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Rediscovering Animals 

#9-Encouraging Scenes From the Steady State--Energy

March 26, 2013
The steady state requires energy conservation, a rational phasing out of fossil fuels in favor of solar--like using rooftops in LosAngeles to collect it--and wind--where the birds don't swarm--and algae--do they really produce more oil if they are starved?--and hydroelectric generators--like tides and waves? There are a lot of alternatives, especially local solutions too often ignored. We really don't want to subject our great grandchildren to a sudden loss of power. Smart grids would also help that.
Don't miss the whole story.Dietz and Dan O'Neill Enough Is Enough.

The estimate now is something like fifty years of tearing up the U.S. to get at shale oil? Then what? Oh, yes. Then there's the gunk in the ocean. That makes for even more CO2 in the air. How hot can we stand? How much extreme weather? How many coastal cities will remain? We are rational beings, smart enough to do the gradual transition, beginning now.
Maybe we aren't smart enough. I'm using energy to keep my birds warm in the Hen House tonight because the temperature suddenly dropped to ten degrees F. Bringing ducks and geese into the garage, even just overnight, makes an unbelievable mess. I try not to drive too much. I buy groceries once every two weeks, use the hubby to buy ketchup or carrots when he goes downtown to the gym, and I work at home. But I also use a dryer so I won't have to iron shirts. Who knows which is more energy efficient? I fill the ducks' bowls full every morning so they can have fresh water, which they love, and on and on.

The problem and the guilt, however, should not rest with us little guys. Didn't DuPont save millions just by instituting efficiency measures in their operation? Maybe we should lean on the big guys, so the hens don't have to suffer frozen combs or the ducks dirty water. What is really scary is how much water fracking for oil requires.

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#8-Encouraging Scenes from a Steady State Economy--Nature

There will be a "new area of healing" for nature when the economy quits growing, with its ever increasing demand for more space, energy and resources. Now wildlife will benefit, but so will outdoor recreation and the vital services nature provides, like climate regulation and water purification. The healing in this encouraging scenario includes less industrial waste. Not only resources, but the capacity of Earth to absorb wastes is also limited. Don't miss the whole story. Read Dietz and Dan O'Neill's Enough Is Enough.

Maybe I worry too much. It's because I was imprinted with rolling green hills between the towns east of San Francisco Bay and quiet beaches at Lake Tahoe. If you were born after 1960, you were imprinted with solid suburbia around San Francisco Bay and crowded beaches at Lake Tahoe. Imprinting is powerful. What you experience in your early youth is what you believe is normal--the way the world should be. Now the pundits say Earth can't support 7 billion people at a decent standard of living, but everyone born now will believe that is what is normal--that is how the world is supposed to be. They're imprinted with "Too many is okay." What can we do? Too many people are hungry.


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6. The Look of the Steady State--Cities

In the steady state, which includes a stable population, hence a predictable, perhaps smaller population, the cities are compact with less ecological impact. Their buildings are more efficient, designed with solar exposure--heat and light-saving options trumping artistic considerations. Their location, even their roofs are enhanced with natural areas and gardens or solar panels, in neighborhoods supplying everyday needs from local and regional cooperatives and businesses supplying opportunities for employment. Long distance travel is handy but more efficient. (Metal rails are said to be 1000% more energy-saving than wheels.) Across-town travel could make use of short-term rentals of bikes, small vehicles or streetcars.

The look of cities could be much different, if equity were achieved. At one time, some ecological economists thought a 15% difference in income would be okay in order to provide incentive for doing difficult work. The % difference is now obscenely high. Not only a progressive tax, but huge serendipitous profits or lucky strikes providing popular sports or entertainment could provide a maintenance share for everyone. The impact would reflect in the cities' lack of slums. No one need be homeless or live without the basics. It just takes the will to see it done.

