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How China’s energy program destroys the scalability argument

paxus:

I am reblogging this clever article that uses the crash development courses in China for both nuclear and wind expansion to put to bed the myth that only nuclear can scale to address climate change. Useful reading.

Other posts on China’s energy plan:

This might be an important trend

This might be an important trend

Originally posted on GreenWorld:

Global wind energy capacity has been growing and continues to grow at a rapid rate.

Global wind energy capacity has been growing and continues to grow at a rapid rate…..

It’s not like this will come as startling news to most readers–most of us already have a strong sense that renewables are far better than either nuclear power or carbon capture/storage (CCS) at addressing our climate crisis.

After all, that’s the main message the Nuclear-Free, Carbon-Free Contingent is taking to the People’s Climate March in New York City September 21.

But it’s nice to see others take the same position, especially when bolstered with facts. That’s what Mike Barnard did yesterday in CleanTechnica.com with his article Wind Energy Beats Nuclear & Carbon Capture For Global Warming Mitigation.

Barnard begins with the simple reality that the James Hansen’s of the world just can’t seem to grasp:

“There’s an enduring myth related to wind energy and nuclear energy that needs to be put to bed. That…

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No bosses, No sunroofs

Outside of Eugene, Oregon and the intentional communities movement, pretty much everyone has a boss.  There are some acceptable bosses, but overwhelmingly people are, i observe, dissatisfied with their bosses.  The miracle of the income sharing communities, is that we are largely able to run our cottage industries without the oppressive or disagreeable part of the boss role.  At Twin Oaks we have managers, who have labor and money budgeting responsibilities, but they very rarely tell someone that they need to do something.  They often request people do things, but this is not what bosses do, they tell people.  At Acorn we have even ditched the title of manager all together, and things run just fine thank you.

bosses be like

When Occupy sparked, there was much conversation at Twin Oaks as to what Occupy Twin Oaks would look like.  What would be our demand for a more fair and just society in the already fairly idyllic world of the commune?  As we got further into this investigation, we realized again who wonderfully fortunate we were.  “Seconds at 6:15″ was one rallying cry that dinner seconds should be available earlier rather than the current 6:30 PM time.   If this is what we are demanding, then things must be pretty peachie.

There are of course trade offs.  To not have crime, we have to give up living in the city,   To share cars together we have to give up access to the sunroofs in our cars.

sunroof

Don’t even think about it

This might sound odd at first, or perhaps even unfair.  But when we get a new vehicle which has a sunroof in it, one of the first things we do is disable the sunroof.  We do this because if we don’t some member will leave the sunroof open and the interior of the vehicle will get soaked.  So the least responsible of us dictate the self protective behaviors we embrace that strip us of personal freedoms.

This irks me until i remember that i am one of the people most likely to leave a sunroof open.

 

 

 

 

Becoming a Digital Nomad

When i was growing up, one of the most transformative adventures one could take was walking off the land you knew with a small bag and a daring attitude and sticking out you thumb and hitchhiking away.  This is still true, except the clever traveler will add to their small bag an internet connected device.

There is a growing knowledge base of digital nomads and the first and perhaps most important piece is hitchwiki.org.  If you have ever hitched much you know there are places that are hard to get through, good spots where drivers are likely to pick you up and routes to avoid.  The problem is that regular maps and guidebook almost never tell you where these places are.

Did you know there are dramatically different laws on hitching, state by state - source hitchwiki

Did you know there are dramatically different laws on hitching, state by state – source hitchwiki

Hitchwiki tells you not only what the laws are in different regions but also what the local customs are and how to best catch a ride.  It also has user edited maps of the roadway system, including stories and advice for how to have a successful journey.  Knowing the hitching culture and hot spots dramatically increases your chances of getting where you are going.

But what if you don’t know where you are going?  What if your adventure is not highly scripted and you are looking for like minded people who might put you up, without asking you for money?  Many people have heard about couchsurfing, but there is a better radical hospitality system called BeWelcome.org.  It is better because the people who are involved in it are more interested in connecting with travelers in a meaningful way and less about being party tourists.  While BeWelcome is far sparser than couchsurfing, it is designed to accommodate hitchhikers and it makes sense to populate this democratic and transparent site with new people, rather than continue with the for profit beast.

bewelcome-rev-bw03

It is also worth pointing out that the software developers who created BeWelcome built much of the Couchsurfing site, before leaving the WalMart of peer to peer hospitality for ideological reasons.

But lets say you have no money and want to eat.  Enter TrashWiki.  Another site which has content contributed by many users, it is dedicated to finding food and other valuable things which have been thrown out.  In some cases this is where the good dumpster are.  In other cases it is where pre-dumpster things can be found or where you can find dumpster diving partners.  Better than OK Cupid if you this is your area of interest and you are looking for a match.

Digital nomadism is about using the power of the internet to take a step away from conventional lifestyles and instead trust strangers, rescue waste and see new parts of the world.

