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The Dawning of the Age of Hemp

December 27, 2011 - Perhaps one of the most telling historical facts about the use of hemp in the United States is this one, which I found in the Wikipedia article about hemp: "Hemp was used extensively by the United States during World War II.  Uniforms, canvas, and rope were among the main textiles created from the hemp plant at this time.  Much of the hemp used was cultivated in Kentucky and the Midwest."  In other words, when the chips were down, we knew what we could rely on.  Cloth made from hemp can be handed down from father to son, it is so strong.  Materials like canvas and rope, which must be able to withstand long, hard use, are at their best made of hemp.

Herbicides and pesticides are unnecessary when growing hemp, although I did get the impression from my reading that hemp is a heavy feeder, and would require significant amounts of fertilizer.  It does, however, grow in almost any kind of soil.  It is truly a Plant For All Seasons, and can be used in making bio…

Wonderful Whole Grain Bread Recipe

December 20, 2011 - Some time back, I promised to publish my recipe for whole grain bread.  I just took a look at Transition Voice's website, and - lo and behold - Lindsay has published her recipe for Butternut Squash soup.  It looks fabulous, and would be beyond amazing with my whole grain bread.  For those of you with the ambition and the time - enjoy!

1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. oatmeal
1/4 c. sunflower seeds
Add a sprinkling of flax seed if you care to
2 pkgs. yeast
1 T. sugar
1 1/2 c. scalded milk
4 T. butter
1 t. salt
1 c. brown sugar

Combine yeast with 1/4 - 1/2 c. warm water and 1 T. sugar.  Combine milk, brown sugar, butter and salt.  When lukewarm, mix with yeast, flours, oatmeal and seeds.

Knead dough, and allow to rise for 2 hours.  Knead briefly again, divide between oiled bread pans, and allow to rise for 1 hour.

Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 and bake for another 40 minutes.

A Couple of Hints for Better Bread Ba…

Camelina, anyone?

December 19, 2011 - I'd never heard of the website known as Minyanville (http://www.minyanville.com/) before I read the article I want to discuss today.  The article, "Renewable Energy Crop Production Set to Soar in US," was first printed at oilprice.com, with no author's name shown.

Biofuels have suffered from an image problem ever since Bush II prematurely decided they were a good idea, notwithstanding the fact they were made out of food.  The resulting starvation in countries accustomed to eating corn (which is actually low in calories, or energy) has been only one side effect of our least intelligent President's passing thought.  That's why a crop called camelina will solve multiple problems, not just the shortage of jet fuel.

It's taken awhile to get biofuels up and running because of the lack of USDA federal crop insurance.  A wonder crop was needed, one that could withstand assorted growing conditions and still be a moneymaker.  A number of crops -…

Caring People Keep On Keeping On

December 12, 2011 - Abigail Borah took her brave pills last Thursday, and then proceeded to do what so many of us have wished we had the guts to do: she spoke Truth to Power.  While attending the Conference of the Parties (17), also known as the "climate talks," in Durban, South Africa, the junior at Middlebury College interrupted Todd Stern, chief negotiator for the United States.  Her voice high-pitched with fright, she said what has needed saying for too long:

"I am speaking on behalf of the United States of America because my negotiators cannot.  The obstructionist Congress has shackled justice and delayed ambition for far too long.  I am scared for my future.  2020 is too late to wait.  We need an urgent path to a fair, ambitious, and legally-binding treaty.  You must take responsibility to act now, or you will threaten the lives of youth and the world's most vulnerable.  You must set aside partisan politics and let science dictate decisions.  You must pledge a…

The End of the Beginning

December 5, 2011 - First of all, let me recommend the November 30 show of Radio Ecoshock (http://www.ecoshock.org/) to you.  Alex Smith interviews Allan Savory, about whom I wrote in my Oct. 31 blog.  Savory talks about the impact, and future, of Holistic Management.  I thought it was a very interesting show.

