Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Voice in the Wilderness

Following Paul Brooks wonderful article in the Midweek about our Eco-Thrifty Renovation and the educational programmes we’ve developed along with it I got a short flurry of phone calls and an email. The result was that three representatives of Te Oranganui and one neighbour dropped by for a one-hour tour on a Tuesday morning. They were all grateful for the site visit and for the information I shared. I was happy to meet some new people and to demonstrate how we have managed to develop a warm, dry, energy-efficient home on a small budget. But by the afternoon I was discouraged when I was faced with the miniscule impact of our project when compared with what may be described as the carelessness (or thoughtlessness) of others.

As I rode my bicycle down Puriri Street and Alma Road at 4 o’clock on a brilliantly sunny day I noticed that every street light above me was lit. I would estimate that one hour of all of those lights burning would use more electricity than we use at home in a month. I have seen the lights on Cornfoot Street also lit during bright, sunny days on numerous occasions. Do ratepayers pay for that power? Is our community so wealthy that we can afford to waste energy like that? From what I understand there are about 90 million reasons we should be trying to reduce expenses in our city. The relationship between energy, finance and debt interests me greatly, and I feel quite fortunate to have the opportunity to host a world expert on this relationship in Wanganui on the 10th of April.

Nicole Foss has managed to fit Wanganui into her month-long speaking tour of New Zealand. She has had a busy schedule on the South Island, including talking to many Councils and a radio interview with Kim Hill in Christchurch. She has lectured on energy and global finance in hundreds of locations across North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Her day job is Senior Editor of The Automatic Earth (TAE), where she and co-author and Editor-in-Chief Raúl Ilargi Meijer have been chronicling and interpreting the on-going credit crunch as the most pressing aspect of our current multi-faceted predicament. The site integrates finance, energy, environment, psychology, population and real politik in order to explain why we find ourselves in a state of crisis and what we can do about it.

While living in the UK she was a Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, where she specialized in nuclear safety in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union, and conducted research into electricity policy at the EU level. She also has significant previous experience practicing as an environmental consultant.

Nicole will be speaking at 7 pm on the 10th of April at the Meeting Room of the Gonville Cafe/Library. Koha will be accepted to cover travel costs. This event is co-sponsored by The ECO School and the Sustainable Whanganui Trust.

Peace, Estwing

Monday, March 19, 2012

Am I Too Conservative?

I'll admit that I am conservative. I like to conserve energy, conserve water, conserve money, conserve time and conserve effort. But am I too conservative?

Here is my little story.

I was pleased to hear a certain radio personality express his newfound appreciation for what climate change looks like on the day before the autumnal equinox. He went on to express another conservative opinion about the unsustainable debt held by many local councils. Again, I share his concern. Then he began to talk about another issue and the conservative stance the Green Party had taken on it. Three for three. Good one!

I called him up to congratulate him on his consistent conservative values and what I recognized in each case as the application of the "precautionary principle." I had barely made my point when he vigorously questioned me on the third issue: the Green Party's stance on fracking in Taranaki. From my perspective, the Green Party appears to be using the precautionary principle in its approach to fracking. This would appear to be a conservative position.

However, the radio personality accused me of something I did not catch because I was nervous talking on the radio. I suggested that international scientific research on fracking may be considered and that some data from the USA indicates problems associated with fracking. He insisted that no scientific data from anywhere outside of New Zealand should be considered at all. This would appear to be a radical position.

Then the radio personality said that a full, independent scientific analysis had been done to assess the effects of fracking around Taranaki and found no need whatsoever for any concern. He asked if that would be enough evidence for me. I told him that for me - being a conservative and supporter of the precautionary principle - I would seek a second opinion. This would appear to be a very conservative position.

The radio personality said "No, no, no." For him a second opinion was not important. This would appear to be a non-conservative position. Then he hung up on me without even thanking me for my call or my compliment. What kind of a position is that?

Peace, Estwing

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Eco-Thrifty Permaculture Tour April 16th & 17th

This could be the best value for money in all of New Zealand in the area of permaculture education. Sign up soon. Spaces are filling.

Five excellent, but very different permaculture properties in and around Whanganui.

When: 16th April 2 pm to 17th April 5:30 pm

Price: $100 with your own transportation. $140 with transportation provided. Includes dinner on the 16th and breakfast on the 17th. Please provide your own lunch. Price does not include accommodation. See below for information on accommodation and transport from Turangi to Wanganui.

