Tuesday, March 31 I saw Andreas Kraemer, International Institute for Advanced Sustainability in Pottsdam, founder of the Ecological Institute of Berlin, and currently associated with Duke University, speak at both Harvard and MIT. His subject was the German Energiewende, energy turnaround, energy tack (as in sailing), or energy transition, and also the title of a book published in 1980 (Energiewende by Von F. Krause, H. Bossel and K. F. Müller-Reissmann) 1980 which described how to power Germany without fossil fuels or nuclear, partially a response to the oil shocks of the 1970s, and probably the beginning of the nuclear phase-out. Chernobyl in 1986 gave another shove in that direction and continues to do so as Chernobyl is still happening in Germany with radioactive contamination of soils, plants, animals, and Baltic Sea fish.
In 1990 the feedin tariff began but it was not started for solar. It was originally intended to give displaced hydroelectric capacity in conservative Bavaria a market and a bill was passed in Parliament very quickly, supported by the Conservatives (Blacks) in consensus with the Greens and Reds as they all agreed on incentizing renewable, local energy production through a feedin tariff on utility bills. Cross party consensus on this issue remains today. This is not a subsidy but an incentive with the costs paid by the customers. The feedin tariff has a period of 20 years and some have been retired.
Solar began with the 1000 roofs project in 1991-1994. There are 1.7 million solar roofs now although, currently, Spain and Portugal have faster solar growth rates than Germany. Renewables provide 27% of electricity, have created 80,000-100,000 new jobs directly in the industry, up to 300,000 if indirect jobs are added, and is contributing 40 billion euros per year to the German economy. By producing energy domestically Germany has built a local industry, increased tax revenue and Social Security payments, and maintained a better balance of trade through import substitution. During the recession that began in 2008, Germany had more economic stability and was even able to expand the renewable sector because steel for wind turbine towers was available at lower prices and financing was forthcoming.
Thrive Solar Energy Pvt Ltd is a leading solar powered LED lighting solutions provider from India, offering
"14 types of solar powered LED lights that cater to the lighting needs of children, women, households and villages. Its lights are used by tea estate workers, farmers, weavers, vendors, dairy and any other village level vocation that is in need of a clean, safe and reliable light. Thrive Solar partners with NGOs, women Self Help Groups (SHGs), Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs), funding agencies, banks, donors, educational institutions and businesses to promote and distribute its lighting products to bottom of the pyramid (BOP) communities, located in off-grid and intermittently grid connected geographies."
Thrive is making 2 million lights per year at a price as low as $2 per lamp and are projecting 4 million per year production soon. They do not sell directly to consumers but through the different agencies with which they work. Nearly half of India still uses 12 lumen candles and 40 lumen kerosene lamps which can be replaced with 60 lumen solar lights. Currently, the Indian government subsidizes kerosene and paraffin prices by $6 billion per year. Thrive says it can provide solar lights to every Indian family now for about $1 billion.
A group of people from the Occupy Wall Street movement is collaborating with the climate change advocacy group 350.org and a new online toolkit for disaster recovery, recovers.org, to organize a grassroots relief effort in New York City.
The combination of the jobs and economic focus of Occupy with the climate change and energy transition ideas of 350.org along with the disaster recovery systems of Recovers.org is a model that can build resilience and preparedness quickly if continued. Add Solar IS Civil Defense, set the Maker Culture loose, and it just might shade over into Solar Swadeshi, Gandhian economics, a non-violent and restorative open source peer-to-peer economic system where we plan for 100% success for all humanity, to paraphrase R Buckminster Fuller.
Solar water disinfection
http://www.sodis.ch/index_EN A two liter plastic bottle can be made into a water treatment system simply by filling it with contaminated water and exposing it to the sun. Sodis is an organization that promotes this technology around the world.
The disinfection process can be speeded by turning aluminized mylar snack food bags inside out and making them into reflectors as two young students in Belo Horizonte, Brazil discovered: http://calais.phase2technology...
