Why I’m going to Des Moines to Occupy the World Food Prize.

I am headed out in a few hours by bus to Des Moines, Iowa to Occupy the World Food Prize.

I don’t travel casually any more, so it takes something to get me out of Oklahoma and onto a bus for a 12 hour ride to Des Moines. No, I don’t fly anymore either.  Been there, done that, had enough.  One of the critical things I do to keep my household emissions below the Kyoto Protocol annual allowance is to avoid air travel.  I am not one to tell myself that I am so important that, you know, it’s OK for me to fly because I am a North American of the White Persuasion and thus entitled to burn all the hydrocarbons I please. Bus travel is about as frugal as it gets in terms of both fuel and troublesome emissions into the atmosphere so if I am going outside of a 200 mile or so range, and I can’t get there by bus or train, then I am not going.  If I don’t have time to take the bus, I don’t have time for the trip.

I recommend that everybody follow this same example. Stop telling yourself that you are entitled to all the hydrocarbons you can gulp, because you are not that entitled.

But anyway, enough pious exhortations, let’s get back to Occupying the World Food Prize.

One of the lies the proponents of GMOs say is that we will have to farm with genetically modified crops, because (a) there will be so many people in the future we can only feed them if we can grow franken-foods, and (b) the climate will be so terrible that we will need franken-food plants so they can survive.  Leaving aside the Very Interesting Admission from a group of Very Rich and Powerful CORPORATIONS that the climate future looks GRIM, let us examine the real truth about hunger on this planet.

The primary driver of famine is not an absolute shortage of food, but rather toxic political and economic systems.  The work of Nobel Prize winter Amartya Sen is definitive on this issue.

As the Irish peasants, dependent upon potatoes, starved, the English landlords were exporting grain for cash money. Because their tenants had no money to buy grain, they starved. The British ruling class political and economic aristocracy at the time refused to allocate any money for famine relief.  They didn’t care much for the Irish anyway, and were content to let them starve or emigrate.

Stalin starved the kulaks to get rid of them. The Bengal famine of 1943 was caused by rapidly rising prices for food, driven by British military acquisitions, and aggravated by colonial bureaucracies too stoopid to see what was going on around them. In areas close to the border of Japanese-occupied Burma, the British military seized all transport, including boats and elephants, but then provided no rations for the people who were no longer able to fish or trade for food. Much of the male population was sequestered in labor camps, but their families were left outside to starve.  The wages of urban laborers did not keep up with the inflation, and so it came to pass that 3 million starved to death.

In the Ethiopian famine of 1973, food was moved out of the areas of most extreme hunger because better prices could be found elsewhere.

The government of North Korea follows economic, social, and political policies so toxic that more than a million have starved to death there.

So it goes into the modern world.

The United States subsidizes grain and corn production. This encourages gigantic surpluses. We dump them on the world food market at low prizes. This drives many small farmers in poor countries out of business because they can’t compete. So they migrate to the slums on the outskirts of major third world cities and live with malnutrition and hunger every day.

Here at home, the policy of “get big or get out” has reduced the number of farms, made them bigger, and more reliant than ever on government subsidies to make up for basic economic insanity of our political criminality and economic irrationality.  Rural hunger is as big an issue as urban.

The eyes of many will be on the World Food prize narrative — get big or get out, use GMO seeds, blast your plants with herbicides and pesticides, nature is our enemy, we must make war!  This is a narrative of famine and hunger and world scale disaster.

We will offer a counter narrative of food systems as communities and ecosystems, a human scale project that works with nature with an approach of stewardship and an avoidance of domination.

That’s a necessary message and makes it worth the trip.


Posted in Catholic, Climate Instability, food, Local Food Systems | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

An open letter to the unknown person(s) who took my rosemary bush.

I hope you really needed and will truly enjoy and appreciate the rosemary arp bush you took from my yard.  It was one of the first plants that I put into the ground here 14 years ago and it was truly a magnificent specimen of the rosemary family.  I assume you must be a person of discriminating taste and that you recognized just how wonderful that plant was and judged that I had had it for too long and now it was your turn to care for it.,

Rosemary arp is not a demanding plant. This one has survived all the tosses and turns of our weather these past 14 years, from frigid ice storms through searing drought  and heat. It freely gave of its branches to flavor the foods of this household — and also of others in the neighborhood.  I love my plants, I am that way.  I wonder about whether you transplanted it correctly so it will continue to flourish or if it died as a result of you doing the wrong thing at the wrong time.

I don’t mind when people pick food from my yards.  That’s partly why I garden. If you need an apple, or an apricot — be my guest.  Do you need some leaves of sage or some sprigs of mint?  How about a branch of rosemary?  I have plenty, except of course for the rosemary, because Now I Have None — and that impacts not only this household, but others in the neighborhood who have shared in the bounty of this beloved plant.

I’m not surprised it’s gone.  It’s not the first plant to completely disappear overnight from my yard.  It won’t be the last. That’s the way things are these days. As such things go  it’s a minor event. But “minor events’ have a way of adding up over time and then they become a cascading series of actions than lead to no good outcomes.