Minimum number for participants: 10 . Maximum number for participants: 20

Registration required before 9th April with 50% deposit (20% non-refundable).

Contact: The ECO School, 06 344 5013; 022 635 0868; theecoschool@gmail.com

Each site is described below in the host's own words.

Monday, 16th April 2 pm Mt. St. Joseph Retreat Centre

The property has a diversity of uses – a residence for three sisters plus the administration centre, a Retreat Centre, Archives, Hospitality area and a 45 bed Rest Home.

Interconnectedness, relationality, kinship and care are key words permeating our spirituality and our practice. Our vision is for "Fullness of Life for the Earth and her Peoples."

We endeavour to be bicultural and support the aspirations of the tangata whanua.

The original Peat family homestead gardens have been added to over the years with a mix of surrounding shelter-belt edges, big native trees (totara, rimu, rata, kowhai) and some big exotic trees (redwood, pinus radiata, macracarpa). The southern steep hill is covered with regenerating bush. The eastern hillside is currently being developed as a rather extensive orchard and garden with planned for bird and bee forages. The western hill and valley is being restored as a small wetland. Walking tracks for the public and new native trees are being planted on the adjacent hill.

4:30 pm The Quaker Settlement, 76 Virginia Road, Whanganui.

This is the only intentional Quaker community in the Southern Hemisphere, now 36 years old. Sixteen households encircle the community buildings which are also used as a conference centre by diverse groups locally and nationally. The community of about 30 including children, care for the centre,and run an annual Quaker seminar programme, all on a voluntary basis. As a community we endeavour to recognise the diversity of life, its interdependence and balance, including our relationship with the environment. Much of the land was blown sand dunes which over time is developing into a treed landscape with native tree plantings, a Harakeke (flax) collection, orchards, sheep, chickens and ducks, and community as well as individual vegetable gardens.

Link about Quakers, and the Seminar Programme:

Tuesday 17th April 9:30 am David Aislabie

A network of different timber, nut and fruit trees with native shelter belts creates a mosaic pattern of highly productive "clearings"on this 6 hectare permaculture property. North facing slopes are terraced into permanent raised beds and clover paths (swales) growing a diverse rotation of certified organic vegetables and subtropicals (mainly tamarillos), irrigated via a windmill from runoff stored in 2 large ponds. Soil improvement features green manures and up to 50 tons of compost per year, made in straw yards where pigs and cattle graze.

Note: David took an early permaculture course in NZ and continued his market gardening with a new focus after that. It is one of the best established properties based on permaculture design.

1 pm Mark Christiansen

A 5 acre (2.2 hectare) property developed with a mixture of permaculture, organic and biodynamic principles. Begun 14 years ago as an edible landscape, it developed into a collection of heritage fruit trees, and then progressed into heirloom tomatoes and beans and other vegetables. A focus is on finding out what grows successfully in this area as well as on medicinal/nutritional qualities. Among the collection is the Monty's Surprise apple, believed to be the best apple in the world for human health.

3:30 pm The Eco-Thrifty Renovation, Nelson & Dani Lebo

An abandoned, derelict villa on a section full of rubbish and weeds has been transformed into an energy-efficient home and fully installed permaculture landscape on 700 square metres in the 12 months ending November 2011. The energy performance of the renovated villa has been outstanding, and the food production (on pure sand) has exceeded expectations. The total budget for the project including purchase of the property, retrofitting and landscaping was under $100,000.

Additional Information:

Dinner, optional overnight accommodation and breakfast at the Quaker Settlement. Book you own accommodation: www.quakersettlement.co.nz

Getting to Whanganui:

Intercity Bus transport from Turangi to Wanganui

Book early through www.intercity.co.nz

Sunday, 15th April: Departs 3:15 pm and arrives 7:30 pm. Hotels and backpackers within walking distance of bus depot for overnight accommodation. Book through BBH or YHA.

OR (Better)

Monday, 16th April: Departs 10:45 am and arrives 2 pm. We will pick you up and take you to the first site visit and onto the accommodation venue. We will take you back to the bus depot or nearest accommodation at the conclusion of the tour. Please note there is an extra $40 fee when transport is provided.