In 2002, during a long electrical shortage, at Uberaba, São Paulo, Brasil, Mr Alfredo Moser discovered a way to gather sun light in the house through plastic bottles hanging from the roof. First shown at the Globo Reporter in the 25th May 2007.
Alfredo Moser was pressed by a scarce electricity substitution and found out that he could light his house with a bottle of water filled with water and a protection cap made of camera film.
The bottle is just refracting sunlight very effectively and produces an equivalent light power compared to a 50/60W lamp. In a rainy day, even without much light and direct sun, one still have some light. Scientist have now visited Moser and are looking into ways to take this concept to maximize its potential.
The New Economics Institute, in lead-up to the 100th Anniversary of writer and philosopher E.F. Schumacher's birth on August 16th, sent out excerpts from a 2008 essay about Schumacher's relevance today:
"The Relevance of E. F. Schumacher in the 21st Century" By John Fullerton
Our global economic system is broken not because of the credit crisis; it is broken because it is predicated on perpetual, resource driven growth with no recognition of scale limitations.
What we are not hearing, at least in the mainstream media, is a critical reframing of the questions that address root causes..... We are not hearing a debate about the sustainability of a perpetually growing global economic system nested within our finite biosphere. We are not hearing a debate about the wisdom of allowing financial power (and systemic risk) to be increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few financial institutions of increasing complexity and scale. We are not publicly questioning the wisdom of the system we have allowed to evolve in response to capital's quest for ever increasing financial returns. Nor are we debating where to look for creative responses.
However, nothing could be more important at this critical time. What we must grasp is that the financial crisis we are reacting to is but a cyclical side show to the bigger issues we face regarding the sustainability of our economic system. We should see the present financial crisis as a wake up call to this far greater challenge. We should search with an open mind for the wisdom we need to transition our economic system onto a sustainable path, grounded in ecological reality, with a respect for human justice and a deep appreciation for all life.
There may well be a be a better name than "steady-state economy", (SSE) but both the classical economists (especially John Stuart Mill) and the past few decades of discussion, not to mention CASSE's good work, have given considerable currency to "steady-state economy" both as concept and name. Also both the name and concept of a "steady state" are independently familiar to demographers, population biologists, and physicists. The classical economists used the term "stationary state" but meant by it exactly what we mean by steady-state economy-briefly, a constant population and stock of physical wealth. We have added the condition that these stocks should be maintained constant by a low rate entropic throughput, one that is well within the regenerative and assimilative capacities of the ecosystem. Any new name for this idea should be sufficiently better to compensate for losing the advantages of historical continuity and interdisciplinary familiarity. Also, SSE conveys the recognition of biophysical constraints and the intention to live within them economically-which is exactly why it can't help evoking some initial negative reaction in a growth-dominated world. There is an honesty and forthright clarity about the term "steady-state economy" that should not be sacrificed to the short-term political appeal of vagueness.
John Fullerton of the Capital Institute, and formerly an executive of JP Morgan Chase, calls for a holistic, ecological approach toward a new economy. Sounds like he should think about the political alternatives that agree.
The Post Carbon Institute is posting early release chapters from Richard Heinberg's book The End of Growth, coming out in July. Read other early chapters here.
Chapter 1, Part 1: Economics for the Hurried
The first economists were ancient Greek and Indian philosophers, among them Aristotle (382-322 BC)-who discussed the "art" of wealth acquisition and questioned whether property should best be owned privately or by government acting on behalf of the people. Little of real substance was added to the discussion during the next two thousand years.
The 18th century brought a virtual explosion of economic thinking. "Classical" economic philosophers such as Adam Smith (1723-1790), Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834), and David Ricardo (1772-1823) introduced basic concepts such as supply and demand, division of labor, and the balance of international trade. As happens in so many disciplines, early practitioners were presented with plenty of uncharted territory and proceeded to formulate general maps of their subject that future experts would labor to refine in ever more trivial ways.
These pioneers set out to discover natural laws in the day-to-day workings of economies. They were striving, that is, to make of economics a science on a par with the emerging disciplines of physics and astronomy.
