Wednesday, December 30, 2009

From the Ground Up: Creating a Year-Round Sustainable Food System

When we think about our basic needs, creating a secure year-round food supply rises to the top. While our Federal Government supplied billions of dollars to support the crumbling financial system and auto industry, we see a much more critical need to direct funds to help Americans grow food close to where they live. We see American food security as a critical need that requires our best thinkers and attention. to bring back farming close to where we live and to make food production economically viable. 

As you may know, most of your food currently travels thousands of miles to reach your local market. With increasing oil prices coupled with unpredictable and more intense weather patterns draught and crop failure may become more common. It may not be that far in the future when one goes to the grocery store to see more expensive food items and empty spaces on the shelves.

Over the next two weeks we will be preparing a grant to submit to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). This new USDA Planning Grant is designed to fund special events to bring together diverse groups of experts to help solve a regional or national problem. We are focusing on assembling a group of individuals with expertise in solar greenhouse design and manufacturing, renewable energy production, compost manufacturing, seed production, urban agriculture, agricultural economy, and land planning and zoning.  Our goal is to convene a focused gathering in 2010 to develop a plan for national implementation to create an economically viable and biologically secure year-round urban food growing and distribution system.

As many of you know, we are experienced meeting planners, having put together over a dozen regional and national meetings for the cohousing industry since 1992.
We have already contacted a number of national experts in the areas mentioned above who have agreed to participate if we are awarded the grant to focus on solutions for year round urban farming.

Since this USDA planning grant is based on matching funds, the USDA will match dollar for dollar actual funds raised or presenters contributing their time as an in-kind donation. Matching funds need to be in place at the time of the grant submittal by January 14, 2010. We welcome your input on individuals, companies and organizations you think would wish to participate in this meeting either as a presenter or as a donor. If you have ideas, please contact us as soon as possible. We will continue to post updated material about the USDA Planning Grant on our website.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

5 Tips for Prepairing for Peak Oil

Preparing for peak oil is just common sense.

By Sami Grover Chapel Hill, NC, USA
sami grover photo
Sami Grover

Back when gas was expensive, and food prices were rising alarmingly, it seemed like everyone was talking about Peak Oil. But fast-forward to today and folks have conveniently forgotten how reliant our entire way of life is on the sticky black stuff (and how quickly it can all unravel if supplies start to dwindle). But recent murmurings from anonymous whistle blowers at the International Energy Agency suggest that global oil reserves may be lower than reported. Much lower.
Whether peak oil means, as many people argue, the end of civilization as we know it, or simply a painful and challenging reordering of the status quo, remains a matter of debate. But either way, it makes sense to prepare yourself. Even if peak oil remains decades away, many of the things you should do to prepare for peak oil and other calamities are also simply prudent common sense, not to mention a great way of cutting your carbon emissions. So here's a list of 5 ideas to get you started preparing for peak oil—apocalypse or not.

5 Steps to Start Preparing for Peak Oil

1. Start a Garden: From learning about permaculture to planting fruit and nut trees to starting a no-dig garden, learning to grow your own food, and making sure the infrastructure is in place to do so, can be a great way to insularte yourself from future shocks—be they environmental or economic. If you are seriously worried about coming instability, it makes sense to concentrate on fruit trees and perennials first—,once you've dug an asparagus bed or planted a pear tree, you'll be enjoying harvests for years to come.
2. Green Your Home: From insulating your roof to installing low energy light bulbs, everything you do to green your home will also put you in better stead if and when energy prices rise dramatically. And if you're a believer in more profound shocks from peak oil, why not look at generating some of your own power by installing solar panels?
3. Live Within Your Means: Learning to limit your spending is not always thought of as a green activity, but it is definitely wise if you want to become more resilient to economic or social disturbance. And buying less stuff means producing less pollution too, so it's a win-win for the planet and your finances, whether peak oil is around the corner or not.You may also want to look at cutting debt, or paying off that mortgage—recent events show just how fragile our economic system can be. You could even try living mortgage-free!
4. De-oil Your Transport: Along with food and housing, transportation is one of the most energy intensive activities in the average person's life, and unlike energy used in our homes, transportation energy is almost completely reliant on oil. So look at ways you can cut back on oil use— and try to think beyond the obvious. From biking to work to carpooling to taking mass transit, cutting your transportation footprint often saves you money too. And if you want to get really serious, you can work from home. Even driving more carefully will save you money on gas.
5. Campaign for Action: Cutting your personal oil consumption is commendable, but peak oil is a societal problem. So do what you can to educate your friends, to mobilize your community, and to call for action on a political level. Whether you are calling for stricter fuel economy standards or starting a community garden, collective action makes us all more resilient to coming challenges. Take a look at our guide on How to Green Your Community for more ideas.