Come the spring, I will find another Rosemary Arp, in fact, I will get two.  I will plant one in the place where this other has grown, but I will plant the other in a more hidden spot, behind my fence and its locked gate, so that if the one in plain view disappears, we will not be deprived of our own homegrown rosemary.

I freely forgive you for what you have done and pray that you will come to understand whatever it is within you that drove you to do this deed.

Posted in food, garden, Local Food Systems, Oklahoma City, Permaculture | Leave a comment

How to get a better government.

The impasse in Washington has everybody talking about the government.  I have yet to hear anyone say anything very complimentary about Congress, even the Republicans, and I know lots of Republicans.

It seems to me that there is bad news and good news.

We have the government we have because we are the people that we are.

If we want a better government, we will need to become better people.

That’s not what we want to hear. We’d like to think that we can change the government without changing our own lives, but that isn’t happening and it won’t happen tomorrow, the next day, or the day thereafter.

Forty years ago this year Robert Ringer published “Winning through Intimidation” and that’s been our mantra ever since.  We put our personal needs, greeds, desires, and purposes ahead of the common good. Our political ideologies and parties are waaaaay more important to us than what’s left of the Republic. We let ourselves be led by the nose astray onto pathways of irrelevance and division. We are not dismayed when the lead story on the evening news, during a time of major national crisis, is about a petty but scandalous crime.

We load up on drugs, sex, shopping, and eating, moving through life in an orgy of consumption and excretion, sort of a grand bulimia of life.  Yee-haw for compensatory and distractive activities!

We demonize people who disagree with us.

It is not surprising that Congress can’t get along.  We the People can’t get along with each other. To expect Congress to somehow be more than what we are is political delusion.

So if you want to do something about Washington, start with the man or the woman in the mirror.  Become a better person and help others to do likewise.  That really is where it starts. Right at your doorstep.

But that isn’t where it stops. No one is an island. We all live in community.  Better people make for better communities because we stop trying to be an island. We stop retreating in selfishness behind closed doors and we don’t put “Not In My Back Yard” signs on our lawns. We work together with our neighbors to increase the safety, security, and quality of life of our families and neighbors. We begin to demand more of leaders and hold them accountable.

In other words, we start moving towards a revolution.

Posted in Good and Frugal Government, Financial Crisis, Safe Community, Social Justice | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

My email today to James Lankford, who was sent to Congress by a minority of the residents of my congressional district.

I heard your message loud and clear today Congressman Lankford.

You told me that you think that it is just fine that when I lose my job, I should not be able to buy health insurance because I have a condition that health insurers don’t want to cover.

You told my friends under the age of 26, that it is just fine for insurance companies to kick them off their parents insurance.

You told my low income friends that your solution to poverty is that the working poor should SUFFER AND DIE when they get sick or hurt.

You told Jesus, who comes to us in the distressing disguise of the poor to SUFFER AND DIE. See Matthew 25 for the details about that.

It is JESUS that you persecute with your enthusiastic embrace of the demonic social darwinist gospel that blames the poor for their own situation.

It is James Lankford who today turned his back on Jesus, and worshiped the false gods of greed, money, and corrupt power.

“Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries. Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten, your gold and silver have corroded, and that corrosion will be a testimony against you; it will devour your flesh like a fire. You have stored up treasure for the last days. Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure; you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter.” Epistle of James 5:1-5

The demons who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls rejoice that you are their disciple and you do their bidding.


Don’t tell me that Republican politicians don’t hate and despise the poor, because I won’t believe you.  I’ve been reading the newspaper and until March of this year watching TV regularly since I was in grade school and that began 50 years ago.  I’ve seen how Republican politicians demonize poor people for their own selfish political gratification.

Where is the Republican plan to deregulate the economy so that poor people could start micro-enterprises that could perhaps in time and with work grow into full time jobs that they own themselves!

Will they allow food sales and flea market sales at all highway rest stops?

Can peddlers set up on public sidewalks and in parks?  Can we have some economic freedom that would benefit the working poor?

Should we maybe stop those monthly helicopter dumps of money from the Federal Reserve that make Wall Street so happy?

WALDROP YOU ARE SUCH A FOOL!!!!!!!!  To even say something like “economic freedom for the working poor” obviously labels you as a filthy disgusting political agitator full of dangerous ideas about the benefits of economic freedom in a society.  Ask any Republican politician, they will tell you — BY THEIR VOTES AND LEGISLATION — that they LOVE our regulated economy just fine.

That’s because it is carefully regulated and fine tuned to benefit their friends.  If just any old group of poor people could set up shop at a freeway rest stop selling hot dogs and lemonade, well, the owner of the Junk Food Franchise down the road might lose some business, and he can be reliably counted on for contributions that support favored politicians.  If he loses business, he doesn’t pay as much so the Republicans can certainly be counted upon to protect his business by suppressing others.

What about three goats in a back yard, milked every day, and the milk sold to neighbors? WRONG!  Can’t do that, we do not want ANY competition with Big Dairy.

And so it goes, on down the line.

