tony's blog

Taking Dancing Rabbit to the Cities

This article is also posted on Dancing Rabbit’s March Hare Blog and we encourage you to add any comments there.

Part 1 in a series of articles exploring cities adopting DR’s covenants.

People often say that Dancing Rabbit is in the middle of nowhere, and it’s hard to dispute. Rutledge, our nearest town, has a population of 100 (which we hope to surpass in the next few years) and our whole county has fewer residents than some big city high schools (4,843 by the last census).

But what we do at Dancing Rabbit is as relevant to cities as it is to small town USA, and I’ve begun to wonder: what if cities adopted Dancing Rabbit’s ecological covenants?

At Dancing Rabbit only pedestrians, cyclists, and delivery vehicles can use the roads

Post Election Progressive Plan

To say that the recent election was disheartening for those on the left is a broad understatement. I wish that we could just blame the Democratic Party’s incompetence or the evil corporations deep pockets but I think alas, too many Americans really believe the shit they see on Fox and end up wanting to be led by Tea Party wack-jobs.

So what can someone on the left do now? What should Obama do?

1. Keep the Tea Party wackos in the fight – Focus on the populist issue of Jobs, Jobs, Jobs and get both Michael Moore and the Tea Party out there screaming at politicians, both Democrat and Republican, to do something about it, Now! “Main Street not Wall Street!” “No Jobs – No Votes!” If we don’t see progress on the economy then we’ll vote this batch of yahoos out too. That will keep the Republicans from just hunkering down as the party of gridlock and force them to engage on the issue. And if the economy improves, Obama can take credit. If it doesn’t, he’d probably get voted out anyway because people blame the President no matter whose fault it is.

Boats, Ferns and Biomimicry

I’ve been following the blog Gas 2.0 recentlyas I’ve been doing research on electric vehicles and alternative fuels and they do a great job of giving the latest news.

They had a recent post on how the hairs on ferns that help it shed water could be used to make boats more fuel efficient, potentially saving as much as 1% of the fuel used worldwide!

Since I know Jacob loves biomimicry, I thought he’d want to read the article so I figured I’d share it with everyone. Here’s a link to the blog post.

Lagomorph Author Awarded Green Honors in Detroit

Jacob and WARM Training Earn a FreePress Green AwardOur own Jacob Corvidae  is being honored with two different awards for Earth Day this year the Detroit FreePress Awards and the Michigan Earthday Expo awards.

The Freep says:

Its leadership is important because of its close affinity with small, fragile communities across Detroit. Where government has been tedious and bureaucratic, where private companies have been inconsistent and distant, WARM has been accessible and relevant.

And don’t miss the slideshow in the FreePress article.

Rock on Jacob!

Electric Cars – Coming Soon to a Driveway Near You?

Nissan LEAFI’ve been doing a bunch of research lately on electric vehicles to see what might make sense for us at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage for our vehicle co-op. For 12 years we have been focusing on biodiesel and vegetable oil based fuels but things have not always been smooth. The main issues have been related to winter fuel gelling and fuel filters clogging in general. We’ve also never gotten a steady system for  collection of used oil and production going, so we have been using biodiesel made from new veggie oil which is only marginally better for the environment than petroleum.

We are now embarking on a major re-evaluation of vehicle technologies for our co-op, with a team researching things like electric vehicles, hybrids, ethanol (including home made, potentially from cellulose), bio-gas, wood-gas, human and animal powered, and any new technologies in the veggie oil world.

My interest in electric vehicles (EVs) has come out of my research into a village-wide electric power co-op with a largish wind turbine to power our whole village. With an abundant source of renewable electricity, EVs could be our most ecological option. There are ecological issues related to batteries of course, but my research shows that EVs are a net benefit over petro based vehicles and on par with other bio-fueled options currently or soon to be available (more on that in a post soon).

What is the Carbon Footprint of the Internet

This post is part of sustainablog’s fundraising blogathon for Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage – please consider making a donation.

Never underestimate the ability of completely erroneous information to propagate itself on the internet, especially if it makes for good headline material.

As I was doing some research on the ecological impact of the internet I kept coming across references to how two Google searches creates more carbon than making a pot of tea and how the internet uses almost 10% of the electricity in the US and may some day account for 50%. From what I can tell all of these are gross exaggerations and I won’t even bother linking to them.

The first issue is that some reports attribute all the energy used by home computers to the impact of the internet. While its true that the internet has probably increased the number of home computers and the amount of time spent on them, its hard to tell how much to attribute to the internet. Plus, more computer use has often meant less time in front of a TV, which maybe balances things out. I personally think its best to separate home computer impact and the impact of servers and internet infrastructure. See my post on reducing your computer’s eco impact for more on the former.

