ReweavingNC- Alternative Economies Conference (Sept 21, 2013)

Monday, September 23, 2013 18:24
Comments closed


We  need a new Cosmology, fundamental change in the way we perceive and interact with the each other and the world, a proper ordering. (Thomas Berry)  We need to redefine the human at the species level.  If we can speak to our spiritual needs we can talk to anyone.

Natural Capital is the basis of all forms of capital (Lovins et al), We can achieve a factor 5 improvement in energy efficiency.

Follow the Energy(Money) Cycle, Ecological Flow

We lose Money out of our community through

1. Food

2. Energy

3. Capital(lending)

Community Supported Energy (CSE),

Our GOAL Campus uses a new Model for redevelopment, using Closed Loop Systems/Biomimicry and promoting Distributed Systems of energy production.  We value-add waste to fuel to transportation.

My Background

UNCW, Research on Industrial Chemistry and Natural Gas, interest in working for the petro-chemical industry, infiltrating and subverting the paradigm within.  Never got in.

Story of Carolina Biodiesel/Greenway Transit/GOAL model

Used slow money loans for cash, out of pocket, some bank credit

Tried to achieve a balanced approach to my life in activism and business

Promote our organizations and hybrid model as a stable base to engage and provide focus and continuity to University. University communities are centers for progressive, creative vision, youth activism and create a high demand for a green economy.  We need more tangible, local results to inspire, but also must plug into the need for activism and reforms locally and nationally.

Jacksons Solar Street Lights Project

I.                Participatory model

II.             Community Infrastructure model

III.          Can ride additional projects in on structure


Combining Social Justice with mission?

Often solutions that are inclusive of the broadest based needs tend to be most efficient and effective, Green Jobs training experience

Capital investment ideas for divestment?

Need to focus on self-sufficiency due to limited resources, capital can help achieve scale and replicate more rapidly.  Hybrid model strategy

Global Forests showing Signs of Impending Extinction

Friday, December 28, 2012 15:55
Comments closed

This is from the NY Times.

"As Forests Disappear, Examining the Mechanisms of Their Death"

"A recent study found that 70 percent of 226 forest species from 81 sites worldwide now live on the edge of this so-called hydraulic failure. "  We don't even understand how the trees are dying, from hydraulic failure and/or starvation. Sadly it seems much science of today has transformed into a death watch.

New Research indicating Agricultural production will be severaly impacted by Climate Change

Friday, December 28, 2012 15:50
Comments closed

This is a great piece of “connect the dots” journalism that the scientific community is afraid or unable to do.

“If extreme weather becomes the norm, starvation awaits”

“I believe we might have made a mistake: a mistake whose consequences, if I am right, would be hard to overstate. I think the forecasts for world food production could be entirely wrong. Food prices are rising again, partly because of the damage done to crops in the northern hemisphere by ferocious weather. In the US, Russia and Ukraine, grain crops were clobbered by remarkable droughts. In parts of northern Europe, such as the UK, they were pummeled by endless rain.

Even so, this is not, as a report in the Guardian claimed last week, “one of the worst global harvests in years”. It’s one of the best. World grain production last year was the highest on record; this year’s crop is just 2.6% smaller. The problem is that, thanks to the combination of a rising population and the immoral diversion of so much grain into animal feed and biofuels, a new record must be set every year. Though 2012’s is the third biggest global harvest in history (after 2011 and 2008), this is also a year of food deficit, in which we will consume 28m tonnes more grain than farmers produced. If 2013’s harvest does not establish a new world record, the poor are in serious trouble.

So the question of how climate change might alter food production could not be more significant. It is also extremely hard to resolve, and relies on such daunting instruments as “multinomial endogenous switching regression models“. The problem is that there are so many factors involved. Will extra rainfall be cancelled out by extra evaporation? Will the fertilising effect of carbon dioxide be more powerful than the heat damage it causes? To what extent will farmers be able to adapt? Will new varieties of crops keep up with the changing weather?

But, to put it very broadly, the consensus is that climate change will hurt farmers in the tropics and help farmers in temperate countries. A famous paper published in 2005 concluded that if we follow the most extreme trajectory for greenhouse gas production (the one we happen to be on at the moment), global warming would raise harvests in the rich nations by 3% by the 2080s, and reduce them in the poor nations by 7%. This gives an overall reduction in the world’s food supply (by comparison to what would have happened without manmade climate change) of 5%.

