Thursday, May 30, 2013

Four Steps to Less Wasteful Communities

by Fran Korten

The individual actions we take to reduce waste are important. But to stem the avalanche of stuff, we also need system-wide solutions.

Seattle is one of a growing number of cities with a long-term goal of zero waste. Over the last decade, the city has cut the material it sends to the landfill by 34 percent, even though the population has grown. Richard cited four important solutions Seattle is using:

  • Product bans and fees. Plastic bags used at checkout counters and Styrofoam food containers are two items that Seattle and other cities have banned. When Ireland put a hefty fee on plastic bags, their use went down by 94 percent.
  • Takeback programs. Also known as “extended producer responsibility,” these programs require companies to take responsibility for worn-out products. That gives product designers incentive to make it easier to reclaim components. The European Union mandates producer responsibility for cars. In the United States, Seattle and other cities, along with some states, are demanding producer responsibility for a growing list of products, including electronics, paint, batteries, carpets, and fluorescent lights.
  • Promoting composting. Seattle and other cities now require that to-go food containers be compostable. Some, including Seattle, make composting food and yard waste easy by providing curbside pickup.
  • Demolition permits. Many cities encourage contractors to recycle demolition waste. But contractors often resist, partly because once they get their permit to build, their line of credit kicks in and they are under tremendous financial pressure to build quickly. Recycling slows them down. So Seattle gives the demolition permit well before the construction permit. The percentage of the city’s demolition waste that is recycled has risen to 66 percent.
  • The individual actions we take to reduce waste are important. But to stem the avalanche of stuff that invades our lives and destroys our Earth, we also need system-wide solutions. Fortunately there are lots of them and many can be enacted in our own towns and cities. This holiday season, when stuff is on our minds, is a great time to make a New Year’s resolution to help our communities get on the road to zero waste.



10 Tips for a Zero-Waste Household

by Bea Johnson

A few years ago, my husband and I decided that we wanted a better world for our two boys, now 10 and 11 years old. We embarked on a journey to do our part for the environment: My husband quit his job to join a sustainability start-up; I tackled the home.

I started by adopting reusable water bottles and shopping totes, but slowly took it further by replacing disposables with reusables (toilet paper excluded), shopping in bulk with cloth bags, bringing glass containers to the store for wet items (meat, deli, fish, cheese, oil...), and even testing more extreme ideas, like shampooing with baking soda and vinegar for 6 months. A year's worth of our household solid waste now fits in a quart size jar.

What we discovered along the way is that the benefits of the zero-waste lifestyle go well beyond the obvious environmental impact. It has not only made us healthier (since the healthiest foods do not come packaged), but it has also saved us a great deal of money. Most importantly, we now have more time to do the things that matter most to us, like spending it with our kids.

We find that we have become a closer and happier family in the process. We have found balance without compromising our goals, aesthetics, or sanity. Zero-waste living is on auto-pilot.

The zero in "zero waste" makes it sound scary and hard to achieve. It is actually not as as hard as it seems, and it is as simple as following these five R's, in order:

  • Refuse what you do not need.
  • Reduce what you do need.
  • Reuse by using reusables.
  • Recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce, or reuse.
  • Rot (compost) the rest.

1. Fight junk mail. It's not just a waste of resources, but also of time. Register to receive less at, and

2. Turn down freebies from conferences, fairs, and parties. Every time you take one, you create a demand to make more. Do you really need another "free" pen?

3. Declutter your home, and donate to your local thrift shop. You'll lighten your load and make precious resources available to those looking to buy secondhand.

4. Reduce your shopping trips and keep a shopping list. The less you bring home, the less waste you'll have to deal with.

5. Swap disposables for reusables (start using handkerchiefs, refillable bottles, shopping totes, cloth napkins, rags, etc.). You might find that you don't miss your paper towels, but rather enjoy the savings.

Vicki Robin
7 Ways to Cook Up
a Sustainable Diet

No Impact Week: Helpful tips
for planet-friendly eating.

6. Avoid grocery shopping waste: Bring reusable totes, cloth bags (for bulk aisles), and jars (for wet items like cheese and deli foods) to the store and farmers market.

7. Know your city's recycling policies and locations—but think of recycling as a last resort. Have you refused, reduced, or reused first? Question the need and life-cycle of your purchases. Shopping is voting.

8. Buy primarily in bulk or secondhand, but if you must buy new, choose glass, metal, or cardboard. Avoid plastic: Much of it gets shipped across the world for recycling and often ends up in the landfill (or worse yet, the ocean).

9. Find a compost system that works for your home and get to know what it will digest (dryer lint, hair, and nails are all compostable).

10. Turn your home kitchen trash can into one large compost receptacle. The bigger the compost receptacle, the more likely you'll be to use it freely.

An attempt at going zero waste starts with small changes. It's within anyone's reach, and change starts at home. As you embark on No Impact Week, remember—you're not alone in the challenge.

Bea Johnson wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas and practical actions for a just and sustainable world. Bea blogs at The Zero Waste Home, where she shares personal stories and waste-reducing tips with a growing community of people are taking a stance on needless waste.



Zero Waste World



Zero waste means setting a new goal for how we live in the world – one that aims to reduce what we trash in landfills and incinerators to zero – and to rebuild our local economies in support of community health, sustainability, and justice.
cropped-GDA2012.pngAdopting a zero waste approach to resource management is critical to the future of our planet and its peoples.

Today’s throw-away societies create and dispose of vast quantities of waste every day.  But not all are equally responsible for this problem. Those who already have more, waste more — and this pollution is too often dumped on communities that are treated as “disposable.”

As pollution overwhelms many of our cities and natural resources become scarce, people around the world are increasingly realizing that this pattern must change. We cannot continue to throw “away.”  Simply put, “away” does not exist. When we bury our waste, the landfills that we create hurt communities; they generate toxic leachates and emit methane gas which contributes to climate change.  Burning garbage (otherwise known as “incineration”) is an equally primitive scheme that also destroys resources and is even more costly and polluting.

There is a much better approach.  For generations now, workers and communities have conserved materials and created value through composting, recycling, and reuse.  They have innovated solutions and demonstrated how to create locally resilient economies through strategies that generate livelihoods, rebuild the soil, protect public health, and recover materials for manufacturing.  And today they are coming together with forward-thinking local governments to put forth a new vision of how we can live better in this world.

What are some of the elements of zero waste solutions?

At its most basic, zero waste is about significantly reducing, and eventually completely eliminating, the amount of stuff that we send to disposal. Most of what we now waste can be safely and economically recycled, reused, composted, or turned into biogas. We also need to simply use less disposable stuff and redesign our products so that they are toxic-free and built to last.

