Saturday, July 19, 2008

victory garden of the week - July 14

making my little piece of the world just a little greener (post gazette)
(T)his year, something inside went "click." All those articles about decreasing one's carbon footprint by using locally grown food finally sank in. And what could be more local than the plot of crabgrass right outside the door, which thus far has existed for the sole purpose of being mowed? Couldn't it be put to better use?
Now I find myself coming home from work each night and marveling at how fast the stalks and leaves have shot up and proliferated with basically no effort on our part. Mother Nature helped too, providing so much rain in the early weeks that we didn't have to water.

The banks will never foreclose on your fresh tomatoes. Watch for slugs.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Las Vegas in winter

Down and out in Las Vegas The Independent
With Americans cutting back on luxuries, and the price of transport rocketing, the so-called "Vegas vacation" is facing the axe. This week, as the nation celebrated Independence Day, major hotels were taking stock of a fall in all-important room occupancy rates from their usually impressive 95 per cent levels to nearer 80 per cent.
Local bankruptcies have quadrupled. The property market, which rode the wave of a boom for most of the past decade is now below its peak by anything from a quarter to a third (depending on whose figures you believe), while Nevada now boasts, if that is the right word, the nation's highest foreclosure rate. The number of empty homes has caused a health scare after it emerged that mosquitoes – possibly carrying the killer West Nile virus – are breeding in abandoned swimming pools.

Even as the air wheezes out of the bag, one wonders how mindful Americans are of the permanently changing landscape. High gas prices, recessions, and even depressions are not new to North America. Everyone wants this whole mess to turn the corner - sweep out out the rats, bring on the new President, a new day, and perhaps falling gasoline prices after the coast is drilled for sweet black gold. Smart cars will be docked into Hummers instead of replacing them.

America is a population that is among the least equipped in history to handle a systemic collapse. People died slowly on live TV during the Katrina disaster. Americans love their media, not their neighbors. Those who are planning their next gambling run down in the casinos just as soon as ticket prices come down and the card gets paid off have no idea at present that this day will likely never come.

The primary hubris of the energized civilization is the power switch. It is such a casual weakness. Nothing happens without it. We're not built to do without it, and most of us don't even know how it works.

It is a strange feeling of unease as an individual, to finally face these weaknesses in our culture for real. The real news is still ignored, while many are ready to start dreaming of the housing collapse turning around, or what have you.

Imagining a herd of robot consumer narcissists when they begin to feel peckish is a nightmare scenario. We've all built our cocoons, our personal worlds, each of us a perverse cockroach in our own right, ready to come boiling out into the streets as soon as the system changes.

Perhaps I should grow a really long beard.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

victory garden(s) of the week - July 8

Growing front-yard food can rile neighbors (ap/cnn)
Some of the neighbors are less than thrilled. Some municipal codes limit the percentage of a yard that can be planted with anything other than trees and grass.
"Especially in the first three years, I got a lot of code violations," said Bob Waldrop of Oklahoma City. He planted his corner lot almost entirely with fruit trees, berry bushes and vegetables.
An anonymous complaint about Karen Baumann's front-yard garden in Sacramento, California led to a fight by local gardeners against the city's landscaping code, which stated that gardens could take up no more than 30 percent of the front yard.
After a public hearing where Baumann's 11-year-old twin sons testified, dressed as a carrot and a tomato, the city changed the law.

When the neighbors complain about front yard vegetables, defacing their John McCain for President lawn signs (as inedible as the chem grown grass they extrude from) probably won't help change any opinions.

And the sqawking of pigs and chickens may not win over hearts and minds in the short term. I do find it interesting that in my burb this summer, a cock crows a-morn, apparently a new arrival from last year, although I haven't located his habitat nor harem yet.

Have patience with ignorant grass-centric neighbors. Before long, they'll be seeking guidance.

Monday, July 07, 2008

a cult of finitism and other futures

Back when this blog began, I knew things. I knew them confidently. As time went on, the more I learned, the less I knew. Yet there is a value in knowing something confidently.

