marketplace bids up the oil price, and the politically sensitive price of gasoline will rise in step and depress consumer spending . Whenever the world oil price is high enough, it can cause an economic crisis. In this case global demand may contract sharply, as it did in 2009. The price can never rise for long above what the global oil market can bear.
In 2008 we found that limit as we approached $120 a barrel for oil and $4 a gallon for gasoline. Prices are once again beginning to kill demand in the U.S., but under a slightly lower ceiling, because the economy isn’t nearly as strong as it was in the first half of 2008. Now the ceiling is closer to $100 a barrel.
Young people are more inclined to kick their oil habit The lower third of the U.S. population by income increasingly cannot afford to drive at all. As a result, many young people in particular seem to be culturally rejecting car ownership as a lifestyle goal, and are arranging their lives so as not to require cars. According to a new report ,
The average annual number of vehicle miles traveled by young people (16 to 34-year-olds) in the U.S. decreased by 23 percent between 2001 and 2009, falling from 10,300 miles per capita to just 7,900 miles per capita in 2009. The share of 14 to 34-year-olds without a driver’s license increased by five percentage points, rising from 21 percent in 2000 to 26 percent in 2010, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
The road lobby, sprawl developers, and climate change denial lobbies all have a dog in the fight and are happy to support groups that help perpetuate oil addiction denial. The Antiplanner, funded by the Cato Institute, is one prominent voice of denial. This Libertarian think tank, founded by one of the Koch Brothers, is still a bit too independent and they are trying to regain control again. In fact there is now a wealth of evidence for a deep shift in driving behavior.
America’s transportation policies have long been predicated on the assumption that driving will continue to increase. The changing transportation preferences of young people -- and Americans overall -- throw that assumption into doubt. Transportation decision-makers at all levels -- federal, state and local -- need to understand the trends that are leading to the reduction in driving among young people and engage in a thorough reconsideration of America’s transportation policy-making...
In accord with the nature of politics, unhappy voters tend to seek political scapegoats to blame for their pain at the gas pump. As a nation in denial of addiction, we seek external causes other than our own behavior, dependent as it is on this unsustainable resource. As a nation, we uniquely depend on private vehicles for commuting as an integral part of the U.S. lifestyle. Given all the media attention it has attracted over the past few years, the public seems to understand that maintaining the U.S. oil supply is important. They also believe that their driving dependency is tied to political policy. This leads to the false hope that, by choosing the right president, their driving might remain more affordable. Given this situation, it is easy to understand why the recent rapid rise in the cost of fuel has become a political issue. Likewise, the recent modest decline in fuel price might seem to indicate that some kind of mysterious factor other than a natural oil shortage is at play. It is hard for the average driver to understand that the price of gasoline is closely tied to oil demand on a global scale; that the cost of domestic gasoline is closely linked to the global market price of crude oil, and that its price rises and falls accordingly. Here we can see that the average U.S. gasoline price closely tracks the price of Brent crude, the global benchmark standard, even more closely than it tracks the price of the WTI grade of crude oil still produced in the USA. Other factors can be important too, like transportation and refining bottlenecks, but the cost of crude oil is primary. Global supply and demand, including our domestic demand that uses more than 20% of the world's crude oil production, are the basic factors that determine what we will pay for our gasoline and diesel fuel. Because of our addiction , we seek scapegoats and seek to deny the need to change our own behavior. 


 Scapegoats for the right Republicans make the absurd claim that the federal government and environmentalists have prevented the U.S. oil industry from producing enough oil to lower the price of gasoline. The attempt to portray any possible increase in domestic oil production as being sufficient to significantly lower the global price of oil is ridiculous but certainly attracts media attention. The truth is that we are in the middle of an oil and gas “fracking” boom widely opposed by environmentalists. This drilling boom has indeed lowered our domestic natural gas price confined to areas within easy reach of gas pipelines, but it cannot much affect the price of oil, since oil is relatively cheaply transported by transoceanic tanker to the highest bidder. The Republicans still contend that enough of an increase in petroleum could be obtained by increased domestic drilling so that it could lower the price of fuel, even down to the $2.50 a gallon gasoline that Gingrich was promising. Few in the oil industry seriously take these claims seriously, but it is the sort of talk that draws a lot of political attention. Mitt Romney has even called Obama to fire his three top energy advisors. To be realistic about our current situation, the formerly cheap "conventional oil" that was produced by onshore drilling, which helped the USA win WWII, has nearly all been pumped up and is gone forever outside the Mideast. We now have to rely on much more expensive and hard to produce “unconventional oil" sources, like deepwater offshore wells -- especially since 2005. In the current global market, the reality is that the fruits of increased domestic production will be sold to the highest global bidder by the multinational corporations like Exxon. The price of crude oil has increased globally by a factor of five from $20 to $100 in only about the last decade. In terms of the physical infrastructure appropriate to lubricating and growing a profitable world economy, this has had a profound and deep-seated economic effect, an global economic shock that has been felt everywhere as reduced profits throughout the global economy. Scapegoats for the left Democrats and critics of the business community naturally choose different scapegoats than Republicans, often on grounds that sometimes seem almost as far-fetched. These scapegoats tend to be the big oil companies, Wall Street oil speculators, and the oil refiners. There is little that Exxon can now do to reverse the chronic oil dependence that they have done so much to help create and perpetuate. They are in effect the beneficiaries of a once-abundant, but now increasingly scarce resource in an era in which the production cost is steadily rising. As Exxon's own reserves of cheap oil run short, they want to stay in business as middlemen, brokers, refiners, and producers of this increasingly scarce fluid vital to the continued functioning of the U.S. economy. The major sin of the big oil companies like Exxon Mobil was actually, in large part, to get their customers addicted to their products in the first place, to set up lobbies to keep them addicted, and to deny the looming shortage problem, including the threat of global warming. This was recently detailed in the New Yorker. Obama's response to being blamed for high oil prices has been more political than focused on informing the public of their addiction:
The President’s policies toward the oil industry are not easy to categorize. His actions -- attacking oil-company profits while proposing more oil drilling -- can best be understood as political responses to rising gasoline prices.
Obama is quite willing to take advantage of the unpopularity of speculators as scapegoats . The Democrats don't have a coherent position on energy, but as politicians they still have to represent a public angry about fuel costs. What Democrat could resist blaming Wall Street and commodity speculators for driving up oil prices?
With gas prices continuing to soar, 70 members of Congress on Monday pushed federal regulators to stop excessive oil speculation. The House and Senate lawmakers -- all Democrats -- wrote to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to urge the agency to immediately put in place limits on traders in crude oil markets and take whatever steps necessary to rein in prices at the pump. "It is one of your primary duties -- indeed, perhaps your most important -- to ensure that the prices Americans pay for gasoline and heating oil are fair, and that the markets in which prices are discovered operate free from fraud, abuse, and manipulation," the lawmakers wrote in a letter organized by Sen. Bernard Sanders...
The problem with blaming Wall Street speculators is that so much of the oil market is global, like the London exchange. In any case, price hedging is a legal and intrinsic part of a normal market involving buyers and sellers. Nailing down future delivery is the natural inclination of commodity dealers operating in a tight market. The successful speculators tend to amplify price trends, rather than changing market direction. Speculation is a normal part of the business of airlines, for example, who do a service by anticipating and evaluating future fuel price risk. By anticipating future shortages, they make it hard to deny that there are looming oil supply problems that we urgently need to face.
"The fact is that there really are logistic challenges for Europe to replace Iran as a source of oil, and those challenges are going to translate into a higher price," said James Hamilton, an economist at UC San Diego who has studied past oil-price spikes.
Reasonable voices are no match for addiction denial 

Not everyone in Congress has been in denial of our precarious U.S. oil import position. Republican Senator Dick Lugar recently posted an article -- "High gas prices threaten recovery" -- which explained that there is practically no global spare reserve capacity left to cushion a sharp oil price rise, due to an inflexible and increasing global oil demand in conflict with a fixed global oil supply.
Price stability depends on a cushion of excess oil production capacity that could be brought online within 30 days or so if needed. A good rule of thumb is 5 percent of the market -- now about 4.5 million barrels per day -- is a sufficient cushion. Drop much below that, and the market cannot easily cope with planned or unplanned outages...