Wastepickers from Parisar Vikas compost waste in a housing colony in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Gigie Cruz)

Wastepickers from Parisar Vikas compost waste in a housing colony in Mumbai, India.(Photo by Gigie Cruz)

But zero waste is also much more. It is about environmental justice, so that pollution and waste treatment facilities are not concentrated in poor and disenfranchised communities. It is about inclusion, so that the millions of people worldwide who make a living by collecting and selling discarded materials (aka waste pickers, catadores, grassroots recyclers) are able to live with dignity. It’s about putting money into real solutions, and combatting corruption. It’s about community organizing, education, and democracy, so that all citizens can participate in local resource management plans, funding is fairly distributed, and so that all businesses and manufacturers understand and fulfill their roles in minimizing waste and designing products for the future.

Zero waste programs include all of the following strategies:

  • Reducing consumption
  • Reusing discards
  • Extended producer responsibility, especially for the most toxic products
  • Comprehensive recycling
  • Comprehensive composting or bio-digestion of organic materials
  • Citizen and worker participation
  • A ban on waste incineration
  • Policies, regulations, incentives, and financing structures to support these systems

Effective zero waste programs also include many different kinds of people.  From waste worker cooperatives to local neighborhood groups to universities and governments, people around the world are working together to develop zero waste programs, adopt resolutions, and create innovative plans to reduce their waste disposal levels to zero.  These leaders are modeling efficiency and sustainability by creating well-paying jobs and livelihoods in the reuse and recycling industries, reducing consumption, and requiring that products be made in ways that are safe for people and the planet.  They are proving that our air, soil, and water do not have to be polluted, and that our natural resources don’t have to be trashed.

Zero waste can combat climate change

Preventing waste and expanding reuse, recycling, and composting programs – that is, aiming for zero waste – is one of the fastest, cheapest, and most effective strategies available for combatting climate change. GAIA’s international network is organizing to support community-based movements for environmental justice, zero waste, and real climate solutions.

We believe that a zero waste approach to managing our resources addresses root causes of global warming while safeguarding human health and dramatically reducing our demand on natural resources. As waste companies and other climate cons try to sell their incinerators and landfills as “renewable energy facilities” to governments worldwide, GAIA is working to expose these polluters’ false claims and highlight the real climate solutions provided by a zero waste approach. These are goals whose time has come, and these are the issues and stories that Zero Waste World will be sharing with you.


Reframing Sustainable Development: A Critical Analysis, April 2013

'Reframing Sustainably Development' proposes a new sustainability paradigm in order to avert environmental and subsequent social and economic collapse.

CIWEM considers that the current emphasis on an integrated consideration of environmental, social and economic components of sustainability is undermined by poor decision making, weak governance and institutional frameworks which, ultimately, allow too great an emphasis on economic growth to the detriment of environmental and resource conservation.  Furthermore, there remains confusion with currently accepted definitions of sustainable development concerning the precise meaning of terms including 'development' and 'future'.  Thus, as a global community we are a long way from any kind of sustainable development.
In order to rectify this failure, CIWEM considers that sustainable development must be re-framed to focus more explicitly on the fundamental environmental dimension within culturally sympathetic contexts.  The single limiting factor of a so-called sustainable human race is the management and rate of exploitation of a finite planet - its resources and natural environment - of which humankind is a part. If these resources can be managed and conserved appropriately then pressures on people and the environment will be lessened and social and economic benefit will ultimately follow.
This report is endorsed by the Society for the Environment.

Mainstreaming Sustainability - A CIWEM Review of the UK Government's progress, January 2012

Since the election of the Coalition Government in May 2010 there has been a significant shift in the sustainability agenda.  The current Government position on sustainability is that it should not be driven from a non-departmental, independent body but mainstreamed throughout government utilising the same frameworks as for other agendas.
Mainstreaming Sustainability critically examines this new approach to sustainable development and sets out CIWEM's position on whether we consider it to be an appropriate model.  This work takes into account recent commentary by the Sustainable Development Commission (closed down in April 2011), the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee and others including CIWEM's own experts.

CIWEM has also analysed the actions taken on planning and zero-carbon homes from the DCLG, low carbon and green economy policies from the DECC and action on the natural environment from Defra. The Government's own performance across its estate in terms of carbon cutting and procurement is also assessed. CIWEM has judged each area against the principles of SD in Securing the Future.

CIWEM's related activities

The policy team will be developing a new SD workstream in summer 2012 looking into defining SD post Rio+20.
CIWEM has been particularly vocal on the issue of sustainable development within the government's reforms to the planning system and the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework. We were on the front page of the Telegraph following our press release: "A builders' charter". We considered the initial draft of the framework to be completely deficient and have been pleased to see a marked improvement in the definitions of SD in the final draft. Our responses to the Department of Communities and Local Government and the Communities and Local Government Committee can be found in the side tab.
Nick Reeves gave oral evidence to the Communities and Local Government Committee on our concerns over an economic bias to sustainability in the NPPF. The Committee's final report agreed with many of our recommendations.
In Summer 2011 Alastair, Laura and Jo from the policy team met with Jonathon Porritt to discuss the current structures in place for SD and where/how best to influence the government.
Following the publication of 'Mainstreaming Sustainability' in Jan 2012, the policy team met Defra's head of transparency and stakeholder engagement in the Sustainable Development Unit to discuss how they may better encourage and implement SD into policy across government in early May.
Our Sustainability panel have been working on a signposting tool Signposts to Sustainability to help those in the industry put in place the most appropriate measures to increase sustainability at the various stages across the life of a project.

Policy Position Statements

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Download Food for Thought and Action: A Food Sovereignty Curriculum

Our global food system is terribly broken. Together, we can fix it!

Food for Thought and Action: a food sovereignty curriculum is an educational tool realized by Grassroots International and the National Family Farm Coalition offering a practical way to strengthen a growing food sovereignty movement including consumers, farmers, environmentalists and communities.

The curriculum is a collection of exercises and activities grouped into four modules: one each for consumers, faith and anti-hunger groups, environmentalists and farmers. Depending on the audience, trainers and educators will be able to choose exercises from different modules in order to suit the needs of the target group. The curriculum emphasizes informed activism, aiming at building the food sovereignty movement especially in United States.

For dowloading the full document please visit Grassroots International website.


Thank you for your interest in Food for Thought and Action: A Food Sovereignty Curriculum! Below you will find the modules, factsheets, and other materials that make up the curriculum. You can also download a flyer announcing the launch of our the curriculum which you can send to your friends.

Of course we encourage you to read the curriculum in its entirety, but if pressed for time and you would rather go directly to the most relevant modules, we do highly recommend that you download and read the Overview section, which includes tips about how best to use the curriculum.

