My Car-Free Life


From DENNIS LUECK
Culture Change

I grew up riding a bicycle and continued to depend on my bike for most of my transportation needs right on through graduate school. But when I got a salaried job and suddenly had far more money than I was accustomed to, a strange thing happened: I considered getting a car.

Fortunately, because I was living in Portland, Ore., and could easily bike or bus to work and everywhere else during the week, I eventually realized it would be cheaper and more sensible just to rent a car when I really needed one.

So I did not buy a car. And shortly thereafter, I quit my job after deciding that I really didn’t have to work so much to meet my few material needs.

In contrast, my friends and co-workers who owned new cars continued to work full time, partly to make their car payments, plus pay for gas and insurance. But they also had to keep making money so they could belong to a health club, since by driving everywhere, they no longer got enough physical exercise.

Some of them moved up into the hilly section of town, or farther out into the country and then commuted from there by car to their city jobs. And they drove their kids to schools outside their neighborhoods, each kid to a different school in some cases. In short, because they owned cars, they organized their lives around them.

Meanwhile, I quietly went about organizing my own life around my bicycle. I moved to a bicycle-friendly community, buying a small house near a major north-south bicycle path. I figured out how

Dave Smith: The death of books has been greatly exaggerated [Updated]


From DAVE SMITH
Bookseller
Ukiah

Letter to the Editors:

The death of books and libraries has been greatly exaggerated (Tom Hine, Ukiah Daily Journal, 9/18/11 – See below), just as the death of radio was proclaimed many years ago. “Books and libraries are evolving” would be the correct assesment in my opinion.

What I’m learning from my customers is that some people, mainly younger, are indeed moving completely into personal technology for their book reading; some, mainly older, will have nothing to do with reading books on a computer screen; but most book readers still love having physical books in their hands to read, and to pass around, while they also may use technology sometimes when they travel.

I think that will be the norm for awhile yet, and then, as Peak Oil starts pushing energy prices into the stratosphere, and our energy infrastructure crumbles, as it is already beginning to do, then all bets are off. How affordable will eBooks be then, or even available? Will real books be used as barter currency? Will there be armed guards at the library and Mendocino Book Company to prevent looting? Hmmm. You may want to hang on to those books taking up space in your house for awhile yet, Tom. A local farmer may be quite willing to trade some organic potatoes and kale for your dog-eared copy of War and Peace, when times get really tough and your Kindle is gathering dust in the closet.
~

[Update] Assignment Ukiah: Rise of the Kindle, the end of books
Tom Hine

I bought two Kindles in the past month. This is bad news for everybody in the world of book publishing because if I’m starting to make the transition everybody is.

Kindles are new electronic gizmos that I won’t even try to explain, other than that just about every book in the known world is available on one, the vast majority for free. Half my family members now have Kindles and they love them. That’s more bad news for books.

If I ran Random House Publishing I’d try merging with Proctor & Gamble. If I was Ann Kilkenny at the Mendocino Book Company I’d start stocking the shelves with potato chips and 12-packs of Budweiser. If I ran the county library I’d start making calls to see if there were any openings on a road crew.

Books are in trouble. I’m the canary in the coal mine and I just fell flat on my back. My wife reads two or three books a week; she reads murder mysteries faster than the industry prints them. We have books on every horizontal surface of the house, plus boxes and boxes of books up in the rafters in the garage. We spend more on books in any given year than we do in car payments and cable TV service put together.

Oops. Did I say we “spend” more money …?

Sorry.

That should have been “spent” more money. Our book-buying days are coming to an end, you see. So are yours, but you might not know it yet.

Teri recently went to Europe for a few weeks and instead of toting along 40 used paperbacks, all she took was one thin Kindle loaded with several thousand titles. And yeah, I’ll bet she missed those old books with their familiar tactile sensations, the lovely aroma of ink and musty paper creating the evocative fragrance she’s spent a lifetime experiencing, the pages unfolding as she immersed herself in the magical realm of reading.

I’m sure she missed out on all those charming sensory delights. But I’m also sure she got over it by about page six of the first “book” she read on Kindle. She loves her new electric book replacement unit. So does my son. He’s already adapted to the new reading format and can hardly remember what it was like when he didn’t have one. Sort of the way you feel about yellow sticky notes and sushi.