Papers published since then support this conclusion: they foresee hard times for farmers in Africa and south Asia, but a bonanza for farmers in the colder parts of the world, whose yields will rise just as developing countries become less able to feed themselves. Climate change is likely to be devastating for many of the world’s poor. If farmers in developing countries can’t compete, both their income and their food security will decline, and the number of permanently malnourished people could rise. The nations in which they live, much of whose growth was supposed to have come from food production, will have to import more of their food from abroad. But in terms of gross commodity flows the models do not predict an insuperable problem.

So here’s where the issue arises. The models used by most of these papers forecast the effects of changes in averaged conditions. They take no account of extreme weather events. Fair enough: they’re complicated enough already. But what if changes in the size of the global harvest are determined less by average conditions than by the extremes?

This is what happened in 2012. This is what seems likely to happen in subsequent years. Here’s why. A paper this year by the world’s leading climate scientist, James Hansen, shows that the frequency of extremely hot events (such as the droughts which hammered the US and Russia) has risen by a factor of about 50 by comparison with the decades before 1980. Forty years ago, extreme summer heat typically affected between 0.1 and 0.2% of the globe. Today it scorches some 10%. “We can project with a high degree of confidence,” the paper warns, “that the area covered by extremely hot anomalies will continue to increase during the next few decades and even greater extremes will occur.” Yet these extremes do not feature in the standard models predicting changes in crop production.

If the mechanism proposed by another paper is correct, it is not just extremes of heat that are likely to rise. I’ve explained this before, but I think it’s worth repeating. The jet stream is a current of air travelling eastwards around the upper northern hemisphere. It separates the cold wet weather to the north from the warmer, drier weather to the south. Wobbling along this ribbon are huge meanders called Rossby waves. As the Arctic heats up, the meanders slow down and become steeper. The weather gets stuck.

Stuck weather is another way of saying extreme weather. If the jet stream is jammed to the north of where you are, the weather stays hot and dry, and the temperature builds up – and up. If it’s lodged to the south of you, the rain keeps falling, the ground becomes saturated and the rivers burst their banks. This summer the UK and the US seem to have found themselves on opposite sides of stuck meanders, and harvests in both countries were savaged by opposing extremes of weather.

This is where we stand with just 0.8 degrees of global warming and a 30% loss of summer sea ice. Picture a world with two, four or six degrees of warming and a pole without ice, and you get some idea of what could be coming.

Farmers in the rich nations can adapt to a change in averaged conditions. It is hard to see how they can adapt to extreme events, especially if those events are different every year. Last winter, for example, I spent days drought-proofing my apple trees, as the previous spring had been so dry that – a few weeks after pollination – most of the fruit shrivelled up and died. This spring was so wet that the pollinators scarcely emerged at all: it was the unfertilised blossom that withered and died. I thanked my stars that I don’t make my living this way.

Perhaps there is no normal any more. Perhaps the smooth average warming trends that the climate models predict – simultaneously terrifying and oddly reassuring – mask wild extremes for which no farmer can plan and to which no farmer can respond. Where does that leave a world which must either keep raising production or starve?”

A fully referenced version of this article can be found at

• This article was amended on 16 October to say that the jet stream travels eastwards, rather than westwards

Bill McKibben Do the Math Tour. It hurts so good?!

Friday, November 23, 2012 15:53
Comments closed

The “Do the Math Tour” hit Durham Monday with a good punch, hopefully kicking our progressive community in the ass with a stark reality, (my take away was little of what we do is nearly enough to make a dent unless the “tent” gets much larger and more focused).  Michael Brune, Sierra Club President, was brought to tears as he explained digging out his childhood home from several feet of storm water and sand from Hurricane Sandy.  Only a Class I Hurricane, but it set records for: 1) it late arrival, 2) lowest barometric pressure north of Cape Hatteras, and 3) largest ever tropical storm, wind field.  But it was the storm surge that really was the devastating blow.  This follows on a year and a decade of steadily more catastrophic weather events, statistically correlated with anthropogenic global warming (See Jansen on Midwest Drought, a first time when a leading scientist may the case that a specific weather phenomenon was directly correlated to anthropogenic carbon).  And we are just getting started with less than .8 degrees Celsius.

