a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

Archive for October, 2007

The Change on Offsetting

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

by Jerry Stifelman, The Change Strategy




There has been controversy about offsets on two levels. I will respond to each below:

1. Do they work? For example, the value of planting trees as an offset is highly questionable and we do not support this method except in specific circumstances. The offsets we recommend are made by investing in projects that add clean energy to the grid (such as wind projects), that abate greenhouse gasses (such as landfill capping) and that improve industrial efficiency by directly taking carbon credits off the market via the Chicago Climate Exchange.

2. Are offsets the modern equivalent of medieval indulgences? Are they giving people a license to keep emitting carbon? This argument would only be valid if individuals and companies were making the choice between offsetting emissions or avoiding them entirely. For life and business to go on, we need to travel occasionally, we need computer servers and we need electricity. Most environmentalists, ourselves included, see offsets as a necessary piece of the equation to mitigate climate change.

Baby Steps to Green Parenting

Monday, October 29th, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

As a parent, you’re worried about the unsustainable future your kids are bound to inherit, yet you also want them to have the “right stuff”. And sometimes, those that have the most invested in the future (parents) have the most trouble adopting a lifestyle that will protect it. We’ve all become overly influenced by media and cultural norms which can keep you from making rational, logical and yes, the healthiest decisions for your children. It applies to choosing clothing, toys, vehicles, food, activities, school supplies…and then there’s that whole diaper dilemma. Add to the mix, a typical youth enamored with what he sees on television and competes with in school and it may be tempting for Mom and Dad to throw in the green towel.

It doesn’t have to be that way. The truth is, green-minded parents never had it so good. Resources supporting sustainable child-raising are plentiful. Start by reassessing your child’s needs and desires from the start. Trust your instincts, not advertisers or neighbors. Think back to basics and you can’t go wrong. After all we’ve learned about the dioxins and pvcs in plastics, finding alternatives in toys and bottles is a good start. Check local sources first, then shop online for organic and fairly made baby supplies. Hemp is the rage in anti-bacterial reusable diapers – check them out and learn more at a family-owned and operated business like Better For Babies.

It gets harder as the babies become “I want it now” youngsters, but hold your ground – they will thank you for it later. Keeping your kids out of harms way does not just mean on the playground or in the parking lot. Protect their short and long-term health from pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, chemicals, fast food, and refined sugar/salt. If it sounds like a big job, it is – but only until you get re-acquainted with the wonderful world of organic, whole foods (and other Wise Traditions) and natural materials. Then, it’s a no-brainer that will nourish both the planet and the health of your family for years to come.

If you’ve primed your green kid in the early years, they will approach adolescence and young adulthood with a growing sense of importance and understanding, yet nonchalance, in their [sustainable] choices. Keep the lines of communication open – it’s not a done deal yet. With your support and encouragement, conservation of resources will be a comfortable habit, forming many decisions throughout their lives. There are many resources available to help you teach your kids about environmental stewardship. And hopefully, by this time, those choices and commitments will not be seen as “alternative” but as the new/old cultural norm that fosters a sense of responsibility towards people, animals and the planet.

Now, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

Billions and Counting – population peril

Friday, October 26th, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

The topic of our rapidly growing population is certainly a sticky mess. No politician and very few people will touch it – I almost didn’t on this blog. But, here goes.

Reproduction is the root of life, but as our planet moves towards a population of 9 billion people, it becomes a simple matter of another one of nature’s systems – supply and demand. As one of the century’s most influential scientists, James Lovelock, concludes (in a feature article on climate change published in this month’s issue of Rolling Stone Magazine), “We have just exceeded all reasonable bounds in numbers. And from a purely biological view, any species that does that has a crash.”

Not many things can have as immediate an effect on the sustainability issues of our time like a decrease in population. Air quality, landfill space, carbon emissions, food shortage, water shortage, crime, health risks – you name it, the overpopulation problem is involved.

What is a human-centric world to do? Granted, we can’t resort to implementing frightening controls or laws, but how about a bigger push for awareness that allows people to make informed, personal and practical choices? Providing more programs that address birth control in developing countries as well as in school systems everywhere can address both population and health issues. Some European countries have recently achieved a balanced or declining birth rate – it’s indeed possible. This is a touchy subject, but a necessary one.

From a young age, I made the conscious decision to not have biological children in direct response to overpopulation issues (as well as the feeling that I did not wish to try to raise a child in competition with the overwhelming materialism and constricts of this culture). I don’t expect this to be the popular choice for many, but for those who have joined me, I encourage you to follow whatever path calls to you rather than what society, or even biology, dictates or expects. Although the child-free choice itself is sometimes subject to a cultural stigma, there’s not much truth in it. As we all know, there are many ways (including adoption) to fulfill a life purpose and contribute outside of yourself other than procreation. Be open to them all and consider all the issues and make a conscious and practical choice.


Thursday, October 25th, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

My twin sister lives near Lake Tahoe and she called the other day to tell me the first snow had come early this year – she was standing in the canyon, looking up at it just then. We were silent for a moment, both of us, I’m certain, thinking wistfully of the long, beautifully snow-covered Winters of our childhood in Minnesota. Those days seem far away – not by measure of years, but by the measure of lacking snow. Just as we now reveled in an October snowfall, we were simultaneously sobered by the fact that this was not an indication of “business as usual” in terms of nature. As temperatures rise, annual snowfall throughout the world have been decreasing rapidly over decades. Winter sports may soon be a thing of the past.