The cushion today is just 1.4 million barrels per day of spare capacity in a global market of approximately 89 million barrels, according to analyst Bob McNally, of the Rapidan Group. Some estimates are even lower. That thin margin already inflates prices, but it also puts global oil markets on the edge of massive upheaval.
Senator Lugar offered his "Practical energy Plan," which amounts to taking a lot of simultaneous emergency measures to expand domestic fuel production, while reducing consumption. While this is good advice, it would certainly take more time and require more political will than we have available. However even these kinds of sensible warnings by a moderate Republican Senator are apparently too much for the right-wing oil addiction deniers to tolerate. The Koch brothers, who became super-rich from petrochemicals, helped fund FreedomWorks, part of the opposition that successfully knocked Sen. Lugar out of the Republican primary, and thus removed a respected political moderate. 

 Little time left to deal with our addiction 
Rising gasoline prices should ideally be welcomed as a warning of what is soon to come. One of the keenest observers of the geopolitics of oil and the precarious nature of our U.S. oil dependence is Michael Klare.
Because the American economy is so closely tied to oil, it is especially vulnerable to oil’s growing scarcity, price volatility, and the relative paucity of its suppliers. Consider this: at present, the United States obtains about 40% of its total energy supply from oil, far more than any other major economic power.
We will now have to prepare for major economic changes and high gas prices. Oil and politically sensitive gasoline prices have receded in price the last month, but this is in no way a sign that our lives can return to the cheap oil era of the past. We are busily preparing to fight Iran. The energy wars are heating up globally . The hour is getting late. Klare now calls on Obama to be honest about the true gravity of our current situation.
President Obama has to be honest with the public. There is no solution to high prices, other than a change in the behavior of our energy use, because there is no cheap oil left on the planet. We have to begin a process of converting to alternative forms of energy or alternative forms of transportation. And he has to be honest.
Will we wake up and face our oil addiction denial in time? As they wisely say, you can evade reality, but you cannot evade the consequences of evading reality. Roger Baker is a long time transportation-oriented environmental activist, an amateur energy-oriented economist, an amateur scientist and science writer, and a founding member of and an advisor to the Association for the Study of Peak Oil-USA. He is active in the Green Party and the ACLU, and is a director of the Save Our Springs Association and the Save Barton Creek Association in Austin. Mostly he enjoys being an irreverent policy wonk and writing irreverent wonkish articles for The Rag Blog. Read more articles by Roger Baker on The Rag Blog.


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Ponzi's End

SUBHEAD: A snapshot of the much smaller-scale and local economy of America's future, techno-narcissistic fantasies aside. By James Kunstler on 28 May 2012 for Kunstler.com - (http://kunstler.com/blog/2012/05/ponzis-end.html) Image above: Lawn Sale on Venice Boulevard in mar Vista. California. From (http://www.city-data.com/forum/los-angeles/802909-mar-vista-yard-sale-along-venice.html). Way up here in the heartland, far from the craft beer parlors, Facebook stock bucket shops, and gender obsessions of the mythical Urban Edge People, the detritus of your country is up for sale. The lawns are strewn with the plastic effluvia of lives lived through humankind's weirdest moment: Pee Wee Herman action figures, creeping tot tables, failed kitchen appliances that created more labor than they were designed to save, extruded plastic this-and-that, unidentifiable knick-knacks of forgotten sitcoms, Jimmy Carter Halloween masks, trikes brittle and faded from ultraviolet exposure, artworks conceived in a Zoloft fog, pre-owned cat litter boxes, someone's deceased mother's lawn fanny, the complete works of Jacqueline Susann, a savings bank in the shape of an outhouse....
The puzzling part is that every lawn sale contains exactly the same array of useless and pathetic objects. Is this how a Ponzi culture meets its end: the terminal swap-meet beyond which no horrifying object meets any mystifying desire for acquisition? If this is where consumer culture crawled off to die, then what possible zeitgeist awaits a people left so hopelessly de-cultured on aspiration's lowest ladder-rung?
I dropped by a religious cult commune in the next town over on Saturday. Some of the guys who dwell there have been helping me out on hire with the physical labor of the rather ambitious garden construction here at Clusterfuck Farm, so I was informed about their weekend festival. The group occupies a former "gentleman's estate" built in the 1920s when the economic growth machine operated at full Ponzi steam. The buildings are quite beautiful; the main house is a Greco-Roman beaux arts mansion; a massive horse barn has large and graceful arched windows; and there are other houses and barns on the large property, which occupies a sweetly enfolding dell of land in this county of hills and valleys.
The weather couldn't have been more beautiful and the property was maximally groomed for the festival. There were several tents up, nice ones, decorated with colorful medieval-looking swags. One was a big circular tent set up for the folk-dances that are part of their subculture. You got a very clear picture of the demographic shape of the outfit: at the core of it were vital and healthy-looking young adults, median age around 30, I figured, who were running things, doing most of the work, organizing the daily routines. Then there were the old Boomers turned white-haired grandparents (many times), seekers from the 1970s who had signed on with the outfit long ago, reproduced mightily, and now played a background role in the scheme of things.
There was a costuming motif that was not too intense but allowed for visual self-identification among the members: long skirts for women; beards and pony-tails on the men, who all otherwise dressed in ordinary catalog casuals of the day. It set them apart without making them look too kooky. It also reinforced gender differences (the horror!) in a micro-society not dedicated to erasing and transgressing them. I didn't know much about the group's internal workings, but it seemed to me that the men were in charge, and I got the impression that far from representing some clich├ęd notion of "patriarchal oppression," it produced a reassuring tone of confidence in clear lines of responsibility - a quality now completely absent in outer America's culture of incessant lying, systematic fraud, and consensual evasion of reality.
I was especially interested to observe the behavior of the children, of which there were very many. For one thing, they appeared fully integrated into their society, not ring-fenced into some special ghetto of juvenile disempowerment palliated with manufactured video power fantasies and endless snacks. They were unperturbed and self-possessed. None were screaming, quarreling or carrying on. They were not hopped up on Big Gulps and Twinkies. They did not require constant monitoring. They danced along with the adults, or circulated confidently on their own, and with their friends, in the crowd.
I was a keen student of religious cults in the 1970s when I was a young newspaper reporter. The blowback from the Age of Aquarius had propelled a lot of lost souls into quests for meaning and especially communion beyond the sordid precincts of the idiotic common culture of the day. They were also seeking structure in chaotic young lives unable to get traction in a bad economy. I was interested in what the cult scene had to say about America generally and, I confess, attracted to the melodrama of fringe lunacy I found there, including a lot of colorful unbalanced personalities among the various founders and poobahs. I poked around a number of religious cults, including some accused of maliciously coercive practices, and I eventually even wrote a novel based on my experience ("Blood Solstice," Doubleday, 1988).
All this is to say that I retain a broad skepticism about organized religion in general and about American Utopian endeavor in particular. But the country and its baleful culture are now in an even more advanced state of entropic degeneration than was the case in the last days of Vietnam and Watergate. Those two awful conditions were at least settled and the nation moved on. The troubles that now afflict us guarantee a much broader systemic collapse that will surely require great changes in everything that we do and everything that we are. The demoralization of the larger American public is so stark and pronounced that you can smell it in the rising heat.
What I saw on Saturday on this farm was a wholly different group demeanor: purposeful, earnest, confident, energetic, and cheerful. It mattered too, I think, that this small community's economy was centered on agriculture and value-added production of common household products (they make soaps and cosmetics for the natural foods market). This was a snapshot of the much smaller-scale and local economy of America's future, techno-narcissistic fantasies aside. I don't know whether these people represent a lifeboat, or if these qualities of character can be enacted in a wider consensual culture, and one not necessarily based on religious doctrine, which I am not so avid about.
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Boomer on Getting Old