Food for Thought and Action: All modules and factsheets (ZIP)
3.3 MB

Overview: How to Use Curriculum and Introductory Exercises
972.98 KB

Factsheet: Food Sovereignty is Local Control!
97.71 KB

Module 1: Consumers
710.29 KB

Factsheet 1: Why Should Consumers Care About Agriculture and Trade Policy?
77.43 KB

Module 2: Faith and Anti-Hunger Groups
512.35 KB

Factsheet 2: What Can Faith-based and Anti-hunger Activists Do to Sustainably Feed the World?
83.49 KB

Module 3: Environmentalists
642.77 KB

Factsheet 3: Why Is a New Agricultural Policy Relevant to Environmentalists?
81.44 KB

Module 4: Small Farmers and Farmworkers
422.52 KB

Factsheet 4: Farming and Trade Policy – What Is the Impact on Family Farmers?
76.85 KB

Next Steps: What I / We Can Do to Help Build the Food Sovereignty Movement
115.51 KB

The 6 Food Sovereignty Principles
44.21 KB

Free Online Permaculture Design Course

Hello friends,

This morning we are thrilled to make an absolutely groundbreaking announcement.  You can now study permaculture online completely FREE with world-class instructors including Larry Korn through our new Online Permaculture Design Course. 

You can immediately begin viewing the complete 72+hour course lectures free at There is no catch -- permaculture is rapidly changing the world, and we're doing our part to dramatically accelerate that change by
making this incredible wisdom available completely free. 

Over the upcoming months, we're going to be rolling out many new features (and cleaning up quite a few bugs that remain) but you can begin watching the course in the meantime.

So don't waste time - browse over to and begin watching the course today!  Be sure to forward this e-mail to your friends and if you have a website, please do link to the online course! 

Join us and let's change the world!
Regenerative Leadership Institute | 800-376-3775 |
The Nation's Sustainable Living School - BBB A+ Rated
14525 SW Millikan Way, Suite 17760, Beaverton, OR 97005

Monday, May 20, 2013

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Sustainability Video Lecture Series

In Fall 2012, Communications grad student Xiaoyu "Sherry" Dong began videotaping a series of mini-lectures on various sustainability-related topics by campus experts which can be used to enhance courses if/when the expert is not available in person. These mini-lectures are available on YouTube - click on the name of the lecture to be connected to the YouTube file. These same lectures are also available on the Sustainability at Ithaca College ITunes U site.

"An Overview of Sustainability" (1:24 minutes)
various contributors

"What is Sustainability?" (20:04 minutes)
Marian Brown, Special Assistance for Campus and Community Sustainability

"What is Education for Sustainability?" (51:41 minutes)
Jason Hamilton, associate professor, Environmental Studies and Sciences
"Ithaca College's Sustainability Commitments"  (40:09 minutes)
Marian Brown, Special Assistance for Campus and Community Sustainability

Ithaca College's Climate Action Plan (33:08 minutes)
Marian Brown, Special Assistance for Campus and Community Sustainability

"Business and Environmental Issues"  (51:44 minutes)
Marlene Barken, associate professor, Legal Studies and students in her Fall 2012 Marketplace Regulation and Consumer Protection (LGST 32000) class

"How an Organization Can be Sustainable to Employees"  (26:44 minutes)
Cory Young, associate professor, Strategic Communication
Interviewer: Xiaoyu "Sherry" Dong

"Climate Science: What Do We Know and Why Does it Matter?"  (38:41 minutes)
Susan Allen-Gil, professor, Environmental Studies and Sciences

"Trash Talk" (15:11 minutes)
Mark Darling, sustainability programs coordinator, Facilities

"The Big Talk"  Sustainability Panel Discussion (December 2012)  (1:47:19 minutes)
Moderator: Mark Darling, sustainability programs coordinator, Facilities
Panelists:   Jason Hamilton, associate professor, Environmental Studies and Sciences
                 Tom Pfaff, associate professor, mathematics
                 Cory Young, associate professor, Strategic Communication

Why smart growth?

Smart Growth Principles

Mix Land Uses
Take Advantage of Compact Building Design
Create a Range of Housing Opportunities and Choices
Create Walkable Neighborhoods
Foster Distinctive, Attractive Communities with a Strong Sense of Place
Preserve Open Space, Farmland, Natural Beauty and Critical Environmental Areas
Strengthen and Direct Development Towards Existing Communities
Provide a Variety of Transportation Choices
Make Development Decisions Predictable, Fair and Cost Effective
Encourage Community and Stakeholder Collaboration in Development Decisions

Health, schools, taxes, traffic, the environment, economic growth, fairness, opportunity—many of the things we care about—are all affected by development decisions. From the length of our daily commute to the price of a new home to the safety of our neighborhoods-what, where, and how we build have major impacts on our personal lives, our com munities, and our nation.

Growth presents a tremendous opportunity for progress. Communities around the country are looking for ways to get the most out of new development and to maximize their investments. Frustrated by development that requires residents to drive long distances between jobs and homes, many communities are challenging rules that make it impossible to put workplaces, homes, and services closer together. Many communities are questioning the fiscal wisdom of neglecting existing infrastructure while expanding new sewers, roads, and services into the fringe. And in many communities where development has improved daily life, the economy, and the environment, smart growth principles have been key to that success.

Growth is "smart" when it gives us great communities, with more choices and personal freedom, good return on public investment, greater opportunity across the community, a thriving natural environment, and a legacy we can be proud to leave our children and grandchildren.

When communities choose smart growth strategies, they can create new neighborhoods and maintain existing ones that are attractive, convenient, safe, and healthy. They can foster design that encourages social, civic, and physical activity. They can protect the environment while stimulating economic growth. Most of all, we can create more choices for residents, workers, visitors, children, families, single people, and older adults-choices in where to live, how to get around, and how to interact with the people around them. When communities do this kind of planning, they preserve the best of their past while creating a bright future for generations to come.

Adapted from the PDF "This is Smart Growth," published by ICMA and EPA in 2006.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Designing For Generosity

"A gift culture is marked by 4 key shifts:
- from Consumption to Contribution (appreciate what you received and pay it forward)
- from Transaction to Trust (rely on our interconnectedness)
- from Isolation to Community (cultivate networks of gift ties)
- from Scarcity to Abundance (experience generative power of gratitude)
When small acts of giftivism get connected, it rekindles a gift economy." 

What would the world look like if we designed for generosity? Instead of assuming that people want to simply maximize self-interest, what if our institutions and organizations catered to our deeper motivations? This compelling TEDx talk explores this question and introduces the concept of Giftivism: the practice of radically generous acts that change the world. The video is charged with stories of such acts, ranging from: the largest peaceful transfer of land in human history, to a pay-it-forward restaurant, to a 10-year-old's unconventional birthday celebration, and the stunning interaction between a victim and his teenage mugger. With clarity and insight, it details the common threads that run through all these gift manifestations, and invites us to participate through everyday acts of kindness -- in an uplifting global movement.

Designing a Resilient Community

Students participate in project-based learning over several days as they assess their community's ability to respond to crises that threaten both natural and human systems. Then they develop ideas for redesigning their community to be more resilient.

