Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Leave it to the kooks. . .

Anyway, I often forget how few people have done any sort of provisioning, especially for time frames of more than a few days. I also forget how few people cook! Anyway, the following website can be a big help to get a grasp on what you need to pack away to be sensibly prepared.


By the way, get a load of that crazed vacant stare of the woman at the bottom of the page! Dang, don't she look Redeemed! Or something. . .

Don't forget that many of these survival foods take a great deal of preparation time and fuel to prepare! Don't be thinking you're going to be cooking a pot of beans over an open fire with wet wood in the rain--and get any sort of sensible results! Think ahead, it's a bigger issue than many take seriously, and we may well be playing for keeps.

Monday, September 29, 2008

It's time. . .

that those of us who are paying attention to what is going on recognize that as the economy falls into despair that the responsibility of keeping our communities intact is going fall into our laps. It's going to be us and only us left standing to provide the most basic of services that keeps local civility intact.

So, have a heart and plant a little taro for so your neighbors kids can have something to eat next spring.

Friday, September 26, 2008

A homesteader's godsend: 'Uala

This is an amazing plant.

I think one can be well assured that an earnest planting of 'uala will greatly aid the success of any Hawaiian homestead.

Easy to grow? Well, I'd say it's like farming morning glory. Whack off a 12 inch piece of vine and more or less stick it in the ground. Within a week it will growing. In my research there were some rituals locally involving the plant and a more complicated treatment, perhaps in different areas or climates on the island this might matter. For me, however, that's all it takes.

At this point, the variety I have--the piko type--bears smallish tubers in about six months after planting. Yields per plant are not high, not like potatoes, but you can expect 2 lbs per plant. The plant itself makes up for those yields by easily being crowded in with itself, about a foot apart per plant, and the vines frankly run amok. If one rotate plants by trimming the vines out of footpaths replanting the cuttings it wouldn't take much to produce serveral hundred pounds of useful harvest with very little attention.

It grows, alright. It likes as much sun and water as it can get, but I can't seem to kill it no matter what I do. It is ornamental and an aggressive groundcover that will even choke out grass.

Traditionally, it was one of the two "big" local survival crops and no question as to why. It seems to me that if a small homestead planned on 100 plants, rotation farmed as one went through the stocks, you could supply a significant percentage of a families food with great reliability. It is more or less bug, slug, vog and chicken immune. The small tubers are typical sweet potatoe types, and they get significantly sweeter about a week after they're harvested, which makes it nice to be able to keep some of that "sweetness" under control, if you're like me and not partial to it. It lends itself very well to typical potatoe curry style dishes.

There are quite a number of other uses attributed to the plant, but at this point I haven't personal experience with those--perhaps someone who has can inform the conversation!

Perhaps the most dangerously endangerered aspect of Hawaii. . .

. . .is the island lifestyle.

At this moment which taking on a non-materialistic lifestyle becomes critical to one's very well-being, it is very disheartening to see the slow-moving, easy going, family and leisure time Pacific values being lost to consumerism, development, and legislation--especially legislation--being crafted with the specific goal of outlawing what some see as "sub-standard" existences. It is especially sad, I think, to see the young guys who have compromised their own tradition for big trucks, chrome, hip-hop paraphernalia or otherwise mainland, pre-packaged, consumerist "attitude" who now stand to lose the whole works to high fuel prices, unemployment and a chronically bad economy.


Certainly any meaningful progressive actions must have their root core in non-materialist living. Already our core cultural values are beginning to change, mostly by necessity. . .but we have a very very long way to go to get our personal levels of consumption to historically sensible terms. The average American will require a 90% reduction in consumption and expenditure to get within striking range of ethical or sustainable living, and this dirty little secret is something the evangels of ecology, especially those preaching "simple living" while living on a trust fund are not too often to bring up.

Still, at this moment facing a very poor economic future with grave uncertainties regarding commodities scarcity and climate, it would be hard to argue that paring back one's expenses, saving all one possibly could and living as minimally as one could is a bad idea. In fact, it's never been a bad idea--it's simply, until recently, been a counter cultural idea. Without a consumptive lifestyle, even not so long ago, it was very difficult to maintain any sort of social group. . .by necessity, this is rapidly changing.

Interesting times, for sure. I doubt much in terms of human values we currently hold will survive the century.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Drawing a bead. . .

Just as combative handgun experts suggest--there's no crime in the first shot being wild, as long as the 3rd pull is dead on the money. Sometimes it takes focus to focus.

Obviously a lot of you are thinking about the same sorts of stuff, which is why my in-box is flooded.

