Posts tagged global

HOW TO: Create a Seed Bank

As another hurricane bears down on the gulf coast, one has to wonder whether the glass half empty crowd which has been predicting increased damage in upcoming years due to natural disaster is correct. Nature does go in cycles, and we may end up laughing off current pessimism about the planet’s inability to regulate herself. But current data does suggest that we are facing at the least a massive migration of plants and animal species to inhabit new regions of the planet. Global environmental organizations are already seeing plant and animal species move to new elevations of previously frigid territory and dead zones showing up in previously fertile areas.

Perhaps the hardest adjustment we as humans will have to make, provided we don’t all take each other out first, is that of food supply.  When the local soils no longer support the crops to which we’re accustomed, we’ll be faced with two choices: move, or learn to cultivate something new.  This migratory period will be critical to the existence of all life on earth.  By creating and maintaining seed banks, we are helping to sustain the biological diversity of life on earth.  This is the aim of the latest biological depository established in Scandinavia, into which governments from around the world are locking seed samples in preservatory conditions in case of Doomsday.

But while the establishment of such seed banks are admirable, the greatest potential for preserving biological diversity lies with the individual.  After all, your grandmother’s mint patch that grows in your backyard probably isn’t on the seed registry’s radar, and neither are your neighbor’s prize heirloom sunflowers.  For any planet to sustain a wide diversity of genetic material, it is we, the people, who will have to stash away the genetic legacy of our lives thusfar as a gift to the future.  So why not get started now?

Making a seed bank is ridiculously easy.  You could well go from a single set of seeds to more than you could ever plant within the span of a single growing season.  Of course, seeds are most fertile when fresh, but stored under the right conditions, most seeds will last for years.  It is a good practice to plant from your seed bank each year, and replenish the stock with fresh seed over the growing season.  This way, most of your seed stays fresh at any time.

Now, how to get started?  First, buy an pack of little brown paper envelopes, or even just a package of writing envelopes.  Then stash a few in your pocketbook, briefcase, or car, and start hunting!  Every time you see a particularly beautiful tree in fruit, a really nice flower, or healthy looking seed grasses, take a handful of seeds, pat them dry if they are wet (say from being removed from their protective fruit coverings to prevent rot), and place them in the envelope.  Be sure to label the outside of the package with what type of plant (if you don’t know, just describe it as best possible), the date on which you collected it, and ideally, where you found it. Then transfer your sealed envelopes to a cool dry storage place next time you are home, to keep the seeds from germinating and then dying from lack of soil nutrition. Then you simply hit the road again and look for more!  Most people won’t mind you taking a handful of anything from their lawn, but certainly some tact and discretion are in order always.

The next step in a successful seed bank is to increase the diversity through exchange with others. In most towns there are groups of seed savers who get together periodically to have exchanges, in which you give a little to get a little of something else.  This is the true gem of seed collection. You are gaining access to the best of all local areas, all of which should be relatively well suited to cultivation in your area, simply for having an eagle eye in your own neighborhood.

As with all great ventures, the best time to get started is before everyone else catches on. That way, when seeds become more scarce, you’ll already be a practiced veteran of the seed trade.  This is truly a return to the simpler life our parents parents experienced, and is a selfless act of philanthropy you can complete without spending a dime.

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World Peace Index

World Peace Index 2008

A brilliant site, the world peace index from VisionOfHumanity.org is a year-by-year graphical comparison of the nations of the earth based on their peaceful existence. When visiting this site, you can not only check out the map (2008’s is reprinted above), you can also see how the countries stack up against each other and read more about the various qualifications used to make the comparison.

When I visited the site, I took advantage of the comparison feature which lets you compare up to five countries side by side. I chose the United States and two countries I thought would fall on either side of the US in the stack. Switzerland, Syria, Ghana, and Peru. Boy was I in for a surprise. All you fellow freedom-loving Americans, we came in dead last in this heat. Yep, the “land of the free and the home of the brave” ranks a dismal 97th in world peace of around 200 nations. Don’t send that report card home to momma!

Check out this great site today to learn more about why we did so poorly, or to figure out where you’ll head when the inevitable grid-crash arrives.

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Quickie – Food Politics

Here’s a link to a good article about what’s happening to our global food supplies, and why it’s translating to more at the register.

Read the full story here

The Presidential Candidates

As we deepen into our self-created oil and energy crisis, we can only expect more articles like this, and more future costs, not fewer. Consider planting a garden if you don’t have one already. It takes a bit of trial and error to discover how particular plants grow. If you have something you “can’t live without”, try growing it a few times. Soon, it may be the only way for you to get it!