 

 

 

Shuttle Driver to the Perfect Party

When i was in Death City getting Willow a second passport, i got 4 text messages asking if i could drive the shuttle home from Trout’s bachelor party (which was 100 miles away in Louisa VA).  Showing not surprisingly that people have trouble keeping track of where i am. It also shows that i am a first responder shuttle driver.    A reasonable assumption actually.

i need to get one of these cool hats

i need to get one of these cool hats

Earlier in the week i had been a shuttle driver for Fox’s bachelorette party.    Mostly, this is the short but menacing drive from Twin Oaks to Acorn.  Menacing in that getting home after the party can be tricky somethings, trying to guess how long the party will be fun, if this person flirting with you is going to stick around, if you will like the next band of DJ as much as you do the current one, if you can stay later and still get up early for that shift you probably never should have scheduled yourself for.

Which shuttle is best?

Which shuttle is best?

And i am the first responder principally because i am generally willing and often available on short notice.  It does not take long, it is highly appreciated and i hardly drink at all, making me a great designated driver.  I am also on the insurance of both communities as a dual member and have access to both fleets of vehicles.  I am a like a universal donor.

Building Better Parties: Fox and Trout got married.  They did up the celebrations quite right, if you ask me.  They had two ceremonies and 2 pre-parties.  One of the ceremonies was a mainstream legal wedding, with family and close friends and a minister.  The second was held at Acorn with all the significant number of commune friends this popular couple have (pictures in a pending blog post), but it was hardly legal.

Luna at the party after the wedding

Luna at the party after the wedding

Before the commune wedding there was a bachelor party and a bachelorette party.  The communes often struggle with exclusion and especially around gender binaries.  The question of came up “Can i go to the bachelors party as a gal?”  The stock answer is “You should be at the party if you think you should be at the party.”  Gender is a personal choice.  You can be girl enough to go to the bachelorette party, even if your chromosomes think differently.

Sometimes there is no right answer

Sometimes there is no right answer

Many attendees were impressed by these events.  I was happy to get people there and home.

 

 

 

 

Unmeasurable antidotes

I have a complaint about science as the current principal truth model.  For science to function you have to have repeatable experiments and you have to be able to measure things.  For many things which i think are important (revolutions and romances jump to mind) both repeatability and measurability are impossible.  There are no good metrics and they are often chronologically unique.  This does not make science in itself bad, but it certainly causes distortions, where we focus on less important things because we can “get more truth” over there.

Lack of love we can measure

Lack of love we can measure

Similarly, the mainstream promoted values of self reliance and independence have negative side effects.  The commercial interpretation of self reliance and independence is that you need to uniquely own everything you need to survive and thrive.  This leads to tremendous idle capacity.  Which leads to the accelerated degradation of the planet.

Trust me, there are lots of alternatives

Trust me, there are lots of alternatives

Some years back the globalization fans were fond of calling it a TINA proposition. There is No Alternative.  This is a catchy name for a profound failure of imagination. Globalization is the current flavor of industrial capitalism which feeds our insatiable need for stuff.  When i talk with mainstream audiences, the idea of affluent people consuming less to save the planet for future generations it goes over pretty poorly. Even the most radical of audiences think that voluntary austerity is an anti-gravity proposition.  But then i pull out my trick question.

“What if i told you that you could work less and have access to more wealth and resources (and save the world as a secondary side benefit)?  This often gets people’s attention.  Especially busy people, who are already pressed for time, think this might be a lovely solution and they want to know more.

Where can i find more time?

Where can i find more time?

 

The principal thing which stops people from living this more luxurious lifestyle is trust.  Because we are generally unwilling to trust other people with your stuff, everyone has to have their own everything.  And almost all of it sits idle almost all the time.  If alternatively we can trust each other, then we can share.  This is not a trivial proposition.  There is logistical leg work, like avoiding brittle sharing agreements, including scheduling and routine or catastrophic repairs.

And this is where community comes in.  More important than any of the products of our cottage industries make, communities are trust building engines.  We are not perfect, certainly and some are much better than others.  But at their core communities share things, both socio-cultural and material.  These cultures help us share and build trust.

We don’t have units to measure trust.  There is little critique of “self reliance” and it’s associated idle resources.  But there is an alternative.  If you are interested in this low hanging fruit of a better world, i would encourage you to strongly consider coming to this years communities conference. August 29th thru Sept 1, 2014 at Twin Oaks in Virginia.

Internet Exceptionalism

When I started doing recruiting work for Twin Oaks Community (in 1998), there was a relatively recent survey of visitors to the community.  One of the questions which was of interest to me was “How did you first hear about Twin Oaks?”  The number one answer was “word of mouth/from a friend”  This has changed over the last decade.  Now the most popular answer by far is “the internet”

The most common exception to green attitudes

The most common exception to green attitudes

I don’t think this is because people are talking about Twin Oaks less, rather I think it is because people have changed the way they seek information in the world.  When I was young (before the internet existed) I used to be on a first name basis with the reference librarians in my town.  These super helpful folks would provide the free service of figuring out the answer to almost any reasonably formulated question.  They still do this, but google does it faster.

