Skill Up, Party Down

Rob Hopkins, Founder, Transition Towns


Transition Towns plan a gentle descent from oil dependence—and have a blast in the process.

Ciaran Mundy, a successful high-tech entrepreneur with a Ph.D. in soil ecology, started a website to update people on all the “terrible news about climate change.” But after a while, he felt it wasn’t working—that it would never work. “It took me years to realize there’s no point in putting up more facts and figures,” he says. “They just bounce off people.”

Then he stumbled across the Transition Town movement, which was just picking up steam in his city—Bristol, England. When Mundy attended a training session on Transition Towns, he found a group of people addressing the big problems of our time, and doing it with optimism and a sense of celebration.

The Transition movement is built around making the transition to a world after peak oil—the time when world oil production reaches an all-time high, then goes into irreversible decline. Oil prices will spike and the economy will stop growing, wreaking havoc in our society, which depends on petroleum for nearly everything, from growing food to maintaining economies.

Crash Course In Resilience


We can strengthen our communities and ourselves to prepare for the uncertain world of failing economies, climate change, and oil depletion.

To cherish what remains of the Earth and to foster its renewal is our only legitimate hope of survival.—Wendell Berry

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
—Victor Frankl

Not long ago, a rocket took off from a Florida launching pad taking Americans to the moon. The moon shot signified to many that Americans could do anything we set our minds to.
Today, in another part of Florida, toxic oil is washing up on beaches. Hundreds of miles of Gulf Coast have been devastated, and people whose resilience was tested by Hurricane Katrina are being tested even more severely today. There are good reasons to believe many more of us will have our resilience tested in coming months and years.

Future historians may see this time as a turning point for Western civilization. In the popular zeitgeist, there is much discussion of end times.

Dave Smith: State Budget Talks Heat Up. Take Action in Support of Sales Tax Fairness.


We need to you to act now. The Northern California Independent Booksellers Association, the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association, and the American Booksellers Association are urging you to please contact the Governor Schwarzenegger’s office and ask him to support the “affiliate nexus” (sales tax fairness) provision in the budget. Please call the Governor’s office today (Monday) or tomorrow, at the latest.

The most reliable information we have tells us that this is the moment to act. We’ve heard that budget talks have swung into high gear, and in the proposed state budget package, there is a sales tax fairness provision that mirrors

Peak Complexity: Standing On the Brink of Release


[…] Buzz Holling was instrumental in describing the adaptive cycles of complex ecological systems, and specifically he studied forest ecosystems. He identified 4 general stages of evolution in complex ecological systems (what he termed “fractal adaptive cycles”), and these could just as easily be applied to human systems that have been built on the foundation of those ecological systems (my descriptions will be greatly simplified – follow the referenced sources for more detail) :

1. Growth – The system finds an abundance of available resources and spaces which are exploited for material wealth, and this flow of energy/resources allows the development of many inter-dependencies, efficiencies and specialized functions. Diversity of agents within the system increases as does overall wealth.

2. Conservation – The system’s rapid growth decelerates as it becomes highly specialized and opportunities for novel exploitation strategies diminish. Increasing amounts of energy are directed towards conserving the existing system instead of growth, and “wealth” is extracted from the periphery to central parts of the system. The system’s complex inter-dependencies become more rigid

Six Reasons Why I’m Not On Facebook


[This goes for this old dude, too… DS]

“David, you’re sounding like an old dude!” Matt Flannery, who runs social-lending website Kiva, couldn’t understand when I explained that, no, I wouldn’t be keeping in touch with him via Facebook. “What are you worried about?” he teased in a break at the PINC conference in Holland. “Only old guys get worked up about privacy.”

Well, Matt, I admit I’m the wrong side of 30, and that I still avoid using emoticons in formal correspondence. But let me explain why I’m not active on Facebook, nor sharing my credit-card purchases on Blippy, nor allowing Google Buzz to mine my contacts list, nor even publishing my DNA on My cautious use of the social networks has nothing to do with paranoia about privacy; and yes, I celebrate the unprecedented transparency and connectivity that these services can empower. But what’s increasingly bothering me is the wider social and political cost of our ever-greater enmeshment in these proprietary networks. Here are half a dozen reasons why.