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First Mixed-Use Energy Positive Building in the World

Wow! That’s all I can think when viewing pictures of the first building planned to grace zero waste, zero carbon emission Masdar City, in the United Arab Emirates. It’s beautiful! And, most importantly, its enormous solar roof will generate more energy than the building uses… enough to power the construction of the rest of the building! The building is designed by Chicago architecture firm Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill (AS + GG). Click the link above for more details.

Large-scale projects like this are what it’s going to take to get solar design into the mainstream of architecture.

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2007: an Analysis of the Renewable Power Industry

Consider these facts, taken from the Renewables 2007 Global Status Report:

  • Renewable electricity generation capacity reached an estimated 240 gigawatts (GW) worldwide in 2007, an increase of 50 percent over 2004. Renewables represent 5 percent of global power capacity and 3.4 percent of global power generation. (Figures exclude large hydropower, which itself was 15 percent of global power generation.)

  • Renewable energy generated as much electric power worldwide in 2006 as one-quarter of the world’s nuclear power plants, not counting large hydropower. (And more than nuclear counting large hydropower.)

  • The largest component of renewables generation capacity is wind power, which grew by 28 percent worldwide in 2007 to reach an estimated 95 GW. Annual capacity additions increased even more: 40 percent higher in 2007 compared to 2006.

  • The fastest growing energy technology in the world is grid-connected solar photovoltaics (PV), with 50 percent annual increases in cumulative installed capacity in both 2006 and 2007, to an estimated 7.7 GW. This translates into 1.5 million homes with rooftop solar PV feeding into the grid worldwide.

  • Rooftop solar heat collectors provide hot water to nearly 50 million households worldwide, and space heating to a growing number of homes. Existing solar hot water/heating capacity increased by 19 percent in 2006 to reach 105 gigawatts-thermal (GWth) globally.

Alternative Energy is (very) ready for its time in the spotlight.  With the quick adoption rates that these numbers reflect, one can only wonder how long it will be until 50 or even 75% of our power could be renewable.

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Trashing our Oceans

Stuck in a rut trying to motivate yourself toward a greener life? Here’s an animation that you should see. Greenpeace – The Journey of Trash . Just click on the link above to view it.

Plastic Beach, Hawaii

If you want to help the world out in some tangible way TODAY, just take a look in your trash can. See a lot of plastic? Remember that these days, recycling companies are able to take many more types of plastics than even a few years ago. According to one site I visited recently, there is enough dissolved plastic in our oceans to place a saran wrap thickness of it over the surface of every ocean on earth. And most of that is in little tiny bits, which sea animals easily mistake for plankton and other small prey. If, as recent studies have shown, you absorb plastic chemicals into your body when drinking from plastic containers (see this USA Today article for starters), then imagine what eating a fish who’s spent his life dining on plastics might do. Scary thought. Every piece of trash that you recycle is one less that can find its way out to sea. As it stands now, there are areas of the ocean so think with floating trash that shipping boats can’t even pass through them, so they route their ships around them, using more fuel.

When I first heard about the “North Pacific Gyre” as the largest water landfill on earth is called, it seemed impossible. Why not just load it up on ships and haul it back to port for proper(ish) burial? But the problem is, we put so much INTO the ocean every year, even with dredging, we’d hardly be able to keep up. So do yourself, and the planet, a favor today. Make a commitment to put ONE LESS PIECE of non-biodegradable trash into your trash can, whether you find another use for it, you buy a product with less packaging, or you take another look at what might be recyclable in your can. One. How hard is that? Do that every day for a month (okay baby steppers, start with a week), imagine how happy the fish (and the people in Alaska, Russia and Japan!) will be. That’s reason enough for me!

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Inspiration around the globe – Greenstar.org

It’s always encouraging, when sitting down to tackle a problem, to have a little advice or inspiration from someone who’s been in your shoes before. For a really nice example of a program that “walks the walk” when it comes to solar living, check out Greenstar.org.

Greenstar.org
This program constructs solar community centers, which become a place for local people to meet and create art together. In fact, you’ll find a nice selection of music on their site from around the globe… and all recorded with solar power! Here’s a sample from Jamaica: Like A Dove.mp3

The Greenstar system includes a truly impressive array of functions for user communities. Water purification and storage, satellite internet access, cellular phone services, a solar-powered vaccine cooler, an e-commerce business server, computer-based language translation, and a public-access touchscreen to access the web. Wow! I was especially pleased to discover that these creative philanthropists are based right here in Los Angeles. You can be sure I’ll be taking a field trip to pick their brains as this experiment progresses.

If they can do all of this within a little hut, imagine what you can do with whatever space you control!

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