Maybe this will be my next car…?


My son told me about this car:

I think this is way cool. In fact, I think if I got one of these my husband would quickly trade me his Prius for this car.

For a brochure, which I cannot link to at this time for some reason, go to http://www.aptera.com and look for the brochure link at the bottom of the screen.

Riot for Austerity


I have NOT formally committed us to that challenge. However, it is fun and educational looking at our numbers vs the nationwide average. Riot4Austerity if you are interested in comparing your own energy usage.

In electricity usage, we are 66% below average; we also are signed up for our electric provider’s Solar Partners program and get 45% of our electricity from renewable sources. We pay extra for it, but supposedly the extra money is funding for future renewable plants.

In water usage we are 80% below average; I am AMAZED that the national average is 100 gallons per PERSON per day! How in the hell does one person use that freekin’ much water??? We don’t use that much even in the height of summer when I’m watering some of my garden beds twice a day, for crying out loud!

Garbage we unfortunately have a lot of, even though we’re still well under the national average of 4.5 pounds per person per day. We have no recycling program in our area, and the carbon miles I would expend going to Phoenix specifically to drop off recycling wouldn’t make sense. We have about 3 trash bags a week of garbage, about 50% of which COULD be recycled if we had it available. We compost most of our vegetable matter, either by putting it in the compost bin or by giving it to the chickens.

Heating gas: we use propane and the conversion is .91 times the gallons of propane. We use about 350 gallons a year, so we are at approximately 68% less than average. I actually expect our usage to go down further as we are no longer using the furnace, and we converted to a pilotless ignition stove. The one propane sucker we have that we presently cannot control is our water heater, which has a pilot light that necessarily is on all the time.  But HOLY CRAP those reflector pans that you put on the stove REALLY WORK.  I have had to relearn how to cook on our stove — the temperatures are so high with the heat turned down that we are using probably 50% less propane for each meal than we used to.

Gasoline is one that we are way over average on; we live at least 35 miles from everything, and even farther from our jobs. We do try to conserve by combining trips, and only going to town once a week if possible. I really don’t see this changing unless someone invents a truly green car that runs on sunshine and happy thoughts.

Shopping: well, I am a thrift store addict, and buy much of what I wear from thrifts. However, powering down requires purchases of things that are not electric or power dependent, and most of that requires new purchases, so here we are still over the average of $1000 per person per year. Plus, DH can’t take meals with him when he goes to work — they would get mashed in the baggage compartment for one, and two they wouldn’t hold up for a week at a time in a hotel room. So he eats out a lot. I do try to take my own meals, and to use my own silverware, so that I’m not making more garbage at work than necessary.

Food: we buy in bulk from a coop devoted to fair trade practices, we buy local and organic when possible, I try to cook and store as much as possible. We still have meat as a part of our evening meal many more nights than not, but we both love Middle Eastern and Indian food, and we are eating more and more with meat as a garnish to the rice and sauces. We are still eating stuff preserved from the garden last year, and I plan to expand our plantings manyfold this year. There’s just no comparison in taste, and I love knowing that what we are eating came in large part from our own labors.

So. How do you compare? We have a long way to go. In fact, I may just sign up officially for the r4a project. It couldn’t hurt, even if we never get to the target areas.

The coming anarchy


Mr. Kaplan’s prescience is becoming more evident by the day.  I see the increasing militarization of our police forces, with all the atrocities that brings, as evidence that our government is aware of, and powerless to prevent, the anarchy that will be our lot as the economy continues its downward spiral.

Now, please don’t misread me.  I am not one of those gun toting, cache burying, paranoid survivalist types…although I am a fervent supporter of the right to keep and bear arms, think everyone should stock up on bulk foods, and I do tend to be on the more cynical side of things regarding politics and life in general.

I tend to see the absurdity in the endless pursuit of ‘stuff’ whether it’s survival stuff or designer purses.  Not the least because I am guilty of being a compulsive saver.  I grew up having so little and moving so much that now I keep *everything* because surely as I’m sitting here, I WILL need whatever it was I threw away.  Maybe not now, maybe not in a week, or even a year, but I will need it.