I think we can draw a bead on the target. Let's think things through together.

"Green" is an unaccountable, immeasurable, bullshit term prone to distortion and exploitation.

"Sustainability" is an unaccountable, immeasurable, bullshit term prone to distortion and exploitation.

"Ecological" is an unaccountable, immeasurable, bullshit term prone to distortion and exploitation.

What do I mean? I mean terms like these have come to be expressed in gassy, almost religious overtones where the definition of each is so vaguely defined it's immune to the probings of reasonable critique and rational discourse. They cannot be held to any standard of accountability. If I say I live a "green" lifestyle, what the hell does that mean? So does John Travolta. There's obviously massive problems with the integrity of the term green if it can encompass lifestyles as diverse as his and mine. Hell, I don't even have a proper landing strip for the chickens. This sloppy thinking and fast slick wordsmanship MUST change, as the "ecological movement" is being rapidly commercialized into horseshit consumerism!

Since the issue we face ultimately is a performance oriented issue--not an ideological one--meaning the world economy, global climate change, and resource depletion is one of measurable empirical issues, so should be our response to the issue. It has relationship to what you "feel," only with what you "do"--or more importantly--what you don't! Meaning, precisely, that in the same way that population, balance sheets, energy input and output are measured, so should be our relative success. I don't think this is a difficult or high bar at all. It is, again, a shot at that word "effectual" that I brought up at the first. Who is greener? Who is wiser? Who is more humane? Easy--who lives better on less?

The success and credibility at this moment of one's ecological integrity should not be measured by one's bankroll, or the high powered consulting wage one draws, nor the size of one's eco-estate, but rather by the LACK of all the above.

Who is the ultimate judge of who is an effectual person or not? Not I, but I will suggest, among those of us who know sailing understand the ultimate judge of sailing performance is certainly Poseidon Himself, and with living, it must be Life. Not to wax metaphysical, but surely we can agree it is admirable to find examples of those who do much, and more so those who do much with little, and more so those who do more with nothing. Likewise, vs. versa.

So, let us demand much much more, both of ourselves and others. Quantify, in real terms, your assertions or back away from your argument! For example, if you say photovoltaic cells are more "green" than gasoline, I'll grant you that, because I don't really care. I want to know whether they're more effectual--which is a quantity drivable, meaning will I get more power, less co2, and usage out of 5000 bucks worth of gasoline or PV panels? This is not a unrealistic question to ask, and one of many, and it must be asked. WE ARE PLAYING FOR HIGHER STAKES AT EVERY MOMENT.

And the stakes are already VERY high. This isn't your papa's "back to the land" movement. The 60's hippies went "back to the land" to frolic in the flowers. My generation is doing it to cover their ass, not expose it.

Who's right? Not me, I'm no expert. I'm just some dude living in the jungle on pennies. We'll know in 20 years, won't we. . .?

So, back to designing the woodburner stove. . .this diatribe brought you by some young dreadhead buck who informed me he "taught sustainability" for a living.

Chew on that. Chew on it again.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Anybody feel like going camping?

. . .for the rest of your goddamned life?

Well, trying to put a little humor into the state of the world economy this morning.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Why you cannot possibly win, except on a personal level.

First, look here.

Now tell me that your driving a hybrid makes for a better world. . .looks like all you're doing is freeing up a little jet fuel for others to play with.

Still, on a personal level, you can and will win. You will retain your sense of integrity and humanity, and you won't likely starve to death. I'd say both of these are big pluses.

Anyway, it's interesting to ponder such lifestyles and people while congress steps to bail out banks, with intent to pass legislation in a record 5 days--meanwhile the health care debate drabbles on for years and years, and all other stuff is obviously ridiculous, and fat cat environmentalists like Kennedy and Travolta encourage us all to "cut back on our personal consumption."

Monday, September 22, 2008

Something else worth thinking about.

Methane waste digesters are rapidly becoming the most effective way of dealing with wastes in poor and rural areas around the world. The technology is certainly applicable and cost effective for a small homestead in areas with a high enough average temperatures. If you're unfamiliar with the technology, take a look.

Of course, like near everything else one needs to do to prepare for the future, certainly this is in violation of some law or another. But, remember, the need for survival may trump compliance! A little bit of pirate attitude may well be warranted.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

A biomass cooker

One of the things one is faced with when trying to pare back a budget is this: the majority of really cheap food is fuel intensive to cook. Sure, we all like a good bean soup or locally, good poi, but the fact is that boiling away for hours when the doing so requires the consumption of expensive electricity, liquid or gaseous fuels--suddenly things become much less frugal. It can cost 5 bucks to cook a dollars worth of food, and this hardly makes sense. Suddenly you're better off to have a steak.

