Twin Oaks is an established income sharing community in central Virginia of 93 adults and 15 children. Now located on a 450 acre farm, the commune operates 6 businesses, grows most of its own food–organically–builds it’s own buildings, teaches it’s own kids, and repairs it’s own appliances and vehicles.
Here is some of the mainstream and alternative media coverage of us:
Russia Today circa 2012
CNN circa 2010
Frequency555 circa 2010
Mojo Productions circa 2009
Voice of America circa 2009
Central to the community’s operation is the idea of sharing resources. Twin Oaks has developed robust systems for sharing cars, bikes, clothes and businesses. These systems are in sharp contrast to the casual sharing practiced in the mainstream where brittle agreements generally lead to failure.
One of the many advantages of sharing resources is dramatically reducing our negative ecological effect and carbon footprint. The numbers below demonstrate we are already near the 80% reduction in carbon emissions that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is recommending by the year 2050.
[Note: It is unclear if the below numbers include our income generating businesses or not. My guess is they do, and thus we are even more sustainable. But i will check and indicate here what is true.]
Gasoline: The average Virginia resident uses about 530 gallons per year. Twin Oaks consumed about 15,267 gallons of gas in 2007. With an adult & child population on average of population of 96, that would put our consumption at 159 gallons per person. That is 70% less gasoline consumed.
Electricity: The average Virginia resident uses 13,860 kWh of Electricity per year. Twin Oaks consumed 268,065 kWh in 2007. With an adult & child population on average of 96, that would put our consumption at 2,792 kWh per person. That is 80% less electricity consumed.
Natural Gas: The average household in Virginia uses 767 therms of natural gas. Twin Oaks consumed 16,221 therms of natural gas in 2007. With an adult population on average of 87 adults, that would put our consumption at 186 therms per person. That is 76% less natural gas consumed.
Solid Waste: The average American produces 1,460 pounds of trash a year. Twin Oaks produced 18,780.00 pounds of solid waste in 2007. With an adult & child population on average of 96, that would put our production at 196 pounds per person. That is 87% less solid waste produced.
The cultural aspects of community life are as important as the economic ones. We develop our own holidays. Almost all our operations are run by volunteers. We don’t use money internally and there is effectively no crime.
In many ways , the community is an island, culturally and economically separate from it’s immediate surroundings. This cooperative model, however, is one of the very few solutions that can actually avoid the climate catastrophe the US is hurtling toward at breakneck speeds.
The original data for comparing Twin Oaks with US average consumption of electricity, natural gas, gasoline and solid waste were researched by Alexis Ziegler of Living Energy Farm.
The Facebook thread was incredulous. Several people were completely convinced it was a joke. How could a group fighting breast cancer be taking money from a company which sells fracking fluids and services (an activity known to cause cancer)?
But not only is it not a joke, it has been going on for a couple years now and until recently no one was paying attention. The Susan G. Komen Foundation is this nations largest breast cancer fighting organization. They have been happily taking $100K per year from oil extraction company Baker Hughes.
But for those who have been tracking the Komen Foundation’s political evolution, this should be no surprise. In 2012, Komen chose to stop funding Planned Parenthood (PP), because they were “under investigation.” This was a thin rouse, which was quickly revealed for what it was, an effort by the conservative leadership of Komen to strike at PP because it provides abortion services. The investigation consisted of trumped up charges by similarly motivated House Republicans, and it went nowhere.
But Komen’s plans to defund PP exploded in their face in a stunning way. Individual contributions to Komen dropped dramatically. In the fiscal year in which they made this mistake they lost $77 million over the previous year’s funding, representing 22% of their total income. Komen reversed its choice to defund PP after only 3 days, but the damage was already done.
There are other problems with Komen. Specifically, only 20% of the donations they receive go to breast cancer research. Over 50% go to educational programs. If you know the non-profit world, it is far easier to hide bloated salaries and bogus programming under the “education” category than under research. And many critics think research is more important than education at this point.
And thus we add “Pinkwash” to our vocabulary. As Baker Hughes produces 1,000 pink drill bits to promote their campaign, there is now a petition to get Komen to reverse their choice, as they did so quickly with their PP foolishness.
Perhaps Komen has outlived its usefulness or is unreformable as an organization, and like Monsanto and Siemens nuclear division, it is time for it to die.
Japan was the third largest nuclear power in the world, with 50 operating reactors on March 10th, 2011. Then the 3/11/11 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami hit, leading to 3 meltdowns and 5 other reactors being crippled or permanently decommissioned. There are now 42 reactors in Japan which could theoretically be restarted. For technical and political reasons they have all been idle for the last year.