So, with that said, back to my point, and Mr. Kaplan’s prescience.  The article was written in 1994 yet the situation in Africa not only has not improved, it has deteriorated; places in other parts of the world that were stable (at least compared to today) have destabilized and are in turn destabilizing regions around them — look at Russia vs. Ukraine or Russia vs. Georgia, or the tribal leaders in the outlands of Afganistan and Pakistan vs. the recognized governments of each.

We are tribal.  We are not nation oriented; our evolutionary path designed us to be loyal on a gut level to a tribe at the largest.  Anything beyond that becomes abstract and when push comes to shove, impossible to enforce over tribal loyalties.  Our problem as modern Americans is that, like the countries of Africa, we have taken away the tribal mores and punishments in exchange for the laws of society…and those just don’t hold up well when there’s survival, even profit beyond subsistence, in violating the law in favor of supporting the tribe.

I think it’s a myth that we ever as a nation had a unified idea of morality or ethics; even among those of the same faith, there are marked differences between sects even of the same denomination regarding the lines in the sand of right/wrong.  However, there was a broad understanding of the principles within those two extremes that were shared by the great majority of our ancestors.  I don’t think that is so any longer.  A quick search around google will show study after study supporting the premise that people think it’s OK to cheat to get better grades, to cheat to get more money, to lie on a resume, and so on.  I surmise that our nation’s obsession with youth and beauty arises at least in part due to the supposition that if it gets you better _fill in the blank_ it’s OK, and even expected.

So what is my purpose in bringing that up already??  Well, this.  Igor Panarin, who is no slouch regarding predicting – accurately- trends within the US.  He used to be a KGB analyst.  Read his story; I think Dimitry Orlov must have had a conversation with him at least a time or two, or read some of his works as his analysis and predictions dovetail nicely with Panarin’s.

Our nation is so fragmented; as pressures both economic and social mount, people revert to the tangible area of loyalties, the tribe.  It can also be called community, gangs, family.  These are all sections of our society that are gaining traction, members, influence.  They all give a sense of support and identity to their members.

If we want to avoid outright anarchy, we need to build community now, build up those tribal networks.  It’s becoming late in the game; say hello to your neighbor today, it’s a good place to start.  I would rather depend on my neighbors to keep an eye on my place than the police, and rather depend on my neighbors for that same security than pay a private security force to do the job less well and with less care than those who also depend on me for the same.

The Long Water Emergency?


I just finished reading this book.  I know, I read the book that sets the tone years after I have read and gotten on board with the whole idea…typical for me.  It has taken me almost two weeks to read this; one because the Thanksgiving holidays meant I worked more before the holiday to have the weekend off, and two because what he has to say requires thought and digestion before absorbing more.

I have a couple of thoughts on what he has to say about my little neck of the woods — the Southwest.  I suppose yesterday’s post relates to what he has to say as well, because I don’t really offer any sweeping ideas for anyone outside of my home area, unlike Peak Oil Hausfrau.  Her part two is quite sweeping and fairly complete in describing methods of using less energy to cook. Preventing Deforested Moonscapes Part II What I want to talk about today is water.

First, he states that the we will be unable to grow anything in the Southwest. I tend to take issue with that, for the simple reason that the natives who were here long before us used irrigation that required no fossil fuel inputs, and grew an astonishing variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains; they also made extensive use of the cacti and other desert plants in their diet and lifestyle. I have been looking into planting my front yard using methods the natives used — sunken beds, more native plants such as corn adapted to my climate, beans that are native, tomatoes that do well if they are ‘ignored’, native vegetables such as chaote and sunchokes, and ollas in my beds.

The first, sunken beds, is a fascinating idea. The use of berms and earthworks to channel water into the beds is such a simple yet brilliant idea I really don’t know why the pioneers to this area didn’t look at it more closely — other than the fact that they were convinced that the natives were ‘savages’ who had to be civilized and saved, or exterminated in competition with the land. On the Tohono O’odham reservation south of Tucson there are many such farm beds nestled between hills that form small valleys within the larger ones. They are mostly fallow now, and many of the natives that still farm at all have taken to using Western methods using large petrochemical fertilizer inputs and heavy machinery, but the yields honestly aren’t any better than what their forefathers/mothers got using ancient technology. I can see a potential for going back to the old ways as food gets scarce and fuel gets expensive. Brad Lancaster, author and permaculture designer has a wonderful story including pictures of successful use of this very technology on his website Farming in the City with Runoff from a Street

This year was my first in harvesting prickly pear for jellies. I definitely think that I will try to make fruit leathers and other products besides the jellies next year. Maybe a prickly pear mead? I found an elderberry tree that I could potentially harvest for next year. The problem I see with doing these things in the wild rather than in my own yard is that if peak oil supply disruptions hit sooner than later, I will not be able to spend the gas needed to harvest these things in the wild. I really must plan to have these things in my own yard, or at least in the neighborhood.