Sharing jobs and work hours would also impact the cities. Given more time for culture and leisure and an income similar to everyone else, arts, amateur sports and creative and educational support centers could flourish. The cities could once again come alive with people everywhere. Shared conveniences and large appliances could also add to community and save huge amounts of energy and resources.

Pie in the sky? Of course, and I take responsibility for those ideas not mentioned in the book Enough Is Enough. Dietz and O'Neill present a case for the steady state that reliably considers the fact that we have to get there from Here--where we are now. It just takes a little more thought--more thought than defensive posturing.

When it's cold, Bobbi Goose may not keep the other birds out of the Hen House--even though she is more equal (bigger) than they are. Even she knows when it's time to back off and let them in.
2FJF5T2BGYFZ (Excuse the interruption.This is to verify for Technorati that I write this blog.)
Don't miss the whole story.Dietz and Dan O'Neill Enough Is Enough.

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#5-The Look of Business in the Steady State

Dietz and Dan O'Neill Enough Is Enough, p.200. Don't miss the whole story.
#5 in the authors' "...Encouraging Scenes From a Steady State Economy" is a vision of business in the steady state. Profit is not the only objective, as is seems to be now. In the steady state, businesses will also focus on improving social and environmental conditions. More democratic management, worker ownership, shared working hours could be part of the scene, thus providing more sense of purpose and contentment in holding a job.

In exploring the best development of business as a complex system, simple guiding rules, communication, relationships, and feedback at all levels are recommended by Margaret Wheatley. Giving these practices high priority provides more chance for a business to execute its best intentions while allowing it employees to be creative and explore new ideas.

I hate to be negative, but we need to do something to get current business ethics back on track Practices like death dating and planned obsolescence, shrinking content or packaging, selecting fruit for shipping longevity at the expense of nutrition and taste, selling produce laced with pesticides--all make me sick at heart. We can do better than that. Is the bottom line are only guidepost? We don't do quality anymore? Honesty? Integrity?

We are way behind some other countries in making official some of the most useful policies to ensure a reasonable future for our grandchildren. One example: I just did a search on EPR--Extended Product (or Producer) Responsibility. Its history on this continent is here. In short, EPR means "...economy-based rules require manufacturers to partially or fully pay for end-of-life management costs, including collection, recycling and final disposal." Details include take-back policies (or product taxes and recycling subsidies), product labeling, and responsibility for environmental damages and clean-up costs. EPR encourages longevity in design and the provision of spare parts and repair--plus the jobs that would go with the restoration of those old-fashioned ideas. Earth provides details and a list of companies and products that engage in the practice.

The application to all this in the Hen House becomes obvious when you look around. The pen is a made from reused chicken wire, posts, and three large acrylic paintings from the set of my musical "Petra and the Jay." The paintings make great shade for part of the pen in summer, and they reduce the snow load in winter.
I must admit, however, that we don't recycle the occupants. Turkey is now 11 years old and Lucy goose is twelve. They eat a lot, and the whole gang goes through one cup of oyster shell every day, not to mention the water the ducks spill out of their bathtubs. At least the ducks provide eggs for a neighbor child who is allergic to chicken eggs.

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#4."...Encouraging Scenes From a Steady State Economy"--Community

California poppies. Photo by Shawne Workman

Rob Dietz and Dan O'Neill Enough Is Enough, p.200. Don't miss the whole story.

In the 1950s the San Francisco Bay Area was surrounded by fruit orchards and countryside--brown rolling hills in summer dotted with huge oak trees that loomed in grand silhouettes when the hills turned green in winter. Tall eucalyptus lined the streams and roads. You drove through the hills for five miles or more before a collection of small farms signaled the appearance of a collection of shop-lined streets--the next city down the road. Streetcars laced the shops together if you didn't want to walk through town. You knew who owned what shop, which owner liked kids, and that the ice cream parlor was next door to the dress shop, right in the middle of town. There you could get real ice cream sodas, made with thick syrup blasted into the creamy dessert drink with a fizz-fazz spigot.