I am not a fan of big government programs.  I didn’t vote for our present Tyrant Emperor, and I don’t think I have ever voted for a Democrat for Congress.  If I did, it was sometime in the mists of my antiquity.  But there’s no such thing as economic freedom in health care.  The choice is not “Economic Freedom or Regulated Health Care”.  The choice is whether health care will be regulated to benefit all, for the common good, or whether it will be regulated to restrict access to health care by lower income families, which is the situation the Republicans want to maintain.

And that’s why I am so over the top about the latest Republican insanity.  I am not joking when I talk about “demons who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.”  I mean that literally. Those demons have captured the heart and soul of the Republican caucuses in the House and Senate, as well — as I have already noted — right here at home in the Governor’s office (All Hail Mary Queen of Lynch Mobs Fallin, Dominatrix of Oklahoma) and the Oklahoma Legislature.

Got food storage?  Got super insualtion? Got a way to heat without fossil fuels? Stocked up on wood? Ready to lose your job in the approaching economic apocalypse?

If not, I say everybody best get busy.

Whiskey and car keys and teenagers producer a predictable outcome.  And that’s what we have, in political terms, right now.


Democrats are only marginally better.

Posted in Economic Prosperity, Financial Crisis | Tagged | Leave a comment

Getting us into wars.

My grandfather John Cassidy was a man of few words.  I only remember two things from him on the subject of politics.

The first was — “Follow the dollar,” if you want to understand what is happening with government.

The second was — “Democrats always get us into wars.”

John Cassidy was a veteran of World War 1 in France and he was not a man to tell war stories.  When I asked him to, all he said was, “It was pretty terrible.”  And that was it.

I had to concede the point.  World Wars 1 and 2, Korea, Vietnam. . . pretty much encompassed the recurring nightmares of his life.  With his knowledge of World War I, how did he experience WW 2, Korea, and finally Vietnam?

Since then, not to be left far behind in the race towards even more death and misery. . . the Republicans have gleefully taken the lead on war. They can always count on the Democrats  generally sticking to the official program on national security issues.

We’re back full circle to the Democrats on this one.  Without a coherent plan evident to anyone, we are moving directly towards firing high explosive ordinance into a neighborhood of the world stocked everywhere with kegs of gunpowder and fuses just waiting to be lit.

How stupid do you think the world will judge this bi-partisan consensus on the role of war in the life of the United States?

Me, I say it’s time for spiritual warfare, full on, no holds barred, rosaries and novenas and processions with waving signs and banners and icons, ringing bells, incense smoking, and dowsing them with holy water.  Followed right on with multiple random acts of goodness, beauty and kindness.  Also. . . Even more carefully planned and implemented structures that propagate goodness, beauty, and kindness.

Why do we put up with insane structures of mega death on a continental scale?  Maybe we should just start living as though, you know, the Reign of God was an actual daily moment by moment reality here in Oklahoma City and wherever we are.  It’s seems to be a subversive thing to do.  It would be a grand under-mining of the systems of organized stupidity that so often throw up terribly complicated situations where there is no evident good guys but only a proliferation of bad guys.  Maybe then the systems of organized  stupidity won’t work so well because they no longer are what they were.

Demons who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls should watch out because we are coming after them to chase them back to the hell from which they came.  BY the way we live our lives. . . by the way we grow communities of purpose. . . Living as if the reign of God is a reality calls for a radical rearranging of personal, economic, and social realities.

It will be worth the effort.  “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.”

In the meantime, more short term, I pray every moment for all the people of Syria and that whole region of the world, that the fruit of Spirit will be poured out on them.  I want peace to prevail and evil to fail.  If someone can show me something I could actually do, I would do it. Bringing weapons of mass destruction to bear on Syria will solve nothing. It only serves the interests of the terrorists, who will see it as proof of their assertions about the U.S. It will drive them to propagate their own responses of violence, thus escalating the cycle of violence.

It is organized stupidity at work. Runnin amok I should say.

Don’t be quiet, say something about this. Talk to people at work.  Don’t take war for granted. Never give up on peace ever even when the bombs fall.  Make noise.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Oklahoma needs term limits for municipal offices!

With any political office, TWELVE YEARS IS ENOUGH! I don’t care how great some people think that a particular politician may be, TWELVE YEARS IS ENOUGH!

Electoral systems without term limits always become, to a greater or lesser extent, personality cults.  This causes grassroots political activity to wither on the vine.  Why get involved?  Our “savior” is in office!  Our “savior” will do “everything we need”!  There is nothing that I need to do other than vote for “our savior”, whoever that may be.

That attitude will destroy a democracy much more quickly than anything else.

We see this problem in Oklahoma City right now with the personality cult revolving around the mayor.  A great remedy for that would be TERM LIMITS for the Mayor and City Council.

We the People can put this into law by starting an initiative petition.  And this year is the time to do it, since the number of signatures required is a percentage of the vote in the previous City election.  In this particular case, our previous City election had a low turnout, so the signature requirement is low to qualify a city initiative proposal.

Contact me at bob@bobwaldrop.net if you are interested in working on this.   Let’s git ‘er done!