Oak Woodland Activity

Downloadable materials for these lessons include instructions and discussion questions, a set of "Redesigning Our Community" cards for students, professional development suggestions for instructors, and links to resources about resilient communities.

Grade Levels: 9–12

Estimated Time:
Lesson One: 50 minutes
Lesson Two: five to six hours, spread over several days
Lesson Three: seven to eight hours, spread over several days

Key Concepts:

  • As we face complex and interconnected environmental and social challenges, some communities are transforming their structures, functions, and relationships to anticipate those challenges.
  • By considering key local indicators, we can estimate our community's ability to endure and recover from crises that threaten the quality of life of humans and other living beings.
  • Transforming a community often leads to personal and social transformations for community members.

Download Designing a Resilient Community Activity (1.3 mb pdf)

What does "resilience" mean at the personal, social, and ecological levels?

Lesson Plan: Summary of Activity

After reading "Security, Resilience, and Community" (an excerpt on the Center's website from the preface to David W. Orr's book, Down to the Wire), lead a class discussion about the meaning of "resilience" at the personal, social, and ecological levels. Brainstorm ways to increase the resilience of local communities. You may want just to read the essay yourself for background or ask your students to read it, depending on their cognitive and reading levels. You can find the essay at

Grade Levels: 9-12

Estimated Time: 1-2 class periods (50-100 minutes)

Lesson Steps

  1. Introduce the concept of resilience by asking students what we mean when we remark that someone "really bounced back" after a difficult time. Record their responses.
  2. Write the word "RESILIENCE" on the board. Share with the class that "resilience" on the personal level is the capacity for a person to rebound from tough times and come through without psychological damage. Rather than giving up when faced with a difficult situation, resilient people face adversity with courage and determination. Sometimes they are even emotionally stronger than they were before. Ask if they can describe a time when they or someone they know demonstrated resilience.
  3. You can expand the discussion by reading an Aesop's fable, "The Oak Tree and the Reeds," as an illustration of resilience:
    An Oak that grew on the bank of a river was uprooted by a severe gale of wind, and thrown across the stream. It fell among some Reeds growing by the water, and said to them, "How is it that you, who are so frail and slender, have managed to weather the storm, whereas I, with all my strength, have been torn up by the roots and hurled into the river?" "You were stubborn," came the reply, "and fought against the storm, which proved stronger than you: but we bow and yield to every breeze, and thus the gale passed harmlessly over our heads."
    See Aesop's Fables >
  4. Ask students to identify the conditions which help build resilience for youth their age. Record their answers on the board. Ask the class, working together, to cluster responses that are similar and give each cluster a heading. (For example, Resiliency In Action identifies broad categories of conditions for nurturing resilience: caring and support; high expectations for success; opportunities for meaningful participation; positive bonds; clear and consistent boundaries; and life skills. Visit Resiliency in Action >)
  5. Tell students that the idea of "resilience" can also apply to large-scale systems, like ecosystems, as well as to individual people. Ecosystems that are "resilient" are able to bounce back from a disturbance, like a fire or an oil spill, although it may take a long time. A resilient ecosystem can tolerate a disruption and eventually return to a healthy state. David Orr defines large-scale resilience as "the capacity of the system to 'absorb a disturbance; to undergo change and still retain essentially the same function, structure, and feedbacks.'"
  6. Ask students to identify the conditions that affect an ecosystem's resilient (e.g., the severity of the disturbance, the ecosystem's biological diversity, its state of health prior to the disturbance, and palliative measures that are taken after the disturbance). Record their responses on the board, and cluster them if there are many responses. (See step 4 above.)
  7. Share with students that scientists are concerned that widespread changes in climate threaten the resilience of many ecosystems, which in turn threatens the well-being of humans. Ask them to think about fertile land areas where we grow food, island and coastal communities that are vulnerable to rising ocean levels, and the global increase in extreme weather, and challenge them to make connections between the loss of resilience at the ecosystem level and the human-community level.
  8. Some experts, like David Orr, are concluding that we can no longer count on large-scale government to protect us from these threats and that much of the work must be carried out at local and regional levels. Furthermore, he argues that society as a whole will be more resilient if we establish decentralized systems for provisioning ourselves (e.g., local food systems, energy systems, communication system, etc.). A regionalized system would be better able to bounce back from a severe disturbance in one place, such as a drought or an oil shortage. It would also be easier to repair, support the local economy, and reduce carbon emissions. Working in pairs, have students generate a chart that identifies potential positive and negative consequences of building decentralized systems.[i]
  9. Ask students to brainstorm a list of ways they could collectively take action to secure local access to things that we in the U.S. consider to be our basic human rights: food, clean water, health, energy, shelter, and productive work. Use the list to formulate an action plan with students, with them taking the lead to make their community more secure.

[i] Orr describes what his community is doing to build resilience and urges local citizens to ban together to improve local and regional resilience. See article >

Sustainable Cities Through a Grassroots Environmental Movement



PHOTO: View from the river of the town of Woodstock in the Canadian province of New Brunswick. Photo from Wikipedia.

Hassan Arif, a research associate at the Urban and Community Studies Institute at the University of New Brunswick. He is currently completing his PhD at the University of New Brunswick in urban sociology. He is also a columnist for the Telegraph Journal.
Hassan can be reached at 

A key challenge in the 21st century is building an environmentally sustainable economy and society, where monetary and ecological goals are in harmony. With global climate change, natural landscapes at risk from resource extraction, and dependence on fossil fuels, the need to move towards sustainability is pressing. This transition is a global challenge, but will also require local initiatives.

The Transition Movement (also known as Transition Towns and Transition Network) is a movement that embodies the need for both global and local solutions in moving off fossil fuel dependence and towards a sustainable economy. Transition is a grassroots movement, of concerned people coming together in their communities to promote sustainable practices in their cities, towns, and villages, while networking with like-minded Transition groups around the world.

The aims of Transition include educational initiatives, for instance "Transition Guides" published in communities to provide information to individuals, businesses, and governments on how to adopt sustainable practices, including promotion of local economies (such as local agriculture to avoid the pollution that comes from long distance transportation of food), sustainable energy sources such as solar and geothermal, and other actions that can promote environmental sustainability and a move away from fossil fuels.

Transition efforts also include lobbying and encouraging policy makers at different levels of government to adopt sustainable practices, to promote local foods, sustainable industries, green energy, and sustainable urban planning to curb automobile dependence.

Ultimately though, it is about the participants themselves, people getting together, determining the best strategies and avenues to build a sustainable economy and move beyond fossil fuel dependence.

In the Canadian province of New Brunswick, where I live, there are Transition movements in Woodstock, Cocagne, Moncton, and Fredericton.