Take Action! 13-year Old Takes to the Web to Just Say “No” to Pesticides


[Local Context: Many towns, cities, and counties in north America are banning the use of cosmetic chemicals on lawn and gardens. In our local, so-called “progressive community” our city and county lawns, parks, golf courses and ball fields are saturated with poisons and not managed organically… to the detriment of our collective health. We have the world’s first organic brewpub, we were the first county to ban GMO plants and roadside spraying, our co-op sells only organic produce, several of our wineries are organic and biodynamic pioneers, our environmental centers have brought world attention to the destruction of the redwood forests, yet our children and pets roll around on chemical-saturated grass, our school kids play in poison, and the Big Box colonizers and locally-owned home improvement stores sell thousands of gallons of expensive and unnecessary chemical treatments every month. What’s wrong with this picture? -DS]

A thirteen-year old girl in a Northern Virginia suburb has recently launched her own campaign

Amy Goodman: Percy Schmeiser vs. Monsanto

Video here

AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting from Bonn, Germany, where the thirtieth anniversary of the Right Livelihood Awards is being held. The Right Livelihood Award was established in 1980 and has become widely known as the Alternative Nobel Prize. Gathered here in Bonn this week are some eighty Right Livelihood Award laureates, including the Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser, who has battled the biotech company Monsanto for years. In 1997, Percy and his wife Louise won the Right Livelihood Award for their courage in defending biodiversity and farmers’ rights. I spoke with Percy Schmeiser yesterday in Bonn, but first I want to turn to Bertram Verhaag’s documentary Percy Schmeiser: David versus Monsanto.

    NARRATOR: The pesticide Roundup produced by the multinational concern Monsanto is the most widely sold spray in the world. Monsanto made its canola resistant to Roundup. This means Roundup kills every plant without exception.

Rosalind Peterson: Take Action! What You Can Do By October 11, 2010 About The U.S. Navy’s New Threat To Northern California And Gulf Of Mexico Marine Life

Redwood Valley




USA TODAY broke this news when they published a news story titled: “Navy Plans Could Affect More Marine Mammals” on August 5, 2010 [1]. According to USA Today news article, backed up by federal documents from the U.S. Navy and NOAA: “…The Navy plans to increase ocean warfare exercises, conduct more sonar tests and expand coastal training…

Organic: It’s Worth It

Diversity of Benefits Documented in Major Organic Strawberry Study

The long-awaited Washington State University (WSU) organic versus conventional strawberry fruit quality study has been published in the prestigious journal PLoS ONE (September 2010, Vol. 5, Issue 9: e12346).

The study compared 13 pairs of organic and conventional strawberry fields matched to include the same three varieties, harvest schedule, irrigation methods, soil types, and weather.  The team found that the organic strawberries were more nutrient dense, stored longer, and were produced in soils characterized by greater microbial diversity and capacity to overcome stress.

The organic fruit was, on average, smaller, which some commentators noted as a disadvantage, but in reality, it is an important advantage if the goal is to produce tasty, nutrient dense fruit

Greenhorns: the network breathing new life into US farming

The Ecologist

It‘s helping attract youthful talent into sustainable agriculture across the US, but can the Greenhorns movement survive in the land of Big Ag?

The Greenhorns is an exciting new movement tearing up the turf (gently) in the USA. This fresh network of young farmers is mapping the future of food production with ambitious targets, incisive communication and savvy marketing – all fertilised with plenty of organic passion.

Severine von Tshcarner Fleming started the Greenhorns because she was fed up with the negativity she kept encountering while studying agroecology, and the low levels of funding available for sustainable agriculture. She wanted to reflect ‘the incredibly positive uprising of people engaged in the day-to-day rebuilding of our food system’ found everywhere she worked on the land. Hence these ‘young farmers’ are united more in attitude than age.