The rise of Kindle and similar devices coincides with the ongoing collapse of the big box book stores. Borders Books is gone, Barnes & Noble is down with a chilled, sweaty fever. They’ll be revived and in good health around the same time drive-in movies, cassette tapes, and the local pear industry are revived.

Inevitably we come to the question of what all this means for libraries across the country and right here in Mendocino County. At the moment the usual batch of big-hearted progressives around the county want you to Vote Yes on a tax increase that will provide an eighth-cent increase to the library from now until (a) Borders Books returns or (b) forever, whichever comes first.

Why should we guarantee funding for the library from now until the end of time when none of us think the library system will endure? No one would possibly tell you the future of libraries is bright except maybe a librarian, and that’s only because her paycheck depends on it.

Do you think that libraries are going to be more like Borders Books in five years or more like Amazon Books? Well, there’s your answer. There is absolutely no reason to be writing a huge check to local libraries every year when the book publishers themselves are out of business and the only things libraries have on their shelves are potato chips and 12-packs of Budweiser.

Anyone who would be willing to bet libraries will still be up and running 10 years from now is a fool. Anyone betting that their grandchildren are going to be happy to continue to pay massive annual fees so libraries can continue to pretend to be doing something functional and necessary in 2025 shouldn’t be trusted with their grandchildren’s inheritance.

Before we all pledge an endless stream of money to this dinosaur business called The Library, we should take some minimal precautions that the business will still be around when we aren’t. And I’m pretty darn sure libraries won’t.

TWK reminds you that the same familiar mob of locals who have never met a tax increase they didn’t embrace and fall in love with are the ones pushing the new library tax. But remember: They love taxes. They name their children after their favorite taxes. Tom Hine just lives in Ukiah and doesn’t want to get involved.
~~

Yesterday’s Car-Free Times


From OLIVE TWINING
Culture Change
Thanks to Sean Re

[This was read at Olive's memorial. She was 96 when she died this spring. We reside in her old house, and she and her husband were ahead of their time in many ways. I think you'll enjoy this article she wrote. ~SR]

I wonder whether people today can envision the sort of changes needed to reach an auto-free time. After reading Dennis Lueck’s My Car-Free Life, I began reminiscing about the car-free life I led in the 1920s and 1930s in Berkeley, Calif. In some ways life was more hassle-free, not only for those who rode bicycles but also for people like our family who owned no vehicles at all.

We lived in a residential district. Elementary schools were within easy walking distance. Two street-car lines were within Berkeley and Oakland, and ran past high schools, churches and parks. You could transfer to buses that led beyond the reach of the street-car lines. Two competing commuter-trains led to ferries that took you to San Francisco and its vast system of street-car lines and buses.

Small grocery stores were located within walking distance of homes everywhere. Some, like the one near us, made daily deliveries. You phoned in your order for the day and later a young fellow arrived at your back door with your groceries in a box, on his regular daily round. For us that meant no driving, no parking lots, no walking through endless aisles of supermarkets pushing carts, no lugging heavy bags of groceries home.

Dairy supplies were even easier. Very early every morning the milkman left your bottles of milk and cream on the porch.

Blind Minds: How Psychology Ignored (the last) Great Depression


From PEAK SHRINK
Peak Oil Blues

I’ve been discouraged by the lack of careful thinking in my field about our current situation worldwide.

We’ve been in the New Reality for several years, now, but where are my colleagues who write and publish?  I’m not saying nobody is out there, writing, thinking, talking.  Of course they are…but not in the professional journals.  There’s a media black-out.  As a group, we’re MIA.  Looking through one publication, Psychological Bulletin,  I found very little that would lead me to believe that psychologists even notice the heartbreak going on around them.  Surely, during the Great Depression, psychologist heeded the call, and began to research how to help the mass suffering…

Alas, I was mistaken.  Here’s what one colleague wrote about his fellow psychologists:

When the United States entered the first World War, psychologists, as an associated group, volunteered their professional services. Their contribution was considerable, both to the conduct of the War and to psychology.

When the United States entered the big world depression, psychologists did nothing and, as a group, have so far done nothing.