And what about water supply here in the high desert? As I stated in yesterday’s post there simply isn’t enough water to support the present population here. The Big Chino Aquifer, our fossil water source and one of the big feeders for the Verde River, has been the subject of a long standing lawsuit between Prescott, Cottonwood, people who purchased water rights with their properties, and the Salt River project which supplies water and power to a great portion of the metro Phoenix area. Since gravity works, SRP says that the water is ultimately theirs since it ends up there. Prescott says it’s on their side of the mountain so it’s theirs. Cottonwood says the Verde runs through their valley so it’s theirs. The people with wells and water rights say the water runs under their properties and they bought the rights so it’s theirs. This lawsuit has been stalled in court for literally years, with no resolution in sight – I think ultimately the winners will be those with the most money; with the economy the way it is I still think that it’s anyone’s guess who that will end up being. And, people in this area being the children of pioneers and rebels, I don’t think it will change how things are done much anyway. People will still use their wells. The cities will still use theirs, they’ll just charge a WHOLE lot more for the water delivery in order to cover the further legal fees. Until it runs dry, that is.

The Big Chino is projected to run dry in less than 20 years, at the current rates of consumption. I think the bust in the real estate business, ESPECIALLY here in this ecologically sensitive area, is the best thing that could have happened. In Prescott Valley three homebuilders have gone bankrupt in the past few months. Their planned communities sit partially built and mostly vacant. A few short years ago, herds of indigenous pronghorn antelope grazed on these prairies. They were moved at the request of the developers so they could build up the area; the antelope were deemed a hazard to all the cars that were planned to be in use on the roads. Now the area is devoid of the animal fertilizers that kept the grasses growing, and kept back the erosion that is sure to follow as the diversity of plant life decreases. Let’s hope some of the antelope escape their confines in Chino Valley, and find their way back to the prairies of Prescott Valley.

But what about the rest of the Prescott/Prescott Valley area? The housing boom of recent years has meant that there are many, many transplants from the Phoenix area who actually commute to Phoenix every day for their jobs. What about all the water they use? As I mentioned yesterday, Chino Valley has instituted rules against home gardening due to the water shortages…yet there are no regulations requiring rainwater catchment nor greywater harvesting. This needs to change; I don’t think that presently there are many people who are even aware of these technologies or there would be more of them in place. The people who live here have grown up with the word ‘drought’ pounded in their brains and simply don’t think of what that means long term for them and their way of life. One thing that gives me hope this might be changing is that I know someone who owns a well drilling company; he has in the last year also gotten into water harvesting systems such as cisterns, above ground tanks, and the like; this is purely due to customer demand. I have also noticed a new rainwater harvesting company in Prescott on the way to the spinning store; it’s only been there about 2 months but I think they are doing well; the rules enaction in Chino I think has awakened at least some people to the potential in their own city for the same.

In my own neighborhood we have the Agua Fria river which still runs year round only about 1 mile from us. I have the rain barrels, I have a Berkey water filtration system, and if I have to I can always go to the river and haul water back to the house. I would like to retrofit our house for greywater harvesting however my husband is dead set against it unless we have a professional plumber come in and do it; the problem with that is that I don’t know of a single plumber in my area that is familiar with the concept. It is an option that is in the back of my mind however; as a low tech solution I could always put the plug in the shower and haul that water outside in 5 gallon buckets, or use it for clothes washing. Or even for filling the toilet tanks. Although we were very proactive in installing low flow shower heads, and made sure our toilets were low flow when we bought, we still have a lot of room for improvement in our water usage without suffering at all.

