Saturday, December 20, 2008

Wendell Berry and Bill McKibben on Coal

An open letter released recently from Wendell Berry and Bill McKibben...

Dear Friends,

There are moments in a nation's--and a planet's--history when it may be necessary for some to break the law in order to bear witness to an evil, bring it to wider attention, and push for its correction. We think such a time has arrived, and we are writing to say that we hope some of you will join us in Washington D.C. on Monday March 2 in order to take part in a civil act of civil disobedience outside a coal-fired power plant near Capitol Hill.

We will be there to make several points:

- Coal-fired power is driving climate change. Our foremost climatologist, NASA's James Hansen, has demonstrated that our only hope of getting our atmosphere back to a safe level--below 350 parts per million co2--lies in stopping the use of coal to generate electricity.

- Even if climate change were not the urgent crisis that it is, we would still be burning our fossil fuels too fast, wasting too much energy and releasing too much poison into the air and water. We would still need to slow down, and to restore thrift to its old place as an economic virtue.

- Coal is filthy at its source. Much of the coal used in this country comes from West Virginia and Kentucky, where companies engage in "mountaintop removal" to get at the stuff; they leave behind a leveled wasteland, and impoverished human communities. No technology better exemplifies the out-of-control relationship between humans and the rest of creation.

- Coal smoke makes children sick. Asthma rates in urban areas near coal-fired power plants are high. Air pollution from burning coal is harmful to the health of grown-ups too, and to the health of everything that breathes, including forests.

The industry claim that there is something called "clean coal" is, put simply, a lie. But it's a lie told with tens of millions of dollars, which we do not have. We have our bodies, and we are willing to use them to make our point. We don't come to such a step lightly. We have written and testified and organized politically to make this point for many years, and while in recent months there has been real progress against new coal-fired power plants, the daily business of providing half our electricity from coal continues unabated. It's time to make clear that we can't safely run this planet on coal at all. So we feel the time has come to do more--we hear President Barack Obama's call for a movement for change that continues past election day, and we hear Nobel Laureate Al Gore's call for creative non-violence outside coal plants. As part of the international negotiations now underway on global warming, our nation will be asking China, India, and others to limit their use of coal in the future to help save the planet's atmosphere. This is a hard thing to ask, because it's their cheapest fuel. Part of our witness in March will be to say that we're willing to make some sacrifices ourselves, even if it's only a trip to the jail.

With any luck, this will be the largest such protest yet, large enough that it may provide a real spark. If you want to participate with us, you need to go through a short course of non-violence training. This will be, to the extent it depends on us, an entirely peaceful demonstration, carried out in a spirit of hope and not rancor. We will be there in our dress clothes, and ask the same of you. There will be young people, people from faith communities, people from the coal fields of Appalachia, and from the neighborhoods in Washington that get to breathe the smoke from the plant.

We will cross the legal boundary of the power plant, and we expect to be arrested. After that we have no certainty what will happen, but lawyers and such will be on hand. Our goal is not to shut the plant down for the day--it is but one of many, and anyway its operation for a day is not the point. The worldwide daily reliance on coal is the danger; this is one small step to raise awareness of that ruinous habit and hence help to break it.

Needless to say, we're not handling the logistics of this day. All the credit goes to a variety of groups, especially EnergyAction (which is bringing thousands of young people to Washington that weekend), Greenpeace, the Ruckus Society, and Rainforest Action Network. A website at that latter organization is serving as a temporary organizing hub. If you go there, you will find a place to leave your name so that we'll know you want to join us.

Thank you,

Wendell Berry, Bill McKibben

* * *

Here's a link to a recent filmed conversation between Wendell Berry and Bill McKibben.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Pun Pun Movie Available Online

Check out the web documentary show Tangent - there's a two-parter on the Pun Pun Organic Farm and Seed Center in northern Thailand available for download.

Good stuff!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Aqueous Solutions Represented at Methodist Church Alternative Giving Fair

Johnson Memorial United Methodist Church in Huntington, WV recently hosted an alternative giving fair. The fair allows church congregants and members of the greater community to engage with socially responsible forms of giving this holiday season.

Aqueous director of administration Sue Kearns presented a multimedia display of many of our ongoing projects for the fairgoers.

A message from Aqueous Solutions director of outreach, Tim Patterson, about opportunities for socially-responsible giving with Aqueous Solutions this holiday season...