SUBHEAD: Sage advise - Take it easy. Take it slow. Make it happen. Make it paradise.  

By Juan Wilson on 27 May 2012 for Island Breath - 
(http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2012/05/boomer-on-getting-old.html)

 
Image above: Cover photo for "Changing Horses" 1969 LP showing the members of the Incredible String in England. From (http://www.viprasys.org/vb/f60/incredible-string-band-1969-flac-mp3-320kbps-424mb-rapidshare-484468/).

Time is a funny weave of elements. After emerging from nowhere some strands disappear and stay under the surface for a long time, only to surprise you in the here and now later on. Tomorrow is my birthday and I'll be 67 years old... in human years. That's about age 470 in dog years. That's sounds old. On the other hand, in giant tortoise years, I'm still in my twenties.

Back in the spring of 1968 when I was actually in my twenties I was just finishing my first year architectural school at the Cooper Union College in New York City. I lived in Lower East Side and that summer was going to be steaming. I had no prospects for a job. There was poverty and much heroin addiction in Alphabet Town (between avenues A and D, above Houston and below 14th Street).

Lots of muggings and burglaries. The Vietnam war was at a raging peak. On top of that, Martin Luther King had just been assassinated, and the inner cities were ready to blow. One afternoon an official looking yellow Western Union Telegram envelope was slid under the door of my 4th floor tenement apartment. It was the genuine article from a architect I had drafted for the prior summer. He had moved to Hawaii and was offering me a job in Honolulu. The telegram specified that the all the arrangements would be made and paid for by his office. It was the only telegram I'd ever received and I jumped at the chance to leave New York. I spent the summer on Oahu.

Fell in love with Hawaii... but I went back to NY in the fall for more study at Cooper Union. After few more years of the school the administration at Cooper got tired of me and asked me to take a year off. It was for their good and mine. NYC was still in the shithole. Con Edison was burning high-sulphur coal. Each tenement building was burning its own garbage in incinerators. There was no sewer treatment plant in Manhattan and all raw waste was simply dumped into the Hudson and East River - at 20 block intervals.

My longing was to get back to Hawaii. I convinced my partner Diane to take a chance with me and take off to the islands. After a month or two living with Diane, on Oahu, in a VW Beetle, we got lucky and scored a job on a project on Kauai. After getting paid for completing the work we stepped up to living in a VW Bus. I remember a hit playing through its mono speaker on AM radio was Neil Young's hit "Old Man". Some of the words were:

Old man look at my life,
Twenty four
and there's so much more
Live alone in a paradise
That makes me think of two...
...I've been first and last

Look at how the time goes past.
But I'm all alone at last.
Rolling home to you.
 
The song was haunting in some way. In 1972 when I heard the song I thought of it entirely from the point of view of the 24 year old singer. Today when I hear the song I'm the Old Man listening to my younger self through a haze of time. Diane and I returned to New York City to finish school at Cooper Union.

Then, just as I was graduating in 1974, the effects of the OPEC oil crunch came and we tasted a preview of what's happening now, "Peak Oil". New York faced bankruptcy and jobs were hard to find. I remember listening to WNEW-FM, the album oriented radio station that played, without interruption, Jackson Brown's concept LP "For Everyman". The album ends with the title song:

Everybody I talk to is ready to leave
with the light of the morning.
They've seen the end coming down long enough to believe
That they've heard their last warning.

Standing alone
each has his own ticket in his hand
And as the evening descends
I sit thinking 'bout Everyman.

Seems like I've always been looking for some other place
to get it together
Where with a few of my friends I could give up the race
And maybe find something better.

But all my fine dreams
well thought out schemes to gain the motherland
have all eventually come down to waiting for Everyman.

Waiting here for Everyman--
Make it on your own if you think you can.
If you see somewhere to go I understand.

Waiting here for Everyman--
Don't ask me if he'll show -- baby I don't know.

Make it on your own if you think you can.
Somewhere later on you'll have to take a stand
then you're going to need a hand.

Everybody's just waiting to hear from the one
who can give them the answers
and lead them back to that place in the warmth of the sun
where sweet childhood still dances.

Who'll come along
and hold out that strong and gentle father's hand?
Long ago I heard someone say something 'bout Everyman

Waiting here for Everyman--
make it on your own if you think you can
If you see somewhere to go I understand

I'm not trying to tell you that I've seen the plan
turn and walk away if you think I am--
But don't think too badly of one who's left holding sand
He's just another dreamer, dreaming 'bout Everyman.
 
I finally did get a job with a big firm in the city, but the economy was falling apart. Instead of leaving the rat-race and returning to Kauai - I carried on. Soon I married my first wife, Margo, and began a family life. I moved to the suburbs along the shores of Connecticut and began to experience midlife. I remember Margo, getting me a card for my 35th birthday. On the front was a close-up of a disheveled cowboy with a black-eye and missing tooth. The greeting inside was:

If I knew I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of myself. 

That struck home. By my 40th birthday the economy was clawing its way back to normal. I still felt like twenty-something on the inside, but I observed that on waking up I felt like I had a low grade hangover, whether I drank anything or not. It would disappear quickly with the morning sun and I'd be off into my commuter life. Maybe it was the Reagan years, or maybe it was just middle age. Who knew or cared. It was the late eighties and in 1986 John Fogerty gave us his warning with "Change in the Weather".
 
Change in the weather, change in the weather
Something's happening here
Change in the weather, change in the weather
People walkin' 'round in fear

Ah, huh, you better duck and run
Get under cover 'cause a change is come
Storm warnings and it looks like rain
Be nothin' left after the hurricane

This here's a jungle, it ain't no lie
Look at the people, terror in their eyes
Bad wind is comin' and can't be denied
They're runnin' with the dogs and afraid to die...
 