Of course, in this culture, denial runs deep. Ski resorts have been making supplemental snow for dry periods for a long time and I’m sure they’ll continue to fill the air with CO2 emissions via snowmakers for a long time yet. But, making your own snow at home? Now I know just how spoiled we have become and that nature can’t seem to speak to us loudly enough.

Do you know about this? When Winter is a no-show, instead of worrying about it, we just rub our hands together like mad scientists and find yet another non-sustainable way to get what we want. Much to my surprise and dismay, I’ve discovered that companies in the U.S. have been selling home snowmakers since 2000 and sales “have hit every state except Hawaii” say the owners of Snow At Home. (Sorry, if you want a link to this, you’re gonna have to find it yourself.) I guess our SUVs, luxury boats, motor homes and swimming pools aren’t enough. We gotta have it – all.

I don’t know…just how long can we continue to have our planet and eat it, too?

Drought – month 6. It Rained Today

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007



“Humankind — despite its artistic pretensions, its sophistication, and its many accomplishments —- owes its existence to a six-inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains.”

– Source unknown

Dr. Rudolf Steiner – the journey to wholeness

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

As you know by now, I deeply believe that a yoga practice can change the way you are in the world, but keep in mind that there are many methods of growing within and outside the self . I think of them as Sister-paths. Become curious and disciplined in your quest for knowledge and truth and you will find what speaks to you. Enjoy more from Greg on the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner below. Changingly Yours, Tao

by Greg Gillette, Asheville, NC
Besides the many meditations that Dr. Steiner indicated, he emphasized the importance of the six basic exercises or attributes. These six exercises were developed to strengthen and balance our thinking, feeling and willing and to awaken and cultivate the higher being within ourselves. The exercises contribute to the development of higher organs of spiritual perception and to the creation of a sturdy bridge between the physical and spiritual worlds. The six exercises consist of the following:

1) Mastery of Thought Formation
2) Mastery over Impulses of the Will
3) Equanimity in Regard to Happiness and Sorrow
4) Positivity in Forming Judgments
5) Open-Mindedness (A Lack of Preconceptions)
6) Inner Balance (The Harmonious Blending of All Five Exercises)

These exercises coupled with prayer and various meditations will place you on the path to higher spiritual knowledge and to a more balanced and harmonious physical and spiritual life.

A few inspiring thoughts, by Dr. Steiner, to mediate upon:

“In thinking, I experience myself united with the stream of cosmic existence.”

“Time must be taken to observe things as though we were inside the things themselves with our thinking. We should submerge ourselves in the things and enter into their inner thought activity.”

“In thy thinking, cosmic thoughts are living; lose thyself in cosmic thoughts. In thy feeling, cosmic forces are weaving; feel thyself through cosmic forces. In thy willing, cosmic beings are working; create thyself through beings of will.”

To obtain more information and knowledge about the six exercises, meditation and the work of Rudolf Steiner, I recommend the following books by Dr. Steiner:


How To Know the Higher Worlds

And the following book by Christopher Bamford:
Start Now: A book of soul and spiritual exercises

Worm Wranglers – the future of waste

Friday, October 19th, 2007

By Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Here at our co-housing community, we’ve got people who willingly share their knowledge and skills, whether it is growing vegetables, managing outdoor compost piles, hosting honey bee colonies, tending butterflies or watching over chickens. So I wasn’t surprised when I was invited to attend a day of worm wrangling – learning how to house and feed your very own composting “wigglers”. All I needed was a tub with a lid and some compost scraps – redworms and snacks provided – gummy worms, of course. Here’s Susan rounding up a few.

Vermicomposting (using worms to decompose food waste offers many advantages – it turns kitchen waste into nutritious soil for plants, decreases waste collection. It’s surprising low maintenance and produces less odor than traditional composting. Each person produceds approximately 2 – 3 pounds of food scraps per week. One pound of worms will eat about 4 pounds of scraps per week. A 2 x 3-foot box is suitable for 4 – 6 people and they will live happily contained in any convenient space in your home, basement or garage.

Large scale worm farms, currently at work in Hong Kong, are part of a initiative to deal with the growing amount of waste and the equally growing shortage of landfill space in many areas throughout the world. You can watch the worms at work and hear from a worm “farmer” here. Or, find your way into the world of worm wrangling here.

Rain From the Roof – the new harvest

Thursday, October 18th, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Our co-housing community received a shipment of rain barrels a couple weeks ago. I bought 2 for now and will probably add a couple more. They are made from recycled barrels by a local manufacturer, Mark Ray (919-636-1690). They are screened to keep out insects and have a hose hook up and overflow spout. Rain Barrels make a lot of sense and they are easy to install under a gutter spout. Even a brief rain shower can send gallons of water off of a roof and into your barrel in just a few minutes. They each hold 55 gallons of water (larger barrels are readily available).

That sounds like a lot these days considering our daily usage during this unprecedented, 6-month drought that has left trees dead and water reservoirs at or below 50% capacity. We’ve learned to live boat-wise and I have to say, it’s not all that bad, once you get used to it. We each get one flush a day (ask me how!), take super-short Navy-style showers with the faucet turned to half force and wash dishes camping style. I might even say it’s been fun in a challenging way. We’ll get some rain today and hopefully pull out of the extreme dryness sooner than later. Still, my family will always stick to our water-saving ways since climate change and growing populations will continue to stress fresh water supplies. In other words, Evolve or Die.

Harvesting rain water is not a new idea. There are many low and high-tech systems now available for homeowners, farmers and commercial businesses. And once you’ve filled your tank, the experts can show you how to reuse and recycle your water for indoor or outdoor use and even as an alternative to conventional septic systems. For more information, visit Integrated Water Strategies at

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