So, in the quest for simplicity, I built a simple updraft charcoal/wood cook stove of the type modeled on the "volcano" stove and a zillion others. There's a lot of designs, they all work, some built out of paint cans--mine is a little nicer built out of 6 inch well casing about 15 inches long and a piece of plate stock.

There isn't much to it. Weld them together. Drill a few holes in the top and bottom(of the sides of the thing, of course) and give it a test burn. With no pot on the top the stove should burn hot and quickly generate very hot coals in the tube. Once you're at this point, you can put a pot on top, which caps the major draft and now you're burning charcoal, which will simmer along for hours. Burn quality dry fuel in this device or your wasting your time. For an experiment, plain old grocery store charcoal is good for practice.

Start out with 4 .5 inch holes in the top and bottom of your can or tube. If the fire burns too low once the pot is on, or goes out, punch a few more. You want a very low flame that burns for several hours with a slow cook process. Don't worry over much about bugs getting into the stew, as the small amount of smoke from the thing drives them off.

A very useful and practical device, and cooking a pot of chickpeas on the equinox is a fairly idyllic experience.

A Link:

This brought to my attention today. For a lot of us, this info will be old news, but for fence sitters this information may be pretty valuable as the presentation is well delivered and can give a good overview perspective of where we are headed.


Well, one COULD do worse. . .

Here I am, roughing it in the jungle.

So, the win-win scenario seems to present itself. It is time, and timely to get serious.

Extreme simplicity is sensible at the moment.

For myself, I'm well positioned to take on a lifestyle of extreme frugality. I've done it before, with the boat lifestyle in the past, and possess the skills. I'm sufficiently imaginative to be immune from the need for costly diversions, trips to town and the rest. Actually, at this point this will be easier to achieve than in my late 20's, as it seemed that running after girls was necessary, and costly, and today running from them seems more prudent. Getting caught now and then isn't such a bad thing either. . .LOL

In terms of a metric, both from the level of sustainability and just simple survivalist prudence it seems like the target range of acceptable expenditures should be between 500 and 800 dollars a month. My fixed expenses, property tax, communications(internet, phone) and car insurance run barely 200 dollars a month in the amalgam. The rest is diversionary. It's amazing that on three acres I can achieve a lower cost of living than I could living on the boats, at this point, but for the boat people out there--hang in there!--we're in a moment of transition and in all cases valuations are unrealistic and unfair. No question my property taxes will come up. Anchoring out is still an option in many areas. It's just a question of if it pays.

I have invested heavily in the infrastructure of the property itself, and as yet it is not bearing fruit(literally, though the papayas are in bloom.) I have about a year before the trees, garden and the rest starts to come into its own. At that point, all will really be gravy.

I've spoken before, a few days ago, of the "hump." For those who haven't taken on a lifestyle of extreme simplicity before, it's not such a accessible concept. One must realize that once one one has both feet strongly in a simple life, it suddenly becomes very affordable, simply because one now has time. A good example might be food. If you live simply, your time becomes your own. Suddenly the possibility of cooking a .50 cent pot of beans all day is a worthwhile and profitable endeavor, and you've saved the alternative--a more expensive meal of about 10 bucks, or more, or worse, a night on the town. Spending a day or half a day washing your socks is no big deal, nor cutting firewood, nor any of the rest. IF however, your expenditures are such that you must work a 40 hour week and then come home and cook beans for 5 hours you've the worst of all options. Either grub it out in the garden, or grub it out in the career world. If you try both, you're sure to fail.

It is very rare among counter culture people to have a sense for finance. Actually, the counter culture people who DO have a sense for finance are generally very very successful. That would be the case for me--my lifetime to date returns(percentage) in the investment realm rival Soros, and he should be proud as he's my primary mentor. Budget! Think! Speculate! Realize that efficiency is the key, and like it or not money is involved, and like it or not one must pay as much attention to the bank account as one does to the garden.

It may be interesting, not to be a snot, but I've said the sum total of losses I've needed to write off in the personal portfolio, lifetime, to date, was 55 bucks. Half of that was AIG, 4 years ago, as I read the balance sheet and said--this company is doomed, I'd better get out.

You can know, actually. If you don't know, well, you know you don't know!--don't get involved! Today, especially, with the meddlesome muddling in the financial realm, you should just take your toys and go home, as no one in the playground is playing nice.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The world cheapest washing machine.