The upshot of this post is that while I think Mr. Kunstler is partially right, that the Southwest cannot sustain its population at present numbers, I think the Southwest can sustain many more than he suspects by adopting ancient technologies such as catchment, recycling, and overall less use for frivolous things like golf courses, and more use for home gardens using native technologies and permaculture.

Wood stoves in the desert?



http://peakoilhausfrau.blogspot.com/2008/11/preventing-deforested-moonscapes-pt-i.html

Peak Oil Hausfrau has a very good analysis of the impact of using woodstoves to keep warm; I have recently read James Howard Kunstler’s analysis of the impact as well, in his book The Long Emergency.  Both point out that we can’t ALL go back to using wood, unless we have our own woodlots that we tend and maintain, and maybe not even then — you can’t really coppice an oak, for example, and have it continue to grow — and you can’t just plant another one this year and expect to harvest it two years later.  These points are especially important when you live in a forested high desert area, as I do.

Here in Northern Arizona (well ok it’s more north central as located on the map) the general altitude is 3800-5500 ft.  We do get 4 seasons, we just generally get our snow in March and April.  The forest 39 miles from me, in Prescott, is pinion – juniper with scrub oak and manzanita; here 1/4 mile from me on the state land, it’s mostly juniper with sycamore and aspen at water’s edge, and scrub oak.  In fact, we have two scrub oaks in our back yard which sadly will be dug out to make room for fruit trees; the acorns are much too small to try to harvest.  Oh, and we also have our share of mesquite trees in this area generally.

All of these trees with the exception of the aspen and the manzanita (OK, bush) grow rather slowly, and only the mesquite and aspen can reasonably be coppiced. So what does that mean here? Our rainfall is low, and we have been in drought conditions for at least the last 7 years. So for one thing it means that the trees are growing VERY slowly. Even more slowly than their normal growth rate.

As well, the fact that we actually do get four seasons means it does get cold here; it’s been in the upper 20’s overnight at least twice that I know of so far, and although it’s been mostly a balmy November the cold days of winter are coming, with daytime temps no higher than 40 (and I know those of you who live in colder climes are laughing at the thought that 40 might be cold).  At the higher elevations 4400-4700 it’s prairie and the wind chill is wicked this time of year.  Over 5000 when I am getting rain they are getting snow, but they also have the benefit of being more protected by the trees, and the snow doesn’t stay on the ground generally; the weather stays cold enough but the ground doesn’t freeze.

One thing the drought and subsequent bark beetle infestation has provided in recent years is a surplus of trees that are dead. The Forest Service burns large swaths of these every year in order to prevent more devastating forest fires, but I cringe at the amount of firewood that is burning up for no reason but management. Even still, I could harvest probably 4 cords of wood from the dead growth I see just on my way to work every day. This however brings up the issue of air pollution — how many people using this resource does it take to make the air quality that much worse than it is? Even here in the ‘wide wide west’ our air quality has gone down markedly in recent years.

Our population is much larger than this area can support, water wise and fire wood wise.  Before the economic crisis hit we were facing water crises and these will continue I’m sure — Chino Valley has instituted laws prohibiting home gardens due to the water shortage.  Why they don’t mandate rainwater and greywater catchment instead of prohibitions is beyond me but I’m just glad I don’t live there.  I DO worry about the possibility here in my county area, but that’s why I have a rainwater catchment system already mostly in place. I’m less prepared on the heating/cooking basis, but I have been researching that as well.

If I run out of propane on a permanent basis, what would I do?  Well I have started keeping scrap wood and tree cuttings. I have a couple of options for heating — for instance I could make a solar powered space heater out of recycled cans and PVC pipe; I already have used black plastic pinned to my curtains to create a venturi heater in my south facing windows; for us though we have HOT temperatures much more often than cold and so my main focus has been in keeping us relatively cool without the use of AC.

For cooking though options are more limited. I have made my own solar oven and my results have been mixed. I am really not that crazy about solar ovens, but I haven’t had a commercially manufactured one yet, either. I may change my mind if I did — but since I work so many hours it would require using every one of my days off to make meals. I do know that next canning season I will be canning outside over my fire pit! When it’s 100 outside the last thing I ever want to be doing again is canning at 10 pm to avoid the worst of the day’s heat.