This article is an excerpt from Richard Heinberg's new book which has the working title 'The End of Growth' and is set for publication by New Society Publishers in July 2011. Given the urgency and fragility of the global economic crisis, the Post Carbon Institute is serializing the rough content as Richard writes it. Additionally, Richard will be offering 'live peeks' at the events and information that inform his writing process through Facebook and Twitter accounts created expressly for this publication.
The central assertion of this book is both simple and startling: Economic growth as we have known it is over and done with.
The "growth" we are talking about consists of the expansion of the overall size of the economy (with more people being served and more money changing hands) and of the quantities of energy and material goods flowing through it.
The economic crisis that began in 2007-2008 was both foreseeable and inevitable, and it marks a permanent, fundamental break from past decades-a period during which most economists adopted the unrealistic view that perpetual economic growth is necessary and also possible to achieve. There are now fundamental barriers to ongoing economic expansion, and the world is colliding with those barriers.
Pioneer Institute sponsored this graphic depiction of the 2011 Commonwealth of MA budget. This seems to be a great tool for those who want to examine this subject in depth. There is also a graphic depiction of the Federal budget.
I am no expert on Wall Street shenanigans or the economy more generally, but thanks to The Automatic Earth, it's always possible to see what's being reported in business news, with a bit of insight into the bigger picture. (I suppose I should also shout out Barry Ritholtz's The Big Picture since that's where they picked up on the story I'm sharing here... but I'd have to say that The Automatic Earth presents a much bigger picture).
While corporate media makes big noise about inaugural pageantry in Boston and in Washington DC, and even less meaningful distractions, some incredible Wall Street maneuvering is happening without much fanfare.
In what Ritholtz calls a "back door bailout of the banks", Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have been negotiating with Bank of America, JP Morgan and others who sold them no-verification "liars loans", namely via "buy back demands."
Ed. note: This piece is striking for its most obvious, unstated conclusion. I blame Greens for not being a visible answer for Speth's call... but I'm glad to see Speth's colleague, David Korten, make the obvious more explicit. It's time for a new economics and a new politics, and a renewed Green Party to lead the charge.
If America's present system of political economy were performing well, there would be little need to question it or seek fundamental change. But that is not the case. Asked what the key goals of economic life should be, many would reply, "to enhance social well-being while sustaining democratic prospects and environmental quality." Judged by this standard, today's political economy is failing. It is a failure that reaches many spheres of national life-economic, social, political, and environmental. Indeed, America can be said to be in crisis in each of these four areas.1, 2
The economic crisis of the Great Recession brought on by Wall Street financial excesses has stripped tens of millions of middle class Americans of their jobs, homes, and retirement assets and plunged many into poverty and despair.
Ed. note: this is a stunning development. I dare say it represents the beginning of a changing tide from timidity regarding the Green Party to explicit investment of hope in its development. Korten's courage here is noteworthy, moving from theoretical ideas of a sustainable and just economy to the practical work of designing its political roadmap and beginning road construction.
I was delighted to be invited to address this gathering of Pacific Northwest Regional Green Party leaders. I had not realized at the time that would be an exclusive gathering of the party elders. We do have the benefit of bringing a depth of experience and connections to the significant work at hand.
I'll be laying out my take on what is at stake at this point in America's history and how I believe we need to rethink and reposition the Green Party to function as the political arm of a much larger social movement devoted to advancing the universal human values that frame the Green Party's agenda. It requires, among other things, coming up with a much more concise statement of what we are about-our elevator speech.
(Some very interesting points, and a good test for the Green Party's ten key values. - promoted by eli_beckerman)
There are many theories out there about how we ended up in the economic situation that we are in. This is a very bad situation and it has affected many people and it is looking like it is going to get worse before it gets better. Now I am not an economist but I too have a theory of how we got into this mess and I can sum it up with one word, GREED!
Americans have been living beyond their means for a long time now and I will call it what it is, sinful. We need to be good stewards of the gifts that God has given us and that does not include getting into more debt then we can handle. Yes the mortgage crisis lead to part of this but no one forced your hand to sign the loan application. As I wrote yesterday we need to start taking personal responsibility for our actions and that would include getting into debt. Americans today have more personal debt than any other time in history. By the way I am including myself in this as well.