You've got something jingling in your pocket right now. The petro dollar. Right now you can literally use it to buy things of lasting value. This icon won't hold value forever. A penny saved is a penny burned. Buy real things. Swords and plows. Seed corn.
Oil itself is not part of the living Earth. Buying a cell phone or a new TV is like planting a dollar bill in the ground. It will not grow, it will not bear fruit.
- - -
So, how long can it go on? Hold up one hand and count some fingers. There you go. That is a good estimate, in years, for how long we have before peak oil hits.

Part of my detachment from this space is peak ennui. Things haven’t changed much in the last few years. Yes, the supposedly predictive became reality, the peak is effectively in. Yet rank and file North American are content to debate pepsi coke and “opening up” coastal areas to drilling. And the throttle has stuck on the dollar printing machine. Quick, what is that word, the one that describes a person who feels gravity does not apply to them?


This a transitional age. Our energized civilization is in a liminal state. From here on, the strange unknowns rule, Britney Spears is in a haired / hairless state until observed. Everyone at General Motors scratches their heads and wonders how small next years Hummer might be made, and if it perhaps may qualify for a carbon credit if the dashboard is carved out of California charcoal. Call it the Hummer: Gore Edition and hedge some bets.

So out of all this uncertainty, there are yet things I know confidently. Much of it refernced elsewhere, notably the Energy Bulletin.

Oil – the top isn’t in.
Production hovers like a flying saucer between 80 and 90 million barrels a day. There is will stay, until it breaks south forever, probably around 2010 all else being equal. So c’mon – a little relief at the pump? I mean, sixty dollars to fill twelve gallons, that isn’t the way Eisenhower drew it up!
Go ahead, waste air and blame investor speculation. All the countries with dollar reserves and large economies are content to bid up the price of oil, knowing it is one of the few ways to get value out of the increasingly pathetic petro dollar. Then they turn around and subsidize domestic supplies. China does this. And why not. What else can they use their dollars for, other than cleaning algae out of their pond for the Olympics?
The interesting thing here is that the losers are ostensibly Americans, because no one in America has any dollar reserves. (Never mind Zimbabweans.) Less trips! Shorter distances! This is not my beautiful non-negotiable lifestyle.
As the economy deteriorates, demand destruction will NOT take place immediately. There are too many dollars sloshing about. Look for oil to settle between $175 and $200 a barrel by the end of the year as a best case.

Will the last person out of town turn off the lights.

Even as the Department of Homeland Security spends billions on police state gadgets to “secure” the airlines, the airlines are teetering. This is not a surprise to anyone who thinks about energy. But what happens the day half the airlines go out of business, and the remaining airlines index prices right to fuel costs instead of trying to undercut each other?

On that day, with a glut of serviceable planes grounded by fuel prices, all pending orders to Boeing and Airbus will be canceled for the next ten years. Boeing, within spitting distance of where I live, is no small part of the local economy in Washington State. In fact, this will be devastating to the local economy, and will probably be the signal of real demand destruction. Skilled union members will be left to poach rabbits down by the freeway and cultivate taters. (Where are these people going to go – Arizona? Water falls out of the sky in Washington State.)

The sad subtext to this story is Boeing is developing a fuel efficient plane known as the “Dreamliner”, supposedly in part because some manager at Boeing read Deffeyes “Hubbert’s Peak”, yet this plane has not yet been delivered and looks to miss the sweet part of the market, the one where planes are acquired new.

Beef – it is what was for dinner
When deciding where to lay our corn bets, one must figure on heavily subsidized bio-fuel distilleries surviving to produce a welfare fuel which provides 15 percent less energy by volume than gasoline. (I wish I could get a piece of that action, but I have no ties to organized crime.) Meanwhile, unable to afford feed, ranchers will continue to thin down their herds of steak racks, keeping prices low today, and raising the price of meat through the roof next year after the full weight of the Midwest floods ripples through the commodities market.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

victory garden of the week - July 1