New reports came out this week prior to the Doha IPPC meetings from IEA, WMO and World Bank characterizing the “dire” and grim forecast for the planet.  Now the conservative leadership is saying not 2 degrees, but lets not go 4 degrees Celsius global mean average, which has a high probability of where we are heading.  350 ppm is what many believed as the top end (hence the name of Bill’s org.).  We blew by that this year and are at 390 ppm  right now.  The Holocene oscillated closely around 180 to 280 or less (350 is likely too high).  At the rate we are going, we are headed towards 800 ppm, primarily due to the residual time of carbon in the atmosphere, over a 1000 years.  Sadly, in an article in part of McKibbens “Do the Math Reader,” it seems the “global leadership” already recognizes 550ppm is the low ball figure to be expected.  (Not sure what 2 degrees Celsius is in ppm–that would have been good for his presentation to highlight from a marketing standpoint).

This brings us back to the Do the Math Tour.  McKibben could make a career in comedy, “I am here to bum people out.” That he did, but with brilliant dry wit, part revival, part Movement building.  His Rolling Stone article received more hits than Justin Bieber, even though Bill said he didn’t have the “longing stare of the bare chested Bieber” that cover the magazine in which his article appeared!

Brune on the other hand remains optimistic.  After reading his book (Coming Clean: Breaking America’s Addiction to Oil), I was sickened by the upbeat appraisal of our situation and lack of historical balance that calls out the mistakes and failures.  McKibben, on the other hand, is the most articulate synthesizer of our day , placing blame where it is due, but boldly promoting collaboration and action, now on two fronts: 1) divestiture from fossil fuel companies, and 2) civil disobedience.  His description of jail in DC for the Keystone Protest was smack on.  It is time for us to stand up.

Yet, things do not look good.  The window of opportunity is closing fast.  There is already too much carbon in the system to avoid serious impacts.  But if we don’t do something immediately, we are doomed to a world that will be hellish, in the least.  We really have no idea how bad “bad” will be, given feed back loops that are poorly understood and modeled, but we do know we have broken the system.

This article is reflective of the new efforts by some in the media to connect the dots, something most scientists have refused to do:

It is a pretty impacting piece, not only in its pick up by Yahoo. News for redistribution (and likely readership), but due to the content of supposition and implications on climate change.  This is the first time I have read the extent of causal connection tracing Sea Ice loss to Jet Stream oscillation to higher extremes in both periodicity and intensity of Storm Systems.  This is a phenomenal piece of journalism, except for some outrageous lines that pour calm wind over what should be a red flag of warning.  The Arctic Ridge is weakening/fluctuating, and plays an important role pinning the jet stream in a somewhat periodic oscillation.  It’s loss means the weather systems, lows and highs, get blocked from moving, causing drought and flood and their impacts to pile up.

McKibben, unlike our scientific community, has also connected the dots and placed in context what is happening and where we are going.  He is a leader who underestimates his own style, self-demeaning manner and his excellent power of articulation.  We need to heed his warning and rally behind his effort.

However, unlike the South Africa Divestiture Movement that brought about the collapse of Apartheid, the numbers are very different.  You have on the one hand, capitalism and its cheap energy addiction pushers, the Fossil Fuel Industry, and the fate of the planet on the other- a David and Goliath story on steroids.  The numbers are much bigger and the ideology much harder to break through.  We are comfortable living the lie, and there seems to be some evolutionary advantage to authoritarians stubborn conviction to a destructive habit.

South Africa was a small market for the industries that “played with the devil,” so the economic calculation was to lose value in global markets or exact change in South Africa, a pretty easy balance sheet.  Carbon is so much bigger in terms of numbers and impact.  To think that the fossil fuel industry is going to leave its’ enormous assets of reserves in the ground is “pie in the sky.”  But we have no other option, geo-engineering and carbon sequestration are absolute absurdities.  This means transitioning on a level of wartime, ramping up of alternative energy and efficiency, changing building codes and stopping “cold turkey” the burning of carbon.