It really does begin to look as though the only solution to the human race choking to death on its own filth is the potential for economic collapse.  Depending upon whom you read/listen to/trust, the utter decimation of the European fiscal system is very much in the offing.  Standard and Poor's announced this evening that 15 European countries are being considered for a status downgrade.  Fifteen!!!  Much to the surprise of many, Germany is included in that less-than-august company.  According to Ilargi at Automatic Earth, the absolute minimum required for a bailout would be 25 trillion dollars, and that really would only constitute a start.  In short, it can't be done.  …

It Gets Easier Each Time

November 28, 2011 – I’m reading a book called Spiritual Radical, a biography of Abraham Joshua Heschel. Heschel was an Hasidic rabbi and scholar, brought to the United States at the beginning of World War II by an American rabbinic seminary. Having experienced at first hand the suffering imposed upon so many millions of people in Europe by the Nazi’s, he was aghast at the adamant refusal of American Jews to accept that things were as bad as he, and others, insisted they were. I think there are many environmentalists today who can empathize with Heschel’s heartsick disbelief. Truly, there are none so blind as those who will not see!


Truth can be the sternest taskmaster. Terrible truths can break the heart, throw lives into utter disarray, destroy friendships, tear apart families. Indeed, they have been known to overthrow governments, Egypt being a case in point. Because we hurt already, as a result of the lies we have learned in place of the truth, we believe the truth will be unbearab…

Headed for a Post-Carbon World

November 21, 2011 - Here in Loveland, Ohio, birds are singing up a storm, and snapdragons are going to seed in record numbers. In just the seven years I've lived here, I've seen the date of the last leaves falling off the trees - usually a big thunderstorm with lots of wind carries them away - change by as much as two weeks. The forecast high for tomorrow? Sixty-five degrees!!

Anyone who keeps abreast of climate change news knows that it's pretty much all bad these days. I'd say the same about the economic news, but for one thing: the more our carboniferous economy slows, the likelier the environment is to recover. Production of everything from energy to processed foods creates greenhouse gas emissions. Less production, less pollution. As much as I'm confounded by the Republicans' economic strategy (it is my contention they are intent upon bringing down world governments by means of unrepayable debt), I firmly believe they don't understand what's coming …

Occupy Climate Change

November 14, 2011 - The International Energy Agency (IEA) has a reputation for conservatism, so its latest report has been regarded as something of an eye-opener. The Agency has joined the ranks of other former climate change mealy mouths (you can just never be too sure, can you?) who now think it's time for immediate action. They've put a pretty fine point on it, too: should governments/agencies fail to act decisively within five years, all hope for a 2 degrees Celsius (roughly 3 1/2 degrees Fahrenheit) increase in average global temperatures will be lost.

Not that the IEA should be regarded as the know-all and be-all of climate change. To repeat, their assertion of irrevocable climate change is significant because they have heretofore been reluctant to go on the record with an "official" opinion, particularly one in support of looming disaster. Unfortunately, IEA officials still toe the line when the executive director talks of "growth, prosperity, and rising p…

The Journey, Not the Destination

November 7, 2011 - Now here's a word I definitely think is destined to become a part of everyone's vocabulary: ecomobility. Meaning, of course, getting around in an environmentally friendly way. You know what the examples would be - things like walking, biking, taking the bus or a train. In fact, Inter Press Service, in their article titled "EcoMobility Gaining Ground, Step by Step," defines it according to what it is not: mobility without private cars. I think that's quite elegant, actually.

Cities as geographically disparate as Berlin, Tokyo, New York and Bogota have all decided that the cost of cars and their pollution, noise and congestion is a price they are eager to forego. (Paris is allegedly on this list, too, but I have to say that when I was there last year, I saw lots of the publicly available bicycles lined up in their bike stands, very ostentatiously being ignored.) Perhaps that was the rub, because it's not as simple as merely making bikes, buses…

A Change for the Better

October 31, 2011 - I learned about something that's a real game changer last week. It's called Holistic Management (HM), and it has to do with the way grasslands are managed. The fact is, HM was developed for the express purpose of changing the way ranchers and farmers do business. Allan Savory, a Rhodesian (Zimbabwe was called Rhodesia decades ago) biologist, game ranger, politician, farmer and rancher, saw the need to repair grasslands in his native country nearly fifty years ago. What was it he saw?