Here is an example of low hanging fruit.

So, normally what I would do would be to drive to Volcano to do my laundry. I hated going up there because of the tweaker scene, but it was generally better than Keeau as I still had dog hair all over everything when I got done. Having very nearly beaten someone senseless a week ago(accused me of stealing his soap) up the hill, I figured it was worth a look at a more reasonable way to go about things without disaster.

So, I washed clothes in a bucket. It was effortless, and the results were fantastic. I had no dog hair, and things dried on my porch.

If you look at the footprint of one vs. the other. In a bucket requires water and soap. Otherwise the laundrymat require laundry, soap, a 15 mile drive, a near brawl, anxiety, and you still end up with shit and dog hair on your sheets. Bugger that. You're looking at a CO2 footprint of nearly 500 lbs vs O with the latter, and, well, this is an example of what it takes to make real steps for the future.

Honestly, I'm embarrased for not having tried it before. This is much the same kind of to-do I got out of baking bread as a kid--gosh, it takes hours and all day and all that!--bunk. I can put a loaf on the table in 2 hours flat. Same with laundry. It's less work to do it in a bucket and hang it to dry than it would be to drive to town and do it, and the results are better.

Use very little soap. The bucket is already clean, right?

On a boat, it would be difficult, as water consumption is an issue. I have more or less unlimited water here in Hawaii, so the sea-stead crowd will not have much to glean here. Otherwise, I'm sold.

So, in Hawaii, I can see where a quality wringer would be of value, and I'm looking for one. Otherwise it's have a pot of coffee and get the job done! 2 hours tops!

Friday, September 19, 2008

James Lovelock

Here is a good interview with James Lovelock, and it's worth a listen.


Provisioning for a long and uncertain voyage:

Or at least that's what I'm up to today. Fortunately it's something I've done before.

Updates on projects when I've got a little room to breathe. Tomorrow.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

God damn, was that really the end of it?

I mean, was today the end of the US financial system? For real?

Welcome to the USS of A

"I feel like I'm on death row. . ."

". . .just wasting time waiting for the executioner to show up."

Or so a friend of mine wrote in an e-mail this morning.

You know, I DO get that. I'm going to lose a big chunk of my soul the day the last hono dies, and there's a fair chance I'll see that day in my lifetime.

As a kid raised on "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" and J. Cousteau, I always had a dream to dive with the turtles. Now I've done that, and swam far off the reef through the break till the bottom disappears in inky blackness . . .now I've done that.

Of course, this is why individual heroism is more important by the moment.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What I did today. . .

Dropped of my long time buddy Brian off at the airport, after astutely discussing the state of the climate and world for a too short 48 hours.

Checked the financial news. Again.

Bought a pick-up load of dry goods and packed it in 5 gallon home depot buckets. . .

AND a bottle of gin.


Following my personal edict to be unfailingly optimistic and encouraging even when it's ridiculously inappropriate, here's something else on the smarty pants reading list.


Victory Gardens

The history of the WWII "Victory Gardens" is well worth looking into and certainly applicable to our current careening conundrum.


It is really remarkable and heartening to see really how practical and effective this movement really was, and puts a lot of what is going on today to complete shame.

The Hump

Interesting to watch stuff melt down, eh? Yikes! Hang on to your hats.

After considering for a few days the reality of the matter-looking at what is the single greatest cause of my currently unsustainable lifestyle I am forced to come to a very important conclusion. The single greatest impact to the ecology and the single greatest obstacle to achieving "sustainability" is this--my employment. It is my driving to work, and the work that I do, that accounts for perhaps 80 percent of my negative ecological impact. If I could eliminate that, and somehow survive a pastoral existence on my own property, my total impact would plummet and be well within long term survivable limits.

It's not an easy conclusion, especially because I commute less than most, drive a much less consumptive vehicle than most, work in an extremely conscientious manner, and simply try to take on the lowest impact projects, using and reclaiming where-ever possible. I think it's going to be a pretty typical conclusion--I think for most people that which they do to make a living is far and away the most damaging and damning thing they do.

As difficult and preposterous as it may seem, I see really no way to achieve anything approaching sustainability without forgoing employment. This, of course, doesn't mean that one won't work. I expect the workload may well be much higher than we expect. I am simply recognizing the the model of "buy gas and clothes, drive to work, earn 200 dollars, pay mortgage, health insurance, go to the grocery story, buy food, etc.," may be vastly and inherently less efficient and effectual than the model of "work in the garden, and pick something for dinner."