I am certain we could do it if we had the leadership, or “political will” as Al Gore keeps saying.  However, the 1% and those of an ideological worldview that can not face the scientific reality will fight as if their livelihood depended on it.  And it does as Naomi Klein’s article in The Nation ( nails eloquently the framework of the debate.

Research on human behavior seems to show that instead of catastrophic events shaking our worldview and opening us up to new ways of looking at things, it reinforces and pushes us backward into regression and even greater assimilation with others of the like mentality.  Luckily there are more of us than them, but they hold most of the capital we need to shift our system.

Are we going to continue the Presidential debate that laid open the raw horror of our American capitalist system?  The Ayn Randians, Libertarians and 1%ers who resonate with Romneys “47%” moochers and “gifters”?  The Republicans are imploding and devouring themselves, which was inevitably with a platform so full of hate, fear and misperception. America is tired of the rhetoric and wanting to move on.  However, at the core of this 2012 election has been this issue of our worldview.  It is a spectrum, no doubt, but the dialog and debate has been heavily influenced and framed by a failed system that has broken our wonderful planet.

My guess is that civil disobedience, as McKibben suggests, is high on the list for everyone over 40. Divestiture, absolutely, but this should have been the case for academic assets decades ago.  Making money on the destruction of our planet isn’t a real smart move for institutions of higher learning, dedicated to helping young people have fulfilling lives.  Those under 40 are going to need to focus on techniques of survival and resiliency.  It is going to be a wild ride.  Thanks Bill for the wake up call and reality sandwich, it hurts so good?!

Nicholas School open New Center for Sustainability and Commerce

Sunday, October 14, 2012 13:44
Comments closed

Duke’s Nicholas School has added a long awaited and needed Center for Sustainability and Commerce (See, something to provide a balance to the less than stellar environmental achievements of the Fuqua School of Business.  Several Alumni, myself included, were privy to a hour plus long introduction by it’s new director Dr. Jay Golden, who has a joint position with the Pratt School of Engineering, taught at MIT in systems analysis and served as Walmart’s sustainability director for 3 years.  His lecture, Powerpoint driven, covered the trends in corporate sustainability, and was interesting.

The presentation’s scope was great, exhibiting the power of systems thinking and enlightening to the ground swell associated with certification systems.  But I felt it was missing some very key issues fundamental to research and an informed discussion on the role past, present and future of our economic system.  From our experience “working in the trenches” of fair trade for 20 years and 10 years in biofuels, these were my gripes:

1) Need for a Slide. There have been 4 great carbon epochs, and with each harnessing of carbon, population has grown exponentially, leveling off as those resources were depleted and substituted (Wes Jackson, the Land Institute);

2) Slide Missing. Population dynamics mimic a sine wave, and population has shot up dramatically in the last 200 years thanks to cheap energy, and the subsequent abundance in food. As any species population there are limits/constraints.  We are reaching many of those now as he showed, particularly in highly important rare Earth metals.  Peak cheap energy is here, and contraction and more likely a crash (maybe even a series of crashes) are inevitable;

3) Major Premise. Given the gigatons of carbon we are putting (and will likely continue to place) in the atmosphere, the geologic record shows that we are headed for chaotic and volatile climate disruption at best and extinction of half the planet’s species, including us;

4) Major Premise.  Very little about the future can be inferred from the past due to such dramatic changes that are occurring to our planet, the whole of our scientific knowledge has occurred during a short sub-period of climate stasis, the Holocene, we have little idea what is going to happen, but there is a high probability it won’t a be conducive to life as we know it;

5) Other Major Premise. Climate models used to project future conditions have been found to be highly conservative (e.g. evaporative rates, sea level rise and loss of arctic sea ice, to name few) and feedback loops (like methane) are just being discovered and modeled;

6) Premise. As history has shown, technology is duel-edged sword, salvation may not come in a phone app. or geo-engineering;

7) Major Externality. Because carbon and pollution are not priced, the price of everything is wrong, giving improper signals to the market, unless this is addressed immediately, all other efforts may have unintentional results or very little affect;

8) Fundamental Premise of “Free Markets” is the concept that we are “rational” players.  As Ariely’s work has shown, half our decision making may be irrational (Predictably Irrational) and we are perceptually challenged (particularly with regards to causality, the quantum mechanical world and systems integration), which begs the question that capitalism will properly allocate supply and demand of anything;

9) Major Premise. To use this Capitalist system, with it major market failures, and substitute a “sustainable” product for a non-sustainable product still does not solve the issue of through-put (See Herman Daly, Steady-State Economics), we can not consume at the rate we are going even if most our products become incrementally “more sustainable”;

9) Conclusion.  Thus, to think that a market-based system of sustainable certification is somehow going to “right the ship of capitalism” is a pipedream.

