Life in the post-industrial, post-carbon world

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

post-industrialIn March 2014 the United Nations stated officially and openly that the industrial age is coming to an end. This means, therefore, that we will (have to) be entering a completely new – though not so new – world and this post-industrial world must be, and I should think will be, combined with a post-carbon world.

This statement, let's call it acknowledgment, by the United Nations that the world is entering a post-industrial age which will, though this has not been mentioned, come together with, by necessity, a post-carbon age, means that we will have to make serious changes and do things in “new ways”.

In order to prepare for those coming changes we all will have to learn for many of us new ways, skills and trades. Those ways, skills and trades have been in use before (and some still are) and thus we do not have to start from “zero hour” and the stone age.

The post-industrial age will be, more or less, the pre-industrial age but with a lot more modern knowledge, ways and things, such as wind power and hydro-power (without the large dams though), and solar, obviously, if we can still make the photo-voltaic cells.

However, we will have to restrict our electricity usage, no two ways about it, as the way we will be going no longer permits the wattage that we are using and have been using until now.

In such a post-industrial world, that we will have to realize, manufacture of good will be very much on a different scale than it is today as the plants as they exist at present simply will no longer exist; they can't.

Manufacturing plants of the size and kind that we find everywhere today are too energy hungry to be able to remain viable. In fact they never really have been viable and definitely not sustainable.

The making of things, including manufacturing, will, more than likely, be done in small to medium size workshops and by small factories who will be powered by other means that today.

But it will not only be manufacturing, the making of things, that will change but life and society as a whole will and also the way we will live.

We will have to imagine a life like in the pre-industrial age, combined with new ways, to understand, to some degree, what life will be like when it happens and the industrial age comes, finally, to an end.

Life will slow down, because transportation will be much slower and much better for all of us and there will be communities again helping each other and working together in a co-operative way. There is no other way than that.

Will we still have cars? Probably not. Will we still have computers?More than likely but they will be large desktops again, I should think, rather than laptops, notebooks, netbooks and tablets. Will we still have the Internet? Possibly, but not, I should think, in the way we have become used to it over the last couple of years to a decade or two.

If you wonder as to when and how it will happen I cannot answer you that and you would have to ask a good psychic. He or she may know but I don't. However, as the United Nations are talking about it we can almost bet our bottom dollar that it will happen and that that day may not be that far off.

© 2014

Here’s how Obama is preparing the country for climate change

Obama in the rainThe good news is that President Barack Obama wants the nation to do a better job of bracing itself for the wild changes afoot in the weather. The better news it that he realizes that bolstering infrastructure and reimagining how we design our cities and electrical grids are among the best ways of doing that.

“Working together, we can take some common-sense steps to make sure that America’s infrastructure is safer, stronger and more resilient for future generations,” Obama said on Wednesday. Here are some of the steps his administration is taking:

  • A nearly $1 billion competition, announced last month, will provide funds to help communities recover and rebuild following disasters.Technical details of the competition were outlined on Wednesday, indicating that many of the 67 communities affected by recent disasters could receive funds to support risk assessment and planning efforts. A smaller number of those communities will be selected to receive additional money to design and implement novel ideas for minimizing future risks.
  • The Department of Interior will spend $10 million on a training program that will help tribes prepare for climate change.
  • The Department of Agriculture announced $236 million worth of funding to improve rural electric infrastructure using smart grid technology in eight states.
  • A 3-D mapping program will be developed to help identify and manage risks of flooding, storm surges, landslides, coastal erosion, and water supply shortfalls. The program will be funded with $13.1 million.
  • FEMA has established a task force to figure out ways of better protecting disaster-affected communities from future disasters.
  • FEMA will release guidelines that call on states to consider climate variability in planning efforts.
  • Houston, Colorado, NASA’s Johnson Space Flight Center, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory will work together on pilot projects geared toward preparing for climate change.
  • NOAA is making changes that will require greater consideration of climate change in the management of coastal areas.
  • At least 25 communities will receive EPA funding to help them use urban forests and rooftop gardens to better manage stormwater.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines that will help public health departments assess local health risks associated with climate change.

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Fish Oil Boosts Brain Power

Fish Oil Boosts Brain PowerPhoto by Getty Images

Fish oil is touted as a magical potion that boosts fertility, heart health, and weight loss and promotes a clear complexion, while lessening the effects of depression, ulcers, diabetes and many more conditions. But there’s another benefit to these glossy little capsules: They mayprevent Alzheimer’s disease.

