Mendo Island Journal — Timely. Useful. Sometimes Cranky.

Archive for May, 2009|Monthly archive page

Oil Has Peaked Says The Wall Street Journal

In Around the web on May 7, 2009 at 6:20 am

[As always, very late to the truth. -DS]

Peak Oil: Global Oil Production’s Peaked, Analyst Says
By Keith Johnson

Dust off those survivalist manuals and brush up on your dystopias: Peak oil is back.

Global production of petroleum peaked in the first quarter of last year, says analysts Raymond James, which “represents a paradigm shift of historic proportions. Unfortunately, mankind better get ready to live in a peak oil world because we believe the ‘peak’ is now behind us.”

Raymond James’s notes that non-OPEC oil production apparently peaked in the first quarter of 2007, and given precipitous falls in oil output from Russia to Mexico, there’s not much hope for a recovery. OPEC production—and thus global output—peaked a little later, in the first quarter of 2008, Raymond James says.

The contention rests on a simple argument: OPEC oil production actually fell even as oil prices were above $100 a barrel, a sign of the “tyranny of geology” that limits the easy production of ever-more crude.

“Those declines had to have come for involuntary reasons such as the inherent geological limits of oil fields … We believe that the oil market has already crossed over to the downward sloping side of Hubbert’s Peak,” the analysts write.

If true—and the analysts note that true historical peaks are only visible in the distant rear-view mirror—then expect oil prices to jump back toward triple digits. All the more so if demand recovers—oil has clung to the $50 a mark even as demand cratered everywhere.

Now, there are signs of some green shoots out there. The Chinese economy seems to be responding to the government’s almost $600 billion stimulus plan. The CLSA China Manufacturing Index showed a big jump in April and the first expansion since last July.

Crude oil futures are up about 1% to $53.70 today.

See article here.
Thanks to Linda Gray

It’s Not About Making Them “Good Corporate Neighbors!”

In Dave Smith on May 6, 2009 at 2:15 pm

We are ‘We the People.’
We must write the laws.
We must enforce them.

There is no one else.

Organizing Communities to Govern Cartel Retailing Empires like Wal-Mart

Many communities are frantically trying to resist the encroachment of giant retail merchandising corporations and the economic and environmental injuries that those corporations inflict on locally owned businesses, community character, and workers.

Past efforts to control the amount of harm inflicted by these corporations have resulted in increased environmental and land-use regulation, but there has been a marked failure to secure local authority over whether those corporations will be allowed to operate by the communities that they impact.

In recent years, organizations, communities, and community leaders working on a range of other “single” issues have begun to question why their industrious enforcement of zoning laws, environmental regulations, environmental impact studies and other legal land-use tools have failed to protect the natural environment, create an improved quality of life, or increase community control over corporations. As some community leaders have learned, available legal regulatory remedies are drawn from a “stacked deck” of sorts. Created to enable communities to make it more expensive for corporations to site or operate in a particular location, those regulations maintain the illusion that the community has fundamental decision-making authority over how, or whether, the corporation will operate within the community.

Over the years, activists and communities have struggled to correct the symptoms of corporate control through their use of the regulatory system – a system that, in effect, serves as nothing more than an “energy sink” for activists. Indeed, regulations aimed at lessening corporate harms may actually serve to work against that goal. So often the temporary, regulatory “wins” of activists merely codify specific levels of permissible harm that corporations may legally inflict on people and communities.

Unless these communities, groups, and municipal governments shift their focus from regulating corporate behavior (seeking to lessen corporate harms) to asserting local, democratic control over corporations, attempts to build sustainable communities and protect the natural environment will fail.

Keep reading Organizing Communities to Govern Cartel Retailing Empires like Wal Mart at→

Eating ethically during hard times

In Around the web, Dave Smith on May 5, 2009 at 12:26 pm

From Salon

…At honest moments, though, I suspected my reluctance to seek out organic rutabagas was more lazy than practical. So last year, when global food prices began to soar, I devised an experiment: My husband and I would eat conscientiously for a month, not just on our regular grocery allotment but on the government-defined, food-stamp minimum: $248 for two people in our hometown of New Haven, Conn.