Realistically, most corporations in numerous ways have been undermining efforts to shift our economy away from fossil fuels, and regulate pollution and massive market failure. Many of those that have increased the sustainability component of their corporate structure have done so to “green wash,” provide only incremental change (not completely convinced of the problems we are facing, etc.) or have used the profits squeezed out of efficiencies to pad shareholder and executive pay.  Profits generated by energy efficiency, improved production efficiency, etc. are not being used to fix the damage that has already been done by this “free market” system, to rejuvenate degraded ecosystems or to lobby for changes that will level the playing field and improve the overall potential of the system, from which we have benefited.  Large structural problems are not being addressed and many of these efforts are primarily “lip-service,” or blatant hypocrisy.

I am fearful that The Center will simply be an apologist of a corporate capitalist system that is the engine  of our planet’s collapse,  and the source of much of the “dis-ease” that is rupturing forth.  Harboring and propagating these continued ideologies and views that have resulted in death and destruction on a massive order and are “crimes against humanity,” would not be a good strategy, at this time.  It would be better to promote at least on equal level an alternative economic worldview, a cosmology that reflects these historical and scientific truths; and provide an integral and moral keel, that redirects our business strategies from neo-liberal political economy and globalization, to one that emphasizes local, community based, resilient systems.  Desperately needed are the brightest minds and resources to design and shore up our local communities, so that we can reduce the impacts and the injustices of what are certainly headed our way.  With 600 ppm of carbon or 6 degrees of mean temperature increase, we will be suffering the repeated shocks perpetrated on us by a very small elite and a system that is completely broken.

It is high time for some moral leadership and vision.

Mr. President, Clean Coal, eh?!

Friday, September 7, 2012 9:21
Comments closed

G’damit, how the hell did that happen?!
The Presidents’ acceptance speech was a grand vision (to be expected) and very good at hitting back and the high notes till the point where he said:

“clean coal” and
“unleash 100 billion cubic feet of gas”

There is nothing clean about coal, “it’s a dirty lie,” as the girl next to me at the March on Wall Street South said.  The technology to gasify and liquify and deep well inject the CO2 is decades away and simply not worth the money, when that capital is needed elsewhere.  Natural gas, love the stuff, awesome precursor to the petrochemical industry, and great substitute bridge to shut down coal plants, immediately.  But as the oil and gas industry states in their own internal documents (thank you Josh Fox, The Sky is Pink), nothing can be drilled into the ground without failure and contamination of aquifers and ground water.  9% of the well head casings fail immediately, and all fail eventually.  There are no free lunches with fossil fuels and few in energy systems in general.  What we shove down into wells and into the ground, drilling fluids, hazardous chemicals, CO2, comes back up, right into our water.  And water is a big issue, too much and not enough across the planet, thanks to too much carbon in the atmosphere (you have to love the enormous irony).  Are we crazy??!!  Alternatives have downsides yes, but nothing like these.

At that point I realized he, his speech writers and staff are still “drinking the cool-aid.”  How is it that such bold lies get perpetuated?  His other lies were absolutely minor in comparison.  Not even a nuance of associated problems or the essence of precautionary principle, just the whole tag line was lifted from the fossil fuel industry and dumped into what was a great speech.  Is there anyone who can help our leadership articulate the issues to the American people, balancing of the risks of continued reliance on FF and the upside to alternatives?  He should have added nuclear (which there are some options still viable, like small pebble breeder reactors, that should be left on the table and pursued if we want to avert climate disaster), but Fukishima may have killed that one, at least in the public perceptions eye.  Kudos to him, for he did try to “make it real” the impacts of climate change, but not nearly the degree that the eminent disaster should demand.

