Friday, December 25, 2009

Finished eating yet?

Here are the Top 10 fattest nations in the world and the percentage of the population that is overweight in those countries:

1) American Samoa, 93.5 percent (of population that's overweight)
2) Kiribati, 81.5 percent
3) U.S., 66.7 percent
4) Germany, 66.5 percent
5) Egypt, 66 percent
6) Bosnia-Herzegovina, 62.9 percent
7) New Zealand, 62.7 percent
8) Israel, 61.9 percent
9) Croatia, 61.4 percent
10) United Kingdom, 61 percent

Christmas Eve @ 1308 Calvin


Retention Area Garden

Here's what our first veggie garden looks like at end of December.

hoppy hols

Traditional walk to north end of Honeymooon - on Christmas Eve this year as Christmas day is supposed to be rainy. We didn't see any Christmas dolphins despite texting Jacque to send a little of his dolphin magic our way, but we did watch an osprey trying to deal with a very large fish!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

What' s Out There site showcases great landscapes - 12/7/2009

What' s Out There site showcases great landscapes - 12/7/2009

I want this!


Click image for larger view) The inner green shading represents the proposed safe operating space for nine planetary systems. The red wedges represent an estimate of the current position for each variable. The boundaries in three systems (rate of biodiversity loss, climate change and human interference with the nitrogen cycle), have already been exceeded.

Stratospheric ozone layer
The stratospheric ozone layer filters out ultraviolet radiation from the sun. If this layer decreases, increasing amounts of ultraviolet (UV) radiation will reach ground level and can cause a higher incidence of skin cancer in humans as well as damage to terrestrial and marine biological systems. The appearance of the Antarctic ozone hole was proof that increased concentrations of anthropogenic ozone depleting substances, combined with polar stratospheric clouds, had moved the Antarctic stratosphere into a new regime. Fortunately, because of the actions taken as a result of the Montreal Protocol, we appear to be on the path that will allow us to stay within this boundary.

In the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment of 2005, it was concluded that changes in biodiversity due to human activities were more rapid in the past 50 years than at any time in human history, and the drivers of change that cause biodiversity loss and lead to changes in ecosystem services are either steady, show no evidence of declining over time, or are increasing in intensity. These large rates of extinction can be slowed by judicious projects to enhance habitat and build appropriate connectivity while maintaining high agricultural productivity. Further research is needed to determine whether a boundary based on extinction rates is sufficient, and whether there are reliable data to support it.

Chemicals dispersion
Emissions of persistent toxic compounds such as metals, various organic compounds and radionuclides, represent some of the key human-driven changes to the planetary environment. There are a number of examples of additive and synergic effects from these compounds. These effects are potentially irreversible. Of most concern are the effects of reduced fertility and especially the potential of permanent genetic damage. As an example, organism uptake and accumulation to sub-lethal levels increasingly cause a dramatic reduction of marine mammal and bird populations. At present, we are unable to quantify this boundary; however, it is nonetheless considered sufficiently well defined to be on the list.

Climate Change
We have reached a point at which the loss of summer polar ice is almost certainly irreversible. From the perspective of the Earth as a complex system, this is one example of the sharp threshold above which large feedback mechanisms could drive the Earth system into a much warmer, greenhouse gas-rich state with sea levels meters higher than present. The weakening or reversal of terrestrial carbon sinks, for example through the ongoing destruction of the world´s rainforests, is another such interdependent tipping point. Recent evidence suggests that the Earth System, now passing 387 ppmv CO2, has already transgressed this Planetary Boundary. A major question is how long we can remain over this boundary before large, irreversible changes become unavoidable.

Ocean acidification
Around a quarter of the CO2 humanity produces is dissolved in the oceans. Here it forms carbonic acid, altering ocean chemistry and decreasing the pH of the surface water. Increased acidity reduces the amount of available carbonate ions, an essential building block used for shell and skeleton formation in organisms such as corals, and some shellfish and plankton species. This will seriously change ocean ecology and potentially lead to drastic reductions in fish stocks. Compared to pre-industrial times, surface ocean acidity has increased by 30%.

The ocean acidification boundary is a clear example of a boundary which, if transgressed, will involve very large change in marine ecosystems, with ramifications for the whole planet. It is also a good example of how tightly connected the boundaries are, since atmospheric CO2 concentration is the underlying controlling variable for both the climate and the ocean acidification boundary.

Freshwater consumption and the global hydrological cycle
The freshwater cycle is both a major prerequisite for staying within the climate boundary, and is strongly affected by climate change. Human pressure is now the dominating driving force determining the function and distribution of global freshwater systems. The effects are dramatic, including both global-scale river flow change and shifts in vapor flows from land use change. Water is becoming increasingly scarce and by 2050 about half a billion people are likely to have moved into the water-stressed category. A water boundary related to consumptive freshwater use has been proposed to maintain the overall resilience of the Earth system and avoid crossing local and regional thresholds ‘downstream´.

Land system change
Land is converted to human use all over the planet. Forests, wetlands and other vegetation types are converted primarily to agricultural land. This land-use change is one driving force behind reduced biodiversity and has impacts on water flows as well as carbon and other cycles. Land cover change occurs on local and regional scales but when aggregated appears to impact the Earth System on a global scale. A major challenge with setting a land use-related boundary is to reflect not only the needed quantity of unconverted and converted land but also its function, quality and spatial distribution.

Atmospheric aerosol loading
This is considered a planetary boundary for two main reasons: (i) the influence of aerosols on the climate system and (ii) their adverse effects on human health at a regional and global scale. Without aerosol particles in the atmosphere, we would not have clouds. Most clouds and aerosol particles act to cool the planet by reflecting incoming sunlight back to space. Some particles (such as soot) or thin high clouds act like greenhouse gases to warm the planet. In addition, aerosols have been shown to affect monsoon circulations and global-scale circulation systems. Particles also have adverse effects on human health, causing roughly 800,000 premature deaths worldwide each year. While all of these relationships have been well established, all the causal links (especially regarding health effects) are yet to be determined. It has not yet been possible specific threshold value at which global-scale effects will occur; but aerosol loading is so central to climate and human health that it is included among the boundaries.

Nitrogen and phosphorus inputs to the biosphere and oceans
Human modification of the nitrogen cycle has been even greater than our modification of the carbon cycle. Human activities now convert more N2 from the atmosphere into reactive forms than all of the Earth´s terrestrial processes combined. Much of this new reactive nitrogen pollutes waterways and coastal zones, is emitted to the atmosphere in various forms, or accumulates in the terrestrial biosphere. A relatively small proportion of the fertilizers applied to food production systems is taken up by plants. A significant fraction of the applied nitrogen and phosphorus makes its way to the sea, and can push marine and aquatic systems across thresholds of their own. A concrete example of this effect is the decline in the shrimp catch in the Gulf of Mexico due to hypoxia caused by fertilizer transported in rivers from the US Midwest.
Nitrogen and phosphorus cycles

Modern agriculture is a major cause of environmental pollution, including large-scale nitrogen- and phosphorus-induced environmental change. At the planetary scale, the additional amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus activated by humans are now so large that they significantly perturb the global cycles of these two important elements.

