Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Why the mainstream news media are crap

Public Radio International CEO Alisa Miller gives a 4-minute TED talk with some striking graphics...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

EPA's Troubled Waters

An informative news piece about the contamination of our nation's waterways by pesticides, pharmaceuticals, sewage sludge, and other toxic chemicals, from the American News Project.

Lindbergh presentation transcript online

A transcript with slides of my presentation to the Lindbergh Foundation Board of Directors is now online and available for download at, Resources page.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Agrichar...a potential "win-win-win"?

Agrichar is the scientific buzzword given to a charcoal material made from the pyrolysis (heating in the absence of oxygen) of agricultural waste materials. According to this recent article from, the potential benefits of this material include:

* Sequester carbon captured by plants from the atmosphere into charcoal which can be buried in soil. Agrichar is recalcitrant, so this would be sinking carbon from the atmosphere into soils for decades to centuries (?) and thereby reducing CO2 forcing on climate change.

* Increase soil fertility and generally improving soil quality (drainage, aeration, nutrient availability, microorganism habitat, etc.), promoting healthier and more diverse agro-ecosystems and improving crop yields.

* Exert a positive influence over nitrogen biogeochemistry in soils, potentially leading to a reduction in the production of nitrous oxide (N2O), a greenhouse gas approximately 300 times stronger than CO2.

* Provide a benign source of biofuel energy, as well as other potentially useful by-products (e.g. wood vinegar)

* Drive innovation in small scale (household- to village- scale) efficient kiln designs, for making agrichar/charcoal in a manner that's decentralized and with reduced impacts on air quality, human health, etc.

* Encourage the widespread production of charcoal materials of sufficient quality and very low cost for application in drinking water filtration systems.

This could be huge! I gotta learn more about this agrichar stuff...

More in this Nature article, for example...

And a short film from the Australian Broadcasting Company...

A post and great ensuing discussion on Grist.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Alan Watts animations

Super-groovy cartoons depicting bits of Alan Watts' philosophical Sound files also available.

What's wrong with the food we eat

Aqueous featured on Sustainable Design Update blog

Aqueous recently got write-up / shout-out on the Sustainable Design Update blog...a la John Barrie, director of the Appropriate Technology Collaborative.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Kickin it at the Ritz

So, way back in March, I lived for almost a month on my bicycle. Panniers on the front and back full of 60 pounds of food and camping equipment and bike repair sundries, I toured the Gila Wilderness of southwestern New Mexico. (Photos here, in case you don't remember.)

At the end of March I got the sad news that my granpa had died. So I hauled ass home to WV for the funeral and to spend time with the fam. One thing that came out of the trip home was that I inherited my grandpa's truck, which otherwise would just fall into complete disuse. I had no wheels, and the truck has a camper top, so I thought, "Perfect! I could live in that!"

That idea got the expected response from friends and family, accustomed to, as it were, conventional house living. But from the perspective of a dude who just lived a whole month out of a pair of bicycle panniers (I didn't even have a tent - just a tarp, ground pad and sleeping bag), moving into a pickup truck was like moving into the Ritz Carlton.

So I loaded up the '85 powder blue Chevy S-10 decorated with rust spots and primer artwork all up and down the sides and rolled into Raleigh, NC for my summer gig as a "Visiting Research Scientist" at NC State U with the intention of pulling up somewhere in a State Park or off-the-beaten-track stand of pine trees, firing up the Coleman stove, and makin myself a nice little life, livin in the back of the truck and bicycle commuting all over the Research Triangle area.

I dialed up my college buddy Eric on my way into town to let him know I'd be in the area for a few months, and that we oughta hang out, go running, relive the glory days of College, etc.

Of course Eric, being Eric, said, "You're livin in Raleigh? In a truck? Screw that, you can live at my house!"

So I moved into Eric's place, which is a super nice townhouse out by the airport. I got my own room, even my own bathroom. He's got a great kitchen, a deck, even an exercise room. When I moved in, I had to say to myself, "Man, after livin in a pickup truck, this is like moving into the Ritz Carlton!"

And then just today, courtesy of the bash thrown by the foundation that's giving me a grant for the water filtration project work, I grabbed a few necessary items out of my room at Eric's house, chucked them into the back of the powder blue '85 Chevy S-10 with the rust spots, primer artwork and camper top, and trundled down I-85 South to the very upscale Buckhead district of Atlanta, and moved into the Ritz Carlton.

Don't that just beat all?

Another anecdote that confirms my theory that the Universe is a fundamentally groovy place.