As the financial crisis exposes the instability of economic globalization, the work of building strong, self-reliant local communities becomes more urgent than ever before.

In towns across America families are struggling to pay the mortgage and gas up the car, while villagers in India and Thailand struggle with rising food prices and dangerously contaminated water supplies.

While bankers and corporate executives clamor for government bailouts that may total over one trillion dollars, others work to reduce our dependency on a system that is broken and corrupt.

We recognize how difficult these times are for everyone, but as the holidays approach, we ask you to consider donating to Aqueous Solutions.

The work of ensuring clean drinking water supplies doesn't require billions of dollars. All AQ staff work as volunteers, and the technology we develop and implement is freely available to all.

Like any fledgling organization, however, we could not do this work without support from wonderful people who are willing to invest in a better world. A drop in the bucket can go a very long way.

Best wishes – Tim P.

There are two ways to make tax-deductible donations in support of Aqueous' work:

Give online through our fiscal sponsor, the International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC). Be sure to specify Aqueous Solutions in the "Designation" field. To make a secure online contribution click on the Network for Good icon on the Aqueous Solutions website.

Or, you may send a check made out to "ISEC/Aqueous Solutions" to

PO Box 9475
Berkeley, CA 94709 USA

If you are not concerned that your donation be tax-deductible, then you can send a check made out to "Aqueous Solutions" directly to

Aqueous Solutions
329 Wilson Ct
Huntington, WV 25701 USA

Aqueous is now also using ChipIn for quick, secure online donations that go directly for our most pressing needs – for example, key pieces of scientific field equipment. Use the widgets on the Aqueous website to make an easy, targeted contribution.

Thanks so much for your support!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Aqueous written up on Global Climate Solutions website

The recently announced collaboration between Aqueous Solutions and the Belgian NGO Biochar Fund is featured in an article on the Global Climate Solutions website. This collaboration seeks to improve agricultural soils and crop yields, mitigate the effects of climate change, and provide rural developing communities with a source of safe drinking water - simultaneously.

Read more here.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Aqueous Solutions immediate needs - scientific field equipment

Use ChipIn for quick and easy donations for Aqueous' most pressing needs! Thank you!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Ain't no party like my Nanna's tea party

The motherflippin Rhymenocerous and the Hip-hopopotamous go head to head on this track...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Too many mutha uckas, uckin with my shi-

This is how I feel most of the time.....

Friday, October 24, 2008


New documentary on PBS on climate change and what we can do about it:

Frontline: Heat - A global investigation into one of the greatest crises mankind has ever faced - Can we roll back global warming?

I used to be a paperboy for this company.....

Sick props from the hometown newspaper in West-By-God...

Monday, October 13, 2008

CBS News on Earthships

Hey, cool! The mainstream media picking up on eco-groovy building techniques!

Watch CBS Videos Online

Pics of the earthship we've been working on in CO to come soon.......

Autumn in Jefferson, CO

Thanks to Bonnie McGill for these great pics!

Peggy and Jo built this cozy cabin out of scraps and off-cuts from other projects.
Total cost to build: $13. 

Friday, October 10, 2008

Exposing the Bi-Partisan Myth of Clean Coal

There’s at least one topic the candidates in the US elections won’t be wrangling over: so-called “clean” coal. That’s because they all support it...

Read my recent article on so-called "clean" coal online at Matador Change magazine.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

It's Gotta Be a Bad Sign When.....

National Debt Clock Runs Out of Space

In a sign of the times, the National Debt Clock in New York City has run out of digits to record the growing figure. When the national debt topped the $10 trillion point last month, the sign could not display the full amount. A larger debt clock is scheduled to be installed next year.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Here's to 'Nowtopians' Everywhere!

The following, published in Orion Magazine, is adapted from Chris Carlsson's book Nowtopia: How Pirate Programmers, Outlaw Bicyclists, and Vacant-Lot Gardeners Are Inventing the Future Today, published by AK Press. It looks like it might be a good read – check it out!

* * *

Even while capitalism continues its inexorable push to corral every square inch of the globe into its logic of money and markets, new practices are emerging that redefine politics and open up spaces of unpredictability. Instead of traditional political forms like unions or parties, people are coming together in practical projects, from urban gardening in vacant lots to the suddenly ubiquitous do-it-yourself bike shops. More and more people, recognizing the degradation inherent in business relations, are creating networks of activity that refuse the measurement of money. They depend instead on sharing skills and technological know-how within new communities, such as the biofuels co-ops that have proliferated in many cities. Networks have grown, thanks to the spread of the Internet and other telecommunications techologies, and new kinds of “families” based on shared values, alternative living arrangements, and non-economic relationships are growing within the old society.