I took the cue and relocated to the Appalachian, Amish settled landscape at the western end of New York State. The old farmhouse had been my grandparent's and then my mother's. There I met my second (and last) wife, Linda, and we spent the 90's at that farm. We had 100 acres of woods to take care of. I was in my late forties, and early fifties. I could push myself hard all day long in order to do it. If I leaned too hard on a shovel or rake it would brake. I didn't worry about myself. In 1997, after a quarter century away from Hawaii, I returned for a visit to Kauai with Linda.

Soon after that, we determined to live out our lives on here. In 2001, just before 9-11, we came to live in Hanapepe Valley on a half-acre. I was in my mid-fifties. Soon after moving to Kauai, I rediscovered a song I had first heard in 1968 by the Incredible String Band. It was released the same year as my first visit to Hawaii, that was coincidentally when I was 24 years old. It's title is "The Circle is Unbroken". How true:

Seasons they change while cold blood is raining
I have been waiting beyond the years
Now over the skyline I see you're traveling
Brothers from all time gathering here

Come let us build the ship of the future
In an ancient pattern that journeys far
Come let us set sail for the always island
Through seas of leaving to the summer stars

Seasons they change but with gaze unchanging
O deep eyed sisters is it you I see?
Seeds of beauty ye bear within you
Of unborn children glad and free

Within your fingers the fates are spinning
The sacred binding of the yellow grain
Scattered we were when the long night was breaking
But in the bright morning converse again.

 
Audio above: Click on the "Play" triangle at left to hear "The Circle is Unbroken" by the Incredible String Band

Hearing it again thrilled me. It had been written and performed back at the time of my first visit to the islands. It is a song that can still bring tears to my eyes. It conveys some message that was in my heart back in the 1960s that is still relevant to me today. It is why I live on Kauai. Now, in my late sixties I wake up in the morning with a bit of feeling like I'd been in a fight the night before, or maybe taken a roll down the stairs.

By that I mean with some stiffness and soreness. It takes till after breakfast to get limbered up. That's the time I spend on this website. After the morning sun does its magic, I go to the garden or to whatever project is at hand. I still push my tools, but not so long and not so hard. If I lean hard on a tool today I'll break before it does. Turning back to the 1960's I remember another song by the Incredible String Band, from 1967, titled "Way Back in the 1960's". I vividly remember listening to that song and wondering how true what they sang might be when I was not just old, but ancient. I still hope I have a chance to find out.

I was a young man back in the 1960s.
Yes, you made your own amusements then,
Going to the pictures;
Well, the travel was hard, and I mean
We still used the wheel.
But you could sit down at your table
And eat a real food meal.

But hey, you young people, well I just do not know,
And I can't even understand you
When you try to talk slow.

There was one fellow singing in those days,
And he was quite good, and I mean to say that
His name was Bob Dylan, and I used to do gigs too
Before I made my first million.
That was way, way back before,
before wild World War Three,
When England went missing,
And we moved to Paraguayee.

Well, I got a secret, and don't give us away.
I got some real food tins for my 91st birthday,
And your grandmother bought them
Way down in the new antique food store,
And for beans and for bacon, I will open up my door.

But hey, you young people, well I just do not know,
And I can't even understand you
When you try to talk slow.

Well, I was a young man back in the 1960s. 
 
Now that I'm officially old, I get senior discounts. I'm on Social Security. I'm on MediCare. As such I can now dispense some bonafide wisdom. My sage advice to all is - keep working, with your mind and your body:

Take it easy. Take it slow. Make it happen. Make it paradise.
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Apocalypse Soon

SUBHEAD: Has civilization passed the environmental "Point of No Return"?

 By Madhusree Mukerjee on 23 April 2012 for Scientific American - (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=apocalypse-soon-has-civilization-passed-the-environmental-point-of-no-return)


 
Image above: An Emergencies Ministry firefighter trying to extinguish a forest blaze near the Novovoronezh Nuclear Power Plant in Russia. From original article.



Although there is an urban legend that the world will end this year based on a misinterpretation of the Mayan calendar, some researchers think a 40-year-old computer program that predicts a collapse of socioeconomic order and massive drop in human population in this century may be on target. Remember how Wile E. Coyote, in his obsessive pursuit of the Road Runner, would fall off a cliff? The hapless predator ran straight out off the edge, stopped in midair as only an animated character could, looked beneath him in an eye-popping moment of truth, and plummeted straight down into a puff of dust. Splat! Four decades ago, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer model called World3 warned of such a possible course for human civilization in the 21st century.


In Limits to Growth, a bitterly disputed 1972 book that explicated these findings, researchers argued that the global industrial system has so much inertia that it cannot readily correct course in response to signals of planetary stress. But unless economic growth skidded to a halt before reaching the edge, they warned, society was headed for overshoot—and a splat that could kill billions.

Don't look now but we are running in midair, a new book asserts. In 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years (Chelsea Green Publishing), Jorgen Randers of the BI Norwegian Business School in Oslo, and one of the original World3 modelers, argues that the second half of the 21st century will bring us near apocalypse in the form of severe global warming.

Dennis Meadows, professor emeritus of systems policy at the University of New Hampshire who headed the original M.I.T. team and revisited World3 in 1994 and 2004, has an even darker view. The 1970s program had yielded a variety of scenarios, in some of which humanity manages to control production and population to live within planetary limits (described as Limits to Growth). Meadows contends that the model's sustainable pathways are no longer within reach because humanity has failed to act accordingly.

Instead, the latest global data are tracking one of the most alarming scenarios, in which these variables increase steadily to reach a peak and then suddenly drop in a process called collapse. In fact, "I see collapse happening already," he says. "Food per capita is going down, energy is becoming more scarce, groundwater is being depleted."

Most worrisome, Randers notes, greenhouse gases are being emitted twice as fast as oceans and forests can absorb them. Whereas in 1972 humans were using 85 percent of the regenerative capacity of the biosphere to support economic activities such as growing food, producing goods and assimilating pollutants, the figure is now at 150 percent—and growing.

Randers's ideas most closely resemble a World3 scenario in which energy efficiency and renewable energy stave off the worst effects of climate change until after 2050. For the coming few decades, Randers predicts, life on Earth will carry on more or less as before. Wealthy economies will continue to grow, albeit more slowly as investment will need to be diverted to deal with resource constraints and environmental problems, which thereby will leave less capital for creating goods for consumption. Food production will improve: increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will cause plants to grow faster, and warming will open up new areas such as Siberia to cultivation.

Population will increase, albeit slowly, to a maximum of about eight billion near 2040. Eventually, however, floods and desertification will start reducing farmland and therefore the availability of grain. Despite humanity's efforts to ameliorate climate change, Randers predicts that its effects will become devastating sometime after mid-century, when global warming will reinforce itself by, for instance, igniting fires that turn forests into net emitters rather than absorbers of carbon. "Very likely, we will have war long before we get there," Randers adds grimly. He expects that mass migration from lands rendered unlivable will lead to localized armed conflicts.