The Flight From Reason


Susan Jacoby talks with Bill Moyer. Watch here. Here’s an excerpt:

BILL MOYERS: Yeah, why is it we’re so unwilling to give, as you say, a hearing to contradictory viewpoints? Or to imagine that we might learn something from someone who disagrees with us?

SUSAN JACOBY: Well, I think part of it is part of a larger thing that is making our culture dumber. We have, really, over the past 40 years, gotten shorter and shorter and shorter attention spans. One of the most important studies I’ve found, and I’ve put in this chapter, they call it Infantainment– on this book. It’s by the Kaiser Family Foundation. And they’ve found that children under six spend two hours a day watching television and video on average. But only 39 minutes a day being read to by their parents.

Well, you don’t need a scientific study to know that if you’re not read to by your parents, if most of your entertainment when you’re in those very formative years is looking at a screen, you value what you do. And I don’t see how people can learn to concentrate and read if they watch television when they’re very young as opposed to having their parents read to them. The fact is when you’re watching television, whether it’s an infant or you or I, or staring glazedly at a video screen, you’re not doing something else.

BILL MOYERS: What does it say to you, Susan, that half of American adults believe in ghosts? Now I take these from your book. One-third believe in astrology. Three quarters believe in angels. And four-fifths believe in miracles.

Peak Oil = Peak Hollywood, Peak Advertising, Peak Pollution, Peak Capital, Peak Profits, Peak Greed


From CHARLES EISENSTEIN
The Oil Drum

When theorists approach the peak oil problem from the perspective of finding a substitute that will allow us to maintain our present energy infrastructure, their conclusion is one of despair. There may be many substitutes for oil as a concentrated form of storable energy, but none of them are nearly as good as oil itself. Those invested in the status quo would, quite understandably, like to maintain it, but it is becoming apparent even to the most highly invested that the status quo is doomed; that it can be maintained only temporarily, and at a rapidly accelerating environmental cost. The transition before us is not merely a transition in fuel types. It is also a transition in the whole energy infrastructure, both physical and psychological; a transition away from big power plants, distribution lines, and metered consumers; away from capital-intensive drilling, refining, distribution, and consumer fueling stations. More broadly, it is a transition away from centralization, concentration, and all the social institutions that go along with it.

Both the energy system and the money system are based on accumulation and the concentration of power.

Todd Walton: Wrong Thinking


From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTableBooks.com
Mendocino

“Taken out of context I must seem so strange.” Ani DiFranco

One of my Anthropology professors was Nigerian, his people Yoruba. An exceptional student as a child, he was sent to school in England and eventually got his PhD from a prestigious American university. My professor married an African American woman, with whom he had two children, and when those children were five and three-years-old, he and his wife took the kids to Nigeria so they could get to know their paternal grandparents and the huge extended family that was my professor’s clan. After a few days in Nigeria, my professor was summoned to a meeting of the male elders of his clan who severely chastised him for not taking a second and third wife to produce more sons.

“You are a very rich man,” said his father, with twenty other men nodding in agreement. “You are richer than any of us, yet you shame your parents and your clan by not taking more wives. Why are you doing this?”

The professor explained to his outraged father and uncles and cousins that in America it was the law that a man may only have one wife. The Yoruba men were disgusted to hear this and shouted many insults at my professor, the gist of their insults being that wealthy American men who take only one wife

Will Parrish: The Great Thirst & The North Coast


From WILL PARRISH
TheAVA
Laytonville

Capital is mired in its greatest slump since the 1930s. The ecological fabric that sustains life throughout much of the world is being brutally eradicated; around 200 species go extinct every day, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. In a saner system, these dire circumstances might lead those who steer the ship of state to try heading in a dramatically different direction.

Instead, we get news like the following: On August 11, the administrations of California Governor Jerry Brown and US President Barack Obama issued a joint statement touting an “aggressive schedule” to move ahead with that monument to destruction and folly known as the California peripheral canal, a multi-billion plan to export more of Northern California’s water to Southern California’s corporate agribusinesses and water agencies, which had previously been a pet project of the Schwarzenegger administration.