Livestock Raising was being managed in much the same way all over the world at that time. Sedentary livestock was easier to keep track of than animals that were allowed to roam, so ranchlands had gradually been fenced off. Once cattle were confined, ranchers figured their lives had been made a whole lot easier. The land degradation that resulted from the continual scuffing of cows' hooves across a relatively small area was easily corrected: cattle were simply moved to another…

Speaking Truth to Power

October 24, 2011 - I learned last week of a speech, delivered to the U.S. Senate by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (what a name!) of Rhode Island the week before. The speech was about climate change, of all things. The senator, a member of the Democratic party, spoke very directly and pulled no punches. Rather than describe his speech, let me quote a small portion of it to you:

" ... There is a wave of very justificable economic frustration that has swept through our Capitol. The problem is that some of the special interests - the polluters - have insinuated themselves into that wave, sort of like parasites that creep into the body of a host animal, and from there they are working terrible mischief. They are propagating two big lies. One is that environmental regulations are a burden to the economy and we need to lift those burdens to spur our economic recovery. The second is [that] the jury is still out on climate changes caused by carbon pollution, so we don't need to worry abou…

Type II Climate Change

October 17, 2011 - A report has just been issued which states that animals and insects will adapt to climate change by becoming smaller. I'm sure this has something to do with the ratio of volume to surface area, not that I'm smart enought to explain exactly how they affect one another. What immediately comes to my mind is the fact that humans have been trending in the opposite direction; we've been getting taller as nutrition has improved since World War II, and recently, we've been getting substantially heavier, as well. It's my guess that those trends are about to be thrown into full reverse; our food-growing capacity has been affected negatively on a worldwide basis by climate disruption. Because of the instability of our climate systems, finding ways to compensate will be very difficult. We all need to remember to be VERY grateful this Thanksgiving.

Hold onto your seats, everybody: news doesn't get much worse than this. According to the October 5 Radio Ecos…

There's Nothing Alarmist About Storing Food

October 10, 2011 - I began storing processed food last year. Each time I go to one of the various places I buy food, I buy a little extra, and store it in the basement. One big closet downstairs is conveniently located next to the common wall with the garage, and it stays pretty cool. I'm currently not using the top two shelves, since they get warmer than the rest. That means, however, that I have food standing on the floor, which I'm also not crazy about. Pests have not been a problem, so far.

Ideally, I'd like to have about three months of food stored. I suspect I have closer to half that amount right now. I'm thinking I'll purchase some hard red wheat grain this winter, and grind my own flour. (The grain grinder was purchased early this year.) I've been baking a multi-grain bread lately that's absolutely wonderful. I need to post the recipe. Half the flour in the bread is a pastry/cake flour, and I'm wondering if I'll be able to make a flour with …

Accidentally On Purpose

October 4, 2011 - Amidst all the very real anxiety brought about by our transitional economy and the "New Normal," I think it's terribly relevant to ponder some of the unintended consequences of the aforementioned. Case in point: our declining consumption of gasoline. What years of well-intended non-profit preaching could not accomplish, a brutal recession has. Higher fuel prices and lower incomes are keeping people closer to home. Couple these two facts of life - experienced most poignantly by our shrinking, high school-educated middle class - with improved car technology, and the verdict is incontrovertibly in: Americans are using less fossil fuel to power their cars.