A new study of 819 people published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia found that taking fish oil supplements on a daily basis is associated with a significant decrease in cognitive decline (as measured by the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale and the Mini Mental State Exam) and brain atrophy — important findings in light of statistics that show that one person per minute is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

“We found that fish oil use was associated with better performance on standard tests of memory and thinking abilities over time, compared to those who didn’t take supplements,” lead study author Lori Daiello, a research scientist at the Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center at Rhode Island Hospital, tells Yahoo Health. “They also experienced less brain shrinkage in areas of the brain important for healthy cognitive aging — the cerebral cortex and hippocampus, the portion of the brain responsible for forming and retaining memories.”

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The Birth of a Freestore

In a silent moment, just as sleep was catching hold, my daughter opened her eyes and asked me, “Mom, is Santa real?” I told her the truth. There were some tears, but we talked about the beauty that remains in gifting, and she relaxed into her new found knowledge. As I lay next to her as she slept, I realized that the most distressing part of losing Santa is that many of her toys now had ceased to be part of a larger story. I had, single-handedly, de-mythologized her mountains of stuffed animals, her fairy house, her nesting boxes with “Be My Valentine” on them. She loved the idea that Santa wanted her to be his special someone. This left her feeling empty.

We all suffer from a deficit of stories in many areas of our lives, especially with our things. It is true that many suffer from profound scarcity of basic needs, but many people reading this article will recognize that, conversely, many also suffer from a surfeit of possessions, most of which lack meaning in our lives. Many of us work long hours at tedious jobs to afford things that we've been taught (by advertising and our culture of consumption) fills a void. That is a lie. The objects that fill our homes don't fill voids or heal wounds. They create more voids, more responsibilities, and more pressure to accumulate.

Valued objects have been with us for tens of thousands of years. The archaeological record tells us that we first had objects and ornaments made of rare, earthly substances: stones like carnelian, turquoise and obsidian; metals like gold, silver, and copper. There was also a lively trade in feathers and shells, coral and amber, bone and teeth. Later, but well before the invention of money, items of high value represented the tremendous time, complex trade-relationships, and access to resources that one person would give to another to gain status or repay a gift.1 Even low-value items, given between friends and relatives, denoted a complex web of interrelationship. Gift-giving and objects enmeshed us in community.2 These object carried memories and debts that needed to be repaid. They bonded us through obligation.

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Domoney blames excessive internet use for "disconnect with nature" in children

Too much time on the computer is stopping children getting outdoors says TV gardener David Domoney.

David DomoneyGarden designer David Domoney, co-presenter of ITV’s Love Your Garden, says he is concerned about the ‘disconnect’ between children and nature – largely due to rise and rise of the Internet.

He said: "Where has the simplicity of a garden treehouse for children gone, where they can climb a tree and connect with nature? A simple tree for kids to climb. A connection with the outdoors."

At this year’s RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, Domoney has designed an Avatar-style elevated Treehouse and Woodlands called The Quiet Mark Tree House and Garden by John Lewis.

"We are fighting an uphill battle with the Internet" says Domoney. "And gardening is the loser".

According to communication regular Ofgem, teenagers today spend  over 32 hours each week either watching television or on the Internet. The time is evenly split between the two activities. That’s an increase of two hours per week in terms of online usage year on year.

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Rediscovered Roots

These uncommon vegetables are short on glamour but rich with culinary possibilities.

salsift-an undiscovered rootCultivating something old, but new to our gardens, is a wonderful way to connect with our ancestors—or in this case, with our “roots.” And daikon, celeriac, salsify, and scorzonera are root vegetables with old-world associations. Although common in European or Asian cooking, these crops barely register with American gardeners today. What a shame: All four offer nutritious top greens as well as flavorful roots that extend the harvest season well into winter. It’s time more gardeners tried these honorable heirlooms.

Salsify and Scorzonera

The young leaves of salsify and scorzonera are edible, and their flower stalks can be blanched and served as you would asparagus. Yet it is the roots that are most prized by gourmets. Salsify produces pale-skinned, often forked roots with tiny rootlets, while scorzonera resembles a petrified brown carrot without the taper; preparing the long, slender roots requires some effort. Both vegetables are southern European natives, widely cultivated in the United States during the 18th century but largely absent from seed catalogs today. They are readily available in European produce markets during the late fall and winter months, a tribute to old-world traditions.