The '85 powder blue Chevy S-10 keeping the luxury cars company in the lot outside the Ritz.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Upcoming water filtration gig in Apex, NC

Planning to be in central North Carolina end of this month?

Saturday May 31 - Town of Apex, North Carolina Conservation Days
Information and workshops on sustainable energy, local food systems and organic gardening, and conserving land and water resources. I'll make a presentation on Aqueous Solutions' research and projects, and demonstrate how to make a five-gallon bucket filter for potable rooftop harvested rainwater.

More information at:

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Tao wisdom 'n shit for my peeps

This is so cool - a very vernacular interpretation of the Tao Te Ching by Lao-Tzu...available in pdf form here.

Author Ron Hogan's aim was to provide a common-sense version of the Tao without the high-minded-ancient-Chinese-sage pretension displayed in many translations.

As a teaser, here's the first stanza from verse 20:

Don't spend too much time
thinking about stupid shit.
Why should you care
if people agree or disagree with you?
Why should you care
if others find you attractive or not?
Why should you care
about things that worry others?
Call bullshit on all that.

Ha! I love it.

Friday, May 09, 2008

People's Grocery

Very nice short video on a local food / food justice program in Oakland...

See also the Global Oneness Project.

Monsanto = super uncool

Great article from a recent Vanity Fair on why Monsanto is evil.

Top 8 reasons why Monsanto sucks...

* Their hired goons are jerks to farmers

* Patenting life forms

* Makers of Roundup and Roundup Ready GMOs (active ingredient in Roundup: glyphosate, which causes kidney problems and reproductive difficulties)

* Monopoly in the seed biz; prevents farmers from saving seed

* Sues farmers whose fields get polluted with Monsanto's seeds/genes, and wins

* Legacy of toxic chemical pollutants: PCBs, dioxin, Agent Orange; these chemicals and their by-products have poisoned the air, soil, streams, rivers and people of WV (from the plant in Nitro, WV)

* Pushes the use of its artificial growth hormone for cows - rBGH, or rBST - even though it's very bad for the cows and potentially harmful to people who drink the milk. Among other disorders, rBST can cause mastitis in cows, an udder infection in which bacteria and pus may be pumped out with the milk. If dairies that do not treat their cows with rBST label their products "rBST free" or something like that, Monsanto sues them. Because of Monsanto, now labels that say "rBST" free have to also include a disclaimer that "no evidence has been shown of harm from this artificial hormone." But there are few scientific studies of this possible harm, and most of them have been performed by Monsanto.

* revolving door between Monsanto execs and US gov't, including FDA and EPA

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Gospel of Consumption

Very well done article from the May/June 2008 issue of Orion Magazine on how we, as a society, have come to work more and more, and consume more and more, and yet are less happy and healthy for it.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Alan Watts droppin science

Alan Watts rules. Check out this short monologue...

A couple of minutes in, he says, "the difficulty is, to borrow an old ancient Chinese saying, 'When the wrong man uses the right means, the right means work in the wrong way.' In other words, something is wrong with the way we think. And while that is there, everything we do will be a mess..."

Similarly, Chapter 29 of the Tao Te Ching:

Do you think you can take over the universe and improve it?
I do not believe it can be done.

The universe is sacred.
You cannot improve it.
If you try to change it, you will ruin it.
If you try to hold it, you will lose it.

So sometimes things are ahead and sometimes they are behind;
Sometimes breathing is hard, sometimes it comes easily;
Sometimes there is strength and sometimes weakness;
Sometimes one is up and sometimes down.

Therefore the sage avoids extremes, excesses, and complacency.

If we do not first transform our minds, transform the way we think about ourselves, the world, God, the Universe, everything, we'll just continue to muck up everything we put our hands to. You see ecological breakdown, you see unhappy people, you see failing political and economic systems: this is what I mean.

Likewise, in the words of Sri Ramana Maharshi: Wanting to reform the world without discovering one's true self is like trying to cover the world with leather to avoid the pain of walking on stones and thorns. It is much simpler to wear shoes.

Jesus said something similar:

First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

The outward journey and the inward journey are the same journey.

More philosophical Alan Watts goodies on podcast.

Ashevillage blog totally happenin

Check out the Ashevillage Institute blog...very groovy.

Ashevillage is a sustainability and self-reliant living education center in Asheville, NC. The people there are super cool - you should go visit, maybe take one of their workshops.

See also


Word up.

Interactive Travel Magazine

Attention travelers, current and prospective: Matador has recently launched a huge interactive travel website.

There's all kind of cool stuff up there - check it out.