Energy Department statistics show Californians out in front in the race to clean up the air by burning less gasoline. Golden Staters can be doubly proud, since they have not only decreased their fuel consumption, but have done so while adding to the total number of drivers in the state. While gasoline cons…

Play Time

Hi Everybody - My husband and I will be heading for the Pacific Northwest for a couple of weeks, and during that time I won't be posting. Pay attention to your favorite financial/economic blogs (Max Keiser, Economic Collapse, Zero Hedge)- there's trouble ahead, especially in Europe.
Be well, and take care of each other.

The Truth Will Out

September 12, 2011 - Of all of the things that distress me about Republicans and their deliberate misuse of the English Language and of the truth, it is their lies of omission and their half-truths that upset me the most. After ten years, first of George W. Bush, and now of Eric Cantor and his ilk (aka the Tea Party), hearing the truth spoken by persons of influence is like filling my lungs with fresh, unpolluted air - I'd nearly forgotten how good it feels. That's why I'm looking forward to Wednesday night, October 15. Al Gore's latest contribution to the climate change discussion, called 24 Hours of Reality, will air, beginning at 7:00 pm EST. I will be watching (don't tell my boss), and I hope you will, too.

In order to bring about this landmark event, Gore founded and chairs the Climate Reality Project. The project, no doubt in large part because of its founder's celebrity, is sponsored by a large number of organizations, among them Georgia Climate Change Co…

When the Other Shoe Drops

September 7, 2011 - Texas has been on fire since November of last year. Over 3 1/2 million acres have burned. The Texas Forest Service now gives daily updates regarding the status of various fires occurring within the state. Let's talk, first of all, about why this is happening.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a report in 2007 which said, among other things, that the arid regions directly north and south of the U.S./Mexican border would become even drier in the future, as a result of climate change. Mother Nature must have read the report, because those chickens have already come home to roost. While the report predicts that these regions will become 10-20% drier by the end of the century, the weather forecast for west Texas tomorrow predicts humidity of anywhere from 5 to 20 percent, i.e., very, very low (desert humidity is 25%). How much lower than 5% can the humidity go? The answer is not much. It's an old story by now: climate disruption is happe…

Tough Choices Ahead

August 29, 2011 - I was reading today that birdwatchers in California are disturbed because of the deaths of six Golden Eagles that collided with wind turbines. Some of the most enjoyable hours of my adult life have been spent birdwatching, and my concern regarding birds' plummeting populations has gone on for a long time now. Certainly the loss of these majestic birds hits home for a number of reasons: 1) the dead birds were found and accounted for, which had to be unnerving because 2) they are extremely large birds, as American birds go; 3) wind turbines are still a relatively new technology with which we are only beginning to grow accustomed; and 4) all of us in the birdwatching community realize there are lots of other accidents that can and do happen to birds every day, particularly the young, inexperienced birds.

The reason I mention the fact that the birds were seen and identified is that so, so many of "our birds" winter in Central and South America, where loss o…

Making It Work

August 22, 2011 - I don't know about you, but it seems like I'm having a growing number of conversations that begin something like this: "I can't put my finger on it - it just seems like something is wrong these days." As more and more of us come to the realization that bad news isn't as rare as it used to be, a commensurate number have begun thinking in terms of preparing for what lies ahead. If you're a baby boomer, like me, those preparations include looking toward the day when you will stop working. That won't include all of us, however: 40 percent of all baby boomers will not ever be able to quit working. Part of the reason for that is another grim statistic - namely, that 36 percent of boomers have never saved for retirement. Statistics do not, of course, tell the whole story. They never have, they never will; particularly not now, with the future looking so very uncertain. Be that as it may, there is one unrelenting fact confronting these indiv…

Taking It to the Streets

August 15, 2011 - Awhile back, I indicated, upon receipt of an email inviting me to participate, that I would be interested in taking part in an action protesting the KXL (tar sands) pipeline. Unfortunately, I've been unable to find a place to stay in the Washington, D.C. area, so I'll send an email to President Obama, telling him that I support the protestors, heart and soul. That's the best I can do. If you're going to be in our nation's capital during the second half of August, and would like your voice to be heard, take a look at this website: http://www.tarsandsaction.org/sign-up/.