Posted in Good and Frugal Government, Campaign News, Oklahoma City | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Responding to the Oklahoman

Last Saturday, the Oklahoman attacked the Great Plaints Tar Sands pipeline protests as “pointless” and included a picture of me chained to an excavator.  I wrote a response, and today, a truncated, poorly edited version of my letter was printed.  The Oklahoman’s standards have really declined under the new ownership. Under the previous ownership, my letters were occasionally edited, but I never had an issue with the editing because it was done for readability purposes.  Indeed, I learned a bit about my writing craft from studying the Oklahoman’s editors take on my letters.  Alas, those days are gone.  Here is what the Oklahoman printed:

Regarding “No point to these protests” (ScissorTales, June 29): An early result of completion of the Keystone pipeline will be an increase in the retail price of gasoline of somewhere between 10 and 25 cents per gallon. Oil companies and their stockholders will rejoice. As the U.S. price for oil rises to meet the world price, however, the rest of us will experience economic disaster. TransCanada’s purpose is to facilitate the ecological devastation of an area of pristine boreal forest the size of Great Britain. Burning the Albertan tar sands will release enough emissions to drive even more extreme weather.

Here is what I actually wrote. It was well within the Oklahoman’s word limit of 225 words:

The editors of the Oklahoman claim that the Great Plains Tar Sands protest actions at Keystone pipeline sites are “pointless.” If that’s so, why has the Oklahoman publicly attacked the protests using such cheap propaganda slurs as are found in your June 29, 2013 editorial? Perhaps the paucity of the  case for the pipeline drives the editorial writers to talk such trash.

An early result of completion of this pipeline will be an increase in the retail price of gasoline of somewhere between ten and twenty-five cents per gallon. Oil companies and their stockholders will rejoice. As the US price for oil rises to meet the world price, however, the rest of us will experience economic disaster.

Trans Canada’s purpose along the Great Plains is to facilitate the ecological devastation of an area of pristine boreal forest the size of Great Britain. Burning the Albertan tar sands will release enough climate forcing emissions to drive even more extreme weather here along the Great Plains.

As to the success or failure of the protests, as a Christian, my concern is to be faithful. So the fact that a notable media organ of the culture of death criticizes my actions as “useless” is nothing at all to me and my house, for we serve the Lord, not the merchants of greed and destruction.


Posted in Climate Instability, Corporation shenanigans, Environmental Sustainability, Oklahoma Living, Peak Oil | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The outlook for future oil and gas production, given high decline rates and some observations on the consequences of high energy prices for Oklahoma City

The commentary below is shared with permission of the author. It originated in private discussions on the listserv of the advisory board of the ASPO-USA (Association for the Study of Peak Oil). It is not cornucopian news. It is further indication of a serious price hike looming for natural gas. It is good news for everyone who is selling natural gas. Bad news for anyone buying natural gas. AFAIK, the gas buyers far outnumber the gas sellers.

So as you may be  deciding, reluctantly, but under the force of circumstances, to draw down your savings to install a tornado shelter, you should extend your investment and do a super-insulation job on your dwelling and update your HVAC systems for efficiency. That might involved dumping your central unit and going to zone cooling and heating, depending on how big your place is and how good a job you do on weatherization and insulation. Unlike anything you might put into the stock or bond market, this investment will pay you tax free dividends for the life of the dwelling, in the form of money you won’t have to spend on energy. Insulation is not an expense, it is an investment. It is one of the very few guaranteed investments on the table right now.

In just a few years, we here in Oklahoma City will be devoutly wishing that we had a real bus system. That will likely be true for most of my readers elsewhere too. We Oklahoma City-ians will wish we hadn’t squandered a hundred million on a couple of miles of street car line. We will wish we had spent that money instead getting ourselves a real bus system.

One result of the misallocation of public transit resources here in OKC may be the degentrification of the entire area outside of the roughly quandrangle shaped area formed by I-40, I-44, and I-35. Within that quadrangle, it will be gentrification everywhere all the time. That process is already in its initial stages. My house tripled in value, according to the county assessor, since 1999. Meanwhile, The 73132 zip code, where I work, long a haven for up-income households, located well outside of the “Urban Quadrangle”, has increasing numbers of people on Section 8 and food stamps. We are noticing this demographic change at Epiphany Church, in discussions with other staff members.

If you look at Europe and South America, the slums are in the suburbs, on the edges of the cities. Our tax-subsidized freeway system and cheap gasoline permitted the US of A to buck that trend and made the suburbs “the most desirable” places to live for families. But as the decline years come upon us, that will change.

What are our political leaders saying here in OKC? They say we need to reduce the area of transit service, cutting entire sections of the City off of the transit grid. Police response times outside of the Urban Quadrangle already are nothing to brag about, according to stories I hear from other Epiphany parishioners.

Actions have consequences. The consequences of investing a billion dollars inside of the OKC Urban Quadrangle formed by the interstate highways, and reducing civic investment in the rest of the City, will become crystal clear as time passes. We can no longer afford to support a sprawling Oklahoma City metropolis, so abandonment of the suburbs will become the political reality of the energy and resource-constrained future.