Should Japan restart these reactors? At first the answer might seem an obvious yes. These reactors represented almost 30% of the countries generating capacity. Without them, as the Abe government has claimed the economy will suffer as will the environment. Without them, as the nuclear utilities have claimed, there will be blackouts and brownouts. Except that has not been what has happened.
Despite a significant increase in fossil fuel use for energy generation, the total CO2 emissions have only increased minimally (on the order of 8% in 2010 to 2012). This is because overall energy use is way down through energy efficiency and conservation and CO2 emissions have also been mitigated by renewables coming online.
Nor has the Japanese economy crashed in response to the lack of nuclear power. In fact in 2012, the first full year after Fukushima, still reeling from the tsunami and earthquake, and with most of it’s nuclear fleet shut down, Japan had it’s highest recorded GDP ever.
How is this possible?
The short answer is Japan has dramatically changed it’s relationship with energy. In the last year when it has been fully nuclear free, it has put in place conservation and efficiency programs that are replacing 13 reactors worth of power. In addition generous feed in tariffs are inspiring both home owners and businesses to install renewable sources of energy and this has amounted to another 3 reactors worth of power being saved. At this rate in just 2 more years all the reactors capacity will be replaced. So given how the last few years have been, why dont we just wait and see. As many other countries have delayed nuclear projects including Bangladesh, Jordan, Lithuania, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Vietnam.
So it turns out the not at all obvious answer (given the government and utilities mistatements) is that seismically and volcanically active Japan is better off leaving all it’s reactors turned off. It is better off economically, environmentally and in terms of energy services. This is also what 59% of the Japanese public want.
But, sadly, this is nothing like a done deal. These reactors represent hundreds of billions of dollars in investments for the nuclear utilities. The nuclear utilities and the Abe administration have no intention of giving them up without a fight. This is possibly the biggest industrial fight in the history of the planet. A back of the napkin calculation is that these reactors have several trillion US dollars worth of life in them. Only big wars are more expensive.
Much of the data and all of the charts for this report come from the excellent new Greenpeace “Nuclear Free Japan year one“
You almost certainly heard about the Climate March last weekend in NYC. It was a big colorful event.
And while this was important (because it was large – 400K participants, because it was diverse, because it was timely – just before the UN meeting on climate disruption – which did have some accomplishments of its own), it was not as important in my mind as the much smaller protest in NYC on the same issue the next day.
Flood Wall Street tried to mimic some of the simplicity of Occupy Wall Street – wear blue and come prepared to stay. And then a funny thing happened. The NYC police did not come in and beat up and disperse these street blocking protests. It could not have hurt that newly elected NYC mayor Bill De Blasio instructing the police to back off the protest.
When asked about his participation in the action which blocked the streets around the nations most critical financial district,. De Blasio somewhat amazingly said “I think the First Amendment is a little more important than traffic.”
If you know the NYPD, you know they hate unpermitted persons taking over the street. They will generally quickly disperse and often attack any unpermitted march or action, if they can.
The police apparently were not excited by the mayor’s orders to not beat up the civil disobedience actions. Perhaps change is possible.
I like to ask people what surprises them about their recent experience. Partly, this seems to illicit more thoughtful responses than “What did you like/dislike?”. It also leads to assumption checking on the interviewee’s part. Causing the reflection “What did i think was going to happen that did not?”
When i asked Emily May what she was surprised by when she moved into her tiny house in Eugene, she thought for quite a while. “When i first lived here, i was staying with my best friend and it made me think ‘Perhaps this would be too small to live in with a partner'”.
But besides this her reviews were quite positive. She praised the design, the functionality of the stove, the ability for a single person to have all the room the needed in this 7.5′ by 18′ footprint.
She also talked about the power of cleaning. Because the space is so small, it is quick to clean, and the effect is pervasive. It kept her materialistic desires in check, since there are not many places to put things. She had acquired a collection of various sized pillows which replace classical living room furniture. Over all she was quite pleased with her tiny house experience.
But what is the Tiny House Movement about? I stole this text from the blog TinyLife.com:
What are Tiny Houses? The Tiny House Movement? Tiny Living?
Simply put it is a social movement where people are downsizing the space that they live in. The typical American home is around 2600 square feet, while the typical small or tiny house is around 100-400 square feet. Tiny Houses come in all shapes, sizes and forms but they focus on smaller spaces and simplified living.
People are joining this movement for many reasons, but the most popular reasons are because of environmental concerns, financial concerns and seeking more time and freedom. For most Americans 1/3 to 1/2 of their income is dedicated to the roof over their heads; This translates to 15 years of working over your life time just to pay for it and because of it 76% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.