Graham Turner of Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization fears that collapse could come even earlier, but due to peak oil rather than climate change. After comparing the various scenarios generated by World3 against recent data on population, industrial output and other variables, Turner and, separately, the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, conclude that the global system is closely following a business-as-usual output curve. In this model run the economy continues to grow as expected until about 2015, but then falters because nonrenewable resources such as oil become ever more expensive to extract. "Not that we're running out of any of these resources," Turner explains.

"It's that as you try to get to unconventional sources such as under deep oceans, it takes a lot more energy to extract each unit of energy.
To keep up oil supply, the model predicts that society will divert investment from agriculture, causing a drop in food production. In this scenario, population peaks around 2030 at between seven and eight billion and then decreases sharply, evening out at about four billion in 2100.

Meadows holds that collapse is now all but inevitable, but that its actual form will be too complex for any model to predict. "Collapse will not be driven by a single, identifiable cause simultaneously acting in all countries," he observes. "It will come through a self-reinforcing complex of issues"—including climate change, resource constraints and socioeconomic inequality. When economies slow down, Meadows explains, fewer products are created relative to demand, and "when the rich can't get more by producing real wealth they start to use their power to take from lower segments." As scarcities mount and inequality increases, revolutions and socioeconomic movements like the Arab Spring or Occupy Wall Street will become more widespread—as will their repression.

Many observers protest that such apocalyptic scenarios discount human ingenuity. Technology and markets will solve problems as they show up, they argue. But for that to happen, contends economist Partha Dasgupta of the University of Cambridge in the U.K., policymakers must guide technology with the right incentives.

As long as natural resources are under-priced compared with their true environmental and social cost—as long as, for instance, automobile consumers do not pay for lives lost from extreme climatic conditions caused by warming from their vehicles' carbon emissions—technology will continue to produce resource-intensive goods and worsen the burden on the ecosystem, Dasgupta argues. "You can't expect markets to solve the problem," he says. Randers goes further, asserting that the short-term focus of capitalism and of extant democratic systems makes it impossible not only for markets but also for most governments to deal effectively with long-term problems such as climate change.

"We're in for a period of sustained chaos whose magnitude we are unable to foresee," Meadows warns. He no longer spends time trying to persuade humanity of the limits to growth. Instead, he says, "I'm trying to understand how communities and cities can buffer themselves" against the inevitable hard landing.
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Fleeing Vesuvius

SUBHEAD: How we can bring the world out of the mess in which it finds itself.

 By Tuhi-Ao Naily on 16 April 2012 for Fleeing Vesuvius - 
  (http://fleeingvesuvius.org/2012/04/16/how-we-can-bring-the-world-out-of-the-mess-in-which-it-finds-itself)

   
Image above: Vista in Urewera National Park in New Zealand. An area where a Maori independence movement exists. From (http://news.tangatawhenua.com/archives/16101).
 
Tenei te mihi ki te maunga, ki nga awa, ki te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa. Ki taku hapori me toku whanau: he mihi mahana. Ki o matou tupuna: haere, haere, haere atu ra ki Hawaiki-nui, ki Hawaiki-roa, ki Hawaiki-pamamao. Ki o matou uri: e mahi ana matou mo koutou, ake ake ake.

I have tried to write this article many times in the past three to four years. I have changed dramatically in that time, from a full-on, full-time city activist to a rural… well, I don’t know what to call myself now but whatever I am becoming, I feel way more grounded and as if I’m making a real difference, finally, without running away to the hills. 

People used to bemoan the lack of privacy in small villages yet now we live in a global village that can record and make accessible our every comment to whomever, forever. Once we had freedom to fully participate in important decision-making; now our lives are run by the exploiting capitalist class and more and more of us are forced into the rat-race, living in giant, toxic, concrete jungles just to survive. How many feel useful or happy? How many have real community or even remember what it’s for? 

In considering the mess of the world, I find it easiest to write about my personal journey, not because I want to talk about myself but because I find the personal easier for people to relate to and because it gives context to my points of view. 

My father’s parents were Maori farmers from Taranaki. In the great urban drift of the 1950s my dad moved to Wellington to study and work. My mother is a second-generation pakeha ‘New Zealander’. My father died young, when I was almost seven, so my mother has worked full-time as a secondary teacher (and solo mum for several years) since a few months after my father’s death. 

Both my parents were passionate about spending time in nature and discussing current affairs. It must have rubbed off because I ended up studying environmental sciences at university. When I finished there I did some volunteer work with NGOs, trying to get a foot in to some paid work. It proved fruitless and instead I found some activist groups – people I could work with rather than for. 

I started off volunteering in a small group working on rainforest protection but in the late ’90s that global campaign was coming to an end. Other groups were working on animal rights, stopping the expansion of roads through communities and stopping the war in Iraq. I was involved with those groups for a while and eventually came upon anarchism and the politics of free people governing themselves non-hierarchically. 

At one point I traveled the globe, documenting the causes of the world’s problems and the awesome solutions communities were creating. That film’s still not done because in the following years my life became activism instead. My fellow activists became my friends. We would set up and manage new groups and projects, organize protests, guerrilla garden, yell at weapons conference-goers, occupy mountaintops destined to become open-pit coalmines and lock ourselves to buildings. 

We squatted in houses, ate dumpster food and cycled, walked and hitched the country. I wore lots of patches and badges for a while. I even tried to be vegan for a couple of years. There were lots and lots of meetings. Our activist ‘scene’ grew quite large for a time and we started to talk about creating a community to support one another, about building a future together. That was when it all started falling apart. 

Creating a self-sufficient, committed community in the city would involve purchasing, at great expense, land that had been stolen from Maori, renting from unreliable property investors or squatting rare sites until we were moved on. Then there were the politics of just getting along while trying to be as radically progressive as possible, and the problem of who was in or not given that we lived in one of the most transient cities in the country and some people had strong ideas of what type of people they wanted to live and work with. It was a nightmare and delusional to say the least.
On top of that, we kept losing. The tipping point was when I and several others were raided by police and jailed for a month facing serious charges.

Those few weeks in jail were stark and I never want to go back, but it opened my eyes to a world I had never seen, a world occupied mostly by society’s rejects: Maori, Polynesian, the poor, drug addicts, prostitutes, gangs. My sheltered little self-righteous activist world seemed a joke, a choice in which I didn’t really think and work strategically to help create a better world. I’d been leading a privileged life that meant little to these people in the ‘real world’. On a personal level I also realized my own fragility: the fear of being trapped and having no future. My mother’s continual warnings of self-care and being more aware of the reality of others living on this planet finally made sense.

For a long time I had wanted to leave the city and live on some land where I could grow food and enjoy the beautiful things of this planet such as forests and rivers – while still actively working for a better world for everyone. I had also wanted to go back to where my dad’s whanau were, to my turangawaewae. I don’t remember any words but somehow he must have fed into my subconscious when I was young, the need to care for our land as kaitiaki.

My partner and I wrote a letter to someone we knew who lived in my kui’s papakainga asking if we could move there for a while and live in my tent. After a short but anxious wait, we received his reply: he had asked the kaumatua and they were happy for us to come. We packed our bags, my tent and the dog and hitched our way there. We planned to stay for two months. Almost four years later we are still here, raising our young son. We have helped kickstart a community movement against several giant petroleum companies and our corrupt government, and we’re helping rebuild a self-sufficient village. Beyond the occasional self-doubt and frustration with life, I’m happy.