We would choose the SOLE-est products available — that is, the sustainable, organic, local or ethical alternative. We would start from a bare pantry, shop only at places that took food stamps and could be reached on foot, and use only basic appliances. The test would mean some painful changes; gone was my husband’s customary breakfast of Honey Nut Cheerios and our favorite dinner of pepperoni pizza. But it would answer that nagging question: When shopping for food, did I have to choose between my budget and my beliefs?

Challenges began on my first grocery trip, where staples required some massive outlays of cash. It was anxiety-inducing to shell out $4 a jar for organic spices, even after I pared down my shelf to salt, pepper, oregano, basil, curry, cumin, chili and cinnamon. (I also bought some garlic, soy sauce and red wine vinegar, though these were non-local organic; I justified the carbon footprint — not to mention the price — with the thought that cheap eaters need to fill up on flavor.) It was frightening to spend $7 on a small bottle of organic olive oil in hopes it would last all month. The costliest decision was meat; I didn’t want to impose a completely vegetarian diet on my carnivorous husband or on-and-off-carnivorous self, but the frozen slabs of grass-fed steak at the farmers’ market seemed tough to manage. Instead, I bought a small free-range chicken for about $9 and a scant pound of local ground beef for about $6, knowing that this, along with some sustainable canned fish, was our allotment of animal flesh for four weeks. Even less expensive purchases demanded worry and adjustments; the price difference between organic fruits and vegetables, for example, prompted me to switch apples for carrots in my packed lunch.

The real work began when I lugged my haul home. The chicken had to go far: After roasting my scrawny-looking bird in the most basic way — a smear of oil across the skin, a sprinkle of salt and pepper — I sliced, hacked and pulled every piece of meat I could find off the bones and then simmered the carcass in a pot for basic stock. (I saved the fat for cooking.) Along with the meat, this broth was divided into meal-size portions and stored in my freezer for soups, sandwiches and dinners to come.

For complete article go to Can we afford to eat ethically at Salon
Hat tip Dave Pollard
Image credit: Globally Green Living

See also Organic Prices – Are They Prohibitive? at Organic To Be→

Time Banks: Love made visible

In Dave Smith, Mendo Island Transition on May 5, 2009 at 8:26 am


[Talk I gave at Mendo Time Bank organizing meeting, May 4, 2009, Ukiah, California]

Why are you here… in this life?

Why are we here… in this time and place together?

I believe we are here to be useful, that we have a greater purpose than to just fulfill our own little selfish wants on our own little island of stuff, and that our greatest usefulness comes in serving others.

There are certainly many paying jobs that serve others selflessly… teachers, fire fighters, etc. And many of us who support families are certainly serving others.

But in a culture and economy based on consumption, and our consumption based on things way beyond basic, simple needs, we may not be feeling very useful and fulfilled in our regular work lives.

Or, we may be unemployed and therefore feel useless.

Internationally renowned psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, who endured years of unspeakable horror in Nazi death camps, wrote this in his ground breaking book Man’s Search For Meaning:

I published a study devoted to a specific type of depression I had diagnosed in cases of young patients suffering from what I called “unemployment neurosis.” And I could show that this neurosis really originated in a twofold erroneous identification: being jobless was equated with being useless, and being useless was equated with having a meaningless life. Consequently, whenever I succeeded in persuading the patients to volunteer in youth organizations, adult education, public libraries, and the like – in other words, as soon as they could fill their abundant free time with some sort of unpaid but meaningful activity – their depressio disappeared although their economic situation had not changed and their hunger was the same.

Frankel developed “logotherapy.” Logos is a Greek word that denotes “meaning,” and his therapy was based on the “striving to find a meaning in one’s life,” which he felt was “the primary motivational force in man.”  What matters is “not the meaning of life in general, but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment… Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is as unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it.”

Keep reading→

Letters to the Editor – Masonite Monster Mall

In Dave Smith on May 4, 2009 at 2:45 pm


5/4/09 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

Alternative to rezoning Masonite

In a letter to the Ukiah Daily Journal (5/3/09), two Manchester residents said they would love to see a Costco in Ukiah. Now, when they go to Costco in Santa Rosa they said they also shop at Friedman’s, Home Depot and Wal-Mart. Their shopping does not benefit Mendocino County, but it could.