The Outlook for Future US Oil & Gas Production, Given High Decline Rates From Existing Wells And a Summary of Recent Global Net Oil Export Data

By: Jeffrey J. Brown
Independent Petroleum Geologist
Member, Advisory Board, Association for the Study of Peak Oil, USA

ExxonMobil put the annual decline rate from existing wellbores in the 4%/year to 6%/year range a few years ago. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the decline rate from existing US oil wells was about 5%/year in 2008, when the US hit the post-hurricane low production point of 5.0 mbpd (Crude + Condensate, EIA).
Let’s assume that US Crude + Condensate production averages 7.5 mbpd in 2013, and let’s make (in my opinion a conservative) assumption that the decline rate from existing US wellbores is about 10%/year this year, as an increasing percentage of US production comes from high decline rate shale/tight plays.

At a 10%/year decline rate, in order to simply maintain a production rate of 7.5 mbpd out to 2023, the US oil industry would have to replace the productive equivalent of every single oil field in the United States of America–everything from Thunder Horse in the Gulf of Mexico, to the Eagle Ford Play, to the Permian Basin, to the Bakken Play to the North Slope of Alaska.

Or let me put it this way, at 5%/year decline rate, in 2008 the US lost 250,000 bpd per year due to declining production. At a 10%/year decline rate and a production rate of 7.5 mbpd, we would lose 750,000 bpd this year due to declining production.

In other words, a 50% increase in net production + an increase in the decline rate from 5%/year to 10%/year would lead to a 200% increase in annual volume of oil lost to declining production from existing wellbores.

Assuming an annual loss about 750,000 bpd from existing wellbores, the gross increase in production would have to exceed 750,000 bpd in order to show a net increase in production. For example, let’s assume that we average 7.5 mbpd in 2013, and let’s assume that we lose 750,000 bpd (0.75 mbpd) from existing wellbores this year. In order to show a net increase of 0.25 mbpd from 2013 to 2014 (from 7.5 to 7.75 mbpd), the industry would have to show a gross increase in production of one mbpd, which would be the production from new wells in 2014 that were not producing in 2013.

If you add it all up, assuming a 10%/year decline rate from existing wellbores, in order to show a significant net increase in production, the US oil industry would have to put on line, over a 10 year period, the productive equivalent Saudi Arabia’s 2005 crude + condensate production of 9.6 mbpd, which is also the US production peak that we saw in 1970.

This is why Peaks Happen, and it’s why production declines are inevitable. On the upslope, new oil wells can offset the declines from existing wellbores, but with time, new oil wells can no longer offset the increasing volume of oil lost to production declines And of course the overall decline rate from existing US gas wells is almost certainly even higher than for oil wells.

We are currently averaging about 66 BCF/day in dry natural gas (NG) production in the US (EIA). If we assume a 20%/year decline rate per year from existing NG wellbores, the industry would have to put online the productive equivalent of current US dry NG production over the next five years, in order to maintain a production rate of 66 BCF/day.

So, based on a 10%/year decline rate for oil wells and a 20%/year decline rate for gas wells, in order to maintain a crude oil production rate of about 7.5 mbpd and a NG production rate of 66 BCF/day, in round numbers the industry would have to add the productive oil equivalent of one new Bakken play every year and the productive gas equivalent of 2.3 Barnett Shale plays–every single year, year after year.

Globally, the dominant trend we are seeing is a post-2005 decline in Global Net Exports of oil (GNE), as the developing countries, led by China, so far at least have consumed an increasing share of a post-2005 declining volume of Global Net (oil) Exports. Of course, this means that developed net oil importing countries like the US have to make do with a declining share of a declining volume of Global Net (Oil) Exports. And the US is still dependent on imports for the majority of crude oil processed in US refineries. The post-2005 decline in GNE, combined with increasing demand from developing countries were the primary factors that contributed to global (Brent) crude oil prices more than quadrupling from $25 in 2002 to $112 in 2012.

For more information on global oil exports, you can search for: ASPO + Export Capacity Index.

For a concrete example of the Export Capacity Index (ECI) concept works, consider two countries that are widely considered to be critically important sources of future crude oil production: Brazil and Iraq.

If we extrapolate the 2008 to 2012 rate of decline in Brazil + Iraq’s combined ECI ratio (the ratio of liquids production* to consumption), they would collectively approach zero net oil exports in about 10 years. Note that their combined net exports fell from 2.0 mbpd (million barrels per day) in 2008 to 1.8 mbpd in 2012 (EIA).

Or in other words, the increase in Iraq’s net oil exports from 2008 to 2012 could not even offset the decline in net exports from Brazil (as Brazil slipped into net importer status, even if we count biofuels as “oil” production).

*EIA data, production = total petroleum liquids + other liquids (mostly biofuels in the other liquids category)

Posted in Good and Frugal Government, Corporation shenanigans, Economic Prosperity, Environmental Sustainability, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Living, Peak Oil | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

OKC’s new drought watering plan: sacrificing food gardens for swimming pools?

The City sent everyone in town a brochure this week describing the new City contingency plans for watering restrictions during drought.  At first glance, it looks reasonable, even prudent, but there’s a big bamboozling devil in its details, and that is its total silence on the subject of swimming pools.  Apparently, those who own backyard swimming pools will be able to empty and fill them at will even in the worst stages of drought emergency!