Human processes — primarily the manufacture of fertilizer for food production and the cultivation of leguminous crops — convert around 120 million tonnes of N2 from the atmosphere per year into reactive forms — which is more than the combined effects from all Earth's terrestrial processes. Much of this new reactive nitrogen ends up in the environment, polluting waterways and the coastal zone, accumulating in land systems and adding a number of gases to the atmosphere. It slowly erodes the resilience of important Earth subsystems. Nitrous oxide, for example, is one of the most important non-CO2 greenhouse gases and thus directly increases radiative forcing.

Anthropogenic distortion of the nitrogen cycle and phosphorus flows has shifted the state of lake systems from clear to turbid water. Marine ecosystems have been subject to similar shifts, for example, during periods of anoxia in the Baltic Sea caused by excessive nutrients. These and other nutrient-generated impacts justify the formulation of a planetary boundary for nitrogen and phosphorus flows, which we propose should be kept together as one boundary given their close interactions with other Earth-system processes.

Setting a planetary boundary for human modification of the nitrogen cycle is not straightforward. We have defined the boundary by considering the human fixation of N2 from the atmosphere as a giant 'valve' that controls a massive flow of new reactive nitrogen into Earth. As a first guess, we suggest that this valve should contain the flow of new reactive nitrogen to 25% of its current value, or about 35 million tonnes of nitrogen per year. Given the implications of trying to reach this target, much more research and synthesis of information is required to determine a more informed boundary.

Unlike nitrogen, phosphorus is a fossil mineral that accumulates as a result of geological processes. It is mined from rock and its uses range from fertilizers to toothpaste. Some 20 million tonnes of phosphorus is mined every year and around 8.5 million–9.5 million tonnes of it finds its way into the oceans. This is estimated to be approximately eight times the natural background rate of influx.

Records of Earth history show that large-scale ocean anoxic events occur when critical thresholds of phosphorus inflow to the oceans are crossed. This potentially explains past mass extinctions of marine life. Modeling suggests that a sustained increase of phosphorus flowing into the oceans exceeding 20% of the natural background weathering was enough to induce past ocean anoxic events.

Our tentative modeling estimates suggest that if there is a greater than tenfold increase in phosphorus flowing into the oceans (compared with pre-industrial levels), then anoxic ocean events become more likely within 1,000 years. Despite the large uncertainties involved, the state of current science and the present observations of abrupt phosphorus-induced regional anoxic events indicate that no more than 11 million tonnes of phosphorus per year should be allowed to flow into the oceans — ten times the natural background rate. We estimate that this boundary level will allow humanity to safely steer away from the risk of ocean anoxic events for more than 1,000 years, acknowledging that current levels already exceed critical thresholds for many estuaries and freshwater systems.

For more of the story go to

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Grain Bins

What happens when a traditional farm family who has done what they have done for decades chooses to fully embrace 21st century, alternative energy technology?

What happens is that life on the farm becomes anything but dull.

The above grain bin had been storing corn and soybeans for the small Illinois farm family that has owned it for more than fifty years. Always doing its' job, always serving as a container that housed the contents of annual harvests for both themselves and neighboring farmers, this bin, because of its' age and physical condition was in the process of being retired when I was presented with a design challenge.

The challenge as defined by the wise elderly matriarch and retired public school science teacher who owns and operates this bin, three others just like it and the five acre farm the bins are located on, was to turn this decommissioned grain bin into a living quarters that would house the many travelers the owner felt would be attracted to the notion of livi
The ng on an historic working farm absolutely filled with highly relevant local agricultural history while in turn being filled with conversations of future agricultural dreams.

As the conversations we had were of utilizing the bin to create memorable experiences, the experiences and dialogues we talked of creating were much more about why small family farms were on one hand going broke while on the other, attempting to figure out why in fact they were.

As the gist of our conversations were ultimately about reinventing a greater rural 21st century American agricultural and economic dynamic, this bin represented our mutual attempt to do so.

While reinventing that dynamic most certainly centered on the production of a purely organic locally distributed crop, it did as well center on the reconstruction and alternative energy retrofitting of the out buildings located on this farm.

Hence, how to heat the unheated horse barn by harnessing and directing the sun to specific areas of that barn was every bit as much a part of our dialogue as how to harness the waters that flowed from underground springs and the prevailing winds that blew constantly across the fields of corn and soybeans surrounding this farm.

Can the sun, the water and the wind be harnessed and controlled in such a manner as to affect the positive financial and organic future of this historic family farm?

In turn, if this could be done, what else could be done to enhance in quite an equally positive manner, the overall social dynamic of the community surrounding this farm?

Needless to say, our conversations were quite expansive in nature.

As I am new to La Vida Lacavore, as this is but my third essay and in my first essay I described myself as a 21st century, green industrial essayist while in turn describing myself as an architectural designer, master carpenter and organic gardening engineer and while all of this might be a mouthful for someone to swallow, the fact of the matter is that for close to four decades, I have done nothing other than design and build sustainable architectural environments that are pretty much off the radar screen of conventional American thought.

With all things being as they are in our nation today and with our conventional radar screens all but useless, the dream that has inspired myself and many others across America to think well beyond the constraints of the conventional box is now the headwaters of our nations 21st century green industrial potential.

Having said this, let me get on with the description of the work that was done on this particular grain bin project.

Ode to the 21st Century Green American Organic Family Farmer

"Solar energy shines.
Wind energy moves.
Organic gardens embrace, organic architecture thrives.
Sustainable conversations are engaging.
Rural economic development becomes real....
.....and 21st century green barn dancers'
Have a tendency to rock and roll".


Take the old grain bin that can no longer be certified as safe to store farm product in and turn it into a home for certifiably crazy new generation self sustainable organic farmers.


The bin itself was structurally sound. Having never been used for anything other than storing and drying grain, all the mechanicals were in perfect working order. Due to the fact that the concrete foundation was never engineered properly however, over the course of time, this foundation split and cracked and sagged.

The first thing to understand before we could begin the renovation was not why the concrete was poorly engineered but what was going on beneath the foundation that ultimately exposed the concrete to structural fatigue.


As the land surrounding this bin was often marshy and spongy to walk on, why it was so became our focus.

Researching the geographical history of the land, we soon discovered that underground springs that had been draining the Mississippi River Valley for centuries had served to undermine this foundation ever since the day it was constructed in the late 1940s. Once we traced the path of the underground rivers flowing beneath the concrete, we had a few choices.


The first choice was to abandon the project altogether. But, of course we did not do so because we were then as we remain now "organically nuts".