Is it laziness to understand the issue, placating the dirty fuel lobby, or do they really think we can continue to pursue drilling and mining without severe costs or impacts?  Granted, switching is years away, but we don’t have years.  We are at catastrophic tipping points.  We think jobs and the sluggishness of the economy are hard on the American people now, just wait, and not long, grant you.  The impacts of climate disruption will be profound, and we will not recognize the planet in a decade.  People and species will die on levels never seen on this planet, not even the great wars will measure up.

It would be nice to have leadership that would directly address the paucity of logic behind our failure to address the fundamentals of why we have not come together as a people over these issues.  This is at the heart of the problem of our political discourse, the failure to perceive the interconnections of life and ecosystems, your life affects my life, we breath the same air, drink the same water, etc.  It is the bottom line and the core to our unity but somehow has become a wedge issue.  And everything else, everything (though we may not want to believe it or does not give us the immediacy to lay down our life in defense) is secondary, and getting this cosmological “house in order” will be the first step and critical to our country and the planets’ future.

Obama has my vote, but unless we reduce the influence of the dirty energy money, and get our heads right, our future as a species is slim to none.  I will be at the phone bank and voter registration table this weekend.

The paucity of hope.

PRESS RELEASE: Columbia U. Mens’ Basketball Team rides to “victory” on Greenways biodiesel bus

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 11:03
Comments closed

On January 7-8, 2012, Columbia University Mens’ Basketball team
traveled from Greensboro PTI Aiport to Elon and back on a biodiesel bus,
the first ground transportation by such means by an Ivy League conference NCAA team.

University travel by teams, faculty, students and staff is usually the third largest carbon footprint of a campus after buildings and daily commuters.   Greenway Transit of Durham, NC has developed a software program that calculates the footprint of any transit gig, giving the estimated footprint reduction by riding in a biodiesel bus.

Greenway Transit Footprint Report for
Columbia Mens’ Basketball Team:

260.0 miles where traveled In the a 47 passenger MCI Bus
with 28 occupants, using about 52. gallons of fuel.

CO2e and Crud totals for the trip and per person…
227.54 Pounds of CO2e for the TRIP TOTAL
8.12 Pounds of CO2e per person
1.96 Pounds of HC/CO/NOx/VOCs/PM for the TRIP TOTAL
0.07 Pounds of HC/CO/NOx/VOCs/PM per person

Comparing per capita B100 emissions against those of gasoline and diesel in units of pounds…
1001.05 Pounds fewer of CO2e produced by each person than with gas in an average light duty vehicle with one occupant.

Same as above in percentages…
99.19  Percent less net CO2e produced by each person than if using gasoline in a 2008-average light duty vehicle with one occupant

99.74 Percent less non-GHG air pollutants produced by each person than with gas in an average light duty vehicle with one occupant

Comparing gross trip emissions against those of gasoline and diesel in percentages…
77.45 Percent less CO2e overall than with gasoline in an average light duty vehicle
92.88 Percent less HC/CO/NOx/VOCs/PM overall than with gasoline in an average light duty vehicle

This was a major achievement on top of wining their 11th game of the season, and allowed the Columbia Lions to move their University down the road towards lowering their footprint.  Student athletes were impressed with the opportunity to lower their footprint and by the informative speech given to each Greenway group before their trip.

Biodiesel made from locally collected waste vegetable oil (WVO) has nearly a zero carbon footprint and significantly reduces other air pollutant emissions.  Combined with idle reduction and minimization of traveled miles through planning and logistics, which Greenway Transit practices, University travel footprints can be lowered.

“The key to future reductions will be high mpg vehicles, that combine carbon or composite fiber to lighten and strengthen vehicles and hybrid systems that store braked energy and help vehicles accelerate (where most of the energy is used),”  states Greenway Manager, Marc Dreyfors, “well, getting public policy that puts a price on carbon and finding and developing additional sources of sustainable, biofuel feedstock are also critical.”  He continued, “okay, we may have a long way to go to reduce our footprint, but this is at least a start!”

Greenway Transit is working with The Forest Foundation and Carolina Biodiesel to develop a franchise model for value-adding waste veggie oil, to biodiesel, to green transportation for university and college towns across the US.  For more information on how you can lower your University campus teams footprint, contact Greenway Transit at