One of the dual purpose tools I would like to explore in more detail is the rocket stove. Vavrek has a very simple, very doable small model that he demonstrates how to make in this video:

I have not yet amassed all the things I will need to make this yet but it is most definitely on my list of things to try for several reasons:

  1. It can be made cheaply from mostly recycled materials. This alone makes it worth trying as if I hate it, I am not out a lot of money, only my time.
  2. It burns nearly 100% efficiently. It uses smaller twigs that are mostly useless in a larger wood stove. This means I can bring it inside and and keep the air pollution in my house to a minimum
  3. It is portable; this with reason #2 mean that I can bring it inside the house and use it in my kitchen either on the oven door or on a couple of bricks set on the kitchen island. I can get dual purpose from it this way – I can cook on it and get heat from it. It also means I can use it outside for canning and cooking in the hot parts of the year. And, I can take it camping!
  4. If I wanted to also use it for heating as a main use, I could fill the interior of the unit between inside pipe and outside walls with a heat resistant perlite. This would hold and radiate the heat for quite some time after using it, and would also keep the indoor air pollution down simply because I am burning less fuel for a longer heat.

This is not an ideal solution, but larger versions of rocket stoves have been used with great success in experimental cob houses both here and in Europe; I have explored the possibility of building one in my own home but the retrofit would be prohibitively expensive. I do think however smaller scale ones such as the above model can be used extensively by even urban dwellers for basic heating and cooking without devastating the urban tree landscape too much, or contributing too much to air pollution – with the following caveat:

People must get used to the idea of being colder. People must use time tested methods of keeping warm such as eating hearty foods like soups and stews; they must learn to dress in layers, warmly; they must give up the idea of being able to walk around in shorts in December; they must use cheap insulating methods on windows and walls; and maybe they will need to sleep in the same room, if not together, to keep warm.

The moral and economic need to ration healthcare.


http://www.lvrj.com/news/34137724.html

This folks is what is coming for the rest of the US.

Remember in my last post about wait times in the ER when I said that the emergency room is the arterial hemorrhage of funds in a hospital?  Well, thanks to COBRA (a federal mandate that all patients must receive a medical evaluation and stabilization regardless of their ability to pay) we can’t shut down services (and a good thing or I’d be out of a job) but tough times are a comin’…

A hospital group I don’t work for but am familiar with from working as a paramedic & transporting patients to has a novel way of putting a tourniquet on their bleeding ER:  they have a doctor working in triage.  Thus, patients get a medical evaluation by a licensed professional, and if they don’t meet ’emergency’ status (urgent but not emergent) they must pay their full copay.  Up front. Before being seen.  You know, they don’t have very many drug seekers at their emergency room doors any more.

Now on to the reason for the title of my post.  Above are some of the economic reasons, partially.  Below will be some of the moral reasons.

I am a paramedic in addition to being a nurse.  I have 15 years of experience in emergency medicine, in everything from extreme rural situations to urban, along with critical care flight experience.  So I think that I have the empirical experience to make some value judgements about how we ration healthcare in this country.

Why do we work trauma codes?  This is when someone is so gravely injured at the scene of an accident that they die.  These people sometimes have an electrical rhythm on the ECG monitor but they almost never live, even with the best care and best most dedicated surgeons.  I can think of only one in 15 years that lived, he was 22 and still had some brain damage; what saved him was being 6 blocks from a trauma center and only having bled out from being stabbed in a bad spot, not having serious injuries.

(DISCLAIMER: ALL BELOW ACCOUNTS HAVE BEEN DISGUISED TO PROTECT PRIVATE INFORMATION. )

There was a patient, two really, from a motorcycle crash recently.  The first patient died on scene but the crew worked him and sent him by helicopter to the hospital.  He ‘lived’ for another several hours including 4 hours in surgery; the other patient had injuries but will live.  The pt who was worked used in the teens of units of blood, forced the closing of a trauma center due to all resources centered on him, and incurred in the hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical treatment, essentially to give false hope to his family.  Why?  Why do we do this?  Even if he made it through surgery he wasn’t going to make it out of the hospital; his age and extent of injuries made that pretty well impossible.  Why do we expend such huge resources on patients who are not going to live??