The enormous concrete structure would divert the Blue Gold from the Sacramento River around the periphery of the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta. From there, it would enter the largest network of water storage and transfer systems ever engineered: the already existing water infrastructure, that is, the water infrastructure

The concept of ‘free markets’ is a lie


From RAN PRIEUR

[...] First, “freedom” is the perfect propaganda word: its meaning is vague, we have strong feelings about it, and it is value-loaded. Nobody will stand up and say “I am against freedom.” So if you’re clever with words, you can control the minds of people who are not paying attention, by convincing them that “freedom” means what you say it means. And if you apply “freedom” to economics, it gets even more confusing.

Among the many things that “freedom” can mean, two big ones are absence of constraint and absence of coercion. These two things are not only different — they’re opposite. Constraint means you want to do something but you’re not permitted; coercion means you don’t want to do something but you’re forced. Now, if one person is powerful and another person is weak, can you guess which definition of freedom is most important to each of them? And have you ever met a libertarian living in poverty? “Economic freedom” has been defined by the economically powerful as absence of constraint, so they can control the economically weak. In response, the weak use a weak word: fairness. “Unfair” is the complaint of losers. Instead, the economically weak should claim Freedom, and explicitly define it as lack of coercion.

If freedom is lack of coercion, then a free market is one in which no one is permitted to buy the labor of someone who needs money.

So if you need money

Local Businesses Key to Income Growth


From STACY MITCHELL
New Rules Project

The results of a new study suggest that the key to reversing the long-term trend of stagnating incomes in the U.S. lies in nurturing small, locally owned businesses and limiting further expansion and market consolidation by large corporations.

Economists Stephan Goetz and David Fleming, both affiliated with Pennsylvania State University and the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development, conducted the study, “Does Local Firm Ownership Matter?”  It was published in the journal Economic Development Quarterly.

Goetz and Fleming analyzed 2,953 counties, including both rural and urban places, and found that those with a larger density of small, locally owned businesses experienced greater per capita income growth between 2000 and 2007. The presence of large, non-local businesses, meanwhile, had a negative effect on incomes.

“Even after we control for other economic growth determinants … the non-resident-owned medium and large firms consistently and statistically depress economic growth rates … The other major result is that resident-owned small firms have a statistically significant and relatively large positive effect” on income growth, the authors report. Small firms are defined as

Monopoly Capitalism Destroys Jobs



~~

Gene Logsdon: Small Farms Create More Jobs


From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

All the talk about creating jobs strikes me as another example of how so many of us sneakily drink one way and piously vote another. Oh how we voice our concern, how much we pretend to support more jobs but we go right on conducting real business on the basis of replacing human workers with machines whenever possible. All the ways being proposed to increase jobs right now are the same old methods that do not face the real cause of the dilemma. The awful truth is that we have created an economy that can’t afford people to do the work and so every year there are fewer meaningful jobs and more pretend jobs. Pretend jobs require pretend money. We are capitalizing costs on money interest not on human interest.

No where is this truer than in farming. We boast about how many people one farmer feeds—155 is the latest number I think— as if that kind of efficiency is a sign of progress. I don’t hear a single business person or government official pointing out that if the whole economy of the common good is considered, one farmer feeding 155 people is not a sign of true profitability but of gross and unsustainable inefficiency. So gross in fact that while the 155 are getting fed, others are going hungry.

It is fairly easy, I think, to demonstrate the inefficiency of one person feeding a hundred and fifty five especially when some of the hundred and fifty five are having a hard time earning enough to buy their food.

What Are People For?



From WENDELL BERRY
What Are People For?

For many years, my walks have taken me down an old fencerow in a wooded hollow on what was once my grandfather’s farm. A battered galvanized bucket is hanging on a fence post near the head of the hollow, and I never go by it without stopping to look inside. For what is going on in that bucket is the most momentous thing I know, the greatest miracle that I have ever heard of: it is making earth.

The old bucket has hung there through many autumns, and the leaves have fallen around it and some have fallen into it. Rain and snow have fallen into it, and the fallen leaves have held the moisture and so have rotted. Nuts have fallen into it, or been carried into it by squirrels; mice and squirrels have eaten the meat of the nuts and left the shells; they and other animals have left their droppings; insects have flown into the bucket and died and decayed; birds have scratched in it and left their droppings or perhaps a feather or two.