Collectively, I call these projects “Nowtopia.” Rarely do the individual participants conceive of them in political terms; day-to-day issues about how we live, what we do, how we define and meet our needs tend to be understood as outside politics. But all Nowtopian activities are profoundly political.

The Nowtopian movement embodies a growing minority seeking emancipation from the treadmill of consumerism and overwork. Acting locally in the face of unfolding global catastrophes, friends and neighbors are redesigning many of the crucial technological foundations of modern life, like food and transportation. These redesigns are worked out through garage and backyard research-and-development programs among friends using the detritus of modern life. Our contemporary commons takes the shape of discarded bicycles and leftover deep-fryer oil, of vacant lots and open bandwidth. “Really, really free markets,” anti-commodities, and free services are imaginative products of an anti-economy provisionally under construction by freely cooperative and inventive people. They aren’t waiting for an institutional change from on high but are building the new world in the shell of the old.

These practices require sharing and mutual aid and constitute the beginnings of new kinds of communities. Because these people are engaged in creative appropriation of technologies to purposes of their own design and choice, these activities embody the (partial) transcendence of the wage-labor prison by workers who have better things to do than their jobs. They are tinkerers working in the waste streams and open spaces of late capitalism, conjuring new practices while redefining life’s purpose.

Efforts to create islands of utopia have always flourished on the margins of capitalist society, but never to the extent that a radically different way of living has been able to supplant market society’s daily life. Nowtopians, and anyone determined to free themselves from the constraints of economically defined life, face the same historic limits that have beset all previous efforts to escape. Can the emerging patterns resist the co-optation and reintegration that have absorbed past self-emancipatory movements? The new apparatus of global production helps speed up the extension of market society, but it inevitably also speeds the spread of social opposition, the sharing of experiments and alternatives. Our moment in history is at least as exhilarating as it is daunting.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Bicycling Meditation, Colorado

Every bend in the road brings me new ideas; every dawn gives me fresh feelings.
- Haiku writer Matsuo Basho; quote as a paraphrase of the original in The Te of Piglet by Benjamin Hoff

My home was at Cold Mountain from the start,
Rambling among the hills, far from trouble.

Gone, and a million things leave no trace
Loosed, and it flows through galaxies
A fountain of light, into the very mind -
Not a thing, and yet it appears before me:
Now I know the pearl of the Buddha nature
Know its use: a boundless perfect sphere.

- from The Cold Mountain Poems, by Han-shan, translated by Gary Snyder

My pedal mechanism broke one evening outside of Leadville. I fixed it with some zip-ties. Zip ties are awesome, btw. I try to always have some zip ties on me in case of whatever. 

This was a good-enough fix since without being able to clip in to these pedals they are basically useless. And the next day I was due to climb over Independence Pass (just shy of 12,100 ft, see below). I am a hardcore mofo but I don't think I can do that with only one leg. 

The drawback with this quick-fix was that my foot was permanently affixed to the pedal - so to get out I had to undo the velco and take my shoe off. Getting back on was pretty awkward with the bike loaded down with gear - but I only fell over once, so I feel pretty good about that. And luckily I didn't crash, because if I would have, if the zip ties didn't break it probably would have ripped my leg off at the knee. But I took the descent into Aspen slow - the better to observe the fantastic scenery - and made it into the campground at Maroon Bells without incident - woo hoo!

Mount Elbert (tallest mountain in CO) - at sunset... the early dawn...

...and late dawn.

Climbing to Independence Pass...

Nate met me at Maroon Bells for some sweet hiking.

The path to Han-shan's place is laughable,
A path, but no sign of cart or horse.
Converging gorges - hard to trace their twists
Jumbled cliffs - unbelievably rugged.
A thousand grasses bend with dew,
A hill of pines hums in the wind.
And now I've lost the shortcut home,
Body asking shadow, how do you keep up?

- from The Cold Mountain Poems, by Han-shan, translated by Gary Snyder

There's a naked bug at Cold Mountain
With a white body and a black head.
His hand holds two book scrolls,
One the Way and one its Power.
His shack's got no pots or oven,
He goes for a long walk with his shirt and pants askew.
But he always carries the sword of wisdom:
He means to cut down senseless craving.

