Saturday, July 29, 2006

On the Roof of Peru, Omens in the Ice

On the Roof of Peru, Omens in the Ice: The article concerns itself with Andean glaciers in Peru. They're retreating, like other glaciers around the world. It's a sign of a warming climate. I want to write about this because of a trip I took to the Andes 11 years ago.

In 1995 I was able to take a trip to witness an ancient Quechua ceremony that is performed every year at their Winter Solstice (what is, to us, the summer solstice). The Qu'oyllu'riti festival draws 50,000 or more natives of the Andes, and the year I attended there were only 100 or so foreigners. The festival site is very remote, far up in a valley where there is a glacier at the head of the valley. The story they told me is they're commemorating the site where, shortly after the Spaniards arrived in the 1500's, a small child was seen whom they took as Jesus. There's a story that was told, but later reading about this festival tells me the ceremony has been performed for thousands of years, and this is another instance of Christianity overlaying itself over a native ancient custom.

It is a three day festival where the participants are representatives sent from villiages in the Andes, from Bolivia, and I think even from the Amazon rain forest. Each villiage has performers who perform their version of a common song, each band of performers has their own costuming, and the music they play all follows the same tune but with small differences unique to each group. There are other aspects to the festival, such as fireworks, including a loud cannon that shoots off every minute or so, and a group of people who dress like a certain bear known in the Andes and are charged with keeping peace, order, and the spiritual nature of the event. There is a rather large church of a Catholic style.

But, what is the point of all this, and what about the glaciers? The point of this festival is the glaciers. They see the glaciers as containing the purest of water. The spiritual leaders of this festival go onto the glaciers and do special ceremonies, and this festival is a major initiation time for the Quechua shamanic practitioners. There is special care taken to collect the ice from the glacier, and bring it back to each individuals home villiage for special ceremonies for those who could not leave.

It was clear to me the ecology of that area relied on the glaciers for water throughout the year. They seemed to not get much rain during the summer, and instead had collection of snow and ice on the glaciers that fed the rivers that provided the water they need to live. Oh, and not only is it the water the Andeans need to live, but that same water feeds a large portion of the Amazon basin below them.

The article linked above tells this story with scientific facts. It tells of scientists observating the glaciers retreat, how the nature of the glaciers have changed over the years, and how the local farmers are worried about their future. The article describes how one farmer has shifted his work to growing flowers, and how he is able to earn money that way, but if the water stops running how can he live? He can't drink money.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Institute for Local Self Reliance (ILSR)


The Institute for Local Self Reliance (ILSR) is a small organization with a remarkable track record for breaking new ground in promoting sustainable communities. In 1978 RAIN magazine described ILSR as an organization that "puts hard numbers on soft dreams". In 1993 United States Senator Paul Wellstone called ILSR "one of this country's leading practical thinkers in the area of sustainable economic development".

Every year since its founding ILSR has researched the feasibility of communities generating a significant amount of wealth from local resources and has worked with the increasing numbers of communities interested in moving in that direction. In our initial years we focused on our surrounding Washington, D.C. neighborhood, Adams Morgan. Our urban townhouse became a working model of our ideas, with rooftop hydroponic gardens and solar collectors and a commercial basement sprout operation and composting toilet. We researched the income flows and ownership patterns of the neighborhood and helped to build cooperative businesses.

Friday, July 21, 2006

$100 a barrel for oil?

Wake-up call to U.S. on oil?: Discusses a current worry that the fighting in the Middle East could cause the price for oil to become $100 per barrel. I think that's a very realistic concern, if we think about what's happened with the oil prices over the last couple years. The tensions in the Middle East have served to push up the price.

But that's not the only influence causing the oil prices to be so high as they are today.

There's growing oil demand from both India and China. Both countries are in a massive growth period, due to modernization of their economic activity.

There's the continuing rise in world oil demand, regardless of growth in India or China.

There's the peak oil consideration where it looks like world oil production capacity is going to soon reach a peak. Once the oil production peak is reached the price is inexorably going to go up.

The Chicago Tribune article is flawed by looking only at the immediate issue, and the immediate cause for oil price increases. If we think about those three effects, the price for oil is only going to rise. And once the oil production peak is reached, the price for oil is going to increase dramatically.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Green Maps


Green Map System is a global eco-cultural movement, energized by local knowledge, action and responsibility.

Green Maps are locally created maps that chart the natural and cultural environment. Using adaptable tools and a shared visual language of Green Map Icons to highlight green living resources, Green Maps cultivate citizen participation and community sustainability in hundreds of places around the world.

Saturday, July 15, 2006 is a group blog covering apartment dwellers


A group blog aimed to helping people to make their apartments better places to live.

They believe:

  • A calm, healthy, beautiful home is a necessary foundation for happiness and success in the world.
  • Creating this home doesn't require large amounts of money or space. It requires inspiration, connection to resources and motivation to do something about it.
  • The basic elements of good home design can be learned and achieved by all.
  • Simplicity and luxury are not mutually exclusive.

Greenprint Denver


The mission of Greenprint Denver is to provide leadership and solutions to ensure a prosperous community where people and nature thrive.

The City of Edinburgh - Sustainable Development Unit


The City of Edinburgh, Scotland, has a vision that "by 2015, Edinburgh will lead the most successful and sustainable city region in Northern Europe and sustain the highest quality of life of any UK city". They have a number of projects which aim to integrate sustainable development practices with the city Council activities. These include climate change, energy, fair trade, sustainable construction, resource use, water, and sustainable travel.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

What to do with old glass bottles?

Tree Hugger notes What Should You Do with Extra Glass Bottles? riffing off a question on Apartment Therapy. The question is, you've bought something in a glass bottle, used the contents of the bottle, and now what?

I just recycle stuff. I recycle so much stuff that I hardly ever take out "trash" as most of what I take out gets into the recycling bin instead.

But, Tree Hugger suggests an alternative. Make stuff out of it. That glass bottle could be remade into several kinds of uses.

I remember as a kid we had a glass bottle cutter gizmo that we'd stick in the neck of a bottle, zip the cutter around the bottle, and off cops the top of the bottle. Instant flower vase, or instant pitcher, or instant drinking glass.

Well, not so "instant". The edges tend to be sharp, so you have to smooth them down. Especially if you want to use the ex-bottle as a drinking glass. Also you should be careful in handling the thing because you can accidently break the bottle while cutting it.

But ... as one of the commenters on Tree Hugger says, you only need so many drinking glasses. After you've made a set of drinking glasses, then what?

Yup... then what?

Recycle, my friend. The Earth will love you for it.