Todd Walton: Art Rant (includes favorite films)

Under The Table


Rae’s eyes were red and swollen. They sat on the couch side by side, in silence, waiting for the doctor.” from Crooked Little Heart by Anne Lamott

The silence of the eyes rings true, and the eyes being side-by-side seems plausible, but how in heck did those eyes get onto that couch without Rae?

I was thirteen and had devoured a thousand books before I discovered the first typo of my reading career, an error that struck me as a scandalous affront to the artistry of writing. I was an insatiable reader, and wanting to be a professional writer I did not skim, but read every word. And when I found passages that wowed me, I copied their lines longhand to teach my sinews the feel of great writing.

Neil Davis: On your bike, you’re not a pedestrian.

Ukiah Valley Trail Group
Mendo 2 Mile Challenge

Can’t we all just get along? Well sure, in theory…. it just hasn’t happened yet. Put two people in a shared space, and you’re likely to see some level of conflict. Add more people, divide into unequal subgroups, add a dash of power differential, and bingo – you have cars bikes and pedestrians driving one another crazy.

Felix Salmon recently wrote an interesting piece entitled “A unified theory of New York Biking” in which he describes his frustration with bicyclists’ not following the rules of the road (he is, by the way, a cyclist). Here is a summation of his perspective that he calls a “bicycle manifesto”:

“Bikes can and should behave much more like cars than pedestrians. They should ride on the road, not the sidewalk. They should stop at lights, and pedestrians should be able to trust them to do so. They should use lights at night. And — of course, duh — they should ride in the right direction on one-way streets. None of this is a question of being polite; it’s the law. But in stark contrast to motorists, nearly all of whom follow nearly all the rules,

Scott Cratty: Ukiah Farmers Market & Car Show This Saturday 9/18/10


Friends of the Farmers Market,

Your local farmers need you more than ever this Saturday at the Ukiah Farmers’ Market.

It is once again time for the Fabulous Flashback Car Show — a fine, long-standing Ukiah event, for which the farmers’ market relocates one block onto Clay Street (between School and Oak). Unfortunately, over the last few years Car Show weekend has resulted in a very low turn out for the farmers’ market. That is sad because, much as they might like to just take the week off and as earnestly as they might request,

Chris Hedges: Do Not Pity the Democrats


There are no longer any major institutions in American society, including the press, the educational system, the financial sector, labor unions, the arts, religious institutions and our dysfunctional political parties, which can be considered democratic. The intent, design and function of these institutions, controlled by corporate money, are to bolster the hierarchical and anti-democratic power of the corporate state. These institutions, often mouthing liberal values, abet and perpetuate mounting inequality. They operate increasingly in secrecy. They ignore suffering or sacrifice human lives for profit. They control and manipulate all levers of power and mass communication. They have muzzled the voices and concerns of citizens. They use entertainment, celebrity gossip and emotionally laden public-relations lies to seduce us into believing in a Disneyworld fantasy of democracy.

The menace we face does not come from the insane wing of the Republican Party…

Article here

Barry Vogel Sues Mendocino Major Crimes Task Force, the County of Mendocino, and Cities of Willits and Ukiah for Civil Rights Violations

Press Release
September 16, 2010

Contact Barry Vogel, Esq.
707 462 6541

A claim alleging multiple violations civil rights protected by the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution was filed against the Mendocino Major Crimes Task Force, the County of Mendocino and the Cities of Willits and Ukiah on September 16, 201

Krissa Arnold-Klein, a 21-year-old Willits, California woman claims her right to be free from unreasonable searches was violated when she was violently thrown to the floor of her bedroom in her Willits home on March 18, 2010 by Mendocino Major Crimes Task Force Agent Peter Hoyle.  The surprise and violence caused Klein great stress from which she continues to suffer, in addition to the infliction of harm to her wrist where she had previous surgeries.