- from The Cold Mountain Poems, by Han-shan, translated by Gary Snyder

As for me, I delight in the everyday Way,
Among mist-wrapped vines and rocky caves.
Here in the wilderness I am completely free,
With my friends, the white clouds, idling forever.
There are roads, but they do not reach the world;
Since I am mindless, who can rouse my thoughts?
On a bed of stone I sit, alone in the night,
While the round moon climbs up Cold Mountain.

- Han-Shan, 750, The Enlightened Heart, translated by Stephen Mitchell

Yeah man, you know to me a mountain is a Buddha. Think of the patience, hundreds of thousands of years just sittin there bein perfectly perfectly silent and like praying for all living creatures in that silence and just waitin for us to stop all our frettin and foolin.

– Japhy Ryder, in The Dharma Bums, by Jack Kerouac

In my first thirty years of life
I roamed hundreds and thousands of miles.
Walked by rivers through deep green grass
Entered cities of boiling red dust.
Tried drugs, but couldn't make Immortal;
Read books and wrote poems on history.
Today I'm back at Cold Mountain:
I'll sleep by the creek and purify my ears.

- from The Cold Mountain Poems, by Han-shan, translated by Gary Snyder

Cold Mountain is a house
Without beams or walls.
The six doors left and right are open
The hall is sky blue.
The rooms all vacant and vague
The east wall beats on the west wall
At the center nothing.


When men see Han-shan
They all say he's crazy
And not much to look at -
Dressed in rags and hides.
They don't get what I say
And I don't talk their language.
All I can say to those I meet:
"Try and make it to Cold Mountain."

- from The Cold Mountain Poems, by Han-shan, translated by Gary Snyder

A reward for Nate and I after many miles of biking and hiking - a dip in Conundrum hot springs.

From the Taoist alchemist Ko Hung:

The contented man can be happy with what appears to be useless. He can find worthwhile occupation in forests and mountains. He stays in a small cottage and associates with the simple. He would not exchange his worn clothes for the imperial robes, nor the load on his back for a four-horse carriage. He leaves the jade in the mountains and the pearls in the sea. Wherever he goes, whatever he does, he can be happy – he knows when to stop. He does not pick the brief-blossoming flower; he does not travel the dangerous road. To him, the ten thousand possessions are dust in the wind. He sings as he travels among the green mountains.

He finds sheltering branches more comforting than red-gated mansions, the plow in his hands more rewarding than the prestige of titles and banners, fresh mountain water more satisfying than the feasts of the wealthy. He acts in true freedom. What can competition for honors mean to him? What attraction can anxiety and greed possibly hold? Through simplicity he has Tao, and from Tao, everything. He sees the light in the ‘darkness,’ the clear in the ‘cloudy,’ the speed in the ‘slowness,’ the full in the ‘empty.’ The cook creating a meal with his own hands has as much honor in his eyes as a famous singer or high official. He has no profits to gain, no salary to lose; no applause, no criticism. When he looks up, it is not in envy. When he looks down, it is not with arrogance. Many look at him, but nobody sees him. Calm and detached, he is free from all danger, a dragon hidden among men.

- Quoted in The Te of Piglet by Benjamin Hoff

My route: Jefferson -> Breckenridge -> Leadville -> Twin Lakes -> Aspen -> Maroon Bells

I’ve been reading Whitman, know what he says, "Cheer up slaves, and horrify foreign despots," he means that’s the attitude for the Bard, the Zen Lunacy bard of old desert paths, see the whole thing is a world full of rucksack wanderers, Dharma Bums refusing to subscribe to the general demand that they consume production and therefore have to work for the privilege of consuming, all that crap they didn’t really want anyway such as refrigerators, TV sets, cars, at least new fancy cars ... and general junk you finally always see a week later in the garbage anyway, all of them imprisoned in a system of work, produce consume, I see a vision of a great rucksack revolution thousands or even millions of young Americans wandering around with rucksacks [and on bikes!], going up to mountains to pray, making children laugh and old men glad, making young girls happy and old girls happier, all of ‘em Zen Lunatics who go about writing poems that happen to appear in their heads for no reason and also by being kind and also by strange unexpected acts keep giving visions of eternal freedom to everybody and to all living creatures…

– Japhy Ryder, in The Dharma Bums, by Jack Kerouac