But of course life is more complicated than potatoes for dinner. It is very difficult to avoid taxes, fees, and services unless one takes on a very radical lifestyle--and thus necessarily a lifestyle of alienation, isolation and exclusion. Currently, the very real lack of community that one will enjoy once on takes real and meaningful steps towards a simply lifestyle is in reality probably the biggest obstacle. I think a lot of people would be much more encouraged to actively scale back if they didn't feel, rightly, that they had to go it alone. Most of our social activities revolve around consumption. . .this needs to change!

Still, I think it's very important to note that in many cases and for most people it may cost 90 dollars to earn 100, and the real cost of living simply may be far less than one imagines, once one has finally crossed the "hump" and finally DOES live simply. To try to have feet in both worlds, earning a living and suffering deprivation isn't simplicity, that's simple poverty, and certainly not what we're trying to accomplish.

Here's an interesting link for the day.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Considering. . .

Considering that for the world to approach sustainability, the entire US population need to undergo drastic revisions in expectations and lifestyle. To quantify the amount of reduction needed, so far as I can determine, with global population where it is at the moment, that means our personal share of World NDP is about US 3000 dollars--in other words, if we're over that mark, if we're over that level of consumption, personally, or as a society, we're sliding down the slope to ecosystem and financial collapse.

Or, in terms of resources, your fair share of the global commonwealth is a little less than 3 acres. If you require more than that to maintain your standard of living, it can only come from someone else's share of the humankind's commonwealth. As an "ethical" person, it's near impossible to escape this conclusion.

The average American in material resources requires a 90% reduction in consumption to be anywhere near this mark. At this moment, this morning, watching greed win again, it's pretty hard to be hopeful in the slightest about any of that.

Still, the fact remains: If we refuse to live in a sustainable manner, we will consume until there is nothing of excess to consume, and at that moment we will be forced to live "sustainably." In fact, the crunch will come far before the moment resources are played out. Those of power and privileged will draw on and steal from larger and larger percentages of the world population, impoverishing even more billions of people, some of whom may be us. I guess I come back to my core premise again: I should live a sensible minimalist lifestyle--because at the moment it's the right thing to do, and it's going to eventually be what I am forced to do.

On other notes: here are interesting thoughts for the day.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

DIATRIBE: ethics vs. morals and why it matters.

This debate has been central to my philosophical career, and is something I'd like to see a lot more steam out of.

Most people use the terms ethics and morals interchangeably. They are, by no means, rigorously, interchangeable concepts. Ethics is the study and science of "right living," or so defined by Aristotle. An ethical person lives their life according to definable and intellectually defensible principles. A "moral" person, on the other hand, lives their life by moral precepts. These moral precepts are interpretations, often, of certain principles, some of which may be definable and defensible, and some of which may not--as is often the case with peculiar articles of faith. Both moral and ethical people may strive to be "good," by some definition(their own, usually) but the way they go about it is very different.

An "ethical" person by definition is "good" if/and only if their behavior conforms to the ideal of the principle they attempt to uphold. A "moral" person, on the other hand, is usually accounted good if they do not VIOLATE the "moral" principles or mores dictated to them from their tradition or society. As such, "moral" people often get very good at cheating the rules. If you don't do X and so, you're still a good person. It's very different for an "ethical" person, who lives by principle, as it's damn hard to fake living by a principle. Unless you actively demonstrate you uphold the principle, you fail. The bar is much much higher.

Whether one lives an ethical life or a moral one seems to me to be mostly a matter of temperament, and inherent courage. There are people in this world who want to prove something to themselves, and want to be seen by themselves in a certain manner. Otherwise, there are people in the world who want to prove something to others and be seen by others in a certain manner. The former are often driven to ethical perspectives, the later towards moral. In times of luxury and affluence there is little to discern the two camps from each other. In times of crisis, the difference is marked.

We are heading into a period of crisis. Make no mistake about that. Who you can trust and who you can't will become very obvious very soon. I recommend, and my purpose here is to build a community of those who are trustworthy. I can't go alone in this, that much is obvious. Neither can you.

So, in terms of sustainability: I am an ethical person. When I use the term "sustainable" it means one and only one thing--that if EVERYONE lived the way I do, we as a world would not further deplete resources, nor the the ecology, nor enslave or deprive each other. It is hard to cheat that principle, and the net result and metric is an empirical and undebatable one. Sustainability is just that, and nothing else. Moral people may well disagree. It's vastly more comfortable to be able to claim "I'm not hurting anyone" or "I don't drive an SUV" or "I don't support the war in Iraq" or whatever. So what? The question remains, if you want to see yourself as "good," for whatever that is worth, what is the standard that needs to be met? Is it one of "not" doing certain things, or is it one of "yes" doing others? As far as I'm concerned, only the latter is worth much at this late date.