Meanwhile, those of us who have planted food gardens out of economic and nutritional necessity will not be able to hand water our food plants even though others will be allowed to wallow in tens of thousands of gallons of water for their upscale backyard pools.

Sounds a bit odd to me.  If things are so bad that we can’t water our food gardens and edible landscaping, it seems to me we shouldn’t be able to fill pools either.

We should ask: is this a truly universal policy?  Will golf courses, which get free untreated water from the City, have to comply?

Sauce for the goose should always be sauce for the gander, but that’s not the way things work in Okie City, where who you are, and how much you have often matter much more than the common good.

So! We must look out for ourselves and our edible landscaping. Here are some suggestions to help you avoid the drought wolves:

I. Drought-sculpt your lawn.  When it rains, grab an umbrella and spend time watching where the water runs on your property.  Chances are, your lawns are higher than your sidewalks and driveway, so these paved areas act like canals to shoot water off your property into the storm sewer system.  

  • You will need a shallow swale on the downhill side of your sidewalks and driveway, so the water runs off the driveway or sidewalk into the yard.  A swale is a place, lower than the surrounding area, where water can pool and soak in or slowly flow and soak in.
  • Imagine a series of half scallops marching across your yard, made from scooping up dirt from a circle about 3′ in diameter and piling it on the downhill half of the circle. We’ll call the pile of dirt a “berm” and the purpose of this arrangement of circular swales and half circle berms is to provide places where water can pool and soak in.  As it does so, it creates an underground lens of water under the berm. The berms are the equivalent of raised planting beds. The swales are the equivalent of a sunken planting bed.  Space the berms about one foot apart. Plant “more water loving plants” in the circular swale. Put plants that don’t like such wet feet on the berms/raised beds.
  • You get extra points if you put the berms on top of sticks and logs.  Before you start digging, pile up some sticks and logs, outlining the place where your berm will be. If you do this to the whole yard, you can visualize the entire system and make any changes that seem necessary before you start digging.  As you dig the soil from the circular berm, cover the logs and sticks with it. This is known as “hugulkultur” and it is another drought resistance tactic, as the wood will get spongy and retain water that your plants can use.
  • Start these scallop berms and circular swales at the highest elevation of your yard and work your way to the lowest. Usually the land is highest close to your house and lowest at the curb. Generally we don’t start water harvesting structures like this within 10 feet of a building. The next row is off set from the first row.  When the first row of circular swales fill up, the water will flow between the berms to the next row.  So on your next row, center a circular swale on the foot wide space between the first row’s berms.  AND so on and so forth, across the property.
  • Try to follow the contour (slope) of your land, as best you can.  We’re talking mostly about small, residential properties here, not 160 acre fields.  The swales along your sidewalks and driveway should connect to this system of circular swales and half-scallop berms.

II. Mulch! Mulch! Mulch!

We want six inches of mulch everywhere you have food growing.  If it comes to a drought emergency, don’t water with a hose. Instead, use a bucket and a dipper.  Don’t water the mulch. Pull the mulch aside and pour water directly on the ground around the plant. Then cover it with mulch again.

Mulch your container plants too. They take more water than in-ground plants, so you need to mulch them to reduce evaporation.

III. Get your church to drill a well.

Every church in Oklahoma should drill a well.  That would represent an enormous increase in the resilience and persistence and constancy of the entire area. Test the water to make sure it is pure. If we get to a drought emergency, it will be illegal to water your garden with City water.  But you could use water from a well — from a neighbor’s well, or from a well on your church (or synagogue, or temple) property.  Carrying water in this way will certainly teach you to be a frugal waterer of your vegetable garden.

IV.  Use grey water.

  • Wash your dishes in a basin in the kitchen sink, and then pour the water onto your garden.
  • Put a tote in your shower, stand in that while you shower, then carry it out and dump it in the garden.
  • Put a basin in the bathroom sink, to catch the water when you wash your face, brush your teeth, clean your contacts, etc. Pour that on your garden plants.

Greywater must be used immediately. Don’t attempt to store it, it will get fetid and foul quickly. So take it out and pour it onto the garden right when you are finished washing ot showering.  Pour it onto mulch.

V.  Become a water conservative.

Everyone can change personal habits so they become more water conservative.

  • Short showers! 3-4 minutes, shut the water off while soaping and scrubbing. Don’t take baths unless you are ill or your body is sore and you need to soak. Filling a bath tub takes a LOT more water than a short shower.
  • Don’t let water run mindlessly.
  • Keep a pitcher of water in the refrigerator so you don’t run tap water to get to the cooler water.
  • When it comes to flushing the toilet. . . “If it’s yellow, it’s mellow. If its brown, flush it down.”
  • Never use a garbage disposal!  Any organic waste that would go down a garbarg disposal should be composted!  Don’t waste water flushing vital nutrients into the sewer system!
  • Fix any water leaks!  Make sure all faucets have aerators.
  • Drive less — it takes 13 gallons of water to make one gallon of gasoline.
  • Don’t buy a new car — it takes 39,000 gallons of water to make a new car and all of its parts and accoutrements.
  • Teach your children water conservatism.