I feel enormous admiration for the demonstrators who are participating in this action, which begins August 20 and lasts though Labor Day. Having grown up during a time of great upheaval and unrest, I know the truth of the words, "The People, united, will never be defeated!" I believe the people of the United States are growing more united with every passing day. Our count…

The Straight Poop

August 10, 2100 - Say what you like, I think this is exciting: in Orange County, California, human waste is being turned into hydrogen and electricity, and then the hydrogen is used to run cars. An experimental fuel cell makes this possible. Its usefulness will be tested during the next three years at the Fountain Valley Sewage Treatment Plant, where a filling station for the area's hundred or so hydrogen cars will operate. Should the fuel cell prove reliable and economically viable, Fountain Valley could become a major stop on California's incipient Hydrogen Highway (HH).

As things stand right now, moving the HH in the direction of functionality is happening, albeit hesitantly. Without the cars, there's no need for filling stations. Without filling stations, the cars aren't going anywhere. The good news is that new stations are slated to open in two Orange County communities soon. The ultimate goal of having 12 to 14 stations up and running to serve Southern Californi…

Thanks, Sharon

August 8, 2011 - Those of you familiar with Sharon Astyk's books may recall her referring to the Riot for Austerity. If the concept sounded just crazy enough to work, you'll be glad to learn she's at it again: time for another riot. She writes about the particulars in her blog, Casaubon's Book (http://scienceblogs.com/casaubonsbook/2011/08/time_to_riot.php). It's an idea that has so much positive going for it, I decided I'd like to spotlight it today.

Since words have always fascinated me, I love the story of the naming of this activity: rioting for austerity. As Astyk tells it, she and a friend were piqued by a line in George Monbiot's book, Heat, in which he observes "no one has ever rioted for austerity." In point of fact, there are folks in many places rioting in opposition to austerity measures right now! The idea of individuals pleading they want less of anything runs so entirely counter to what we know about human beings and their seemingle…

The Meaning of Patriotism

August 1, 2100 - I read in an online Boston paper today that doctors at a major Boston hospital are now reporting that 18% of children under the age of three who come to the hospital are malnourished or painfully thin. Heaven knows the Tea Party's plans to End Debt in Our Time should do them a world of good.


The Japanese offer us both an example upon which to model our own behavior, and an inspiration. Their government's calls for conservation have been met with a determination to do even more than what the government has asked. Conservation is necessary, of course, because of the shortage of electricity caused by nuclear reactors, not only at Fukushima, but in many places throughout the country, having been turned off (only 17 out of 54 remain operational). Few countries do better than the Japanese in living by the code "all for one, one for all."

This proclivity is furthered by daily power supply reports, broadcast along with the weather forecast each morning. The he…

Where are our National Leaders?

July 25, 2011 - So: how do you like living in a world of human-induced climate change? Have you wondered what it would be like, once climate change really "kicked in?" I know I have. This, of course, is only the beginning. It's going to get much worse. The folks at the Weather Channel keep telling us this is a Heat Wave With a Difference. That's because of its historic wide-spread occurrence over much of the nation. That, and one more thing: the very high levels of humidity accompanying the heat.

The humidity is so high because hot air can hold more water than dry air can. The hotter the air gets, the more water it can hold! Here comes the remarkably bad news - all that water in the air acts as a greenhouse gas (GHG). It keeps heat from reflecting back into space. Where does that leave us? In a terribly difficult situation. The Gulf of Mexico's sea surface temperature (SST) is higher than ever, and that causes increased evaporation. There's the water. Air temp…

The Transitional Economy

July 18, 2011 - I am not a native Cincinnatian. I don't have terribly strong feelings about Cincy one way or the other. Since I'm kind of an artsy-fartsy person, the fact that Cincy has an incredible arts scene for a city its size - only about 300,000 people live in the city proper - is perfect. Since I'm also a gardener, the fact that Cincinnati is cursed with the worst soil on the planet is a bummer. Since I'm a suburbanite, the fact that the city is, and has long been, broke, is a subject of little interest. (Build your tax base, already!!)