Other thoughts on similar topics: Here.

A Plug for George Soros

Soros has been dead on in his analysis of this ongoing financial crisis from the start. This interview I read the first time when it came out and feel it's even more timely at the moment. Soros is a genius whose mind I admire, and his books are definitely worth a read. "The Alchemy of Finance" certainly was very influential in how I view the world and monetary process in general.

And if it's an idle morning, and you've got nothing to do but learn a bit over a cup of coffee, you'll find this interesting as well.

It's important to note that central to George Soros' fundamental financial theory is his concept of "reflexivity"--which observes that within semi-conscious systems-such as the financial markets the players are both observers and participants. As observers, their knowledge of necessarily limited and imperfect, and as participants their actions are necessarily imperfect as well--nonetheless this imperfect action creates future reality. The relationship between observer and reality, of participants and systems, is central to most all modern progressive science--in physics, climate science--and as Soros argues, should be much more acounted for in social policy and economics.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Planting Koa

For those who live in Hawaii and are interested in helping restore the native forest, as well as work to reduce one's carbon footprint, there's hardly anything better one could do than plant Koa.

Koa is a wonderful tree, producing one of the worlds finest furniture woods, growing to large sizes with attractive canopies. Surprisingly, it is also a near ideal agro-forestry tree, growing very rapidly and with strong nitro-fixing properties(actually, it's a fungus that grows on the koa roots that is the nitrogen fixer.) It is strong and a robust grower, as long as it isn't planted in heavy stands or in a monoculture environment, for then it seems to become prone to root knot nematode trouble.

Propagating Koa is easy: gather a mixture of seeds in after the pods have recently fallen along side trails and road cuts(illegal without a permit, of course) Sort the seeds as the lightweight ones are often aflicted with a burrowing larva that makes the seeds non-viable. The big plump seeds will sprout easier produce better trees, so for your own little stand it's worth searching them out.

The seeds themselves have a very strong seed coat, and germination will take a very long time if this seed coat isn't "scarified" or nicked to barely barely expose the embryo. I do this with a nail clipper, and it seems to be about the best trick.

Planted in peat pots the trees will germinate and sprout in under a week. Keep the pots in partial shade as this seems to encourage a more robust sprout.

Do NOT plant the koa in pots. Plant the seedling directly outdoors as soon as the roots start to break the peat pots. The reason for this is that Koa can rapidly become root bound in a pot, and I find it near impossible to outplant after this occurs. A root bound koa will never flourish.

Plant the Koa in areas sheltered by other light vegitation, and attend after a few weeks. Once the root structure has been well established, it's best to cut back the surrouding vegitation to expose the tree to full sun. THEN she'll really take off. You can expect a koa tree to add 5 feet of height a year and about 1.5 inches of trunk through the life of the plant. They get big in a hurry, so give them room to grow. This one in the picture is 4 feet tall and was planted in January.

How can you lose?

Energy Self-Reliance

Here is a picture of my "producer gas" set-up. This furnace pyrolyzes wood into a hydrogen and methane mixture, which will then run in an internal combustion engine at a 1 to 1 mixture with air. It is dirty, and a nuisance, but allows me to use the bio-mass my land produces and various cellulose wastes directly as fuel.

Producer gas is nothing I dreamed up, but is a century old technology that powered much of the early industrial world. Is it green? Well, making methane and smoke is hardly green, but it's greener than a lot of what is touted as such, and is probably the best of biofuels. Again, its not so much the technology but the level of consumption that makes it green. There's NOTHING green about those gigantic 30kw PV arrays you see shown off as something amazing. Is it sustainable? Yes, it is. . .20 lbs of dry biomass has the btu equivalency of one gallon of gasoline, and in this climate 10 tonnes an acre in biomass is achievable. The waste heat generated in the process can heat water or houses, or cook food. It is an technology that would allow me to produce all of my own energy needs wholly off my property with minimal technology. Many farms in the pre-WWII era did just that. It is a technology worth looking into, vastly greener and more cost effective than PV or wind power--and is an on demand technology.

I'll write an in depth account of how it works with schematics presently. This web page is a good place to start.

Why we can succeed in Hawaii--

This is an interesting case study. It may not take a great deal of imagination to draw parallels.