How Much Electricity Does the Internet Use

The internet is very electricity intensive. There are millions of servers that run 24/7 to provide us with all those billions of web pages and emails. These servers are generally collected together in ’server farms’ which then require air conditioning to keep them from overheating.

How You Can Reduce Your Computer’s Electricity Use to a Sustainable Level

Biking for the Blogathon

Biking for the Blogathon

For today’s blogathon-fundraiser we are trying to power our computer via pedal power but pedaling is certainly not the answer to all of our energy needs. America’s electricity use per capita is over 35 kilowatt-hours per day. If you wanted to supply all that energy via pedal power, each person would need to bike at full speed for 118 hours per day. In other words it would take the entire population of the US and China pedaling 24/7 to generate enough electricity for the current US demands. Or…

Conservation is almost always a key element to meeting our needs in a sustainable way. Before we look at alternative power or fuels it is best to look at reducing our demands. Once we are consuming less, sustainable sources of power are a lot more realistic.

How you can reduce your computer’s power consumption

Your average desktop computer uses between 150 and 300 watts while it is running. Your first step in conserving energy is to turn off your computer when you are not using it or at least make sure that its power management settings are configured to have it sleep or hibernate when it is not in use. It used to be that people worried about wearing out disk drives from turning computers on and off, but that is not really an issue any longer, given modern drive technology and the typical lifespan of a computer these days. This is the most important thing you can do to save power – make sure your computer is sleeping or off when you are not using it.

DIY Bicycle Generator From Cordless Drill

Today there is  a blogathon happening at Dancing Rabbit. Its a fundraiser so please consider donating to Dancing Rabbit.

We’ve been promoting the blog as being Pedal Powered but the company that was supposed to ship us the pedal powered generator never shipped the product! Annoying…

So last night I went into McGyver mode to see if I could come up with some way to power the blog with a bicycle. I had less than 24 hours, so I had to use what was on site or could maybe go to an auto parts store (in the end I didn’t have to). Here’s what I came up with:

First I found an old training stand and mounted my bike on it.

Bike on Training Stand

Bike Mounted on Training Stand

Then I found an old cordless drill that I hadn’t used in years because it wouldn’t go in reverse. I hooked up some wires to where the battery would connect and then connected it to the training stand.

Cordless Drill For Bike Generator

Cordless Drill For Bike Generator

Then I found a pocket inverter that would convert 12 Volt Dc to 120 Volt AC and hooked that up to the wires coming from the drill.

How Do We Define Good Governance

At Dancing Rabbit we have been using consensus to make decisions since our inception. In consensus, decisions must be agreed to by all members of the group, with any member being able to block a decision. In practice, we now delegate a lot of decisions to committees and managers, such that the group is only called upon to make larger policy decisions.

We are at a stage where we are considering moving away from consensus to some other form of decision making. Discussions are in the preliminary stages, but one of the desires for a new system is to allow for better delegation and more streamlined management (at least some people express this desire).

It’s gotten me thinking about delegation and management and what it means to make good decisions on behalf of the group. I’ve started to realize that their are deep questions embedded here that touch on what it means to have good governance in almost any system.

How then do we define a good decision, or good management?

In a consensus organization, I would propose that a manager makes a good decision when she or he makes a decision that is essentially in line with what the group would have made if it had used its full consensus process. Another way to say this is that, if given a review by the membership, no-one would block that decision from moving forward.

Making such decisions is not always easy. It involves not just having good judgment on the topic at hand but also a strong sense of the group’s values and how to weigh them when making a decision. In a group that is functioning well, and with a manager who engenders trust from the group, the group will generally give them the benefit of the doubt as it takes a lot of effort and spending of social capital to object to a manager’s decision. So the manager does not need to be perfect, just make sure their decisions are within the threshold of the groups tolerance and/or passivity.

Obama – Still Glad I Voted for Him

This started as a comment on Jacob’s Obama post but became so long I thought it deserved its own post.

I too have been noting the left’s frustration with Obama and I too feel some frustration but I imagine it is for different reasons.

First, some background. In the general election, I voted for Obama for a number of reasons:

1. I felt he was a better choice than McCain, by far — both in terms of policies and ability to govern.

2. He was not a Republican. Some may not see much difference between Democrats and Republicans but I feel like on a million little things it makes a big difference. Look at how differently the EPA is, or who gets appointed to the Supreme Court, or things like the Global Gag Rule. The stuff might seem minor but I actually think who fills the cabinet positions and makes executive orders makes a big difference.