The second choice was to look into just exactly how close one particular underground stream was to this grain bin, where it was actually surfacing and what could be done to redirect the water away from the bin's foundation.

Once this was figured out, we proceeded to carve some 250' of topsoil into a creek bed that led the water away from the foundation and into a two acre fenced pasture. Needless to say the horses who called this pasture home were quite happy slurping pure spring water once we did so whereas the land that held the bin began the process of drying out and re-stabilizing itself as the removed topsoil was relocated to form a series plant filled earth berms strategically placed around the farm.

With the water out of the way, we turned our attention to the concrete. Sewing it back together was simply a matter of drilling and placing rebar and wire mesh and in turn pouring a fiberglass reinforced concrete product over the existing round concrete slab.


As the original air trough that carried heat from the grain dryer to the grains stored in that bin was cast in concrete, we left the trough in place knowing that in doing so it would become an intake that would draw cool ground temperature air into the bin once the project was done.

Concrete structural issues solved led to steel and wood structural design issues. If someone was actually going to be living in the bin, how would the bin become warm and cozy and extraordinarily energy efficient without (except for windows, a door and a deck) altering the exterior physical appearance of the bin?


I engineered a round wood framing system designed to allow continuous air flow between the round steel walls of the bin and this wood frame. In addition, I connected the air chamber existing between these two independent wall systems to the original cast concrete grain drying trough below and the top hatch that allowed grain to enter the bin in the first place. In doing so, managing a continuous current of air to move from season to season through the space between the steel walls and wood stud walls became the next design and engineering challenge.


As essentially, what was created was a living and breathing organically balanced current of air that kept outside temperatures and humidity conditions from ever interfering with inside temperature and humidity conditions, a womb within a womb ventilated from underneath via the duct that once served to provide heat to dry grain and connected at the top to the hatch that was once opened to place the grain inside were controlled by manually operated and fully adjustable air dampers that worked in every bit the same manner as the damper on a fireplace or wood stove.


Once the vertical air exchange system was engineered and built, we set about the task of designing the horizontal air exchange system. Whereas air naturally rises towards a heat source vertically, in doing so, it does as well travel horizontally to get to that heat source. Knowing this, the successful placement of windows and doors became crucial. Not only were these windows and doors crucial to letting in natural light, they were as well crucial in harnessing the prevailing winds that blew constantly at varying speeds around the bin.


After analyzing air flow around the exterior of the bin, it was determined that one eastern facing first floor casement window opening to the south would not only allow the warming rays of early morning sun to enter the bin but in turn capture the prevailing breezes coming from the north. The same was done on the second floor with a western facing casement opening to the north. With these two windows in place, we had effectively harnessed not only the sun but the wind. As the wind that created prevailing breezes could also create wind gusts of more than 40 mph, the hinges that held these opening casement windows to their frames had to be re-engineered for strength as they also acted as air foils. In addition, we thought that it would be important to mount on the inside walls adjacent to these windows, "safe operating instructions" for those who would be staying in this bin. As a window opened but just three inches could easily create an air current of 5 mph inside the bin and thus create a refreshing and peaceful night sleep, it could at times create a situation where bed sheets would not stay on the bed at all.


As this bin was but 16' in circumference and 16' tall, the question became, how would one build a living room, dining room, entry foyer (and mud room), kitchen, library, study, exercise room, bedroom suite, bathroom as well as integrating the various mechanical systems needed into this extraordinarily compact footprint and in doing so create a sense of artistic energy and movement inside the bin that was as invigorating as it was restful?

In turn, how would one heat the bin with solar energy, cool it with wind energy and sustain it on extremely cold winter days with a combination of the bio-fuels produced on this particular farm and the traditional fuel sources this farm had used in the past?


As the pictures below illustrate, all of what was defined as being crucial to the successful creation of the interior architecture of this bin was realized. Through a most remarkable artistic dialogue that flowed continuously throughout the entire creative process that went into renovating this bin, the efforts of many gifted artisans moved this project towards fulfillment.

Please consider the thoughts this particular artist, master carpenter and essayist has of these pictures.

"Alone on a windblown November night contemplating an eventual restful sleep beneath the covers, I sat alone at the writer's desk adjacent to my bed with my diary and pen listening quite intensely to the howls of nature coming from outside but feeling nothing but absolute calm within the round walls of this grain bin, turned sanctuary.

The heat from the wood stove below rising, the sense of that heat nurturing enabled me to listen only to the lessons of the howling wind and in doing so write tales only a wind walker could write. Within those tales, I drafted an architectural blueprint for the home of my own windy organic American dreams.

If you look carefully at the pictures above, you will notice a wide variety of architectural details. As the first detail you might notice is that the bathtub of this bin is a horse trough, other details might escape you altogether. But if you pay attention to the caption above these photos, you will be able to understand that the bathroom adjacent to this bin is in fact, a full blown interior architectural bathing spa.


There are many ways for you to soak at your leisure in a bathtub that fully submerses your entire body in the warm waters you seek.
As conventional bathtubs are one of those ways, the bathtubs that have been installed in American homes for the past forty years barely enable one to become fully submersed. Unless you are five years old with a body frame less than four feet in height and forty pounds in weight, the chances of you being able to submerse your entire body in warm water is next to none.

One step above the conventional bathtub is the Jacuzzi tub. With its' walls higher and water jets flowing and at a cost of a few thousand dollars, you can sit peacefully knowing that bubbling bathwater will soothe your tired body when and if you actually have the time to sit in the thing. While these things are most certainly nice, the moment you exit the tub and dry yourself off, you are immediately placed back into the high speed world that prevents you from experiencing that tub on a daily basis to begin with.

This author chooses to call this form of leisure as the "cart before the horse bathing syndrome".

If I hurry up and get home before anyone else, I can turn on the water jets of my tub Jacuzzi and in doing so find five seconds of bubbling bliss before the world attacks me or I attack the world once again. Not a whole lot of horse sense.

At any rate, horse troughs that come in varying sizes and dimensions are readily available for thousands of dollars less than trendy tubs and many times deeper, meaning that one can soak with or without air blown bubbles and be assured that your entire body is fully submersed in water. Adding custom built teak or redwood benches inside of these troughs only adds to the overall organic simplicity of one's bathing experience while doing so.


As you noticed the horse trough, you noticed the linen cabinet next to the horse trough and if you are really observant, you will have also noticed a wall mounted high efficiency, auxiliary propane fired space heater below the linen cabinet, whereas beyond your view is an electric powered hot water tank that sits behind this cabinet. As these two mechanical devices provide conventional heating sources to this room in extremely cold weather, both of them are offset by the fact that the floor beneath this bathroom serves as a passive solar heat sink that absorbs heat from the sun of the day only to reflect it back up and into the cushions of the day bed located on the south side of this bathroom.