Hoyle was in the process of executing a search warrant at her home, which according to his report attached to the claim; he and Agent Raymond Hendry were at the wrong residence. Hoyle is assigned to the Task Force by the Ukiah Police Department and Deputy Sheriff Hendry is assigned to the Task Force by the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office.

The claim, prepared by Klein’s attorneys Barry Vogel and Brina Latkin, states that the search warrant Hendry and Hoyle

My Best Organic Blue Cheese Potato Salad


Some conventional potato farmers say they won’t eat the potatoes they grow for market because of the toxic sprays they use. So only leave the skins on potatoes you eat if they are grown organically. After experimenting some over the summer, this is my best yet potato salad. Love them organic carbs.

1. Boil organic red potatoes with skin on. Remove from heat and place potatoes in a large bowl.
2. Sprinkle organic golden balsamic vinegar over potatoes, stir, sprinkle, stir.
3. Let cool in a bowl, or if in a hurry, put in the freezer or refrigerator for a bit.
4. Steam some organic cobs of corn. Slice off the corn kernals; chop or dice the potatoes and any of the following ingredients needing it. Add to the potatoes, corn, crumbled organic blue cheese, crumbled free-range bacon, hard-boiled organic eggs, organic red onions, organic italian parsley, salt, pepper,  then toss. Stir in organic mayo.
5. Taste, adjust ingredients, serve, and get stuffed.

“High-Fructose Corn Syrup”? Never Heard of It.


If you can’t beat ‘em…confuse them. That seems to be the new motto of our good friends at the Corn Refiners Association, the lobbying group and manufacturing association that represents makers of high-fructose corn syrup. The AP is reporting that the group has petitioned the FDA for permission to identify high-fructose corn syrup on food packaging as–wait for it–”corn sugar.”

After all, HFCS sales are at a 20-year low. More and more, science is indicating that the body metabolizes HFCS differently from table sugar in a way that increases the risk of diabetes, liver disease, and obesity. (Yes, we consume too many sweeteners of all kinds, but as I wrote in this recent post, there is evidence that this industrially extracted combination of fructose and glucose has more health consequences than the ones that humans have been consuming for far longer.) As the Corn Refiners president observed sadly, HFCS of late “has been highly disparaged and highly misunderstood.”

Grace Hudson Museum: California Indian Foods — Past, Present, and Future, Sunday 9/19/10 2-4 pm


Ever wondered what it would be like if you knew where every bite on your plate came from, because you had gathered, ground, fished, or dug it up yourself? California Indians did just that for millennia, and they continue to use native foods to this day, in spite of obstacles posed by development, climate change, and sudden oak death.

Naturalist, ethnographer and food expert Beverly Ortiz, Ph.D. will present a free lecture and slide show on the history, joys, and challenges of modern California Indian food preparation this Sunday, September 19, from 2-4 p.m. at the Grace Hudson Museum in Ukiah. This event is offered in conjunction with an ongoing exhibit at the Museum entitled “Seaweed, Salmon, and Manzanita Cider: A California Indian Feast,” on display through November 4, 2010.

Book Review: Neo-Feudalism and the Invisible Fist

From Front Porch Republic

“The sleekest revolutions,” notes Barry Lynn, “are won not at the barricades but in the dictionary.” To control the terms of a debate is to control the outcome. This is certainly true of the term “free market,” a term which has come to mean almost its opposite, and hence a system which is manifestly unfree. The claim that our markets are not free is a serious one, and should only be made on serious evidence, just the kind of evidence that Barry Lynn provides in Cornered: The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economics of Destruction.

The surest sign that a market is free is that it is competitive; there should be a rich variety of products provided by a vast number of firms, a situation which affords entrepreneurs many opportunities to enter the market and workers many places to sell their labor. And when we waltz into our local Wal Mart, that is what we seem to see. Alas, it is an illusion of competition rather than the reality. For example, if you want eyeglasses, you can go to Pearl Vision, or Lenscrafters, Sears Optical, JC Penney, Target, Macy’s, Sunglass Hut, or buy frames from 25 different manufacturers. Surely choice and competition prevail in this market. But no. All of these are one company, the Italian conglomerate Luxottica. And as with glasses, so also with so many other products. Most of our beer—even some that try to pass themselves off as “craft” beer—is provided by just two companies, ImBev of Belgium or the South African Brewing Company. Proctor & Gamble provides 75% of razors, 60% of detergent, 50% of feminine pads, etc. Even what few companies remain in each market often engage in collusion rather than competition. Wal Mart, for example, appoints one company as a “category manager” to allocate shelf space for all the “competing” companies.