When the Soviet Union began its economic crash in the late 80's, the first to notice it was Cuba. As trade between the the Soviet Union and Cuba amounted to better than 85 percent of the island's economy--the impact was sudden and severe. Anything petroleum related was the hardest hit. Figures vary, but it's safe to assume Cuba lost three quarters of all fertilizer and gasoline supplies in but a few months. Pesticides, tractors, and other farm related goods also vanished. Cuba was plunged into a late 1800's style agrarian economy with 1800's style tools. Agricultural output over the next 5 years fell by half--and this meant one thing, hunger. The average dietary consumption in Cuba fell by half as well, measured in calories. There were few chubby Cubans.

But creativity saved the day. Faced with reality, Cuban agriculture transformed itself, and over the last decade Cuba has become one of the world leaders in self-reliant, sustainable permaculture syle farming. It's amazing to consider, and nearly hard to believe, that over half of the country's food output is grown in small personal gardens, and a large portion of these are gardens in urban environments, in fact in Havana itself.

It is possible, in fact a great deal easier, to do the same here in Hawaii.

What is to effect this change isn't blather about sustainability, or seminars, or "green" legislation. It requires the same motivation that motivated the Cuban people--self-interested survival. It takes clever minimalist use of materials and hands in the dirt, figuring out what works and what doesn't. Fortunately we can get started while the grocery store still exists, and dabble with these issues before we need to face hardship.

Remember, planting a fruit tree is a decade long project! Where is the world going to be in 2018?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Comparing "Land-steading" to "Sea-steading"

Again it comes to mind really how very efficient a sea-steading lifestyle can prove to be, especially because it is one of the rare opportunities to live in expensively in an area of urban density when employment, materials, or repairs are needed, and to live for free in remote areas when you DON'T have those needs. One an engineless sailboat of moderate size one's fuel consumption will be measured in pints, not gallons or hundreds of gallons, and it impresses me yet again how well it measures up.

Unless the "land" can compensate by its inherently more productive nature, which I think it can, homesteading is a whole lot less ecologically benign. Most of this is due to the fact that "homesteading" isn't held to near the level of effeciency and use of space that one on a sailboat might make, but to achieve the goals here that level will need to be approached.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Easy Stuff: the most successful projects.

The first would be taro propagation. You can hardly kill the stuff and it lends itself to wildcrafting in the background environment very well. Also, it's simply lovely. Taro isn't a crop that you're going to be harvesting soon, but with a year or two of effort is going to be a
subsistence mainstay, and will grow in areas that you couldn't grow anything else.

The other "can't lose" crop would be the various varieties of sweet potatoes, propagated from cuttings. These have edible greens, seem to be bug and slug proof, and are coming to dominate my garden as another staple. The chickens forage in it, but don't peck at it, which surprises me.

Raised terraced beds have proven to greatly add drainage and crop viability in general, and for those who have un-graded land with natural topography this can be very helpful. Once again using the guava logs to good effect!

PEMCO and the rest::

Here's a good synopsis on the current state of the economy:


Who is filled with joy and confidence with the state of the US banking system? Bill Gross, for sure, but not Warren Buffet.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A late thought.

A bit exhausted this eve from lugging rock and cutting wood. . .

My initial observations toward reducing the footprint are these: grasp the low hanging fruit. I already live very minimally in consumption in my housing and manner--in fact at this point I can get very close to the level of consumption that I enjoyed(enjoyed not having) when I first attempted all this, successfully, and much more unfashionably, on RENEGADE. My biggest issue in bringing my level of consumption near equitable terms is in energy consumption. This will be a very difficult issue because my livelihood is, in clear terms, very energy intensive. I'm not happy about that, but it's clear that even though I might live in a 300 square foot house, grow all my own food, and ohm shanti my ass off in my spare time, I'm still living on a scale of unsustainablity near an order of magnitude beyond what is needed at this moment, with global population where it is.

It may be that this "task" is an impossibility. If so, it is worth discovering this as well. If sustainability is impossible within any sensible definition of livability--we can be certain that human beings will consume until the very moment that there is nothing left. . .and then all hell breaks loose. If so, this project, again, will still be a success. . .

Why? I'll be prepared and practiced living, well, on what is actually sustainable. At that moment there will be no other option.

Why not? When I started sailing I wanted one goal--to become a damn fine sailor. That, well, to my satisfaction I feel I've achieved. I'm at the moment applying the same skill set to living in general: to take on the task with the intent to win. Not to prove anything to anybody but myself--some might suggest perhaps that's self-indulgent. . .

I might suggest perhaps that's the definition of sanity.

Big Sugar Returns:

Very smart--eliminate foodstuffs on an remote island to produce fuel for offshore consumers at taxpayer expense.