As the walls of this bathroom have been designed with maximum heat and moisture retention in mind, taking a bath here, getting out of the tub only to soak in the sun blanketing the daybed you are lying upon is all and all, a quite remarkable and rejuvenating experience. Once you are done bathing, opening the air tight, hand crafted curved wooden bathroom door allows you to experience the dry radiant heat of the wood burning stove mixing with the moisture escaping from the air of the bathroom. This affect assures that the dry skin associated with traditional winter bathing is significantly diminished.

In the summertime, all systems designed to keep you warm in winter are shut down and the strategically placed window above the bathroom day bed opens. Working in unison with the other bin windows to assure constant cool and refreshing air movement, it does in turn bring you in direct contact with the horses grazing in the two acre fenced pasture being irrigated by the spring water that once flowed beneath the bin that you are now living in while bathing in a horse trough.

Would anyone like an organically grown and harvested carrot?

I am a piano player. I am as well a lover of all stringed musical instruments. As I have many friends who are as well, all of us have a tendency to view the lives we lead in musical notes. Whether we are professional (I'm not) or amateur (I'm even less) we none the less have the capacity to hear rhythm in every bit the same manner as we have the ability to see rhythm. When I was commissioned to design and build this bin, when I was asked to enter into an entirely round enclosure filled with decades of grain dust and cobwebs, I was in many ways lost as to how I would actually approach this particular challenge. As in any other shape of building one could go into a corner and analyze the masculine architectural shapes of linear architecture, within a round structure there are simply no linear reference points. In essence, a circular structure is constantly in motion. As it is, it is as well much more like a musical instrument than it is a structure. As playing a musical instrument allows one to move continuously through the circular rhythms , as a song or a symphony often ends on the very same note it began with, once I realized that I was building a musical instrument rather than building a home, both my architectural creativity and my industrial common sense merged.

In doing so, I was able to envision a second floor bedroom loft in the shape of a grand piano. As the loft had to be opened to the first floor to allow healthy air flow, it did as well have to conform to the circular shape of the bin. As an open floor plan was the prerequisite, the handrail and spindles of the loft had to be open as well. With the loft floor resembling the shape of a grand piano, the handrails and spindles took on the form of a stand up harp whereas the staircase and hand rail leading up to the loft took on the shape of a violin bow and string all of which were connected to the main trunk of the tree that connected the loft to the kitchen below.

As I have stated that I have been designing organic architecture for almost four decades, it is my firm belief that what we as Americans today are facing and considering to be a huge problem really isn't much of a problem at all.

As this particular small family farm bin project began with a set of challenges all who were involved were convinced that they could overcome, we in fact did so and as a result of doing so the family who owns the farm now which is of course the same family that owned the farm seventy years ago is well placed to do what all rural farm families are supposed to do. As necessity remains the mother of invention, cooperative sharing of rural based green industrial invention remains the benchmark of rural family based farm communities.

Having said this, the design and construction of this one bin required the efforts of every single job title listed below.

Land Surveyors

Hydraulic Engineers specializing in dams and levees, water distribution networks, water collection networks, storm water management and sediment transport.

Structural concrete and steel fabrication engineers

Structural steel and wood framing engineers and carpenters

Back hoe operators




Cement finishers

Dry waller's and plasterer's




Tile setters

Cabinet and door makers

Stained glass artisans


Painters and muralists'

Seamstresses and weavers

Cooks and bakers

Graphic Artists

Marketing Professionals

Web Site Developers

County Building Officials

County Health Officials

Interior Decorators

Local furniture retailers

Custom furniture makers

Tourism representatives

Local organic farming advocacy groups

Local public education advocacy groups

Local nutritional healthcare experts

Local, regional and statewide political representatives....

....and anyone else who would be the least bit associated with turning an outdated grain bin into an expression of advanced 21st century rural American family farm economic prosperity.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

prez family

Great photo for the history/memory books.

Monday, October 12, 2009

One Drop of Water

SPACE CLOWN: Canadian circus tycoon Guy Laliberte returned from space Sunday, making a safe landing in the steppes of northern Kazakhstan to cap off a weeklong joyride through orbit. Laliberte, founder of Cirque du Soleil, paid $35 million to become "the first clown in space," and broadcast a performance from the International Space Station on Friday highlighting threats to fresh drinking-water sources back on Earth. Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, U2 and Shakira also participated in the broadcast. Laliberte often wore a bulbous red clown nose while in space, and promised to tickle his fellow astronauts in their sleep. The 50-year-old former stilt-walker and fire-breather was seen wearing the red clown nose as he was helped out of the Soyuz space capsule Sunday. (Source: AP)

I watched this show Saturday night. It was only shown via the Internet but was a typically tremendous Cirque-du-Soleil-type creative endeavor but on a world-wide (and space-wide) scale.

Monday, August 3, 2009

more fun stuff

The Happy Minimalist

The Happy Minimalist
Finding Health & Happiness
By Peter Lawrence
Copyright © 2009

It is futile to do with more what can be done with fewer.
— William of Ockham

According to Greek philosopher Epicurus, the troubles entailed by maintaining an extravagant lifestyle tend to outweigh the pleasure of enjoying that lifestyle. He that what was necessary for life and happiness be maintained at minimal cost, believing that anything beyond what is necessary should either be tempered by moderation or completely avoided.

The Happy MinimalistMost people do not realize this simple truth. Over time, we have been brainwashed to think that "More is Better". It is this mindset that leads to a nation of resource guzzlers. We also harbor the misconception that a minimalist leads a deprived live, that he has to sacrifice many pleasures in life, etc. The truth is that a minimalist aims for the optimum point. A minimalist knows that too little can be inefficient and too much can be detrimental. Take your car, for example. If you drive too slowly, you are not maximizing fuel efficiency. If you drive too fast, you are not maximizing fuel efficiency either. In general, for most vehicles, the fuel efficiency is maximized at 55 mph. At this speed you get the most miles for each gallon of gas. This same notion applies to every resource we have. A minimalist is aware of this and hence maximizes whatever resources he has. A minimalist is thus a maximizer. Because he is fully aware of the disadvantages of too little and too much, he lives in moderation.

This deceptively simple concept is not only relevant for individuals, but it is also appropriate at a national level. Just look at the financial crisis we are in and the statement: "Too big to fail!" If they had only adhered to the principles of a minimalist and not grown beyond the optimum point! At an individual level, this then begs the question: How do you determine the optimum point? What is too little and what is too much? Here is where a more personal introspection is needed. We need to reflect on this with full understanding of how our ancestors actually lived and how other cultures live today. If they all can live happily while utilizing fewer resources, aren't they by definition more efficient? Being efficient and hence utilizing fewer resources not only hastens one's financial independence; it is also good for one's own health and the planet. Here are some facts to mull over:

1. You reach financial independence when your passive income is greater than your expenses. Most people focus only on increasing their income while not paying attention to their expenses. As one's income rises, expenses do not have to rise in tandem. Consider what Henry David Thoreau said: "With respect to luxuries and comforts, the wisest have even lived a more simple and meager life than the poor."
2. Studies find that a millionaire is no more likely to be happy than someone earning one-twentieth as much. Once you reach the median level of income, roughly $50,000 a year, there is no longer any correlation between higher income and happiness.
3. Anhedonia refers to the reduced ability to experience pleasure. In the book Thrilled to Death, Dr. Hart laments the fact that our continuous pursuit of high stimulation is snuffing out our ability to experience genuine pleasure in simple things.
4. In the book The Longevity Diet, the author shows that calorie restriction is the only proven way to slow the aging process and maintain peak vitality.
5. If everyone in the world consumed like the average American, we'd need about six Earths to sustain ourselves.

