Monthly Archives: January 2013

Living off-the-grid is possible, but not enough to fix climate change

29 January 2013, 6.38am AEST
AUTHOR     Frederick Trainer Visiting fellow at University of New South Wales
DISCLOSURE STATEMENT
Frederick Trainer does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.                                                                                                             The Conversation provides independent analysis and commentary from academics and researchers.                                                We are funded by CSIRO, Melbourne, Monash, RMIT, UTS, UWA, Canberra, CDU, Deakin, Flinders, Griffith, La Trobe, Murdoch, Newcastle. QUT, Swinburne, UniSA, USQ, UTAS, UWS and VU.

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It is technically possible to supply your own food, energy and shelter, without reliance on the grid.Moosicom/Flickr

My old house has never been connected to the electricity supply. It runs on a couple of photo voltaic (solar) panels and is warmed by firewood. All water used is rainwater.

I have a vegie garden, fruit trees and chickens. My pumps and machinery run on 12 volt solar electricity. I travel 25km to paid work once a week, by bicycle and train, and drive about 10km a week. I never go away on holidays. The average Australian household uses about one kilowatt of electricity; I use eight watts.

So isn’t downshifting to less consuming lifestyles the way to solve the greenhouse problem?

Emphatically, no it isn’t. It’s part of the solution but not the main part.

If you want to fix the climate, developing nations’ poverty, resource depletion and other environmental problems you will also have to totally scrap economic growth, and therefore capitalism, and largely scrap globalisation, centralisation, the market system, representative democracy, the financial system, big cities, modern agriculture and urbanism.

A little extreme? Here’s the core argument.

Everyone knows the basic facts and figures, but few face up to what they mean. To provide the average Australian with food, settlement area, water and energy now requires about eight hectares of productive land.

If by 2050, nine billion people were to have risen to the present Australian “living standard”, and the planet’s amount of productive land is still the same as it is today, the amount available per capita will be about .8ha. In other words Australian’s today are using ten times the amount that will be possible for all.

It’s much the same for all other resources. There are already scarcities regarding food in general, fish, water, most industrial minerals and petroleum, with estimates of peak coal occurring within a few decades. Only about one fifth of the world’s people have rich world consumption rates, and six times as many will soon be aspiring to them.

And yet, everyone is manically obsessed with constantly increasing “living standards”, production, consumption and GDP. At the standard 3% per annum growth rate, according to WWF figures we will need more than 20 planet earths to meet 2050 resource demands.

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Living off-the-grid is not completely without a source of energy … solar panels are an integral part of the lifestyle. sridgway/Flickr

The glaringly obvious yet ignored point is that rich world per capita levels of resource consumption and ecological impact are far beyond levels that that are sustainable, or that could be made sustainable by any remotely plausible technical fixes.

People, including most of the green ones, do not grasp the magnitude of the overshoot, nor the significance of the change required to solve the big problems.

The problems are being caused primarily by our systems, not our lifestyles although these are far too affluent. It’s not possible to get resource consumption down to one-fifth or one-tenth of present levels, unless we not only shift to a zero growth economic system, but to one with a far lower level of GDP. That means an economy in which there can be no interest paid.

That means we have to scrap the present financial system, and the forces driving innovation, incentive, work and investment, and the quest for greater wealth. It means much more than scrapping capitalism; it means completely abandoning some of the fundamental ideas (like the definition of progress,) and values (such as getting rich) that have driven Western culture for 300 years.

We could do it, easily, if you wanted to.

My system, The Simpler Way (detailed in my book), is one whereby we transform our present suburbs and towns into highly self-sufficient and self-governing local and zero-growth economies, in which the quality of life would be higher than it is now in the consumer rat race.

Yes, an important part must be the willing acceptance of frugal, self-sufficient, cooperative ways at the level of the household and community. But it would not be necessary to go as far as I choose to on my bush homestead. We could still have electricity grids, (small) cities, (some) trade and heavy industry, railway networks, a (small) central state (under the control of town assemblies), universities and professional skills, and more socially useful high tech research and development than we have now. You might need to work for money only one day a week.