VI. Pray for rain.

I know it sounds odd to talk about the need to pray for rain, after the recent spate of rains and storms here in Central Oklahoma, but much of Oklahoma remains in a drought situation, including places where OKC has lakes to supply drinking water.  Pray for rain that is a blessing, not a curse, as we have found recently that rain and certainly be too much of a good thing.

VII. Advocate for more sensible policies.

Contact the mayor and your city council people and urge them to evolve their drought policy so it allows for responsible hand watering of food gardens and forbids filling pools when water is scarce.


Posted in Good and Frugal Government, Climate Instability, food, garden, Local Food Systems, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Living, Permaculture, rainwater harvesting, water | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

The sustainability community and the post-tornado disaster conversation.

Does the sustainability community have anything to contribute in this latest tornado disaster recovery?  Beyond, of course, donations of time and money to organizations working to alleviate immediate pain and suffering for those involved?

I think we do and now is the time for us to start that conversation.

The Urban Heat Island Effect.
Oklahoma City  has an enormous footprint and that creates an urban heat island effect.  This may be influencing the weather south and east of the city, an area that includes Moore. Is there a connection between tornadoes and the urban heat island effect? There isn’t enough research to say one way or another, but there is preliminary data which suggests the answer may be “yes.”   Study links tornadoes to urban heat island effect.

We need public and private investments in research so that we know whether the urban heat island is a factor in formation, intensity, and path of storms in this area. In the meantime, anything we can do to mitigate the urban heat island effect will save us money in the long run. The primary mitigations?  Planting trees, shading pavement, and white (or other light colored) or green (planted with vegetation) roofs.  If it turns out that our urban heat island is a major influence on storm formation, intensity, and path, then those mitigations take on a greater urgency.

Three ecological concepts: constancy, persistence, resilience.
In my iPermie book, I have a long discussion on the ecological concepts of constancy, persistence, and resilience. These days, the  three concepts are typically combined into the single term resilience, but I’m not sure that’s a good idea.

Resilience is about how a system recovers from damage. We do pretty good with that, at least, “so far so good”.  On May 20th, public and private resources mobilized instantly to respond to the grave damage of the latest Moore tornado.  That response is on-going and will continue for years.

It’s not a perfect system though. If the disaster is really big, and/or if there are multiple disasters at the same time, the resources of both public and private agencies can be stretched to the breaking point.  During the Katrina disaster, the local government cut and ran, abandoning thousands of the poorest of the poor to their fate in the face of the on-rushing hurricane.  Police killed unarmed citizens fleeing for their lives. Nursing home residents were abandoned to drown and some may even have been euthanized.

Oklahoma’s Republican congressional delegation helped delay disaster relief money for the victims of the Sandy disaster, which happened in “blue states”.  After the Moore tornado, there were calls in New York and New Jersey for their congressional delegations to oppose aid to Oklahoma as political revenge for the opposition of Oklahoma Republicans to aid for Sandy victims.

In the future, disaster relief may not be as available as it is today.  Politics, austerity, and compassion fatigue may get in the way. Which is why we can no longer afford to ignore  ecological concepts of constancy and persistence.

Constancy is the ability of a system to support itself. As with resilience, we do reasonably well with constancy ( “so far so good”), but many of our systems are brittle.  We depend upon long supply chains. Our communications and energy systems are at risk of weather, terrorism, human error, and “deferred maintenance” of normal wear and tear.   The sustainability community is already busy working on these problems with our programs to  grow local food systems, promote energy conservation and alternative energy, boost the local economy, etc. That work needs to continue.

While resilience and constancy are both necessary, it is better to not need so much resilience in the first place. Persistence is the ability of a system to defend itself against grave threats.

Because of our political and economic structures, which drive our personal decisions, we have very little community persistence. We are almost totally defenseless before the primary threats and hazards of life along the Great Plains of North America.

  • Much of our critical power and communications infrastructure is above ground, vulnerable not only to tornadoes and straight line winds, thunderstorms and hail, but also to snow, sleet, and ice storms, terrorism.  Water and fuel systems have vital above-ground technology that if damaged or destroyed render the systems inoperable.
  • Our residential and commercial housing and buildings have no defenses to speak of against severe weather damage.  Oklahoma building codes are weak and mandate little in the way of weather-resistant construction.  Oklahoma’s building industry is firmly against strengthening those building codes and is even opposed to a proposal to make tornado shelters mandatory in new construction. Our assessment systems and standards do not value storm resistant construction or life-saving structures like cellars, basements, and safe rooms.
  • Less than 10% of Oklahomans have access to a cellar.
  • There are few public shelters and  the trend in recent years is for cities to close the few existing public shelters due to a bureaucratic decision to encourage people to “shelter in place.”
  • No one knows how many schools in Oklahoma have tornado shelters or safe rooms. There is no state mandate for cellars or safe rooms for schools.

On May 20, 2013, the tragic result of this political irresponsibility was manifested before the world, as children died while “sheltering in place” in schools without adequate tornado protection, betrayed and abandoned to their fate by the politicians in the state legislature and the Moore school board.

