Posted by steve on November 22, 2009
Please consider signing the hunger petition by the United Nations FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization)
Posted by steve on November 13, 2009
Please consider signing the hunger petition by the United Nations FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization), which they will show to government delegates at their big Food Security conference next week 16-18 November 2009.
Info on Food Security conference: http://www.fao.org/wsfs/world-summit
The director of FAO is also calling for people to hunger strike, i.e., fast for 1 day this weekend (Saturday or Sunday) as a sign of compassion for the 1,000,000,000 people who are hungry right now.
One speaker I heard recently said: Today’s 1 billion hungry is the greatest calamity ever in human history! It bears reflecting upon.
Posted by steve on November 12, 2009
I also recommend Edward’s TED talk on why he felt compelled to produced these photographs
Posted by steve on November 9, 2009
Posted by steve on November 6, 2009
One thing I just realised about the UNITS OF TRUST scheme that I have been promoting, and am working on here in Sweden, is that is promotes the idea of slow money.
One way of thinking about resilience in the local economy is to consider the Permaculture approach where the idea is to slow down the flow of energy and nutrients through the system you are managing. A resilient local economy is one that slows down the flow of money away from the area – to keep it in circulation as long as possible.
One aim of a UOT scheme is to support the development of a local economy resilient, among other things, to hikes in energy costs. To understand how UOT schemes could do this, it helps to have an overview of household expenditure. As shown in the graph below (from UK national Statistics online, data for 2008) household economies are perilously dependent on fossil fuels. For non-tax expenditure, 42% is on transport, housing, fuel and power and food. All three are highly energy intensive. If the price of energy goes up, so will the proportion of the household budget taken by these essentials. Less money will be available for other purchases sending the overall consumer economy down.
The localised economy (stimulated by local investment in essentials) will be more resilient in this case. Firstly, because less transport is involved, and secondly because there are more organizations providing these essential services. To take a negative example; if local firms are focused on manufacturing consumer goods, and food is being brought into the area, any downturn in consumer spending from increased fuel costs will put these jobs at risk and raise food prices.
As fuel costs rise, so does the amount of money “leaking” out of the local economy into the fuel supply chains. This leakage may even mean that bank loans are hard to get and moving house will be more difficult. It makes sense to improve the house you have, retrofit it with renewable technology and insulation as well as shorten local supply chains. This work creates business for local entrepreneurs. So again, by stimulating the development of these local enterprises the local economy becomes more resilient.
Units of trust are created at the end of the supply chain, that is to say consumers invest in the organization providing them with their basics. This does not mean that money will be unavailable further up the chain. The companies that supply these essentials, like food provision and housing in turn will themselves need to invest. For example, an organic farmer may want to invest in wind power to serve increases in customers. In this case, the farmer can use some of the investment from her own UOT offering to invest in wind power. The wind power entrepreneur can offer investments to local farmers who want to use renewables. In this way, investment is stimulated all around the local community.
More reading: See the updated white paper on Units of Trust
See the video about SLOW MONEY
Posted by steve on November 2, 2009
I have seen several experiments carried out where vegetable beds clean grey water. I was curious to see if I could imagestream a good way of doing this so I could experiment myself on the Eco-unit. <more links>
I felt I needed clues as to how I could move forward. I tried to frame my quest as “I want to see somewhere that uses grey water recycling – where each house has its own set-up. Let me see how they do it, and to get some good ideas for my experiments. I want to see the equipment and how it all fits together”
My stream started off in a large, high, glass dome that seemed to be a shopping mall or airport. A set of benches in the middle formed a square around some ornamental plants. I sat on a bench and looked over at some lifts shaped like large concrete tubes. Walking over to these lifts, I saw one with a yellow button on it saying “grey water recycling”.
I got into the lift, and noticed I was being followed by a very shy facilitator.
“The other one is on holiday,” he said.
The lift turned on its side so I had to strap myself into a seat. Safely strapped in I felt it turn horizontally and we sped off, stopping at a large greenhouse.
Inside, this greenhouse felt like an exhibition hall. I had come to some kind of ideal garden exhibition. I saw a sink, some vegetables, some beans - I wandered around it and saw a large transparent tank, round, holding maybe 50 litres. It’s a demo, with grey water in it and a load of see-through pipes to demonstrate its workings.
The pipe fed grey water onto a series of what looked like window boxes arranged in steps, about 1,3 meters high and the same wide. The grey water ran through the boxes down to the bottom where it collects into a pond with a water feature. The water is pumped back up again and circulates around.
Each of the boxes contains soil, then some Leca balls then a mesh to hold it above the run-off channels in the bottom of the boxes. The boxes have holes in the bottom to drain into the next layer. The boxes are about 25cm deep and maybe 90 cm wide made of plastic or cast in concrete.
When casting, you can use bits of plastic foam to keep the holes open. I get the feeling you can build these steps up inside of brick or stones and soil. If they are compact, the whole structure absorbs heat during the summer and releases it during the colder season, thus prolonging the growing period of the plants. Kept in a greenhouse, the structure makes the seasons even longer.
I look around for alternatives – or are these step-like constructions the only ones they use? I see you can make pyramid shapes, put them in squares or get creative against walls.
I find a flat alternative; the water just comes under a flat growing bed that is a couple of meters long and about 60 cm deep. It is made in concrete the same way, with the soil kept away from the run-off channels by nets.
Things that surprised me
- I was surprised there was no real wall structure, as the designs I have seen already call for a wall. Maybe it’s because you can get more in a step design and that it is lower, making harvesting easier.
- I was pleasantly surprised by the idea of casting in concrete. It seem fairly straightforward
Questions for follow-up.
- I need to understand how the water not only flows back, but how it is cleaned further for pumping back to the house for use again.
- More details on how to cast boxes would be good, and to understand the angles of slopes required.
- For an apartment block, a larger version would be interesting it possible.
- The dispenser and storage tank had a mechanism I did not really understand. More work needed there.
Things to try now.
- I’ll try and draw a design for the boxes to be cast in concrete. If it seems to work I’ll try it out!