Woodstock is a New Brunswick town of approximately 5,000 people. Transition Woodstock has accomplished several successful projects in the Woodstock area. These include the Richard Olmstead Sustainable Living Expo (the third annual one will be held on October 5, 2013 at the Woodstock campus of New Brunswick Community College). This expo engages a range of stakeholders in the community - including business, municipal and provincial government agencies, and environmentalist groups - to get together to showcase products and initiatives that promote environmentally sustainable practices.

Other Transition Woodstock initiatives include the Woodstock Community Garden, which was started three years ago, and a monthly event held at New Brunswick Community College featuring documentaries, films, and guest speakers. I myself will be a guest speaker, speaking at New Brunswick Community College in Woodstock on May 28th at 7:00PM, on sustainable economic development in New Brunswick.

Transition Woodstock has published an Energy Transition Guidebook for the Woodstock region which includes guidelines for businesses and individuals. This includes recommendations for green power sources for homes and businesses (including geothermal and solar) as well as policy recommendations on planning to facilitate methods of transportation -- walking, biking, and public transit -- that are alternatives to private automobiles.

In Fredericton, that city's Transition group held a World Café at Renaissance College, an initiative where people from the community came together to discuss and vote on ideas to ultimately determine which issues were priorities. This event was an excellent example of open-format democracy.

Some of the themes identified included promotion of a sustainable model of economic development where environmental harms (along with monetary benefits) were part of the equation, alternatives to automobile-centric transportation (including promotion of mass transit, biking, and walking), promotion of renewable energy (including solar power where homeowners can sell back to the grid), and supporting local agriculture.

A comprehensive strategy, from all levels of government, is needed to promote transition to a sustainable economy. As an example, municipal governments have an important role in promoting sustainable planning, moving away from sprawling box store developments with vast parking lots which are often along busy thoroughfares without proper sidewalks, all factors that discourage walking and biking. Provincial and federal governments have an important role in building an economy that is diverse and sustainable - taking advantage of new opportunities in green business sectors.

In all this, community and grassroots activism, an engaged citizenry, is important. The Transition Movement is playing a key role in this regard, linking local activism to global networks, encouraging the promotion of new practices among individuals, businesses, and governments.

Global climate change is a crisis, but it can also be an opportunity for new and innovative ideas, new opportunities to build sustainable economies (with jobs based in environmentally sustainable sectors), and new opportunities to build sustainable societies.

An earlier version of this article appeared on the Huffington Post.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Climate Change Adaptation Toolkit and User Guide: a comprehensive guide to planning for climate change adaptation in three steps

The impacts of climate change are already being experienced in our community from heat waves and intense bushfires to devastating floods. Despite adaptation being discussed for a number of years, organisations are still grappling with how best to respond to this complex problem.

Net Balance, in collaboration with RMIT and the City of Greater Geelong, has developed an Adaptation toolkit. The Toolkit will assist organisations to prioritise their climate risks and adaptation actions and make climate change risk consideration a part of their everyday operations.

Based on practical experience, the Toolkit takes organisations beyond risk assessments – exploring implications of uncertainty on risk and adaptation actions and supports embedding climate change within the decision making processes.

The Toolkit aims to support organisations to:
  • Integrate adaptation and support effective and efficient risk management
  • Be more responsive to climate change shocks and trends form linkages across different work areas, internally and externally
  • Make effective and consistent decisions regarding climate change.
The Toolkit consists of three tools, stepping the user through key considerations of climate change risks, and potential adaptation actions.

Tool 1: Exploring the Risk Context – explores in detail key climate change risks previously identified. The tool explores the interaction between the risk and their broader social, economic and environmental context. It also outlines a process for considering, overcoming or accepting, and documenting the uncertainty associated with each relevant climate change risks.

Tool 2: Developing Adaptation Actions – provides a process for identifying, exploring and evaluating adaptation options, to assist organisations to prioritise actions.

Tool 3: Screening for Climate Change Interactions - outlines a process for decision makers across an organisation to consider any interactions between a new proposal/project and climate change risks and adaptation actions.

The toolkit and user guide are available for free download.


The Climate Change Adaptation Toolkit is a comprehensive guide to planning for climate change adaptation in three steps. The impacts of climate change are already being experienced, generating a new series of risks for organisations. Climate change is a complex problem that requires a new integrated and collaborative risk management approach. The Climate Change Adaptation Toolkit has been developed by NetBalance in partnership with the City of Greater Geelong and RMIT University’s Climate Change Adaptation Program.

Water Sensitive Urban Design

CIRIA report- ‘Water Sensitive Urban Design in the UK: Ideas for built environment practitioners’

This new report provides an overview that sets out the drivers, benefits and vision for Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) in the UK and is based on findings from a collaborative project that included extensive consultation and a literature review to understand the role of WSUD in the UK. The report describes WSUD as the process of integrating water cycle management with the built environment through planning and urban design. The different scales at which WSUD can be applied are outlined in the report, from the individual building level to whole neighbourhoods, large commercial developments and entire cities. 

Link download:

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Wisdom of Your Cells

"Quantum physicists reveal that underneath apparent physical structure there is nothing more than energy, that we are energy beings. That means that we interact with everything in the field. Quantum physics reveals that energies are always entangled with each other. In an energy universe, waves are always flowing through and interacting with all other waves. We can never separate someone fully from the environment they live in.

In other words, rather than focusing on matter, in a quantum world we focus on energy. In the mechanical world we said we can understand everything by reductionism. But in the newer quantum understanding of the universe we have to understand holism: you cannot separate one energy vibration from another energy vibration. We have to recognize that in the world we live in we are entangled in an unfathomable number of energy vibrations and we are connected to all of them!

Here is my definition of the environment: it is everything from the core of your being to the edge of the universe. It includes everything in close proximity to you as well as the planets and the sun and what is going on in the entire solar system. We are part of this entire field." ~ Bruce Lipton

The Wisdom of Your Cells is a new biology that will profoundly change civilization and the world we live in. This new biology takes us from the belief that we are victims of our genes, that we are biochemical machines, that life is out of our control, into another reality, a reality where our thoughts, beliefs and mind control our genes, our behavior and the life we experience. This biology is based on current, modern science with some new perceptions added.

The new science takes us from victim to creator; we are very powerful in creating and unfolding the lives that we lead. This is actually knowledge of self and if we understand the old axiom, “Knowledge is power,” then what we are really beginning to understand is the knowledge of self-power. This is what I think we will get from understanding the new biology.

Flying Into Inner Space
My first introduction to biology was in second grade. The teacher brought in a microscope to show us cells and I remember how exciting it was. At the university I graduated from conventional microscopes into electron microscopy and had a further opportunity to look into the lives of cells. The lessons I learned profoundly changed my life and gave me insights about the world we live in that I would like to share with you.