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An ecovillage at Currumbin in Queensland. Flickr

Many people in eco-villages more or less live in the required ways now. Many are attempting to transform their towns and suburbs into being more self-sufficient and self-governing local communities.

But these very encouraging beginnings are not yet focused on the crucial goals.

If you really want to help save the planet don’t fret much about downshifting but join your local community garden, with a view to getting people there thinking more about the need to focus on us eventually achieving the big structural and cultural changes.

Food for thought …….

Half of all food wasted

By Mark Halper | January 10, 2013, 4:43 AM PST

Refer for complete article : http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/bulletin/half-of-all-food-wasted/9855?tag=nl.e662&s_cid=e662

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Dare to eat ’em. Crooked carrots are good, and good for you.

The world throws away up to half of its food according to an alarming report that blames consumers’ fussy preference for cosmetically appealing produce, supermarket promotions that encourage overbuying, and deficient storage, transportation and agricultural practices.

Out of the 4 billion produced annually, between 1.2 billion and 2 billion metric tons of food never reaches a human stomach, the UK’s Institution of Mechanical Engineers says in Waste Not Want Not – Global Food Waste: Feeding the 9 billion.

“The amount of food wasted and lost around the world is staggering,” says Tim Fox, IME’s head of energy and environment. “This is food that could be used to feed the world’s growing population – as well as those in hunger today. It is also an unnecessary waste of the land, water and energy resources that were used in the production, processing and distribution of this food.

“The reasons for this situation range from poor engineering and agricultural practices, inadequate transport and storage infrastructure through to supermarkets demanding cosmetically perfect foodstuffs and encouraging consumers to overbuy through buy-one-get-one-free offers.”

The annual water wastage from growing discarded crops totals about 550 billion cubic meters, IME reports.

As shocking as this situation is today, it could become much worse by 2075 when, according to United Nations estimates, the world will have to feed an extra 3 billion people as the population surges to 9.5 billion.

“As water, land and energy resources come under increasing pressure from competing human demands, engineers have a crucial role to play in preventing food loss and waste by developing more efficient ways of growing, transporting and storing foods,” Fox says.

Consider IME’s report as food for thought the next time you reject a crooked carrot or a lumpy apple.

Photo: Carleton Garden Blogspot

12 Great Motivational Quotes for 2013

Extracted from: http://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/12-great-motivational-quotes-for-2013.html

clip_image001 Geoffrey James writes the Sales Source column on Inc.com, the world’s most visited sales-oriented blog. His newly published book is Business to Business Selling: Power Words and Strategies From the World’s Top Sales Experts. @Sales_Source

This set of inspirational thoughts for the New Year will galvanize you into action.

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shutterstock images

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At the start of every year, I create a list of quotes to guide and inspire me for the next 12 months. Here are the quotes I’ve selected for 2013:

1. "Cherish your visions and your dreams as they are the children of your soul, the blueprints of your ultimate achievements."      Napoleon Hill

2. "The key to success is to focus our conscious mind on things we desire not things we fear."        Brian Tracy

3. "Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get."     Dale Carnegie

4. "Obstacles are necessary for success because in selling, as in all careers of importance, victory comes only after many struggles and countless defeats."     Og Mandino

5. "A real decision is measured by the fact that you’ve taken a new action. If there’s no action, you haven’t truly decided."      Tony Robbins

6. "If you can’t control your anger, you are as helpless as a city without walls waiting to be attacked."      The Book of Proverbs

7. A mediocre person tells. A good person explains. A superior person demonstrates. A great person inspires others to see for themselves."      Harvey Mackay

8. "Freedom, privileges, options, must constantly be exercised, even at the risk of inconvenience."      Jack Vance

9. "Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live."     Jim Rohn

10. "You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want."     Zig Ziglar

11. "The number of times I succeed is in direct proportion to the number of times I can fail and keep on trying."      Tom Hopkins

12. "You have everything you need to build something far bigger than yourself."   Seth Godin