They would do their shopping in Ukiah, they wrote, if there was a Costco.

What if Costco located in the current Airport commercial mall, with Friedman’s, Wal-Mart and with Home Depot close by?

Costco, the City of Ukiah, and the owner of the Airport commercial mall could work this out to benefit not only themselves but all county shoppers. Furthermore, that’s good planning because it would use the existing commercially zoned land. The Masonite site could remain zoned for industry.

Why not do it?


Masonite Not About Costco

Julie Simental in her letter to the editor (UDJ 4/20 responding to my letter against the Masonite Monster Mall) has either not done her homework, or is purposefully misleading citizens. By hanging her argument for supporting the mall around “we could have a Costco right here in Ukiah,” she does a disservice to our community.

In numerous letters to the editor and opinions in the UDJ, it has been well-documented that Costco was about to close a deal with the City of Ukiah for building on land already designated for retail in the city. Costco withdrew their plan when they were offered a deal by DDR to build on the Masonite site, even though that site is not zoned for retail. I daresay walls would already be going up for a Costco store in Ukiah by now if that had not happened.

Personally, I do not support any more big box stores in our area for all the reasons I’ve stated [in other letters]. But, please. Can we put the Costco canard to rest?

Food Processing Facility – Community Development Plan for Masonite Site (Part 7)

In Mendo Island Transition on May 4, 2009 at 11:20 am


May 4, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

In Mendocino County alone, every year, there are hundreds of tons of grapes, pears and apples that rot on the ground for lack of a market; in some years there are thousands.

Add Lake County and the figure may double. Prices for wine grapes, packer and canning fruit (apples and pears) fluctuate and the price for juicing fruit is basically non-existent. This leaves a vast amount of fruit lying on the ground at the end of every season.

Although the fruit composts and becomes fertilizer for the next crop it is an economic loss as well as a loss of food. At a certain point it is not economically feasible for the grower to pick and process the fruit so it rots. This wasted fruit could be processed into a number of products that could be utilized locally, by a number of entities, benefiting the local farmer and the recipients of the products. At a minimum the fruit could produce methane, or alcohol, to be used as fuel.

Along with fluctuating market prices another factor in the wasting of this fruit is the cost of transportation. The nearest juicing facility is in Watsonville and the cost of fuel to deliver, process and pick up the product is greater than the money received for the sale of the product. The cost of transportation, in and out of the county, will rise in the near future and eventually become economically impossible (peak oil) unless we develop a local, sustainable, means of fuel and power production. When it costs more in labor to pick the fruit than the fruit buyers are paying (not considering the cost of transportation and processing) the fruit stays on the ground. To grow, process, utilize and export the excess of our production, with locally produced, or collected, power would be a giant step toward sustainability.

The list of potential uses and products that can be made from local fruit is substantial; juices, jellies, jams, puree, sauces, fermented vegetables, soups, fruit wine, fruit brandy, cider (with and without alcohol), chutneys, dried fruit, dried fruit puree, frozen fruit bars, and more. Products such as pear puree and fruit concentrates can be used in the manufacture of other products, such as granola and power bars, and is used in institutional cooking (schools, prisons, hospitals). Combined with the development of local fuel supplies (solar electric, bio-fuel, methane, ethanol) the fruit could be collected and processed here, without the expenses to take it elsewhere and to our benefit.

Market is still an issue, yet the challenge would not be selling the fruit to the canning and packing houses, but getting the value added products into the food distribution system, both local and out-of-county. The organic leftovers of the production process would be composted for fertilizer, and the wastewater (attachment 4) can be cleaned and used for irrigation, wildlife/ornamental ponds, or released directly into the environment; zero wasted. A local processing facility would fill a vital need in our ability to provide sufficient food, at an affordable cost, to local residents, visitors and guests, helping to stabilize our economy.

Fruit crops are not the only food crops that can be grown in Mendocino. Much of our river valley soils are perfect for row crops and there is a multitude of varieties suitable to our climate. The floodplains are not locations for buildings and rarely for permanent tree crops. Russian River water quality, stream channel stability and riparian habitat would be better served if the floodplains were re-established (where possible) and turned into seasonal row crop production. The river would replenish soil nutrients with the winter flooding, sediment would be deposited where it belongs (on the floodplain) improving water quality, reducing the amount of sediment clogging the Russian River, benefitting fish, wildlife and humans equally. Herbs, vegetables and other row crops could be sold fresh, or processed into a myriad of edible products and made available to local markets. A diversity of food crops would strengthen Mendocino County and a food processing facility would make this possible.