“We grow salsify and scorzonera as an ornamental crop,” says Doug Croft, horticulturist at Chanticleer, a public garden near Philadelphia where the vegetable garden is more about design than harvest. Transitioning from a summer garden to fall often leaves gaps in the rows, but Croft discovered that salsify produces a brilliant green rosette during the fall months when many other vegetables are past their prime. “As a bonus, the plants send up flower stalks with gorgeous composite flowers,” Croft says. As biennials, the plants bloom in their second year: purple flowers for salsify and yellow for scorzonera.

Salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius) and scorzonera (Scorzonera hispanica) are members of the aster family, Asteraceae, and share similar flat leaves. Scorzonera has a flavor reminiscent of artichoke heart. It is a common vegetable in early cookbooks, served grated, buttered, scalloped, or stewed. Thomas Jefferson grew salsify at Monticello, planting it in the same quantities as carrots and asparagus. Its flavor has been compared to that of oysters; in fact, salsify is sometimes called oyster plant.

Both vegetables are easy to grow from seed. A few varieties exist for each type, yet the differences are minimal.

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Home Canning: Putting Food By the Old-Fashioned Way

We looked to our readers to find out why home canning is experiencing a modern revival. Their answer: Canning produces flavorful, high-quality food that saves money, builds self-reliance and creates lifelong memories.

We’ve compiled everything you need to start canning, including a list of recommended how-to and recipe books, places to find your supplies, a list of our favorite canning products from Etsy, and even an app or two. Find it all in our Home Canning Guide.

It’s Saturday morning and you’ve just popped out your back door, your bare feet making an impression in warm dirt. You inhale the familiar scent of tomato foliage as you reach for the fattest, reddest tomato on your vines. It’s so ripe, it almost falls into your hand. This tomato was intended for the omelet pan that waits inside, but you have to have it here, now. You clutch it like a baseball and bite into it like an apple.

You can’t buy a tomato like this in any store. With a taste this rich and multidimensional, it can only be homegrown. Don’t you wish you could bottle up that taste and enjoy it all year long? There is in fact a way to capture that kind of flavor and pride: You can, if you can.

Even if you don’t have your own garden, you’ll enjoy safer, better-tasting food if you buy in bulk from a local producer and can it yourself. You can can almost anything — mint jelly, potato soup, barbecue sauce. With the proper equipment, the sky’s the limit. Laying by some or all of the food your household will require over the course of four seasons does require foresight and skill, but putting food by is also an art; a comfort that helps us feel secure.

Extending the shelf life of our foods dates back to early Mediterranean civilizations who dried figs in the sun and the ancient Egyptians who doused fresh herbs with olive oil. Home canning came along in France in the early 19th century, when Nicolas Appert invented a way to safely store food by vacuum-sealing it in jars. Whether to dry, freeze, ferment or can is a fundamental food preservation question, and canning is often the best answer.

More and more people are deciding to learn how to can food at home. The University of Missouri Extension, for example, has doubled its available food preservation classes. Fran Blank, a food preservation instructor with more than 40 years of experience, says she has been amazed in recent years by how popular her classes have become. Last year, Ball Canning reported a doubling in sales of the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving.

We asked our more than 85,000 Facebook fans what they thought of home canning and were overwhelmed by the hundreds of responses. They told us they enjoy the rows of colorful jars that sit on the pantry shelves like treasures. Canning food provides a deeper wealth than dollars and cents — and that’s only one among many reasons people have taken up the art.

Home Canning for Flavor and Better Nutrition

We also polled our readers, and they reported that they can to enjoy flavors and textures that are just better, more alive and real. The absence of additives has something to do with the difference, as does the selection of top-quality ingredients. In her Big Book of Preserving the Harvest, Carol W. Costenbader dedicates an entire chapter to choosing ingredients and the idea that “no recipe, however elaborate, can make up for ingredients that are inferior in taste or freshness.”

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Homemade Sawbuck for Cutting Firewood

Use this portable homemade sawbuck for securing logs to be cut into firewood.

Sawbucks are devices for holding logs or branches that are being cut into firewood. They make the task safer and more efficient. I live on a city lot and needed a sawbuck that could fold up and store in a limited amount of space. I built it from salvaged 2-by-4s and scraps of plywood or particleboard. It can be made any size, depending upon your need.

This “mini-buck” stands only 20 inches high and has two sets of legs. The plywood is first glued to the legs with construction adhesive, then screwed, nailed or stapled, making the sawbuck rigid and stable yet light enough to fold and carry. It’s easy to customize by adding holes to help carry it or to hang it from a wall.