During this past election cycle here in Massachusetts there was a statewide question on the ballot to roll back the state sales tax from 6.25% to 3%. Thankfully the question did not pass. If it had it was estimated that the Town of Southbridge would loose approximately $9.5 million in state aid. Okay my question is this, why is the Town of Southbridge, or any Town for that matter, relying on aid from the state? It was reported in today's Boston Globe that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts stands to loose money in Federal aid in the coming years as well. I ask the same question, why are we relying on Federal Aid? We are living beyond our means.
(We at the bottom of this pyramid scheme need to assert our democratic power which, for too many reasons, is invisible to most of us and rarely, if ever, exercised. - promoted by eli_beckerman)
With all of the talk about the outsourcing of jobs overseas, Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, ridiculous health care costs and the many other issues that plague our economy, our ultimate problem can really be summed up to the disastrous income inequality situation we face in this country. We always hear that it's too many taxes, or too much regulation, or some other nefarious enemy that makes the problem someone else's fault. Here lies the truth about what is going on in our country that is literally destroying it day by day. The job outsourcing, tax cuts for the wealthy, and health insurance costs, etc are simply the methods for which the income gap can sustain itself and grow. Yet still, the media and our government rarely question the use of these tools by the powerful entities in our country. Some briefly condemn, then never do anything about it; others blatantly support such tactics as the American way and the patriotic thing to do. It is never ever mentioned that in order for the most influential businesses and top earning individuals to succeed in these epic proportions, there has to be those who must lose in order to subsidize the wealth of the mighty top 2 %. The money has to come from somewhere. In today's America, it is the working middle class that reluctantly supports and is forced to contribute to the epic wealth of biggest corporations and the top 2%.
Past a certain threshold of energy consumption, the transportation industry dictates the configuration of social space. Motorways expand, driving wedges between neighbors and removing fields beyond the distance a farmer can walk. Ambulances take clinics beyond the few miles a sick child can be carried. The doctor will no longer come to the house, because vehicles have made the hospital into the right place to be sick. Once heavy trucks reach a village high in the Andes, part of the local market disappears. Later, when the high school arrives at the plaza along with the paved highway, more and more of the young people move to the city, until not one family is left which does not long for a reunion with someone hundreds of miles away, down on the coast.
Equal speeds have equally distorting effects on the perception of space, time, and personal potency in rich and in poor countries, however different the surface appearances might be. Everywhere, the transportation industry shapes a new kind of man to fit the new geography and the new schedules of its making. The major difference between Guatemala and Kansas is that in Central America some provinces are still exempt from all contact with vehicles and are, therefore, still not degraded by their dependence on them.
189 Pleasant Street, Easthampton, MA, Saturday, August 28th, 2010, 8 AM- 12:30 PM.
Project Retrofit of the Western Mass Green Consortium is holding its 2nd 2010 Workshop to involve community voices in strategies to grow the "green economy."
$992 Million Dollars in Federal Stimulus money has been spent in 4 Western MA Counties in the past 18 months.
How can we collaborate & work together to build an economy in Western MA that works for ALL of us. Help us build a vibrant Green Economy that builds upon what we have done AND outlasts the Stimulus Funding.
February 13, 2010 was the first Project Retrofit Workshop to identify regional barriers to growing the energy efficiency/retrofit industry. This meeting will bring together individuals, businesses, and community organizations at a morning planning session to begin implementation of the needed tools identified in February.
Participants who arrive at 8 and stay until 12:30 are welcome to stay for a party and BBQ, as well as guided tours of the sustainable designed property. Please bring a dish to share.
For a complete agenda, to volunteer, or for more information visit www.westernmassgreenconsortium.org.
Green Mass Group is an online forum for Green thought and collective action in Massachusetts. It is a community forum for justice, sustainability, democracy and health in the Commonwealth and beyond.
"The sad reality is that we are in danger of perishing from our own stupidity and lack of personal responsibility to life... to create a mess in which we perish by our own inaction makes nonsense of our claim to consciousness and morality."