The second patient was from a long term care facility.  This patient was essentially a vegetable, who coded when the trach got bent and the patient was deprived of oxygen.  So, the patient was worked, gotten back…for what?  Why did we expend such large amounts of resources on someone who had ZERO quality of life to begin with…and still has ZERO when we are done?  This person will still be on a ventilator, will still never wake up, and will live out their days in a bed in a long term care facility.

Third patient was an infant.  Baby was being held in mom’s lap, because parents are illegals and don’t know about car seat laws.  Dad got in an accident, got Tboned, car got spun around and baby was flung from mom’s arms out the window.  Kid had an open skull fracture with brain matter hanging out, also was dead on scene.  This baby got worked anyway, got transported into the trauma facility, and of course died anyway.  Why?  Why did we expend resources on this baby?  Why did we give false hope to the parents that their baby would live?

I know I sound cold and heartless when I write about ‘expending resources’ as though it’s all about money.  Well, realistically, it IS all about money.  Even if we had universal healthcare, there would still need to be a discussion about rationing healthcare.  Who pays for the people who are vegetables living in nursing homes?  You and I, the working taxpayers do.  Who pays for the 97 year old stroke patient who will never get better, who lands in ICU for a month before he dies?  You and I, the working taxpayers do. I personally would rather invest my tax dollars into preventative healthcare for all the uninsured community members I live among.  I personally would rather invest my tax dollars into dental care for those same community members.  I would much rather invest into comprehensive healthcare — universal healthcare if you will — for ALL the children in my neighborhood.  I have seen too many tragedies resulting from the lack of access to basic health and dental care; one of my neighbors died last year from an abcessed tooth.  By the time she was sick enough that her husband insisted on taking her to the emergency room, she was already dying from the abcess.  It had eaten through the skull bone and gotten to her brain.  She left a husband and three kids without her.  Why?  Because she was working, as was her husband, but couldn’t afford health/dental insurance.

I respect peoples’ religious choices even when I don’t agree with them.  However.  There needs to be a realistic discussion about who is going to pay for this stuff when it is unreasonable medically, ethically, morally, and financially to expend the resources needed to keep them ‘alive’ at the expense of the rest of us and our ability to seek and get affordable healthcare.  Not to mention the emotional costs to everyone involved – family, friends, AND staff caring for them.  I personally think that if families want to keep their loved one alive at all costs then it should be on them to shoulder the cost.  People would make much smarter choices about keeping loved ones ‘alive’ if it was a choice between their house or the long term care facility.  Cold hearted?  Yes.  Realistic?  Also yes.  Have I made that choice myself?  You bet.  My mom died at our house.  I refused to allow them to transport her and work her.  They would have, time down and other factors made it an ‘allowable’ choice but I would not submit her to that indignity.  She was never going to come back.  Her long term health condition made that impossible, not to mention her age.  It was awful.  But it was the right choice.

In future years, the high energy ways of extending life and using resources profligately will simply not be possible any more. Thus, our failing economy, and the realities of peaking oil and a lower energy future make this an urgent discussion topic.  We MUST ration healthcare, this is reality.  The questions are:

how do we divide up the ever shrinking pie? I vote for preventative maintenance.

who is more important? I vote for children and otherwise healthy adults, who will continue to contribute if they get timely healthcare.

how do we shift the paradigm?  I suspect that economic realities will do it for us, but personally I would much rather see proactive discussion on this topic.

Edited to add this blog post I came across; he says basically what I do but has lots of links and stats to back up what we’re both saying.  http://bornagainredneck.blogspot.com/2008/02/health-care-rationing-or-worsening.html

Ladies: What are YOU taking with you to Camp TEOTWAWKI?


OK, this post isn’t exactly what many of you were thinking I was going to be writing about.

Yes, I think we all should be stockpiling guns, ammo, water, food, seeds, etc.  But this post is about something near and dear to my heart:  makeup.

I really really really don’t want to give up makeup.  The Egyptians were using cosmetics that while kinda toxic were both practical and beautiful…I want the same for myself–although for me, practical means hiding the GINORMOUS dark circles I inherited from the French/Jewish side of the family, and beautiful is kinda self explanatory.

What do you all do for makeup?  Have you given it up?  Have you turned to ‘ecofriendly’ makeups?  Which ones?  How do they compare?

Yep.  I know.  TEOTWAWKI is coming, and sooner than expected, and I’m worried about MAKEUP.  Go Figure.