How do you spell ubiquitous?

How do you spell ubiquitous?

More importantly, when you are designing community, if you want people who are under 30 years of age, you can be very rustic and sustainable in almost all the services you provide, but unless you want to eliminate 99.9% of the group, you need to have internet access.

On the off chance you have not heard, globally the internet is a resource pig.  With over 500K data centers worldwide, each consuming about 10 megawatts of power at a US cost of $300K per month each.  This piece alone works out to 2% of global electricity consumption.  A more comprehensive estimate is fully 10% of global electricity use, with end user devices being the biggest piece.  There are 1.6 billion PCs and notebooks connected to the internet today plus over 6 billion mobile devices, almost one per person – though they are certainly not distributed this way.  In other words, the internet consumes more electricity than all of the over 2 billion people in Africa and India together or about 2/3rs of what the US uses each year.  One single service.

Unlike nuclear exceptionalism, i can make the case for internet exceptionalism.  The classical case is that the internet moves electrons of information in place of moving the physical atoms books or pictures.  jpegs are far cheaper than photographs, PDF’s lower impact than pages of a book.    But then there is the technological optimist case, which has a bunch of pieces.

Greenpeace shamed Apple into cleaning up their act - Amazon, not yet

Greenpeace shamed Apple and Facebook into cleaning up their act – Amazon, not yet

One piece is the internet can help people find each other and if we believe that human nature is more positive than negative, this increases the chances of successful positive initiatives.    Another aspect is rapid correction of public information.  Even in researching this article i learned a bunch of things, including that there are folks intentionally exaggerating the amount of electricity used by the internet, these claims get debunked and corrected faster.  A critical piece is the ability to share resources more effectively, from couchsurfing and craigslist ride shares all the way up to new markets which could not exist before.  My personal hope is that second generation social networks displace Facebook and other first generation social networks in offering real distributed libraries and peer to peer bartered services.

Finally, there is the emerging group mind aspect.  Where we use the internet to collectively solve problems (including ones created by the internet and advanced technology).  Some of this is happening, but sadly this is not the focus of internet activity.

[It should be pointed out that there has been a misinformation campaign about how much electricity the internet uses.  Time Magazine feel for this scam including the wacko math which had iPhones consuming more power than refrigerators, by attributing all the power needed to run the infrastructure and data to the phone.  Our friends at the Breakthrough Institute, who are a front group for the nuclear industry, and produced the lie fest called Pandora's Promise, created this lopsided gem that Time Magazine used.  So the 10% number i site above comes from Stanford's Jonathan Koomey, who is pushing a 100% renewables agenda and is attacking the misinformation campaign.  So i am assuming his numbers about internet energy consumption are good ones.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dumpster Dialog

“What are you doing?” She asked in her hot pink jogging outfit, removing her headphones.

She did not look much like this, but you get the idea.

She did not look much like this, but you get the idea.

What we were doing was obvious. We were climbing into the dumpster outside her graduate student housing at UVa and removing things of value. Several unopened containers of Naked Juice are at my feet and a blood red vacuum cleaner.

“We are retrieving things from the dumpster.” I said in a friendly tone.

UVa uses huge dumpsters

UVa uses huge dumpsters

“Why?” She asked. I thought this was clear as well, but given that she was willing to engage us, I thought she deserved a more complete answer.

“It is a resource redistribution system. People who have less [I motion towards Ocelot, a new Acorn intern, who is brushing off a salvaged consumer electronics device] rescue things from the dumpster which have been thrown out by people who are better off.”

“We have seen a lot of people doing it today.” She has stopped about 20 feet away from us.

Dress appropriately for dumpster diving

Dress appropriately for dumpster diving

I consider saying something about how this income disparity thing is a real problem. But I can’t figure out how to say it without making it sound like I am insulting or blaming her. I can see the other crew has finished with their dumpster and is heading towards the van.

“Lots of people moving out. So many nice things are being left behind. We have to go now, have a great day.” i offer as i jog with Ocelot down the hill to our comrades.

UVa forces students out of university housing nearly immediately after their final exams. Most students do not budget their time well towards the end of the semester and careful packing is often the casualty. We grab the vacuum cleaner and other treasure and head down the hill.

Despite our friendly chat, I assume she called campus security after we left. I did not want to chat with them as well, so we beat a hasty retreat.

Chuck it for charity

Chuck it for Charity – Poster

UVa should be credited with reducing the amount of perfectly good things which are thrown out. They started the “Chuck It for Charity” program which makes it much easier for students to put things of value into the hands of Goodwill and the Salvation Army, instead of into the land fill.

And as this and many other dumpsters attest. There is still a place for people who are willing to get dirty to extend the life of these many material goods which were destined for too early a grave.

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