This is being toted as environmental green industry.


Quantifying the task:

Here is a place to start. http://www.footprintnetwork.org/gfn_sub.php?content=calculator

While there's stuff to wonder and disagree about, and like most of these surveys can't seem to restrain itself from being a bit of a sales pitch, but by and large this is a pretty fair and accurate assessment.

At this moment, as fairly as I can determine, even as minimally as I live currently, according to this test I consume the sum total output of 13 acres. This means if everyone lived as I do we'd need 2 and a half planets to approach "sustainability."

I've got a very very long way to go. While I"m living on about half that of the average American, I'm still consuming 6 times too much, and I'm personally doing nothing whatsoever to make the world a better place.

It is if we are on that speeding train, heading for the collapsed bridge--some people have their hand on the throttle pushing full bore, and some of us would rather crash at a leisurely pace.

We need hands on the brakes--these hands are nowhere to be seen.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Mission:

The missions of this process are as follows:

1) To demonstrate the ecological and human impact of our current manner of living; to show its expectations are unrealistic; and to illustrate the complete lack of future viability.

2) To dispel the many misconceptions about the term "sustainability" and answer the question of what sorts of lifestyle it might take to properly be termed "sustainable." To question the carbon foot print, financial footprint, and the impact on life and humanity itself of certain ways of living.

3) To demonstrate that a life of simplicity can be rewarding and even more satisfying than a life of consumption.

This task is no small one, and the answers of how far we must go to find simplicity, and sanity, are far beyond what many expect. If we desire simplicity, sanity, and sustainability--in a world of 8 billion people, we will have to go further yet. At some point the problem may prove insolvable, and if so, we will attempt to discover that point.

The goal is to live in a manner in which if all other human beings did the same--the world would began to heal and grow more healthy. This is an interesting goal from an ethical perspective, for personal reasons--but I admit from the start it seems a fools errand. Skeptics will say, and I agree--people will not modify their way of living, and any resources I conserve will be consumed by others. I don't doubt this to be the case. I reach towards this goal for two reasons. First, that I care about the future of our species and the planet, and for myself would enjoy the privilege of knowing that I at least had less blood on my hands than most. Second--central to my thesis is the assertion that human beings are so stupid and corrupt en masse that they will consume until there is nothing left to take. I don't believe it will be long until we feel the pain of this scarcity, and my practice in living ethically today will pave the way for living at all once this crisis gets to my doorstep. This is a fool's ideological errand on one hand, but it possess a core of the most skeptical, jaded, self-interested survivalism.

Certainly, we can immediately that to live "efficiently" is likely the central concept that will advance us on all fronts. In fact, I expect that "efficiency" may come to be a core value in this project.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Goal:

Here I am, starting a new blog, one that intends to set a very different tone than the last one.

It has become very obvious to me in the last year that the world itself is careening into a period of epic crisis.. I think there are few at this moment, who claim any pretense to being informed or educated, who would suggest otherwise. In fact, it's very interesting to me to see the industry that is being created by crying "the sky is falling!" Sure, the sky is falling, but it's yesterday's news, and is of less than no use at this point, although many may enjoy a certain morbid pleasure in the reading and writing of it.

I'm becoming aware that while often I find myself speaking about the various issues that face us, namely resource depletion, of climate change, and a world of ever increasing technological complexity and invasiveness--I have a very different attitude than most towards the response that these difficulties present. As difficult as this looks, I feel resignation, but not dispair. Like hell I'm going to lay down on this. I guess perhaps it's the sailor in me. I'm looking at a sailing passage, and in difficult conditions, reef-strewn, poorly chartered, and in thick weather to boot. There is nothing to be gained by complaining about the task at hand, however difficult it may be--here we are, we have our ship, and we're a 1000 miles from home. There is nothing to be gained by denying the hazards that face our passage, nor is there anything to be gained by overstating them. They must be identified and dealt with, and as best we can, with the confidence and skill that comes from practice--we must press on in a heroic manner no matter what the odds.

So: living with purpose. As this is my 39th year, and a year nearly over, and looking toward a decade likely more difficult than the past--it is a moment ripe for profitable reflection. I have a lot of skills, a backbone, and a thick skin. These are the attributes that are fully needed for the most important task at hand--creating(and NOT re-creating) a manner of living fitting for the future that approaches us. We need trailblazers to take on this task, and it's time, for myself, at any rate, to stop bemoaning the lack of vision and adventurous spirit in even those who claim to be at the leading age of change--and to blaze on ahead, encouraging others to follow.

Catch me if you can.