Using electron microscopy, not only did I see the cells from the outside but I was able to go through the cell’s anatomy and understand the nature of its organization, its structures and its functions. As much as people talk about flying into outer space, I was flying into inner space and seeing new vistas, starting to have greater appreciation of the nature of life, the nature of cells and our involvement with our own cells.

At this time I also started training in cell culturing. In about 1968 I started cloning stem cells, doing my first cloning experiments under the guidance of Dr. Irv Konigsberg, a brilliant scientist who created the first stem cell cultures. The stem cells I was working with were called myoblasts. Myo means muscle; blast means progenitor. When I put my cells in the culture dishes with the conditions that support muscle growth, the muscle cells evolved and I would end up with giant contractile muscles. However, if I changed the environmental situation, the fate of the cells would be altered. I would start off with my same muscle precursors but in an altered environment they would actually start to form bone cells. If I further altered the conditions, those cells became adipose or fat cells. The results of these experiments were very exciting because while every one of the cells was genetically identical, the fate of the cells was controlled by the environment in which I placed them.

While I was doing these experiments I also started teaching students at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine the conventional understanding that genes controlled the fate of cells. Yet in my experiments it was clearly revealed that the fate of cells was more or less controlled by the environment. My colleagues, of course, were upset with my work. Everyone was then on the bandwagon for the human genome project and in support of the “genes-control-life” story. When my work revealed how the environment would alter the cells, they talked about it as an exception to the rule.

You Are a Community of 50 Trillion Living Cells
Now I have a completely new understanding of life and that has led to a new way to teach people about cells. When you look at yourself you see an individual person. But if you understand the nature of who you are, you realize that you are actually a community of about 50 trillion living cells. Each cell is a living individual, a sentient being that has its own life and functions but interacts with other cells in the nature of a community. If I could reduce you to the size of a cell and drop you inside your own body, you would see a very busy metropolis of trillions of individuals living within one skin. This becomes relevant when we understand that health is when there is harmony in the community and dis-ease is when there is a disharmony that tends to fracture the community relationships. So, number one, we are a community.

Fact number two: There is not one function in the human body that is not already present in every single cell. For example, you have various systems: digestive, respiratory, excretory, musculoskeletal, endocrine, reproductive, a nervous system and an immune system but every one of those functions exists in every one of your cells. In fact we are made in the image of a cell. This is very helpful for biologists because we can do research on cells and then apply that information to understanding the nature of the human body.

I was teaching what is called the medical model, the perception that human biology represents a biological machine comprised of biochemicals and controlled by genes. Therefore when a patient comes in to see a doctor, the belief system is that the patient has something wrong with their biochemistry or genes, which can be adjusted and can lead them to health. At some point I realized that I had to leave the university because I found great conflict in teaching the students about what controls the cell and yet getting a completely different understanding from the cells in my cultures.

A New Understanding of Science
When I was outside the university I had a chance to read into physics. Again I found information that did not conform to the science I had been teaching. In the world of new physics, quantum physics, the mechanisms that are described completely collide with the mechanisms we were teaching, which were based on the old Newtonian physics. The new physics currently is still not introduced in medical schools. Before conventional science, science was the province of the church. It was called natural theology and was infused with the spiritual domain, teaching that God’s hand was directly involved in the unfoldment and maintenance of the world, that God’s image was expressed through the nature we live in. Natural theology had a mission statement: to understand the nature of the environment so we could learn to live in harmony with it. Basically this meant learning how to live in harmony with God, considering that nature and God were so well connected.

However, through the abuses of the church, their insistence on absolute knowledge and their efforts of suppressing new knowledge, there was what is called the Reformation. The Reformation, precipitated by Martin Luther, was a challenge to the church’s authority. After the Reformation, when there was an opportunity to question beliefs about the universe, science became what was called modern science. Isaac Newton, the physicist whose primary studies were on the nature of gravity and the movement of the planets, provided the foundation for modern science. He invented a new mathematics called differential calculus in order to create an equation to predict the movements of the solar system. Science identified truths as things that were predictable. Newtonian physics perceives the universe as a machine made out of matter; it says that if you can understand the nature of the matter that comprises the machine, then you will understand nature itself. Therefore the mission of science was to control and dominate nature, which was completely different than the former mission of science under natural theology, which was to live in harmony with nature.

The issue of control in regard to biology becomes a very important point. What is it that controls the traits that we express? According to Newtonian physics life forms represent machines made out of matter and if you want to understand those machines you take them apart, a process called reductionism. You study the individual pieces and see how they work and when you put all the pieces together again, you have an understanding of the whole. Charles Darwin said that the traits an individual expresses are connected to the parents. The sperm and egg that come together and result in the formation of a new individual must be carrying something that controls the traits in the offspring. Studies of dividing cells began in the early 1900s and they saw string-like structures that were present in cells that were beginning to divide. These string-like structures were called chromosomes.

Interestingly enough, while chromosomes were identified around 1900, it was only in 1944 that we actually identified which of their components carried the genetic traits. The world got very excited. They said, oh, my goodness, after all these years we finally have gotten down to identifying the genetically controlling material; it appears to be the DNA. In 1953 the work of James Watson and Francis Crick revealed that each strand of DNAcontained a sequence of genes. The genes are the blueprints for each of the over 100,000 different kinds of proteins that are the building blocks for making a human body. A headline announcing Watson and Crick’s discovery appeared in a New York paper: “Secret of Life Discovered” and from that point on biology has been wrapped up in the genes. Scientists saw that by understanding the genetic code we could change the characters of organisms and therefore there was a big, headlong rush into the human genome project to try to understand the nature of the genes.
At first they thought these genes only controlled the physical form, but the more they started to manipulate genes, they saw that there were also influences on behavior and emotion. Suddenly, the genes took on more profound meaning because all the characters and traits of a human were apparently controlled by these genes.

Are We Victims of Heredity?
Yet there was one last question: what is it that controls the DNA? That would be going up the last rung of the ladder to find out what is ultimately in control. They did an experiment and it revealed that DNA was responsible for copying itself! DNA controls the protein and the protein represents our bodies. Basically it says that life is controlled by DNA. That is the Central Dogma. It supports a concept called “the primacy of DNA” that says who and what we are and the fate of the lives we lead are already preprogrammed in the DNA that we received at conception. What is the consequence of this? That the character and fate of your life reflects the heredity you were born into; you are actually a victim of heredity.

For example, scientists looked at a group of people, scored them on the basis of happiness and tried to find out whether there was a gene that was associated with happy people that was not active in unhappy people. Sure enough, they found a particular gene that seems to be more active in happy people. Then they immediately put out a big media blip on “gene for happiness discovered.” You could say, “Well, wait a minute. If I got a sucky happy gene, then my whole life is going to be predetermined. I’m a victim of my heredity.” This is exactly what we teach in school and this is what I had also been teaching-that people are powerless over their own lives because they can’t change their genes. But when people recognize the nature of being powerless, they also start to become irresponsible. “Well, look, Boss, you’re calling me lazy but I just want you to know my father was lazy. What can you expect from me? I mean, my genes made me lazy. I can’t do anything about it.” Recently in Newsweek they wrote about how fat cells are waging war on our health. It’s interesting because in an epidemic of obesity science stands back and says: it’s your fat cells that are waging war in your life.