Why did I tell you all that? Throughout my years of trying to work out solutions for this mess we’re all in, I realized that it’s only through finding real community that we can truly have the grounding, collective wisdom and strength in numbers to resist the shitty things in this world such as capitalist corporations and corrupt governments with their systems of exploitation and inequality.

The only problem with this picture is that to find that community I had to find the land to which those people were dedicated. That might not seem like a problem until you think about where most people on this planet now live – not on their own land, or land that could support a community, but in cities. That was the problem when my activist friends and I tried to become a community from within a city. It was impossible to decide to move to some land because everyone wanted something different or they had no means of getting there anyway. 

I am privileged to have found land and a community to live with. I did not need money to move here and if I didn’t whakapapa to this people I might have struggled to be accepted here and particularly to be able to speak in meetings – although I know of many rural Maori and non-Maori intentional communities desperately in need of people to come and live with them. I am also privileged because of the sacrifices my people made to keep and maintain the land against years of muru raupatu, poverty, corruption and depression. 

But living here has not come without lots of hard work. I’ve had to bite my tongue and listen and watch and learn. I’ve had to work with criticism, suspicion and little support. I’ve had to face my shyness and prejudices to get along with people who are at first glance very different from me and to learn a new language and culture. The speed and arrogance of the city took a long time to get out of my bones but they had to go so that I could merge with this place and these people. I still have a lot more work to do on that front but things are already far better than what I had in the city.

And what now of the ‘activism’? A few months ago we were forced to take on about 15 massive petroleum corporations who had been given government permits and council consent to mine throughout our region, on- and off-shore. 

Prior to moving here, I would have formed a small group and we would have gone out and protested, but not this time. We took it to our community first. We debated the issue, got to the guts of it and came out in strong opposition, together. We then took it to the next community along the coast and to other communities across the country. We formed a small group to put the issue in the media and debate it publicly and we now have many hundreds of people whom we can call on for support.

For my first time ever, we have the media almost completely on our side. Perhaps it’s a fluke; perhaps it’s timing, with increased awareness of climate change and of the massive scale of the industry expansion. But maybe it’s because we are changing the way we approach the situation.
We’re not just rushing out and saying, “Oy, you suck, go away”. We’re not going out as radical activists but as ordinary local people who care deeply about the place we call home and we’re saying, “Hey, this is our place you’re threatening and there’s heaps of us and we’re organizing and networking and we’re going to stand up to you to protect it as best we can. We’re going to win over your workers, your voters, your suppliers, your families and your markets. It’s going to cost you and your shareholders aren’t going to like that.”

The main difference though is that I’m not thinking antagonistically. I’m thinking about disempowered communities and empowerment. It’s not How can we fight them? but How can we become more powerful so that they can’t hurt us? Focusing on building allies, not enemies, is a tactic I saw being used successfully by Dine and Hopi in Arizona who forced out a mining company recently after years of polluting and resource theft. So far it’s working well for us here.

Another thing I’ve learned is to not act morally superior. Our group was recently called “philosophically opposed to fossil fuels” by a petroleum PR guy. A few years ago I might not have realized the detriment of this label. Nowadays I try to ground my politics in the real issues that mean something to most people. Rather than say fossil fuels are bad, for example, I say we’re using them up way too much and too fast for the planet to cope and for our children to live well. I find this approach much more acceptable and engaging. 

I also try not to be judgmental – I was always being accused of this and rightly so. The problems of the world are collective so individual solutions are not going to work. Being vegan or refusing to drive for example can just make our lives more difficult while the problems don’t lessen. We should do what we feel capable of on an individual level but the real challenge is changing society and that can’t be done by judging people and making them feel bad. That doesn’t mean being falsely nice to people but trying to understand the bigger things that stop us all from living within the planet’s means, whether it’s social pressures, poverty or just habits that are scary or hard to break.

So I am now involved in rebuilding our papakainga to be self-sufficient and environmentally sustainable. We have a few community gardens that are providing fresh organic food for several families and large hui year-round. We are working on renewable energy systems. We have our water supply secured. We are fencing and replanting streams. We are farming. We are repairing buildings and cleaning up the land. We are starting fundraising businesses to employ whanau and we have set up a monthly hauora. People are also moving home. But most importantly, the community is coming together for the first time in decades and discussing longheld hurts and fears and coming out better at the other end. I am honored to be here in these inspiring times.

I reflect on things often. There are a few things that stand out since my homecoming as feeding this change. The first are tikanga maori and rongo. I would translate tikanga maori as finding and following the natural law that maintains balance between all things – between tangata and whenua, atua and wairua. It starts with discovering and knowing whakapapa, our inseparable connection to all things, to our tupuna and to our uri. Coming home has reconnected me. 

Rongo I would translate as peace: life without war, time to cultivate crops, gather food, study the world around us, care for ourselves and to bear and nurture children. It’s been good for me to step out and have some rongo time to ground me and remind me again what we’re struggling for.

The next is good leadership – based on tikanga maori and rongo. Leadership doesn’t have to be hierarchical but it needs to help others grow. The practice of humility, patience, wise speech, calmness, honesty, respect and the ability to truly hear others and understand them is an amazing skill that I see amongst some people in my community. I honor that wise leadership and attempt to follow and walk alongside them in my own infant-like, clumsy way. I’ve got a long way to go still but I feel like I’ve finally found the right path.

Ki nga morehu.
Ko te po te kaihari i te ra.
Ko te mate te kaihari i te oranga.

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How to germinate your seeds

SUBHEAD: The understanding of the requirements of successfully germinating from seeds is essential.  

By Chuck Barr on 24 February 2012 for Restoration Seeds -  
(http://www.restorationseeds.com/blogs/news/5788237-how-to-germinate-your-seeds)


Image above: Illustration of "The Seed" by Pawel Jonca. From (http://forsythkid.com/2010/03/15/3240) and (http://www.coolshowcase.com/the-seed/).
 
Germinating Your Seeds is Fun and Easy. Methods vary by plant type. Seeds of annual plants have a shallow dormancy and do not need a winter to germinate, they only live one season. Annuals generally are buried to a depth equal to the size of the seed in moist well drained soil. Some, like tomatoes and peppers, require warm soil or a heat mat to germinate. Instructions to start each seed variety are shown on our web site and on each seed packet.

Perennial Seeds Need a Winter
Long-lived perennial plant seeds have mechanisms to prevent germination until conditions are right for successful growing. Perennial seeds go dormant over the winter and then need their dormancy broken in the spring. The techniques below are for perennial seeds only, do not use these techniques on annual or bi-annual vegetable, herb or flower seeds.

In the wild, dormancy is broken by spending time in the ground through the winter so that its hard seed coat is softened by frost and weathering. This cold moist period triggers the seed's embryo to grow and eventually break though the softened seed coat in its search for the sun and nutrients.

Scarification
Some seeds require scratching or nicking the hard seed coat to allow moisture to enter the seed to begin germination. This mimics natures weathering or the gnawing of rodents. Medium to larger seeds can be nicked with a knife, filed or rubbed with sandpaper. Rub smaller seeds between sandpaper or emery paper. Hobby rock tumblers can be used to scarify larger seed volumes. Abrade only the outer coating, embryos should not be cracked or damaged to remain viable. Commercial nurseries scarify using solutions of sulfuric acid.