Finally, I wear glasses. I need glasses because I have poor eyesight. Similarly, someone who is hard of hearing needs hearing aids. A drug addict needs drugs and an alcoholic needs his booze. We usually need something, because we lack something or at least we think we lack it. The reverse of this is, if you have few needs, you are probably healthier, happier, etc. With that in mind, which would you rather be: A minimalist, or someone who needs all kinds of "toys"?

We are happy in proportion to the things we can do without.
Henry David Thoreau

About The Author

Peter Lawrence was born and raised in Singapore and currently lives in Santa Clara, California. Peter holds a Bachelor in Information Technology from an Australian University and an Executive MBA from an American University. Peter is the author of The Happy Minimalist, and maintains a website at Peter can be reached by email at

Fun stuff


REALLLY fun movie

beer mediation

Homegrown Grains: The Key to Food Security -- How to Grow and Make Your Own Wheat Flour

Homegrown Grains: The Key to Food Security -- How to Grow and Make Your Own Wheat Flour

Shared via AddThis

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Paul Hawken's Commencement Address @ U of Portland May 3, 2009

Commencement Address to the Class of 2009
University of Portland, May 3rd, 2009

When I was invited to give this speech, I was asked if I could give a simple short talk that was "direct, naked, taut, honest, passionate, lean, shivering, startling, and graceful." No pressure there.

Let's begin with the startling part. Class of 2009: you are going to have to figure out what it means to be a human being on earth at a time when every living system is declining, and the rate of decline is accelerating. Kind of a mind-boggling situation... but not one peer-reviewed paper published in the last thirty years can refute that statement. Basically, civilization needs a new operating system, you are the programmers, and we need it within a few decades.

This planet came with a set of instructions, but we seem to have misplaced them. Important rules like don't poison the water, soil, or air, don't let the earth get overcrowded, and don't touch the thermostat have been broken. Buckminster Fuller said that spaceship earth was so ingeniously designed that no one has a clue that we are on one, flying through the universe at a million miles per hour, with no need for seatbelts, lots of room in coach, and really good food—but all that is changing.

There is invisible writing on the back of the diploma you will receive, and in case you didn't bring lemon juice to decode it, I can tell you what it says: You are Brilliant, and the Earth is Hiring. The earth couldn't afford to send recruiters or limos to your school. It sent you rain, sunsets, ripe cherries, night blooming jasmine, and that unbelievably cute person you are dating. Take the hint. And here's the deal: Forget that this task of planet-saving is not possible in the time required. Don't be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done.

When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren't pessimistic, you don't understand the data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren't optimistic, you haven't got a pulse. What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world. The poet Adrienne Rich wrote, "So much has been destroyed I have cast my lot with those who, age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world." There could be no better description. Humanity is coalescing. It is reconstituting the world, and the action is taking place in schoolrooms, farms, jungles, villages, campuses, companies, refuge camps, deserts, fisheries, and slums.

You join a multitude of caring people. No one knows how many groups and organizations are working on the most salient issues of our day: climate change, poverty, deforestation, peace, water, hunger, conservation, human rights, and more. This is the largest movement the world has ever seen. Rather than control, it seeks connection. Rather than dominance, it strives to disperse concentrations of power. Like Mercy Corps, it works behind the scenes and gets the job done. Large as it is, no one knows the true size of this movement. It provides hope, support, and meaning to billions of people in the world. Its clout resides in idea, not in force. It is made up of teachers, children, peasants, businesspeople, rappers, organic farmers, nuns, artists, government workers, fisherfolk, engineers, students, incorrigible writers, weeping Muslims, concerned mothers, poets, doctors without borders, grieving Christians, street musicians, the President of the United States of America, and as the writer David James Duncan would say, the Creator, the One who loves us all in such a huge way.

There is a rabbinical teaching that says if the world is ending and the Messiah arrives, first plant a tree, and then see if the story is true. Inspiration is not garnered from the litanies of what may befall us; it resides in humanity's willingness to restore, redress, reform, rebuild, recover, reimagine, and reconsider. "One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice," is Mary Oliver's description of moving away from the profane toward a deep sense of connectedness to the living world.

Millions of people are working on behalf of strangers, even if the evening news is usually about the death of strangers. This kindness of strangers has religious, even mythic origins, and very specific eighteenth-century roots. Abolitionists were the first people to create a national and global movement to defend the rights of those they did not know. Until that time, no group had filed a grievance except on behalf of itself. The founders of this movement were largely unknown -- Granville Clark, Thomas Clarkson, Josiah Wedgwood — and their goal was ridiculous on the face of it: at that time three out of four people in the world were enslaved. Enslaving each other was what human beings had done for ages. And the abolitionist movement was greeted with incredulity. Conservative spokesmen ridiculed the abolitionists as liberals, progressives, do-gooders, meddlers, and activists. They were told they would ruin the economy and drive England into poverty. But for the first time in history a group of people organized themselves to help people they would never know, from whom they would never receive direct or indirect benefit. And today tens of millions of
people do this every day. It is called the world of non-profits, civil society, schools, social entrepreneurship, non-governmental organizations, and companies who place social and environmental justice at the top of their strategic goals. The scope and scale of this effort is unparalleled in history.

The living world is not "out there" somewhere, but in your heart. What do we know about life? In the words of biologist Janine Benyus, life creates the conditions that are conducive to life. I can think of no better motto for a future economy. We have tens of thousands of abandoned homes without people and tens of thousands of abandoned people without homes. We have failed bankers advising failed regulators on how to save failed assets. We are the only species on the planet without full employment. Brilliant. We have an economy that tells us that it is cheaper to destroy earth in real time rather than renew, restore, and sustain it. You can print money to bail out a bank but you can't print life to bail out a planet. At present we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it gross domestic product. We can just as easily have an economy that is based on healing the future instead of stealing it. We can either create assets for the future or take the assets of the future. One is called restoration and the other exploitation. And whenever we exploit the earth we exploit people and cause untold suffering. Working for the earth is not a way to get rich, it is a way to be rich.