Our pioneer ancestors with their sod huts were right.
Underground and earth-sheltered housing is the most appropriate vernacular architecture for residential properties in Tornado Alley.  If my house gets blown away by the wind or burned by fire, my intention is to replace it with a hobbit house — partially underground, earth-sheltered, storm shutters for windows and doors.  This type of construction is, I think, the natural vernacular construction for the Great Plains.  It protects against all of the extremes of Tornado Alley weather.

If we always do what we always do, we will always get what we always get.
If  we let this disaster and its recovery pass, without making some changes in the way we do things here on the Great Plains, we will compound this disaster and make the next one even worse.

  • We need to stop building brittle infrastructure and start investing in weather-proof energy and communications infrastructure.  Meme: No more brittle infrastructure!
  • We need investments in public shelters at schools. These shelters could also provide neighborhood refuges when the area is threatened with severe weather. Meme:  Protect our children from life-threatening storms!
  • We can offer housing alternatives that will resist the weather extremes of the Great Plains.  Meme: Underground and earth sheltered housing can protect your family from the extremes of Tornado Alley weather.
  • We need research into the Urban Heat Island Effect, and if it turns out to be true that the OKC urban heat island is causing  more intense storms to form and track to the south and east of the metro, then we need to do things that will mitigate our urban heat island, such as shading pavement and white and green roofs.  Meme: Study the urban heat island effect. Plant trees, shade pavement, whitewash our roofs.

Many of us are rightly concerned about what is happening with the climate. The future is likely to bring more severe and more frequent storms.  We can’t afford to simply be fatalistic and blasé about the risks of life on the Great Plains. This climate issue has consequences that may impact our resilience — the ability to recover — as well as our persistence — in the event of future disasters!

  • How many multi-billion dollar disasters can we afford?  The answer is not “As many as may happen.” Someone I know has had to replace her roof three times in the past ten years due to hail. All of the money spent on recovery is money that can’t be spent on other things, situations, opportunities.
  • After the last few mega-disasters along the Gulf Coast,  sine casualty insurance corporations stopped selling insurance along the Gulf Coast and in parts of Florida. What happens if insurers stop selling insurance for tornadoes and hail storms in Oklahoma?
  • Insurance companies will certainly raise their rates in Oklahoma to recoup all of the multiple billions of dollars that this latest disaster will cost.  My house insurance nearly doubled over the past decade.  What happens if it doubles again in the next decade? The money I spend on insurance premiums I can’t spend for other things. What will the economic impacts of soaring casualty insurance payments be to the Oklahoma economy?
  • How many people are we willing to kill by our foolish and imprudent lack of community preparations for the known hazards of the area?
  • Why do we elect politicians to school boards who build schools without proper tornado protection?  I am inclined to vote against all incumbents in future school board elections absent some rather fast action to solve this problem.

Right now, politicians are crawling all over Moore, Shawnee, and the other damaged areas, emoting public sympathy for the victims.  Totally absent from their commentaries is anything that approaches a constructive effort to reduce the damage that these grave storms can do.  None are acknowledging any responsibility for the political and economic structures that make this disaster worse than it needed to be. They won’t discuss a state mandate for storm cellars in schools and even the City of Moore is backing away from a proposal to require storm shelters in all new construction, due to opposition by home builder associations. 

That kind of do-nothing, “it’s not raining, the roof isn’t leaking, so we don’t have to fix it” attitude has killed people again and again and again in our history.    Here’s another meme:  Vote against all politicians who don’t protect children and neighborhoods with school and public shelters. No exceptions! No political commitment to school and public shelters, no vote!

Got a plan?
The final thing the sustainability community can do is get busy doing for ourselves, so that our households and neighborhood communities are characterized by constancy, persistence, and resilience.  As we create a community of safety and security at the grassroots level, we will see change in our politics.  There are things that we as individuals and families need to do, and there are things the government needs to do, and civil society is part of this too.  We should all get busy.  Do what you can, with what you have, where you are to create a community that is persistent, constant, and resilient.

You can work on this on your own, but it’s more fun if you get others involved as a community project.

My ebook  iPermie! How to permaculture your urban lifestyle, has 399,000 words on the subject of creating a life that is persistent, constant, and resilient.  It is only $1.99 at http://www.ipermie.net. If you can’t afford two dollars, email me and I will send you one for free.  It’s an ebook, available as a pdf or any of the other major formats (Kindle, Nook, Android, Apple, Kobo, etc.).

Summary of suggested talking points/memes:

  • No more brittle infrastructure!
  • Protect our children from life-threatening storms!
  • Underground and earth sheltered housing can protect your family from the extremes of Tornado Alley weather.
  • Study the urban heat island effect. Plant trees, shade pavement, whitewash our roofs.
  • Vote against all politicians who don’t protect children and neighborhoods with school and public shelters. No exceptions! No political commitment to school and public shelters, no vote!
  • Do what you can, with what you have, where you are to create a community that is persistent, constant, and resilient.
Posted in Good and Frugal Government, Climate Instability, Environmental Sustainability, Permaculture, Safe Community, Social Justice | Tagged , | Leave a comment