Hot water scarification is somewhat easier. Place seeds in an almost boiling pot of water at about 180˚F. Allow the seeds to soak until the water cools to room temperature. Remove the seeds and sow, scarified seeds do not store well. Toss the seeds that float if viable seeds sink for that variety.

Some seeds have a double dormancy requiring both scarification first followed by cold stratification. Others such as Black Cohosh require both warm and cold stratification. See a varieties' growing instructions for its scarification and stratification requirements.

Cold Stratification
There are six methods of stratification: cold water soaking, refrigeration, fall sowing, winter solstice sowing, outdoor treatment, and snow planting. Time to stratify seeds varies by species, though in most cases storing damp seeds at 39 to 40˚F (4 to 5˚C) for two to three months is sufficient. Try different methods. Split your seed packet between different methods, start dates or stratification lengths.

Cold Water Soaking
This method works best for medium and larger seeds a few weeks before last frost. You are trying to imitate snowmelt. Place seeds in a small jar and fill with cold water. Viable seeds should sink, although this is not true for all seeds. Many flat seeds or seeds with edges float. Change water daily, your are trying to wash germination inhibitors in the seed. Sow after two weeks. You can also try putting seeds in a small muslin bag and suspending them in the toilet tank. What could be easier, automatic rinsing.

Refrigeration
Wet with liquid kelp solution and ring out extra strong paper towel, fold in half. Liquid kelp is not necessary but it helps germination. Place seeds on half and fold again, press gently between your hands to get seeds in contact with the towel. Place inside plastic bag. Avoid thick walled freezer bags, they do not breath. Label with variety and date. Store for two to three months depending on the variety. Check for moisture and rotting periodically. If seeds get brown spots and smell musty, they are rotting and should be tossed. Plant after three months whether germinated or not.

The advantage of the paper towel method is that you can seed if the seeds are germinating. If germinated, cut paper towel and place on soil, keep moist. You can place seeds in bagged flats in sterile planting medium but the flats or pots take up more room in your refrigerator.

Fall Sowing
Direct sowing in the garden or pots in the Fall is the traditional method in Europe. This method naturally exposes perennial seeds to winter conditions. Be sure to stake where you sow and date. Wood popsicle sticks fade and rot over the winter. Use larger stakes, plastic stakes written with a black Sharpie last the longest. Plant at a depth appropriate for the variety. Seeds requiring light to germinate, just press on the surface.

Winter Solstice Sowing
A variation of Fall sowing is planting later in the winter starting with the Winter Solstice on up to February. This method takes full advantage of winter cold and spring heaving and the growing energy of the earth as days lengthen. This works well for hard to start seeds like Good King Henry, we direct sow once in each month from November through March to find the right stratification window. In our zone 7b, mid-December was the proper sowing time to germinate Good King Henry.

Direct sow in place or sow in well drained flats. Do not use soil from your yard, it is usually compacted and hard for the seeds to break through. If necessary, screen soil through 1/4" or 1/2" hardware cloth and supplement over half with loamy compost or peat moss. Some cover their flats with plastic with holes or screens to let snow. Make this a part of your annual Winter Solstice celebration. You can soak medium to larger seeds overnight to aid germination. For seeds that sink, floating seeds are not viable, again this varies by seed type. If seeds do not require light to germinate, sprinkle with dry soil to cover.

The harder your winter the later you can plant. If you have hard winters and it is very cold out, 30˚F (0˚F), put your seeds in the fridge for two weeks before sowing outside to reduce the shock.

Outdoor Treatment
This is our preferred method. This method is a variation of the bagged paper towel method but takes advantage of the fluctuating Winter and Spring temperatures. Instead of putting your bags in the refrigerator, place them outside away from direct light. We put them on the North side of our farm house. Be sure seeds are protected from rodents. This method generally has a higher germination rate than the steady temp refrigerator method. If you plan to use this method and purchase your seeds after mid-February, you should wait until the following year to germinate them because you need cold late winter temperatures. Photo right: Anise Hyssop growing through the paper towel. The roots had already started growing through the towel in the bag so we just planted the paper towel and will separate as they get established.

Snow Planting
This one is for the kids. After a heavy snow, go outside and broadcast your seeds on the snow where you want them to grown preferably over a prepared garden bed. Have a snowball fight or toss snow over the seeds so birds do not eat them all. This method works best for varieties that can handle cold but do not require cold stratification such as hardy annuals, biennials or short lived perennials.

Surface Sowing
Keep your surface sown seeds moist until the plants are established. If direct sown seeds dry out in your climate from sun or wind, try covering with a single layer of burlap, light colored cotton sheet or half an inch of loose grass clippings. Remove burlap or sheet after germination. Shading with a window screen or white row cover above them the first season will help prevent drying in hot climates. You can also cover with clear plastic until germination to retain moisture but be careful not to overheat. As soon as sprouts appear, again remove covering.

Some Need Light
Some seeds require light to germinate, sow these seeds on the surface and gently press into contact with the soil. Seeds requiring light to germinate will be indicated both in the growing instructions and will have a sowing depth of "surface". Good growing from Restoration Seeds.
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Permaculture - Use of Space

SUBHEAD: Part 6 of a 6 part series on Permaculture Design Guidelines.  

By Birgit Bradtke in Tropical Permaculture in 2010 -
(http://www.tropicalpermaculture.com/permaculture-design-principles-6.html


 Image above:In this backyard photo are in foreground a papaya trees with tomato plant below. Midrange another papaya is growing over an immature lime tree (that will mature after the papaya is gone. And below that young lime tree is a clutch of comfrey standing only 8" high. In the background mango and macadamia tree grow above haliconia. A lychee tree to far right (and beyond) towers over some Hawaiian pepper bushes and a taro bed. In the far distance is a towering monkeypod tree.
 
One of the permaculture design principles is to use as little space as possible. There are several reasons for this.

The less space you use the more natural environment is left untouched. Permaculture tries to interfere as little as possible with nature. (Of course, if we want to grow gardens and food we have to interfere somewhat...)

Even if you have a very small garden, by using it efficiently you can grow a year round supply of fresh herbs and vegetables and set some space aside for wildlife.

There is another advantage to smaller scale designs. They are a lot more time and energy efficient. Why travel across many acres every day when you can grow the same amount of crops in a fraction of the area?

You can minimize the space you use and maximize your harvest by using techniques like "stacking" and "guild planting".

Permaculture Design - Stacking

Stacking means to utilize vertical space. If you look at forests, in particular rainforests, you can see that there are many layers of plants stacked on top of each other (of course they all have their roots in the ground).

There are the low ground covers and creepers, then the herbs and grasses, then shrubs and smaller trees, and at the top the tall giants. Vines and climbers are rambling over everything as well. And they all occupy the same space on the ground.

When you read about permaculture you will sooner or later come across the term "food forest". Permaculture looks at how nature does it and tries to mimic that strategy. However, most gardens and farms devote any one area to only one crop. That's a waste of space and resources.

Take onions and carrots for examples. Most people would plant either one or the other in a bed/row. But they can occupy the same space.

Onions sit half above the ground, and their roots are very shallow, spreading out around the bulb. They mine only the surface for nutrients. And have a look at their leaves: they are poking straight up. Plenty of light left for others...