The Human Genome Project
To come and save us, the human genome project entered our world. The idea of the project was to identify all the genes that make up a human. It would offer the future opportunity of genetic engineering to correct the ills and problems that face humans in this world. I thought the project was a humanitarian effort but it was interesting later to find out from Paul Silverman, one of the principal architects of the human genome project, what it was actually about. It was simply this: It was estimated that there were going to be over 100,000 genes in the human genome because there are over 100,000 different proteins in our bodies; plus there were also genes that didn’t make proteins but controlled the other genes. The project was actually designed by venture capitalists; they figured that since there were over 100,000 genes, by identifying these genes and then patenting the gene sequences, they could sell the gene patents to the drug industry and the drug industry would use the genes in creating health products. In fact, the program was not actually for advancing the human state as much as it was for making a lot of money.

Here is the fun part. Scientists knew that as you go up the evolutionary scale, simple organisms have less DNA and when you get to the level of humans, with the complexity of our physiology and our behavior, we have a lot moreDNA. They thought that primitive organisms would have maybe a few thousand genes but humans were going to have approximately 150,000 genes, which meant 150,000 new drugs. The project began in 1987 and just showed again that when humans really put their heads together they can create miracles. In only about fourteen years we actually had the results of the human genome. It also was what I call a cosmic joke.

To begin the human genome project they first studied a primitive organism, a miniature worm that is barely visible with your eye. These worms had been an experimental animal for geneticists because they reproduce very quickly and in very large numbers and thereby express traits that you can study. They found that this small animal had a genome of about 24,000 genes. Then they decided to do one more genetic model before doing the human and that was with the fruit fly because of the large amount of information already available on the genetics and behavior of fruit flies. The fruit fly genome turned out to have only about 18,000 genes. The primitive worm had 24,000 genes and this flying machine had only 18,000 genes! They didn’t understand what that meant but put it on the back burner and started the work on the human genome project.

The results came in 2001 and were a major shock: in the human genome there are only about 25,000 genes; they expected nearly 150,000 genes and there were only about 25,000! It was such a shock that people actually didn’t talk about it. While there was a lot of hoopla about completing the human genome project, no one talked about the 100,000 missing genes. There was complete lack of discussion in the scientific journals about it. When they realized there were not enough genes to account for human complexity, it shook the foundation of biology

Why is it so important? If a science is based on the way life really works, that science would be good for use in medical practice. But if you base your science on wrong information, then that science could be detrimental to medical practice. It is now a recognized fact that conventional allopathic medicine, the primary medicine we use in Western civilization, is a leading cause of death in the United States. It is also responsible for one out of five deaths in Australia. In the Journal of the American Medical Association Dr. Barbara Starfield wrote an article revealing that from conservative estimates, the practice of medicine is the third leading cause of death in the United States. However, there is a more recent study by Gary Null (see Death by Medicine at: He found that rather than being the third leading cause of death, it is the first leading cause with over three-quarters of a million people dying from medical treatment each year. If medicine actually knew what it was doing, it wouldn’t be that lethal.

I left the university in 1980, seven years before the human genome project was started because I already was aware that genes didn’t control life. I was aware that the environment was influential but my colleagues looked at me as not just being a radical but a heretic because I was conflicting with the dogma; therefore this became a religious argument. At some point the religiosity of where I was led me to resign my position. That’s when I started to advance into understanding about brain function and neuroscience. What I was really trying to find out is if it’s not the DNA that controls cells, then where is the “brain” of the cell?

The Computer Within
The new biology revealed that the brain of the cell is its skin, the mem-brane, the interface of the interior of the cell and the ever-changing world we live in. It is the functional element that controls life. This is important because understanding its function reveals that we are not victims of our genes. Through the action of the cell membrane we can actually control our genes, our biology and our life and we have been doing it all along although we have been laboring under the belief that we are victims.

I started to realize that the cell was a chip and that the nucleus was a hard disk with programs. The genes were programs. As I was typing this on my computer one day I realized that my computer was like a cell. It had programs built into it but what was expressed by the computer was not determined by the programs. It was determined by the information that I, as the environment, was typing onto the keyboard. Suddenly all the pieces fell into place: the cell membrane is actually an information-processing computer chip. The cell’s genes are the hard drive with all the potentials. That is why every cell in your body can form any kind of cell because every nucleus has all the genes that make up a human. But why should one cell be skin and another cell be bone or eye?

The answer is not because of the gene programs but because of the feedback of information from the environment. All of a sudden the bigger thing hit me: what makes us different from each other is the presence of a set of unique identifying protein keys (receptors) comprising the keyboard on the surface of our cells. The identity keys on the cell membrane respond to environmental information. The biggest “Aha!” was this: that our identity is actually an environmental signal that is playing through the keyboard on the surface of our cells and engaging our genetic programs; you are not inside your cell, you are playing through your cell using the keyboard as an interface. You are an identity derived from the environment.

In my younger days, I didn’t see that religion was offering me truth. I went away from spirit and ended up in science. Realizing that my identity was something from the environment playing through my cells was the greatest shock to my world because I was completely thrown from a non-spiritual reality into the requirement of a spiritual existence. My cells were like little television sets with antennas and I was the broadcast that controlled the readout of the genes. I was actually programming my cells.

I realized that if the cell died, it did not necessarily mean the loss of the broadcast-that the broadcast is out there whether the cell is here or not. All of a sudden it hit me with such profound awe. What I realized was that survival was not that important because of my eternal character was derived from some broadcast in the field. The fear of mortality disappeared. That was about twenty-five years ago and it was one of the most wonderful, liberating experiences I ever had.

Perception: The Power of the New Biology
We perceive the environment and adjust our biology, but not all of our perceptions are accurate. If we are laboring under misperceptions, then those misperceptions provide for a mis-adjustment of our biology. When our perceptions are inaccurate we can actually destroy our biology. When we understand that genes are just respondents to the environment from the perceptions handled by the cell membrane, then we can realize that if life isn’t going well, what we have to do is not change our genes but change our perceptions. That is much easier to do than physically altering the body. In fact, this is the power of the new biology: we can control our lives by controlling our perceptions.
We are holding “truths” about science that are actually untruth, they are actually “assumptions,” and false assumptions at that. Until we correct them, we are misunderstanding our relationship to the planet, to nature and the environment. As a result we are destroying that which has provided us life, the environment.