The key is to build each half identical and then offset the pieces when assembling. This allows you to adjust the spacing with washers if the joints become too loose or too tight because of the wood swelling or from wear. When building, it also helps if you drill all of the pivot holes dead center in each 2-by-4 before gluing and nailing on the plywood. The sawbuck is held in the open position when the 2-by-4 legs butt up against the top edges of the plywood cross pieces.

Philip Jacobs
St. Paul, Minnesota


Eat Your Weeds! The Best Edible Weeds

Easy-growing weeds are surprisingly tasty and packed with nutrients.

Long used as cleansing tonics, easy-to-find spring weeds are rich in vitamins and minerals. Local weeds’ leaves, flowers and roots make yummy additions to salads, soups and other dishes. If you’re collecting weeds in the wild, be certain you are foraging from a location free of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Proper identification is essential; invest in a great guide like A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants or seek out a local herbalist or botanist to take you on a “weed walk.” Otherwise, you can grow weeds with virtually no maintenance in a container or your yard. You’ll be eating up the free harvest in no time!

Chickweed (Stellaria media): Delicate and high in vitamin C, chickweed leaves taste like spinach. Steam young leaves, or use leaves and flowers in soups, salads and stir-fries.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale): Best harvested in early spring before the plant flowers, young dandelion leaves have a tasty, mildly bitter flavor. With high levels of iron, potassium and beta-carotene, dandelion stimulates digestion and aids the liver. You can also eat the roots—scrub and slice them, then sauté in sesame oil and soy sauce.

Lamb’s-quarters (Chenopodium album): The leaves taste like spinach and are supernutritious—they’re loaded with calcium, beta-carotene and vitamin C. Eat them raw or cook them into casseroles, grain salads and egg dishes.

Nettles (Urtica dioica): This classic spring green, known for its stinging hairs, sounds intimidating to eat (and gloves are necessary when collecting), but the leaves lose their sting when cooked. Usually added to soups or steamed like spinach, nettles are high in immune-boosting iron, beta-carotene and vitamin C, and help alleviate allergy symptoms.

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea): High in alpha-linolenic acid, a brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acid, and vitamin C, purslane leaves, stems, flowers and roots are all edible. Purslane can be added to cold soups or blended into pesto.

Violets (Viola spp.): In shades of purple, white or yellow, violets are the most beautiful of the spring weeds. Add the lovely flowers, rich in vitamin C, to salads, stuffings or desserts, or try the young, tender violet leaves steamed or in salads.

Favorite Wilted Greens

Gather fresh, wild weeds such as chickweed, dandelion, nettles and violet leaves. You can mix these with cultivated greens such as spinach, kale, arugula and chard.

8 to 10 cups fresh and cultivated greens
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper

1. Wash greens and remove tough midribs if necessary. Spin or pat greens dry. Chop roughly.
2. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat and add garlic. Stir 1 minute. Add greens, stir and cover. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until greens are bright green and tender. Season lightly with salt and pepper and enjoy. Serves 2

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A growing appetite for local food sends us back to our root cellars

root cellar st philipsTucked in a grassy ridge cutting across the Small Family CSA Farm in La Farge, Wis., is a refrigerator so efficient it requires not a single watt of electricity, yet it can keep some crops chilly for months. It’s not some high-tech, Swedish-designed, solar-powered cooling unit. Just a good old-fashioned root cellar, kept cool through the summer months, and above freezing in the winter, by the soil surrounding it.

Shunning hulking and energy wasting refrigerated cold storage, Jillian and Adam Varney four years ago chose to build this two-room cellar for $10,000. Over time, like solar panels, it will pay for itself in savings – and in revenue for their small, organic farm. The hand-built produce closet, which includes a room kept extra cool with a small air-conditioner, allows them to extend their 220-member community-supported agriculture operation (CSA) into the winter months.

Root cellars are basically any storage area that operates on the earth’s natural cooling, humidifying, and insulating properties. To work properly, a root cellar must stay between 32 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit and at 85 to 95 percent humidity. The cool temps slow the release of ethylene gas, halting decomposition. High humidity levels prevent evaporation loss, stopping your veggies from shriveling and withering.

Outmoded with the birth of the refrigerator and the 1950s kitchen, root cellars all but went underground, resurfacing briefly in the ’60s and with survivalists. Now, this tiny house movement for foodstuffs is experiencing a slow but certain renaissance as the local food movement gains momentum.

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