This slow work of growth and death, gravity and decay, which is the chief work of the world, has by now produced in the bottom of the bucket several inches of black humus. I look into that bucket with fascination because I am a farmer of sorts and an artist of sorts, and I recognize there an artistry and a farming far superior to mine, or to that of any human. I have seen the same process at work on the tops of boulders in a forest, and it has been at work immemorially over most of the land surface of the world. All creatures die into it, and they live by it.
~~

Why I Farm — A City Version


From BARBARA AYERS
The Contrary Farmer

I hope everyone won’t mind if I contribute my story. I have often wanted to comment on this wonderful, thought provoking site, but felt too shy because I don’t have a farm. My husband works in the entertainment business, hence we live in Pasadena, part of the giant suburban sprawl of Los Angeles, California. I didn’t grow up on a farm either — suburbs, again, outside of Washington, DC. But my maternal grandparents were farmers who emigrated from Romania to Western Canada. I believe the urge to farm must be passed down in one’s genetic code.

I’d always made flower gardens, and I’m a good cook. Somewhere back during the culinary revolution, I came upon a cookbook by Alice Waters, who can’t help but be inspiring. So I planted a pot of basil and parsley on my apartment balcony. Alice was right — picking that super fresh basil whenever I needed it, instead of spending two dollars for it, half wilted from the grocery store, was absolutely life changing. I spent the next fifteen years growing fruits and vegetables wherever they could be squeezed in, and dreaming of life in a more rural setting. Then, one happy day, my young children were accepted by a school that had, among other attractive features, a small organic farm. I spent the summer driving stealthily past the school’s farm property, stalking it, wondering if there would be any space for me to sponsor a project or two. It turned out to be a dusty acre of weeds with a pretty, tiny pond

Mendo Island Transition: Knitting a new future


From JOANNE POYOUROW
Transition US

My name is Joanne and I am a knitter. (Yep, it’s that serious)  For quite some time I have made excuses, telling myself that “knitting was one of those reskilling things” and it was a powerdown craft. But I got to thinking about it seriously this week.

Here, in the middle of urban Los Angeles, knitting is a pretty elitist hobby. It might be a “reskilling type of thing” good for necessary clothing-making somewhere out on a farm where there are plenty of goats and sheep. Or if I took to raising angora rabbits. Because when the serious hiccups in the economy come, when the darker transportation issues of peak oil set in, the boutique yarn stores I patronize today likely won’t be around anymore.

Although every seriously addicted knitter has her enormous stash of yarn, even that won’t last long under such circumstances.  Cotton takes too much acreage, and bamboo requires tons of processing before you can make it into yarn. I don’t think my neighbors would tolerate pigmy goats.  Newspaper we have in great supply, but it doesn’t make washable clothing.  I’ll be out of raw materials.  I have no sustainable supply.

Some of the Transition groups around here have been hosting Repurposing Old Clothes workshops. This is where everyone brings in something old from their closet, plus a spare bit of fabric or some trims. They put it all in a big pile. Then people start pulling garments from the pile — probably not the ones they brought with them. The workshop flows best when you invite someone with an eye for design to help put cool things together. Then out come the sewing machines (or the thread-and-needle). In a powerdown future in the middle of a city, I think we’ll have plenty of leftover mass-produced clothing that can be repurposed like this.

Michael Foley: The Great Raw Milk Brouhaha — Four Easy Pieces


From MICHAEL FOLEY
Willits

The FDA is on a campaign to ban raw milk sales. The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has made it increasingly difficult for people to sell raw milk in the state and recently issued “cease and desist” orders to small, private dairy shares across the state, including one here in Mendocino County (public disclosure: the one my wife, Sara Grusky and I have been supplying).

A task force of agencies, including FDA and CDFA, fronted by a SWAT team from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, recently raided the Rawsome food buying club in Venice, California, seizing produce, destroying milk stocks, confiscating cash, and arresting the owners. The charges? Processing and sale of unpasteurized milk to club members, plus storing unwashed eggs at room temperature. Heavy stuff.  Meanwhile, federal regulators were walking executives of Cargill, the grain and meat giant, through a “cost-benefit analysis” to see if it was worth while recalling ground turkey after more than 100 people were sickened and one Californian died of salmonella poisoning. (In the end, Cargill voluntarily recalled 36 million pounds of their product. No charges have been filed.) No one has reported illnesses at Rawsome or among the dairy shares targeted.