3. I actually like Obama and think that he and I would agree on a lot of issues (not that he’ll be able to implement them as policy though).

4. He is an amazing orator and does a great job of inspiring people. I think these are positive traits in and of themselves but I’m also saying that I too got caught up a bit in his charisma and at times had high expectations.

In some ways though, a better question is why I voted for Obama over Hillary in the primaries. Aside  from the toss up question of which was more of a cultural step, electing a woman or an African American, my main reason for voting for Obama was that his style fit my values more.

Experienced Organic Gardener Wanted at Skyhouse

Experienced Organic Gardener Wanted at Skyhouse

Our organic vegetable gardens Do you love to grow organic food?

Do you want to garden with friends and share the fruits of your labor at every meal?

Would you like to experience community life in an off-the-grid, sustainable ecovillage?

If you answer yes to these questions, then you should be interested in this work exchange opportunity.

Come Garden with Us

Skyhouse is looking for an experienced gardener to join us in growing food for our table for the 2010 season. Our ideal person would have some experience in growing organic vegetables and interest in fermentation, dehydrating and canning. We are looking for a gardener from April to November (shorter positions may be available). Ability to work independently and collaboratively a must. We have currently been growing and storing most of our vegetables for our group of approximately 8 and hope to continue that this year.

In exchange for your work in the garden we would provide organic vegan meals, tenting accommodations, and basic expenses. You'd also help out with cooking, cleaning and other rotational chores and could of course join in with other work that interested you (food processing, natural building, etc.)

Skyhouse is a small income-sharing communal group within the Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. In many ways you would be joining both communities for the duration of your stay and would be part both of our tight-knit household and our ecologically focused village. While Skyhouse is a small group now we are looking to grow so long-term membership is also an option.

For more information see http://www.dancingrabbit.org/social_change/interns-organic-gardening-sky...

For an application Contact Dancing Rabbit.

Blue Red and Purple

How left and right are Democrats and Republicans?I was reading fivethirtyeight and saw this interesting graph showing how liberal and conservative the democrats and republicans were in each state legislature.  (Dems are blue and left is more liberal.)

It was interesting, but not at all surprising that where I live  in Missouri the Democrats are fairly right leaning but I was surprised to see that the Republicans were the 4th most conservative in the country.

Even more surprising is that the most conservative republicans are found in California! Talk about polarized – they have the most liberal Dems and the most conservative GOP. No wonder they can never pass a budget.

And whats up with Rhode Island where both parties are left of center and only a hairs breadth apart. There must be a story there.

Footprint Calculators

People wanting to know how to reduce their footprint would like to have data so they know what changes to make to do it. Unfortunately the data available for a lot of choice is still incredibly hard to find or inaccurate and vague.

I personally don’t do a lot of footprinting because  I don’t feel the need for exact numbers to trust that doing a few key things will reduce my footprint:

  • Eating primarily vegan
  • Driving fewer miles in efficient vehicles
  • Having a smaller home (or sharing it)
  • Using less electricity, gas, and heating oil
  • Reducing long distance travel

Once you’ve done all that then you can start talking about the details: local and organic food, flying vs driving vs trains, etc.

For those interested in calculators here’s some links that might help you find the one thats best for you or that has that bit of information you were looking for. Let us know if you have a favorite or find ones that are really good.

Top Five Footprint Calculators – Just some bloggers opinion but there are some good links

The 15 best carbon Calculators – If 5 isn’t enough for you try 15.

Michael Bluejay’s Calculator – This guy didn’t like the other calculators so he wrote his own. Its very simple and well laid out. Its worth reading his opinions on the other calculators. Its also worth reading about him. I feel like I met him somewhere before.

Experienced Gardener Wanted at Skyhouse

Skyhouse is looking for an experienced gardener to join us in growing food for our table for the 2009 season. Our ideal person would have some experience in growing organic vegetables and a desire to organize and manage the garden from April to November. Ability to work independently and collaboratively a must. We have currently been growing and storing most of our vegetables for our group of approximately 8 and hope to continue that this year.

In exchange for your work in the garden we would provide a room in our off-grid strawbale home, organic vegan meals, and would cover basic expenses. You'd also help out with cooking, cleaning and other rotational chores and could of course join in with other work that interested you (food processing, natural building, etc.)

Skyhouse is a small income-sharing communal group within the Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. In many ways you would be joining both communities for the duration of your stay and would be part both of our tight-knit household and our ecologically focused village. While Skyhouse is a small group now we are looking to grow so long-term membership is also an option.

For more information see: www.skyhousecommunity.org and www.dancingrabbit.org

Contact us if you are interested or if you want more information.

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