The Future is Rated “B”

From Dmitry Orlov

Author: Reinventing Collapse

My voluminous fan mail has made me aware of a curious fact: many of my readers seem persuaded that the future is either Mad Max or Waterworld. As far as they are concerned, there just aren’t any other options. What’s more, some people have even tried to venture a guess as to which of the two it shall be by watching what I do. I live on a boat, and that is apparently an indication that the future must be Waterworld-like. But I have also been seen rattling around town on a rusty old motorcycle, and that is taken as an indication of a more Mad Max-like future.

It saddens me that so few people bring up the film Blade Runner, and it is even more sad that George Lucas’s THX 1138 or Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville are almost never mentioned, because these particular films have in many ways proven to be predictive of the present rather than just the future. Take THX 1138 for example: it is about some people who live in a sealed-off climate-controlled environment, are on a compulsory regimen of psychoactive drugs, are assigned their mates by a computer program, and watch pornography that is piped into their living rooms in order to relax after work. When they refuse to take their meds, they are abused by robot-like police armed with electric cattle-prods. When one of them escapes into the wilderness, it turns out that the police lack the budget to hunt him down. That may have seemed a bit exotic and futuristic back in 1971 when Lucas filmed it, but now describes the people who live down the street. Alphaville, on the other hand, is vaguely reminiscent of some of my more interesting business trips.

TIME Announces New Version Of Magazine Aimed At Adults

The ONION Video Here
God Angrily Clarifies ‘Don’t Kill’ Rule

NEW YORK—Responding to recent events on Earth, God, the omniscient creator-deity worshipped by billions of followers of various faiths for more than 6,000 years, angrily clarified His longtime stance against humans killing each other Monday.

“Look, I don’t know, maybe I haven’t made myself completely clear, so for the record, here it is again… Somehow, people keep coming up with the idea that I want them to kill their neighbor. Well, I don’t. And to be honest, I’m really getting sick and tired of it. Get it straight. Not only do I not want anybody to kill anyone, but I specifically commanded you not to…

“I tried to put it in the simplest possible terms for you people, so you’d get it straight, because I thought it was pretty important,” said God, called Yahweh and Allah respectively in the Judaic and Muslim traditions. “I guess I figured I’d left no real room for confusion after putting it in a four-word sentence with one-syllable words, on the tablets I gave to Moses. How much more clear can I get? It’s not God’s will, all right? News flash: ‘God’s will’ equals ‘Don’t murder people.'”

“I don’t care what faith you are, everybody’s been making this same mistake since the dawn of time,” God said. “The Muslims massacre the Hindus, the Hindus massacre the Muslims. The Buddhists, everybody massacres the Buddhists. The Jews, don’t even get me started on the hardline, right-wing, Meir Kahane-loving Israeli nationalists, man. And the Christians? You people believe in a Messiah who says, ‘Turn the other cheek,’ but you’ve been killing everybody you can get your hands on since the Crusades…” The ONION story here.

Why learn permaculture? For the children and ourselves


Permaculture is one of the only ways home for humanity. If one believes in modernism, industrial agriculture and better living through chemistry read no further. However, if you feel something is not right about the way we live, read on.

I have come to realize that it is because we have been taught from birth to be dependent on the system or civilization that we have lost our connection to our home—the land, nature and its cultivars. Simply, because we have no connection to the land we have no reason to take care of it or limit our numbers. The skills and relationships with even the most common plants is not given to us as children.