All of the foregoing notwithstanding, the tree hugger in me is gleeful about the lead story in this week's Business Courier: "Cincinnati cleans up," followed by the words "Region's green economy now responsible for thousands of jobs." In other words, jobs created by business with an eye toward not just the bottom line, but the environment as well, have become enough of a factor to be written about in a …

Small Victories Begin To Add Up

July 11, 2011 - An amazing thing has happened while we weren't looking: progress is being made in the fight to mitigate climate change. Some of that progress has occurred in big steps, some in baby steps, but one thing is certain - all progress is important when it comes to saving our planet and providing future generations with a future. People the world over have become fed up, waiting for governments to take the lead, so they're steppin' out and steppin' up. Here's what I mean:

Let's start here in the US. I could scarcely believe my eyes when I read this story! Americans, if you can believe it, now derive 12% of their energy from renewable sources. You read that right: 12 percent of our energy now comes from sources such as wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass. Renewables have far surpassed nuclear, which stands at a measly two percent. While I harbor a few doubts on the subject of burning biomass, I'll set those to the side for the moment and just enjoy …

Is a Half-Truth Really Better than None?

Hi Everybody - Well, once again I must apologize for my tardiness. This time, Google/blogspot isn't allowing me to copy and paste my articles into their posting app, so I had to re-type. Sorry for the delay.

July 4, 2011 - It just keeps getting better: during a meeting of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK) sorrowfully pointed out that, if the Healthy Forest Restoration Act (HFRA) of 2003 had only been fully implemented, the forest fires out West wouldn't be burning. It's all the fault of the Forest Service, she lamented. Come to find out, the HFRA was never - you guessed it - fully funded (as was the case with so many of GWB's "great ideas"). Furthermore, says Roger Sedjo of Resources for the Future, Murkowski, along with other members of the committee, fails to account for the type of forests found in the Southwest - pine. Pine trees have evolved to go to seed as the result of being exposed to the heat…

Mutated Snail Slimes New Orleans!

Sorry for not publishing last week.I was close to being done with a book review of The Politics of Bad Ideas, but then my computer went kaflooey.I still hope to have that up soon.June 27, 2011 – I’m detecting a definite undercurrent of panic these days.The reason I say that is that bloggers are supplying “information” that the news media are unwilling or unable to supply, along with a helping of innuendo, on the side.While some of the stories are legitimate, others (giant sinkholes??) need to be viewed skeptically, rather than taken at face value.Furthermore, reporting every bit of bad news (“School Board Cuts Teachers’ Salaries”) as if it belonged in the same class as the ongoing nightmare at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, is disingenuous, at best.At worst, its purpose is to induce a state of panic, G-d only knows why.Adrenaline junkies should not rule the ether.Let’s leave the business of purveying worthless half-truths and sly innuendo to the corporate news giants, shall we?Aft…

Low Friends in High Places

June 20, 2011 – BOOK REVIEW.The Politics of Bad Ideas: The Great Tax Cut Delusion and the Decline of Good Government in America. (2008). Bryan D. Jones and Walter Williams.Depending upon whom you read and believe, Americans pay less in taxes today than at any time since either 1958 or 1950, take your pick.Coincidentally, American indebtedness now totals over 100% of annual GDP, for only the second time in American history (the first time was the result of militarization in order to fight World War II).Let’s see now – the government has chosen to reduce its income while, at the same time, spending more than it has ever spent in peacetime.When individuals spend more money than they earn, it comes as no surprise that they eventually wind up insolvent.Why Republicans insist that a similar course of action is not only worthy of consideration, where governments are concerned, but actually advisable, is the subject of Jones’ and Williams’ book.Isn’t it interesting that this notion – that wea…