Such is the vision of Dietz and O'Neill in Enough Is Enough: Building A Sustainable Economy In a World of Finite Resources. We need to transition our economic focus from global to local and quit wasting energy shipping cardboard fruit all over planet Earth

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Family Time, Steady State Benefit #3

February 12,2013
"With a shorter work week, family members can spend more quality time...Children receive more attention..." Rob Dietz and Dan O'Neill Enough Is Enough, p.200. Don't miss the whole story.

So what has this to do with the Hen House? It's about finding the gift of fresh eggs every morning and the satisfaction of building nests to make the hens happy enough to lay them for you (not hiding them in the wood pile). It's about time to sit on the bench beneath the ponderosas and watch the hens hunt and scratch, soaking up the safe time outside the pen with the dogs on guard. You could call it a prelude to localization, also recommended by steady state pundits. Urban chickens are growing in popularity these days--encouraging.

I can think of too many ways I could use more time: learning to paint, re-learning to play the piano, learning some Spanish, sharing some great books I've found, exploring ideas with friends over coffee, improving my tennis or bridge, playing some sandlot baseball again.

The point is that, with a cap on manufacturing to minimize throughput, the constant obsession with growing every business ceaselessly, with no real need, begins to seem wasteful of both time and resources. Businesses would do well to focus on service and quality, opportunities to provide job sharing, shorter work hours, specialty training and creative hand work to replace robotics, worker training and participation in management. If manufacturers were responsible for their products forever (as they are in some place), they could provide more jobs, like making parts for repairs, repairing the product, and recycling its every component.

Taking this one step further, if land, water, air, and underground resources were considered commons, not private property, the care and management of the land could be assigned to those who wanted to use it or live on it. This shift in responsibility would be a sure cure for boredom for people with shorter work hours. Could be a full-time job for some.

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Stabilizing Population

Today we consider #2 in Rob Dietz's engaging scenarios for the steady state in "Enough Is Enough," the no-growth economics text that should be required reading. In #1 we mentioned efficiency, the need to conserve, economize, recycle, consume responsibly. Rob said "We can consume enough to meet [our] needs...without undermining the life-support system of the planet."

The planet doesn't go on forever, but our population growth seems to be doing just that, at a faster and faster rate. Education and consensus and women's rights have stabilized the population in Europe and some other places. It's clear we can do this without being told we have to.

Marq deVilliers in "Our Way Out" puts it this way "Growth has to stop, and this does not imply economic stagnation and distress. Like it or not, population has to be stabilized. Unrestrainable resource depletion has to be terminated." I know this all too well. I love raising chicks so much, when I go into the feed store I will find any excuse to get a few more. Well, no more. Now that I'm preaching steady state ethics, I'd better realize that the Hen House in winter and the pen, even the yard, in summer is only so big. Enough geese, turkey, ducks, chicken, and two dogs is enough.

It's only been fifty years, the pundits say, since we have come to believe that growth is an "unquestionable dogma." The problem is that growth now costs the planet--and us--more than it is worth. Touting growth to supply more jobs so people can buy more stuff so there will be more jobs is a nasty trap, and we need to recognize that, sooner than later. Herman Daly points out that there are only two ways to get to a stable, no-growth economy. 1) Either growth fails and leads to unemployment and suffering or 2) steady state policies succeed, which they can because they are based on the realities of resource limits, not fictitious human behavior and fairy tale technology. We can do the limits to growth.

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Downsizing On a Scale Grander Than the Hen House

The guantlet was thrown down yesterday. Time to get busy. First, a quote from Rob Dietz and Dan O'Neill's ENOUGH IS ENOUGH--Putting aside our "...obsession with economic growth...[we can achieve] prosperity over the long run." Dietz and O'Neill's book

We can do this. It will not be easy, but the sooner we start the easier it will be. The first thing on the authors' list is easy enough 1) "...choose to consume energy and materials responsibly, conserving, economizing, and recycling..." i.e. mindful turning off the lights when you leave a room. There must me a gazillion things like that to do, especially for industry. I think it was DuPont that saved millions. On Varok every drop of water is captured and reused throughout the lodge and in the locale. Read The Archives of Varok.