Teach your children well

Permaculture is a modern translation of first people’s or native knowledge and wisdom. It is a step towards indigenizing the white man. We have to learn permaculture as adults because we were not taught about our home as children. The key may be for us as adults to learn permaculture design skills and then pass this knowledge and established perennial homesteads and communities on to our children.

Every child should be able to identify at least 100 plants and name their uses, how to grow them, where they are found and how to process them. Children should learn these skills through action, touch, feel, smell, taste and story.

My children know probably a dozen berries by the shape of the plant at a distance. They know which plant to go to at different times of the year. If I don’t keep a watchful eye though, they can eat much of the fruit before the U-pick customers can get it. Its all good;

Dan Hamburg: Supervisor Campaign Update

Mendocino County


We hope all of you had an excellent summer. Here at Campaign Central, we are moving into high gear. We hope you will find time to work and play with us, because we are playing to win!

Our website calendar is up at Please check it often for event updates and locations where I will be speaking. I always appreciate seeing friendly faces at debates and community events. And if you have an event in your community you think I would be interested in attending, please let us know here!

Here’s a brief update.

We will have a booth at the Mendocino County Fair and Apple Show, the weekend of September 17th. We will be giving out samples of grain grown right here in the 5th District. And we have plans to participate in the parade! We are looking for volunteers to help staff our booth. Please contact Laura Hamburg here if you can help!

Friday, September 24th is our kickoff “Fun Raiser” event at Crown Hall in Mendocino. Come groove to the music of Rogerwood with special guests Steven Bates and David Hayes. Chris Skyhawk and Sherry Glaser are our Master and Mistress of Ceremonies, and a delicious gourmet dinner catered by Garnish Daly will be available at 6:00 PM with music to follow.

Will Parrish: Mendo’s Biggest Wine Country Corporations


“We have chosen as our first topic of discussion the reality of the business — cash. Everything we do eventually finds its way back to this common denominator. That is, cash in and cash out. … At Duckhorn Vineyards, we earn approximately 24% cash profit. … Our bank, Bank of America, is more willing to support our growth because of our relatively high cash profit levels, our confirmed reinvestment of earnings and our shareholder support.” newsletter to shareholders, Duckhorn Vineyards, 1998 (now owned by CB Richard Ellis, the world’s largest real estate conglomerate)

“The Problem Now: What To Do With All That Cash,” a 1995 Business Week headline intoned.  It could well have been describing the impetus for the California North Coast’s premium wine-grape bubble.  Throughout the 1990s and up to the present, the battalions of bankers, lawyers, and business magnates who presided over the boom-time economy in the San Francisco Bay Area (and elsewhere) have plunged a huge portion of their surplus wealth into upscale wine culture – pricey tasting room tours, $50,000 collections of high-end vintages in home cellars, and $230 bottles of, for instance, ’93 Opus One.

Many of these regional economic elites went a step further by purchasing their own North Coast wine-grape plantations, those monocrop slices of the “bucolic” wine country lifestyle running from the Russian River Valley to Napa Valley to the Anderson Valley.

Silicon Valley tycoons landscaped their vacation homes with

Big Box Colonizers Face Thousands of Closings


The Significance of Consumer Deleveraging

[We have been expecting a letter from DDR to the voters of Mendocino County thanking us for voting down the Masonite Monster Mall and therefore saving them millions of dollars in wasted development costs. Maybe Wendy Roberts and other local proponents of Dinosaur Dumb Growth can write one for them… -DS]

Consumers have only begun to cut back on their severe debt burdens, and the process will take a number of years.  Household debt relative to GDP soared from a range of 43% to 49% in the 20-year period between 1965 and 1985 to a peak of 97.3% in 2009.  As of March 31st (the latest data point) this dropped only slightly to 92.7%.  To provide some more perspective, Ned Davis Research estimates the mean to be 54.2% over the past 58 years. The percentage climbed gradually to 65% in 1998, and then really accelerated to its recent peak.

To be conservative, let’s assume that the household debt/GDP ratio falls back only to the 65% level of 1998