False assumption number one is that the universe is made of matter and its understanding can be attained by studying matter Our perception of a material-only biology and environment is no longer scientifically accurate. Another assumption is that genes control life. It is actually our perceptions that control life and by changing our perceptions we can get control over our lives. I will discuss more about this later. Assumption number three is a very dangerous assumption: that we arrived at this point in our evolution using the mechanisms of Darwinian theory, which may be summed up as “the survival of the fittest in the struggle for existence.” It turns out in the new biology that evolution is based on cooperation. Until we understand that, we keep competing with each other, struggling and destroying the planet without recognizing that our survival is in cooperation and that our continued competition is the death knell of human civilization.

The Future of Medicine
Everything in the universe is now understood to be made out of energy; to our perception it appears physical and solid, yet in reality it is all energy and energies interact. When you interact in your environment you are both absorbing and sending energy at the same time. You are probably more familiar with terms such as “good vibes” and “bad vibes.” Those are the waves at which we are all vibrating. We are all energy. The energy in your body is reflecting the energy around you because the atoms in your body are not only giving off energy, they are absorbing energy. Every living organism communicates with these vibrations. Animals communicate with plants; they communicate with other animals. Shamans talk to plants with vibrations. If you are sensitive to the differences between “good” and “bad” vibrations, you would always be leading yourself to places that would encourage your survival, your growth, your love, et cetera, and staying away from situations and places that would take advantage of you or cancel who you are.

When we are not paying attention to our vibrational energies, we are missing the most important readouts from our environment. Understanding of the new physics says that all energies are entangled and interact with each other. Therefore, you must pay attention to these invisible forces that are involved with what’s going on in your life. While medicine does not train its doctors to recognize that energy is part of the system, they very easily adapted to using the new scan systems to determine what is going on inside the body. It is humorous that they read their scans as “maps,” but do not have the fundamental understanding that their maps are direct readouts of the energy present in the body.

For example, in a mammogram revealing a cancer, one is you are visualizing a characteristic emission of energy distinctive of a cancer. Rather than cutting out the cancer, what if you applied an energy that, through interference patterns, would change the energy of those cancer cells and bring them back to a normal energy? Presumably you would get a healing effect. This would make sense out of thousands of years of what is called “hands-on healing.” The recipient is getting an energy that is interacting with their body through interference and through that interference, changing the character of the energy reflected in the physical matter because the matter is the energy. This is the future of medicine although we are not there with it right now.

Quantum physicists reveal that underneath apparent physical structure there is nothing more than energy, that we are energy beings. That means that we interact with everything in the field. This has an important impact on health care. Quantum physics reveals that energies are always entangled with each other. In an energy universe, waves are always flowing through and interacting with all other waves. We can never separate someone fully from the environment they live in. Quantum physics says the invisible energy is one hundred times more efficient in conveying information than are material signals (e.g., drugs). What we are beginning to recognize is that there is an invisible world that we have not dealt with in regard to understanding the nature of our health.

In other words, rather than focusing on matter, in a quantum world we focus on energy. In the mechanical world we said we can understand everything by reductionism. But in the newer quantum understanding of the universe we have to understand holism: you cannot separate one energy vibration from another energy vibration. We have to recognize that in the world we live in we are entangled in an unfathomable number of energy vibrations and we are connected to all of them!

Here is my definition of the environment: it is everything from the core of your being to the edge of the universe. It includes everything in close proximity to you as well as the planets and the sun and what is going on in the entire solar system. We are part of this entire field. To summarize the significance of this let me give you a quote from Albert Einstein: “The field is the sole governing agency of the particle.” What he says is this: the field, the invisible energy, is the sole governing agency of the physical reality

Thursday, May 9, 2013

13 Elements of a Dream Green Home [INFOGRAPHIC]

If you’re thinking about building green, keep this infographic nearby, as it covers thirteen elements that you’ll want to consider in the design and construction of your home. Also keep in mind that this list isn’t definitive; it does, however, demonstrate well that building green involves big-picture thinking beyond “Hey, let’s put solar panels up.”

Got things you’d like to see added to this list? Tell us about them in the comments. And if you need a larger version of the infographic, just click on it…

how to build your green home infographic

Infographic credit: DJ Miller is an avid writer and graphic designer from Tampa, Florida. He is an environmental tech enthusiast that covers everything from solar panels to cisterns. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @MillerHeWrote.

Simple Methods to Bring Clean Water To Developing Countries

  • Drinking Water

    According to the World Health Organization, the lack of clean water accounts for the premature death of 1.7 million people a year. Harmful organisms, bacteria and pollutants are found in water supplies of developing nations, where governments lack the resources to implement widespread water sanitation. And without easy access to medical care and antibiotics, people in water-poor countries often succumb to waterborne illnesses.

    In the United States, the majority of people have access to sanitary water, regulated by the government. And even in areas that rely on well water – which is not subject to any regulatory guidelines – people have plenty of options for removing unwanted substances from water. In other parts of the world, low-cost, easily implemented water purification methods may be the key to battling waterborne illness. Read on to find out what is being done to increase access to clean water around the world.

    Poor water quality

    Waterborne illness

    Inadequate waste disposal methods, contaminated water sources and the lack of awareness about proper hand-washing all contribute to the spread of waterborne disease. The pervasive threats in developing countries are bacteria and organisms that are commonly found in human or animal waste, which can contaminate water supplies when waste disposal areas are too close to drinking water sources. People who have ingested water contaminated with harmful organisms usually experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration – and in extreme cases, or in the very young – death.

    A great deal of humanitarian aid is devoted to helping developing countries provide clean water for their people. Volunteers help dig fresh wells in water-deprived communities where people have been drinking water from polluted and muddy water sources. Community leaders are educated about ways to prevent their well water from becoming contaminated and standards for human waste disposal. And residents learn about proper hand-washing techniques, as dirty hands can quickly spread disease. Still, even with the amount of outreach taking place, people need ways to make water potable.

    The SODIS solution

    Joshua Pearce, associate professor of materials science and engineering at Michigan Technological University, recently revealed his inexpensive means of providing safe, healthy drinking water. Pearce calls his method Solar Water Disinfection, or SODIS, and it has the potential to save millions of lives because of the inexpensive materials involved and ease of use.

    Pearce says that heat and radiation will kill harmful contaminants in water; the SODIS method is simply filling a clear plastic bottle with clear water and setting it in the sun for six hours. However, in developing countries, finding clear water can be a challenge, since water sources may contain muddy sediment.

    Working with Brittney Dawney, a student at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada, Pearce found that simple table salt was effective in removing mud from water. When added to muddy water, salt binds with clay particles and settles to the bottom of the water container. It’s then easy to strain the water and remove the mud, making the SODIS method possible.

    People who have the luxury of enjoying fresh tap water in their homes may think that manually removing mud and disinfecting water with sunlight seems like a lot of work. But in parts of the world where fresh water is scarce, it’s a viable solution to a life-threatening problem.