The first living cell came into being nearly 40 million centuries ago, and its direct descendants are in all of our bloodstreams. Literally you are breathing molecules this very second that were inhaled by Moses, Mother Teresa, and Bono. We are vastly interconnected. Our fates are inseparable. We are here because the dream of every cell is to become two cells. And dreams come true. In each of you are one quadrillion cells, 90 percent of which are not human cells. Your body is a community, and without those other microorganisms you would perish in hours. Each human cell has 400 billion molecules conducting millions of processes between trillions of atoms. The total cellular activity in one human body is staggering: one septillion actions at any one moment, a one with twenty-four zeros after it. In a millisecond, our body has undergone ten times more processes than there are stars in the universe, which is exactly what Charles Darwin foretold when he said science would discover that each living creature was a "little universe, formed of a host of self-propagating organisms, inconceivably minute and as numerous as the stars of heaven."

So I have two questions for you all: First, can you feel your body? Stop for a moment. Feel your body. One septillion activities going on simultaneously, and your body does this so well you are free to ignore it, and wonder instead when this speech will end. You can feel it. It is called life. This is who you are. Second question: who is in charge of your body? Who is managing those molecules? Hopefully not a political party. Life is creating the conditions that are conducive to life inside you, just as in all of nature. Our innate nature is to create the conditions that are conducive to life. What I want you to imagine is that collectively humanity is evincing a deep innate wisdom in coming together to heal the wounds and insults of the past.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked what we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years. No one would sleep that night, of course. The world would create new religions overnight. We would be ecstatic, delirious, made rapturous by the glory of God. Instead, the stars come out every night and we watch television.

This extraordinary time when we are globally aware of each other and the multiple dangers that threaten civilization has never happened, not in a thousand years, not in ten thousand years. Each of us is as complex and beautiful as all the stars in the universe. We have done great things and we have gone way off course in terms of honoring creation. You are graduating to the most amazing, stupefying challenge ever bequested to any generation. The generations before you failed. They didn't stay up all night. They got distracted and lost sight of the fact that life is a miracle every moment of your existence. Nature beckons you to be on her side. You couldn't ask for a better boss. The most unrealistic person in the world is the cynic, not the dreamer. Hope only makes sense when it doesn't make sense to be hopeful. This is your century. Take it and run as if your life depends on it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

My Horoscope right after attending Permaculture Design Course

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): "One of the healthiest ways to gamble is with a
spade and a package of garden seeds," says comedian_Dan Bennett. Your
assignment, Leo, is to come up with three other smart risks you could
profit from taking. You're entering a phase of your astrological cycle when
you'll be rewarded by leaving your comfort zone and heading toward the
frontier -- but only if you're fully armed with crafty discernment and a
realistic (not cynical) understanding of how the world really works. Please
stay away from rash dares, unresearched shots in the dark, and crazy
plunges rooted in blind faith.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Love the clever word/work play here:

"The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has issued a medical alert about a highly contagious, potentially dangerous virus that is transmitted orally, by hand, and even electronically. This virus is called Weary Overload Recreational Killer (WORK). If you receive WORK from your boss, any of your colleagues, or anyone else via any means whatsoever - DO NOT TOUCH IT. This virus will wipe out your private life completely. If you should come into contact with WORK you should immediately leave the premises. Take two good friends to the nearest grocery store and purchase one or both of the antidotes - Work Isolating Neutralizer Extract (WINE) and Bothersome Employer Elimination Rebooter (BEER). Take the antidote repeatedly until WORK has been completely eliminated from your system. You should immediately forward this medical alert to five friends. If you do not have five friends, you have already been infected and WORK is controlling your life."

Friday, February 13, 2009

Global Warming by the Numbers

Friday the 13th just got a little scarier. Here are 13 facts about the realities of global warming. Even Jason would be scared.

The numbers speak for themselves -- we must make 2009 the showdown year for global warming action. There is no time to lose.


Increase in the global carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels since the Kyoto Protocol was signed in 1992.
388.57 ppm

Average concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in May 2008, a record high.
541 – 970 ppm

The projected concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by 2100 under a business as usual scenario where we don't dramatically reduce global warming emissions.
260 – 280 ppm

Average concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere before industrial emissions.
50 – 200 years

Length of time carbon dioxide stays in the earth's atmosphere before it is absorbed into carbon sinks.
1000 years

Length of time changes in the earth's surface temperature, rainfall, and sea level will remain even after carbon dioxide emissions are completely stopped.

Percentage that 2008's Arctic seasonal sea ice melt outpaced normal levels.

Increase in the rate of Greenland's ice melt over the last five years.
1.7 days

Number of days earlier seasons are coming than 50 years ago.
1.5 million

Number of acres of forests in Colorado destroyed by the pine beetle, which is better able to survive warmer winters and is wrecking havoc in America's western forests.
$427 million

Amount spent by the oil and coal industries in the first six months of 2008 in political contributions, lobbying expenditures and advertising to oppose climate action.

Number of global warming bills passed by the Senate.

Number of global warming bills passed by the House.


* NOAA CO2 Trends
* IPCC Third Assessment Report
* Carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere
* Atmosphere, Climate & Environment Information Programme
* ESRL News: New Study Shows Climate Change Largely Irreversible
* Arctic Sea Ice News & Analysis
* An Accurate Picture Of Ice Loss In Greenland
* Pine Beetles: Worse Than You Thought
* Early seasons : article : Nature Reports Climate Change
* Hill Heat : Oil and Coal Industries Spending Two Million Dollars a Day to Shape Political Debate

Monday, February 2, 2009

Dalai Lama


We have bigger houses but smaller families; more conveniences, but less time.

We have more degrees but less sense; more knowledge but less judgement; more experts, but more problems; more medicines but less healthiness.

We’ve been all the way to the Moon and back, but have trouble in crossing the street to meet our new neighbors.

We built more computers to hold more copies than ever, but have less real communication.

We have become long on quantity, but short on quality.

These are times of fast foods but slow digestion; tall men but short characters; steep profits but shallow relationships.

It’s a time when there is much in the window…….but nothing in the room.

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

Permaculture Definitions and Resiliance Indicators


Permaculture is a design system based on ecological principles which provides the organizing framework for implementing a permanent or sustainable culture. It draws together the diverse skills and ways of living which need to be rediscovered and developed to empower us to move from being dependent consumers to becoming responsible producers.