So what’s a reasonable person to think? The FDA’s food czar, Michael Taylor (poster boy for the revolving door between American’s most hated corporation, Monsanto, and America’s most hated public institution) recently defended his agency’s preoccupation with tiny dairy share operations as a vital part of protecting public health. Those of us who would like our milk fresh, whole and uncooked, defend dairy shares

Is Your Gmail Account Killing the Planet?


From KIERA BUTLER
Mother Jones

Google says its cloud is way green, but others claim that the internet is a giant, energy-gobbling monster. Whom should you believe?

I don’t know about you, but I really do my part to clutter the internet with crap. I post silly photos of my friends on Facebook by the dozen. I email videos of my little cousins opening Christmas presents to my entire extended family. I tweet my chickens’ baby pictures. And that’s nothing compared to my friend Seth, who saves all his emails, along with every single digital picture he’s ever taken, both on his home server and online. I remember reading somewhere that putting two megabytes of data online is the equivalent of burning a pound of coal. By that calculation, Seth’s 240-gigabyte digital hoard could have powered a 100-watt lightbulb 24/7 since the War of 1812. Which got me wondering: Are digital pack rats like Seth and me guzzling tons of energy with our obsessive archiving?

As it turns out, we really aren’t. Some sleuthing revealed that the original source of the widely reported coal figure I’d read was a 1999 paper by a researcher named Mark Mills. Titled “The Internet Begins With Coal,” it was full of frightening statistics and ominous predictions. The report claimed, for example, that the internet used 8 percent of all the electricity in the United States. The gist was that this newfangled information superhighway could change everyone’s lives for the better, but since it would require so much power, we’d better find enough energy to support it. As it turned out, Mills wrote his report on behalf of the now-defunct Greening Earth Society, a group that, despite its hippie name, was affiliated with Western Fuels Association Inc., a coal-industry trade group notorious for sowing misinformation about climate change. Mills and fellow researcher Peter Huber repeated the argument in a Forbes piece headlined “Dig More Coal—the PCs Are Coming,” which included the outdated claim that traffic on the web was doubling every three months.

Mills’ numbers never held much sway with scientists:

Robert Reich: Standing up to the Republican Economic Bullies and their Big Lies


Former U.S. Labor Secretary and University of California at Berkeley professor Robert Reich gave the keynote speech at the “Summit for a Fair Economy” held in Minneapolis on Saturday. He discussed the big lies about the economy and what could be done to make the economy work for everyone.
~

Paul Krugman 9/11 Blog Post Stokes Controversy
From HuffPo

Paul Krugman drew conservative outrage on Sunday when he wrote that the anniversary of 9/11 had become a marker of “shame” for the U.S.

The New York Times columnist wrote a blog post called “The Years of Shame,” in which he said that “what happened after 9/11″ was “deeply shameful.” Krugman castigated people like Rudy Giuliani and President Bush as “fake heroes” who exploited the attacks for their own personal, political or military gain. He also said that many in the media had “[lent] their support to the hijacking of the atrocity.”

Krugman concluded, “the memory of 9/11 has been irrevocably poisoned; it has become an occasion for shame. And, in its heart, the nation knows it.” He said he had turned off the comments on the post “for obvious reasons.”

Conservative commentators quickly seized on Krugman’s post. Blogger Michelle Malkin called him a “smug coward.” Writer Glenn Reynolds called the post “an admission of impotence from a sad and irrelevant little man.” A writer at the Big Journalism site called Krugman “vile.”

However, some progressives defended Krugman. Blogger Glenn Greenwald vociferously backed the post on Twitter.

“Michael Moore & The Dixie Chicks were just as right back then as Krugman is today – but today the taboos (& their enforcers) are much weaker,” he wrote.

And, on Crooks & Liars, Nicole Belle said that Krugman was simply telling the truth. “That day was the impetus for us to attack and invade Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with the attacks

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