Carrot roots go straight down. Carrots don't care if the surface of the soil is already occupied by the onions. They find their food deeper down. And the big feathery carrot leaves make use of all the sunlight that otherwise would just heat up and dry out the soil.

Another classic example are sweet corn, beans and cucumbers. The tall corn acts as a trellis for the beans, and the cucumbers ramble over the ground. Three crops can grow in the space of one.
There is usually lots of light left under and around fruit trees. Utilize that space and grow something, like perennial herbs or low shrubs. Make extensive use of trellises and other structures. Let things grow up rather than have them spread out.

You will be surprised how much food you can fit into the smallest garden.

Permaculture Design - Guild Planting

Guild planting is a permaculture design term for stacking and planting different species together to make the maximum use of vertical space and of the resources available (nutrients, water, light). Permaculture guilds also use the concepts of companion planting and crop rotation.
There are so many benefits to guild planting, apart from the efficient use of space, that the topic of permaculture guilds deserves its own page. (Coming soon).

Permaculture Design - When You Get Started

There is one more aspect to permaculture design scale that I would like to talk about, and that is the scale of your design when you start out.

The biggest mistake that beginners make is to try to do too much at once. A huge vegetable plot is dug up and money is spent on seeds and seedlings, but the initial enthusiasm without exception exceeds the available time and energy by far!

There isn't enough time to mulch everything properly so the weeds move in and take over. There isn't enough compost available, or enough time to spread it, so the vegetables struggle. Sickly vegetables attract bugs and diseases. Of course the weeds don't care, they are still doing well...

The result is a neglected and overgrown garden, a frustrated gardener, and the common misconception that growing fruit and vegetables is just too much work and too hard.
Yes, design and plan your whole permaculture garden. Absolutely. Think it all through. But don't do it all at once. Start small. And most importantly, start right on your door step.

Remember the permaculture zoning principle? Start in zone 1 with one garden bed. Select a few species that are easy to grow, well suited to your conditions and that you love eating. If you use that space well you can grow a lot on a square meter or two.

Once you see it's all going well and you have time left over start the next project. And then the next, and the next...

See, once an area of your permaculture garden is well established it doesn't take up much time. If you designed it right it will mostly look after itself. It's only the initial set up that takes some time and energy.

One well looked after small garden bed on your door step will supply you with a lot more produce than a huge and neglected vegetable plot at the back of your garden.

Start small, and start on your door step, and you will enjoy a big harvest.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Permaculture 1 - Growing Zones 3/22/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Permaculture 2 - Multiple Functions 3/29/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Permaculture 3 - Relative Location 5/24/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Permaculture 4 - Problems into Solutions 5/24/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Permaculture 5 - Design Diversity 5/24/12

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Permaculture - Design Diversity

SUBHEAD: Part 5 of a 6 part series on Permaculture Design Guidelines.  

By Birgit Bradtke in Tropical Permaculture in 2010 - 
  (http://www.tropicalpermaculture.com/permaculture-design-principles-5.html

 
 Image above: The area behind our house was mostly bananas. They exhausted the soil. We located bananas to another area and now have taro, cassava, yacon, papaya trees and a young avocado. In the distance is a starfruit tree. Photo by Juan Wilson 

 
Permaculture design aims for as much diversity and variety as possible. It is the exact opposite to conventional agriculture, which relies on huge monocultures and struggles with all the associated problems.

To mix and match as many different plants as possible has many advantages:
  • Different plants have different nutrient requirements. Put the right species together and you can fit a lot more plants into a small space without depleting the soil.
  • Different plants also have different shapes and heights, and different light requirements. You can fit a lot more plants into the space you have available than you might think possible...
  • Pests and diseases are often very specific in what they like. Having all the same plants growing together makes it easy for the bugs to find them (you're basically putting on a big feast for them), and it makes it easy for diseases to spread.
  • In a mixed and varied garden diseases rarely get a foothold. They can only move between related plants, so just don't plant too many of the same plants next to each other. Mix and spread them around.
  • Some bugs identify the plants they like by their look. If you mix say your cabbages with taller herbs and flowers and spread them around the garden they are much harder for cabbage moths to find. Moths can not recognize the cabbage as easily if it hides amongst dill and carrots and marigolds.
  • Any strong smelling herbs will confuse insects that find their food by scent.
  • If you keep the bugs searching for their favourite plants a lizard or bird can get the bugs before the bugs get your best broccoli.
  • Beneficial insects have different food requirements altogether. Obviously they don't live off your vegetables or they wouldn't be beneficial insects but bad bugs, right? So you need other plants as well.
  • The more different species you mix in with your food crops and the more native species you manage to fit in your garden, the more local wildlife and beneficial insects will take up residence.
  • Lizards, frogs, birds and good bugs all help keeping things like bad bugs and snails under control.
  • Some plants from different species really like growing together and benefit each other. I'm sure you heard of companion planting. Permaculture designs make use of those connections.
  • There are many different varieties of individual vegetables. Some tomato varieties are particularly nice for eating fresh, some are good for bottling. Some varieties fruit earlier, some later. Mix them and you will have a longer tomato season.
  • Every variety has slightly different preferences regarding soil and climate. Some may do better in your garden than others. Some are resistant to certain diseases. It's worth tracking down the old heirloom varieties and planting two or three different kinds rather than relying on just one species.
  • Mix in some deep rooted plants to capture the nutrients that leach past the reach of the more shallow rooted vegetables. That way nothing gets wasted.
And that are just some of the benefits of diversity in your garden. The more variety a design has, the more successful and stable the system will be.

Have a look at nature, a forest, a wildflower meadow, a wetland... There is no single area that has only one plant species. It's always a mixture of species that are suited to the conditions and support each other.

I think the hardest thing to do when starting with permaculture design is to let go of the idea that a food or vegetable garden has to be a separate plot, away from the rest of the garden, that things have to grow in rows or in their allotted beds, that the orchard is a different part again and has only fruit trees... and so on and so forth.

Forget all that. It doesn't make sense!
Permaculture design is not about making a vegetable garden. It's about integrating food plants into your garden while creating a healthy and balanced ecological system. Because it's the much smarter and easier way to grow fruit and vegetables.

I don't have a vegetable garden. I do have a kitchen garden though. It's the area of my garden that is closest to my kitchen door, hence I call it my kitchen garden, which sounds nicer than zone 1. (That would be the proper permaculture term, but I'm not that hard core).

Sure, all my most used herbs and vegetables grow in that kitchen garden area, saves me running around more than necessary.

But there are also a few native trees that are always full of birds. There are flowers that I grow just for the sake of having pretty flowers, a beautifully scented vine climbing up one veranda post, some shrubs with berries that the birds like, some wildflowers that I leave alone to do what they like, two smaller fruit trees...

It wouldn't make sense to separate the food plants from the others. It works a lot better like this, for the vegetables, the birds and for me.

See Also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Permaculture 1 - Growing Zones 3/22/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Permaculture 2 - Multiple Functions 3/29/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Permaculture 3 - Relative Location 5/24/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Permaculture 4 - Problems into Solutions 5/24/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Permaculture 5 - Design Diversity 5/24/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Permaculture 6 - Use of Space 5/24/12 .