In this sense, permaculture is not the landscape, or even the skills of organic gardening, sustainable farming, energy-efficient building or eco-village development as such, but can be used to design, establish, manage and improve these and all other efforts made by individuals, households and communities towards a sustainable future. -David Holmgren

Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single-product system. –Bill Mollison

Permaculture is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive systems which have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of the landscape with people providing their food, energy, shelter and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way. –Graham Bell


1. Observe and Interact

2. Catch and Store Energy

3. Obtain a Yield

4. Apply self-regulation and Accept Feedback

5. Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services

6. Produce No Waste

7. Design from Patterns to Details

8. Integrate Rather Than Segregate

9. Use Small and Slow Solutions

10. Use and Value Diversity

11. Use Edges and Value the Marginal

12. Creatively Use and Respond to Change


The percentage of local trade carried out in local currency
Percentage of food consumed locally that was produced within a given radius
Ratio of car parking space to productive land use
Degree of engagement in practical transition work by local community
Amount of traffic on local roads
Number of businesses owned by local people
Proportion of the community employed locally
Percentage of essential goods manufactured within a given radius
Percentage of local building materials used in new housing
Percentage of energy consumed in the town that has been generated by local industry
Amount of 16-year-olds able to grow 10 different varieties of vegetables to a given degree of basic competency
Percentage of medicines prescribed locally that have been produced within a given radius

Sound familiar?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Year of the Ox

Year of the Ox
The Lunar New Year, which begins today, ushers in the Year of the Ox. The Ox is the sign of prosperity through hard work and sustained effort. This powerful sign is a born leader, being quite dependable and possessing an innate ability to achieve great things. Like their animal namesake, the Ox is unswervingly patient, tireless in their work, and capable of calmly enduring much hardship without complaint.

The truly interesting thing is that Barak Obama was born in a year of the ox. Wouldn't you say these characteristics are EXACTLY what we need in a president right now?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Hot, Flat and Crowded

"The developing world feels like we sat down to dinner, had the hors d'oeuvres, ate the entrée, pretty much finished off the dessert, invited them for tea and coffee and then said, "Let's split the bill.""

"We will only breathe freely - in every sense of that phrase - if we can reduce global demand for oil and gas. Our own oil dependence is behind more bad trends domestically and around the world than any other single factor I can think of. Our addiction to oil makes global warming warmer, petrodictators stronger, clean air dirtier, poor people poorer, democratic countries weaker, and radical terrorists richer."

"Today, you cannot be either an effective foreign policy realist or an effective democracy-promoting idealist without also being and effective energy-saving environmentalist."

"Al Gore owes us an apology - I humbly suggest that he write an op-ed piece that begins like this: "I'm sorry. I am truly sorry. I want to apologize. I completely UNDERESTIMATED global warming. I beg your forgiveness.""

"...A lot of the IPCC math was developed when emissions from China were going down in the 1990's, and the Soviet Union was collapsing. What is happening now is worse than the worst-case projections that went into the IPCC model."

"Do not confuse the uncertainty about which trajectory we are on for uncertainty about where we are heading. And do not be confused that just because scientists tend to focus on the 10 percent they don't know that the 90 percent they do know isn't already a call to action."

end of interview of Friedman by Fareed Zakaria:

Zakaria: Finally, let me ask you--in that context--what would this do to America's image, if we were to take on this challenge? Do you really think it could change the way America is perceived in the world?

Friedman: I have no doubt about it, which is why I say in the book: I'm not against Kyoto; if you can get 190 countries all to agree on verifiable limits on their carbon, God bless you. But at the end of the day, I really still believe--and I know you do too--in America as a model. Your book stresses this--that even in a post-American world we still are looked at by others around the world as a role model. I firmly believe that if we go green--if we prove that we can become healthy, secure, respected, entrepreneurial, richer and more innovative by greening our economy, many more people will follow us voluntarily than would do so by compulsion of a treaty. Does that mean Russia and Iran will? No. Geopolitics won't disappear. But I think it will, speaking broadly, definitely reposition us in the world with more people in more places. I look at making America the greenest country in the world like running the Olympic triathlon: if you make it to the Olympics and you run the race, maybe you win--but even if you don't win, you're fitter, healthier, more secure, more respected, more competitive and entrepreneurial, because you have given birth to a whole new clean power industry--which has to be the next great global industry--and put your economy on a much more sustainable footing. So to me, this is a win-win-win-win race, and that's why I believe we, America, need to take the lead in it. In the Cold War we had the space race with Russia to see who could be the first to put a man on the moon. Today we need an earth race with Japan, Europe, China and India--to see who can be the first to invent the clean power technologies that will allow man to live safely and sustainably on earth.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Idealists Out of Balance

Note to self - reread this as necessary:

Dealing with Stress from Work: Idealists Out of Balance

How do you deal with work-related stress? Each personality type has different stressors and copes in different ways. Better understanding of your own stressors and coping mechanisms can help you reduce the tension and anxiety work stress often creates.

Since Idealists tend to work for a better future for all, if things keep going badly and they lose hope they become stressed. When Idealists experience great stress, they can have muscle or sensory problems.

The Teacher is likely to become stressed if they experience an absence of trust and too much pressure to conform. They also dislike interpersonal conflict. If this happens, they may become excessively critical, which is antithetical to their normal positive self. One of the signs that the Teacher is in high stress is muscle tics or cramps. To recover, this normally social type must be left alone. Solitude and journal writing can help them get back to normal. Also getting out of the current arena of conflict and taking on a new project can restore their sense of self. Says Josephina, “My old boss and I worked like a charm. I had plenty of freedom and a crew to lead. Then she retired and my new boss was quite different. She wanted to inspect everything I did and insisted upon her way of doing everything. Some of her ideas were good, but others didn’t work at all. She wouldn’t listen to me. I got a tic in my right eye and had problems sleeping because of restless leg syndrome which I’d never had before. Something had to change. Then I heard about a special project which needed a new team and I applied. I’ m now on the team, my tic and restless leg syndrome is gone. I never realized before how much I needed to be trusted and free to exchange ideas on improving things.”

The Counselor can become stressed when they are required to deal with too many unexpected events or required to be too extraverted for too long a time. They can get overwhelmed if they are required to continually do very detailed work. If this happens, their muscles tighten up and they begin to see the external world through suspicious lenses. To return to normal, they need time alone to recharge and a lightening of their usual schedule. It will not help if others give them advice. Stretching exercises and calm, solitary walks will help. Says Lorraine, “I’m good at giving speeches. People see me as confident. But then they will want me to do more and more so I have no time alone and no time to recover. It’s been hard, but I’ve learned to say ‘no’ because if I don’t the personal consequences will be worse, and I won’t be good for anything or anybody.”

The Champion is usually a bundle of energy, but they can become exhausted if they are overloaded with work. They also will experience stress if their values and principles are violated and they see others in the company being hurt by policies that kill the human spirit. Then they become hypersensitive to what is going on around them. Facts become exaggerated. They have feelings of paranoia and may withdraw. To regain their equilibrium, meditation will help. Kindness and support by others, but not patronization, will help them get back to normal. Says Gloria, “I’d given a number of years of support to one boss, then he started bad-mouthing me. It threw me into a turmoil. I became suspicious of him and everyone else. Then a friend said that the boss was blowing up at everyone, not just me, and encouraged me to look at a position in a new section. I meditated to become centered again, then applied for the job. I love my new job and now life is great again. My old boss retired; he was drinking too much.”