Another fruit and food source is urban landscaping. There are fruit trees, plums of many varieties, apples, cherries and other fruit producing trees and shrubs. As we walk down our Ukiah sidewalks, during harvest season, many times we walk on fruit dropped on the sidewalk and left to rot. If landowners knew there was an outlet for the fruit, or if they were willing to let others pick the fruit, as much of it may not be wasted. Urban fruits and vegetables could be processed into usable products, or turned into bio-fuels. This would encourage empty urban spaces to be turned into gardens increasing local crop biodiversity, remove rotting fruit from our streets and sidewalks, making food available to local markets, including the Food Bank and Plowshares. Unused, open, urban spaces could also be utilized to grow crops suitable for bio-fuel thus augmenting local power production and self-reliance.

A large part of local self-reliance is providing as much of our own needs as possible, using local resources and living within the carrying capacity of the land; not living beyond our means as if there were no limits. It means growing, processing and supplying local markets with a diversity of food crops; gaining rational control of local governance, economy, and fuel supplies. It means growing crops for fiber and developing the means to manufacture fabric from these crops. Cottage industry is a key to the success of any localization effort in our area. Cottage food industries would mean that landowners with only a little space could grow a crop, or crops, and have them processed into a value added product, or fuel. Also, many local people have their own, or family recipe, for a food product that if there was available production space they could manufacture and sell locally. The current issue is that each person would have to supply their own raw product, buy extra ingredients, have a commercial kitchen, supply all of their accounting, shipping and receiving, electric, and other expenses. This is beyond the means of the average citizen and is a barrier to the development of sustainability. Rentable commercial kitchen space, equipment and storage would go a long way to helping cottage industry grow in Mendocino County.

The Masonite site is central to the valley growers; it has easy access to the freeway, access to the NWPRR (train) track and space for the facility. The facility fits well with the eco-village, sustainable community concept, has sufficient agricultural, open space and landscaping uses for treated wastewater to be used constructively and on-site. A food processing facility for locally produced crops is needed, it would provide meaningful employment, provide healthy food at an affordable price, be a training ground for skills development, summer youth jobs and have multiple other benefits to our community.

Facility overview:
The facility would be capable of crushing whole fruit (apples, pears and grapes) with a hammer mill, or stemmer crusher, and equipment for separating the juice (bladder press, basket press). It would have all of the pumps, hoses, filters, heat exchanger, chillers, fillers, other small processing equipment and cool storage capability. Washers and scrubbers for vegetables will be available for tubers and other tough skinned veggies. Solar fruit dehydrators could be developed at this site or in another location depending upon space and type and size of dehydrator.

The main building would consist of at lease three separate commercial kitchen units available for locals to rent to prepare their food items; open production space for equipment (fillers, bottle-line), cold storage space with a freezer unit; warehouse space, shipping and receiving dock, office, meeting room and possibly public retail space. The facility could be operated as a collective and users of the facility could have a vote in the operation of the management of the facility. Large food retailers such as Trader Joes will buy truckload lots of food products, paying COD. Diversity means a wide variety of products without too much of any of them. These large retailers will take patchwork lots of products providing they are consistently good and sold at a reasonable price.

The facility could be a source of job training, seasonal employment as well as provide some permanent employment for skilled people. Working with organizations such as the Mendocino Private Industry Council (MPIC), Employment Development Department, The Arbor, and others, the facility could be a valuable resource for job training, skills development, internships, and summer jobs. There would also be a need for professional jobs requiring an education in management, marketing, distribution, alternative power, microbiology, brewing, fermenting, and others as the facility develops.