I have to admit--sometimes, after I've filled the birds' water dishes outside the Hen House, it's easier not to walk up the hill to shut off the hose . I think to myself, "It will only take five minutes to put lay pellets and corn in the birds' dishes--maybe another three minutes to freshen their straw. Okay. Okay. I'll walk up the hill and shut off the water. At 22 seconds per gallon, letting it run for eight minutes would waste 22 gallons. Something to remember. Here in the dry southwest, we get our water from deep wells in an ancient aquifer whose level is dropping at an unsustainable rate. Precious stuff, that ancient water my geese and ducks bathe in--first thing, even before they take a beak-full of breakfast. They do appreciate it. (Maybe my sponge bathing is all I need today. My hair won't get stringy until tomorrow or Wednesday.)

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A Review of Pi, Dogs, Geese and Family Values

Cary with DeeDee, Bobbi and Lucy. The chickens are lost in the shadows.

Yesterday we saw the movie "The Life Of Pi"--a thoughtful exploration of religion and meaning and the animal mind--a masterful use of 3-d to express nature's power and human fragility and beauty without going over the top too often. The effects did not steal too much story time, just a little, with lengthy storms. What impressed me most was the director's restraint 1) in leaving the large questions unanswered, and 2) letting the human be a human and the tiger be a tiger.

Tigers are not dogs, nor are dingoes or wolves, though they share genes with domestic dogs. I suspect coyotes' tameness/civilized gene packages may be changing with their urbanization as dogs' did. The many nuances of eye contact tell the tale.

Geese also do eye contact, but it's very hard to read, maybe because their facial muscles don't attractively contract the orange ring that encircles their eyeballs. Or maybe I lose the eye contact in the constant honking they do when faced with a creature who leaves them puzzled.

My geese--Lucy and Bobbi--honk every morning at the three ducks, establishing their dominance over the favored area in the pen. Then everyone quiets down to do their morning washup, using their fluffy heads as very effective washrags--which bring me to the point of this blog--the concept of family. Dogs are family. They've had 50,000 or more years to refine their tameness gene cluster. They understand my emotional outbursts, and I understand theirs.

I don't understand goose Bobbi, as Pi failed to understand the tiger. We meet on a primitive level all right--the level where hunger and safety and dominance are clear, but Bobbi is also family. I am committed to her well being, to her health, her happiness. (I do believe she has such a thing.) Geese hate being handled, so I don't try to pet them, and I restrain them only when I must, to tend to a torn toenail or to put them into a dog crate for a fire evacuation. I provide shelter from the cold, and I will never prepare Bobbi's carcass for Christmas dinner--because she trusts me. She eats corn and Honey Dew melon rind from my hand. In fact, she expects goodies to appear every afternoon at 4, for she follows me to the pen when I come out with the kitchen scrap bucket. She doesn't know I'm a carnivore and never will, for I will never stalk her. She's a creature of schedule, like most animals, but she's puzzled. She hasn't got me figured out. I'm not quite flock. Lucy knows that; she was raised by 4H girls. But Bobbi hasn't learned what family is. Yet.

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Two Duck Marriages--Of Sorts

Tomorrow is launch day for THE WEBS OF VAROK, and here I am talking about ducks instead of gorgeous, funny aliens. It may not be obvious at first, but as you get into WEBS you'll see that it's all related, the issues I'm talking about here. They just get a little more serious in WEBS because they involve humans--and you know how humans are about such things. For a sneak preview go to or my blog on Goodreads.

So--two duck marriages, sort of: Colin Tudge uses the term in his wonderful book THE BIRD, (Another find in Hamilton Books) so I've decided I can, too.

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