The Healer is the most sensitive of all the Idealists to a negative environment. They notice problems in a work group before anyone else. Divisions within a work group can cause fear of impending loss. Also violation of their values can trigger stress. When stressed, they are likely to act out of character and take on behaviors that are not normally associated with them. They can seem to others as if they are splintered. Sometimes they will blame themselves, other times they will lash out at others. They may act precipitously or not act at all. To get back to normal, they need a lot of space and need to have their feelings validated. It doesn’t help to tell them that they are imagining things. It is important that the negative environment be dealt with by others or that the Healer be allowed to move to a more positive environment. Says Heinrik, “I’m in health education. We have many programs to help people live healthier lives. An outsider began to influence our boss, saying that he was more successful and could do better. Our boss began to criticize all of us. Everyone started pulling away from each other. I found myself being nasty to others, which is very unusual for me. Luckily, our boss found out that this outsider was just good at getting and had moved from county to county and not accomplished much. I’m glad we’re back to being a team.”

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Stock Rally Over?

So was that the Santa rally over the past couple weeks? Seems to be over. So what's next????

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Sustainability in Clearwater

Sam found an article about a new local group working for sustainability and permaculture right here in northern Pinellas. Hurrah! I joined IMMEDIATELY and will attend my first meeting tomorrow - gathering seaweed on the causeway to use in composting. Don't know if they've considered that this is a limited resource utilized by many, many native creatures, but I'll find out tomorrow.

It's so good that even a small effort is being made - because more and more reports are becoming dire:

The World Water Council predicts that some 3.5 billion people will live in areas without sufficient water supplies by 2025. If global society continues to consume water in a business-as-usual way, there may not be enough water to produce the food needed to feed the world in 2050, according to the Worldwatch Institute's 2008 State of the World report.

Friday, January 2, 2009

10 Steps to Happiness

condensed by Daniel Pink

Alternet gleans several years of research from the field of positive psychology to reveal “10 Things Science Says will Make You Happy.” The list, paraphrased, is:

1. Stop and enjoy the present.
2. Don’t compare yourself to the Joneses.
3. Don’t obsess over money.
4. Aspire to leave an imprint.
5. Be intrinsically motivated on the job.
6. Build a supportive network of family and friends
7. Act optimistic even if you have to fake it.
8. Gratitude, baby, gratitude.
9. Exercise is all good.
10. Givers gain.

It’s worth reading the whole story:

10 Things Science Says Will Make You Happy

By Jen Angel, YES! Magazine. Posted December 9, 2008.

Daily habits can affect our well-being. Here are 10 simple actions that research has shown makes people feel good.

In the last few years, psychologists and researchers have been digging up hard data on a question previously left to philosophers: What makes us happy? Researchers like the father-son team Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener, Stanford psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky, and ethicist Stephen Post have studied people all over the world to find out how things like money, attitude, culture, memory, health, altruism, and our day-to-day habits affect our well-being. The emerging field of positive psychology is bursting with new findings that suggest your actions can have a significant effect on your happiness and satisfaction with life. Here are 10 scientifically proven strategies for getting happy.

1. Savor Everyday Moments

Pause now and then to smell a rose or watch children at play. Study participants who took time to “savor” ordinary events that they normally hurried through, or to think back on pleasant moments from their day, “showed significant increases in happiness and reductions in depression,” says psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky.

2. Avoid Comparisons

While keeping up with the Joneses is part of American culture, comparing ourselves with others can be damaging to happiness and self-esteem. Instead of comparing ourselves to others, focusing on our own personal achievement leads to greater satisfaction, according to Lyubomirsky.

3. Put Money Low on the List

People who put money high on their priority list are more at risk for depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem, according to researchers Tim Kasser and Richard Ryan. Their findings hold true across nations and cultures. “The more we seek satisfactions in material goods, the less we find them there,” Ryan says. “The satisfaction has a short half-life -- it’s very fleeting.” Money-seekers also score lower on tests of vitality and self-actualization.

4. Have Meaningful Goals

“People who strive for something significant, whether it’s learning a new craft or raising moral children, are far happier than those who don’t have strong dreams or aspirations,” say Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener. “As humans, we actually require a sense of meaning to thrive.” Harvard’s resident happiness professor, Tal Ben-Shahar, agrees, “Happiness lies at the intersection between pleasure and meaning. Whether at work or at home, the goal is to engage in activities that are both personally significant and enjoyable.”

5. Take Initiative at Work

How happy you are at work depends in part on how much initiative you take. Researcher Amy Wrzesniewski says that when we express creativity, help others, suggest improvements, or do additional tasks on the job, we make our work more rewarding and feel more in control.

6. Make Friends, Treasure Family

Happier people tend to have good families, friends, and supportive relationships, say Diener and Biswas-Diener. But it’s not enough to be the life of the party if you’re surrounded by shallow acquaintances. “We don’t just need relationships, we need close ones” that involve understanding and caring.

7. Smile Even When You Don’t Feel Like It

It sounds simple, but it works. “Happy people…see possibilities, opportunities, and success. When they think of the future, they are optimistic, and when they review the past, they tend to savor the high points,” say Diener and Biswas-Diener. Even if you weren’t born looking at the glass as half-full, with practice, a positive outlook can become a habit.

8. Say Thank You Like You Mean It

People who keep gratitude journals on a weekly basis are healthier, more optimistic, and more likely to make progress toward achieving personal goals, according to author Robert Emmons. Research by Martin Seligman, founder of positive psychology, revealed that people who write “gratitude letters” to someone who made a difference in their lives score higher on happiness, and lower on depression -- and the effect lasts for weeks.

9. Get Out and Exercise

A Duke University study shows that exercise may be just as effective as drugs in treating depression, without all the side effects and expense. Other research shows that in addition to health benefits, regular exercise offers a sense of accomplishment and opportunity for social interaction, releases feel-good endorphins, and boosts self-esteem.

10. Give It Away, Give It Away Now!

Make altruism and giving part of your life, and be purposeful about it. Researcher Stephen Post says helping a neighbor, volunteering, or donating goods and services results in a “helper’s high,” and you get more health benefits than you would from exercise or quitting smoking. Listening to a friend, passing on your skills, celebrating others’ successes, and forgiveness also contribute to happiness, he says. Researcher Elizabeth Dunn found that those who spend money on others reported much greater happiness than those who spend it on themselves.

Jen Angel wrote this article as part of Sustainable Happiness, the Winter 2009 issue of YES! Magazine. Jen is a contributing editor for YES! Magazine.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Dilbert defines consulting

Leave it to Dilbert to nail the essence of one of my former careers!

Celebrating 2009

Went to bed at 10:00 PM, got a great night's sleep and watched a brief video of the worldwide celebrations this morning. That's a superb way to start the year!

Hope the president-elect got some rest, too. He's going to need it!