A Potential Community Development Plan for the Masonite Site – Part 1
Eco-Train, Rail and Depot – Part 2
Ecologically-Oriented Tourism – Part 3
Rail to Trail – Part 4
Autonomous Waste Water Treatment System – Part 5
Community Interpretive Watershed and Visitor’s Center – Part 6
Food Processing Facility – Part 7

Small Diameter Pole Processing Mill – Part 8
Fiber Processing and Re-Manufacture Mill – Part 9

Taking control of development at the local level

In Dave Smith on May 4, 2009 at 10:09 am

by Christopher J. Ryan, AICP

The model of land development practiced today will surely be the scavenged ruins of tomorrow. Peak oil will guarantee this outcome…

Up until World War II, most communities developed according to a model of interconnected streets, small lots with homes build close to the sidewalk, and front porches oriented to the street to facilitate and encourage social interaction between neighbors, pedestrians, and home occupants. To be a pedestrian in this environment is a noble thing and contributed to the spirit of living and socializing.

The pedestrian in a contemporary development is converging on the forlorn version so presciently written about by Ray Bradbury in his short story The Pedestrian or notable and eerily clairvoyant novel Fahrenheit 451.

In traditional communities, blocks were short and navigable, retail and services in compatible and attractive corner stores within easy walking distance, and other destinations like schools and libraries easily walkable as well. Critics suggest that this model is outdated and no longer desired. Yet research suggests that most people when offered the option will choose the new urbanist model. This explains the wild popularity of communities like Celebration and Kentlands and visits to theme parks with Main Streets and Frontiertowns.

People are longing for a simpler, more community-oriented way of life but in most cases do not realize that is can be available again if only the majority of developers would build it, if municipalities would allow it in the zoning, if bankers would lend money to fund it, and if engineers and public safety officials would find acceptable infrastructure models to re-adapt to it. The examples are out there and should be aggressively distributed and posted for any community to use as a model. The use of form-based zoning codes championed by the Congress for New Urbanism offers a ready means to shape urban design in this manner.

But that’s not enough. The current sprawl model should not be allowed anymore and the neo-traditional model should be required. There should be no choice in the matter. There are fiscal, social, environmental, energy, safety, and psychological arguments favoring the neo-traditional model. The old model contributes to waste in every sense of the word and cannot be sustained. Any building or development utilizing the sprawl model is a bad investment both individually and for the community. Short-term investment timelines still in vogue may offer gains as before but any longer-term investors will be left holding the bag and local governments will go broke extending and maintaining the infrastructure.

For complete article go to Taking control at The Localizer
Hat tip Energy Bulletin

Myth Six – Industrial Agriculture Benefits the Environment and Wildlife

In Books, Dave Smith, Industrial Agriculture on May 2, 2009 at 7:11 am

From Fatal Harvest
The Seven Myths of Industrial Agriculture

5/2/09 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

The Truth

Industrial agriculture is the largest single threat to the earth’s biodiversity. Fence-row-to-fence-row plowing, planting, and harvesting techniques decimate wildlife habitats, while massive chemical use poisons the soil and water, and kills off countless plant and animal communities.

Industrial agriculture’s mythmakers have been so successful in their efforts to shape opinion that they must believe we’ll swallow just about anything. They now assure us that intensive farming methods that rely on chemicals and biotechnology somehow protect the environment. This myth, as illogical as it may sound to an informed reader, is increasingly widespread in America today and is increasingly accepted as valid. What’s worse, agribusiness is saturating the media with misleading reports of the purported ecological risks of organic and other environmentally sustainable agricultural practices.

A typical claim of the industrial apologists is that the industrial style of agriculture has prevented some 15 million square miles of wildlands from being plowed under for “low-yield” food production. They continuously assert that the biggest challenge of the 21st century is to increase food yields through modern advances in agricultural science, which include the genetic engineering of commercial food crops. They also claim that if the world does not fully embrace industrial agriculture, hundreds of thousands of wildlife species will be lost to low-yield crops and ranging livestock.

There is a plethora of evidence that busts this myth. At the outset, the idea that sustainable agriculture is low-yield and would result in plowing under millions of square miles of wildlands is simply wrong. Relatively smaller farm sizes are much more productive per unit acre—in fact 2 to 10 times more productive—than larger ones, according to numerous government studies. In fact, the smallest farms, those of 27 acres or less, are more than ten times as productive (in terms of dollar output per acre) than large farms (6,000 acres or more), and extremely small farms (4 acres or less) can be over a hundred times as productive.

Keep reading→


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