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How it took me 40 years of gardening to get the basic point—it’s the water, stupid!

One spring very long ago, as a proud first-time home-owner, I thought I’d start a garden. I’d never done it before, but I’d had a windowbox that looked great. How hard could it be? So I chipped a few holes into the orange clay beside my driveway and jammed in some johnny jumpups.

Predictably, the poor little violets died in record time, but I was lucky in my neighbors, one …

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Idea: Start a green business using “waste.”

Or, from the other end of the transaction, get rid of your “waste” without paying a shipper. This idea is a twofer, two goods from one action.

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The illusion of magic bullets

Here’s a hidden assumption—crudely put, that every problem has only one answer, which fails if not universal. For example, “Tidal energy can’t work inland, so it’s useless.” Really? It works for Scotland and the Bay of Fundy, where tides run strong, so why is it “useless”?

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How can we possibly attack a mess as big as the world situation? Answer—Create something else.

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” —Buckminster Fuller

That’s clearly right, if you think about it: In the U.S., railroads and canals didn’t fail—cars arrived. Or looked at from the other point of view, has the so-called “war on cancer” done any good? No, not for most forms of cancer. Better diets, cleaner air, …

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Work on transforming your community into one that that will provide a satisfying way of life in, let’s say, a warmer world having much less oil.

Old community organizers will like this one—systematic approaches for the local community, which can ACT, as opposed to the issues, which are gigundous.

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Growing more and better food—links of interest

Inspiring story from CNN Turk of Nazmi Iilicali, who took advantage of his poverty (couldn’t afford chemical fertilizers) and his bone-chilling climate (pests and their eggs don’t survive a -50°C winter), to go organic. In a sense, traditional Turkish agriculture was already organic, but applying the modern scientific version greatly increased Nazmi’s yield. Once certified, he soon began to do so well that in 2003 he recruited 633 other …

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Trees + crops + animals + people, integrated with skill = agroforestry = better living

Agroforestry/permaculture is an example of something that indigenous peoples of the world appear to have done to perfection, until monoculture farming was forced upon them. Some of that traditional knowledge is being recovered and researched, both in the West and in the Global South, and we can learn a lot from the web. We can use these valuable techniques to plant trees now, urgently, to sop up carbon dioxide, and …

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Bees and how to help them, in our yards

By planting our lawns in clover, we can help the bees, especially if the whole neighborhood acts together. A swatch of suburban lawns planted to clover should be enough to support a healthy beehive.

Write Mr. Ratan Tata a letter. Beg him to let us buy the Tata Nano, a cute little four-seater car that is NOT over-torqued and up-gussied…. And tell your friends to write too. We NEED this car.

Added November 2: Or try this site, for leads to fuel-efficient cars available in the U.S. as of now:  I still want to try the Nano, however. Less is more, and it should be just fine around town. The point is, we need to drop CO2 emissions NOW.                                                                   —Elise

Mr. Ratan Tata

One Indiabulls Centre,

841, Senapati Bapat Marg



Dear Mr. Tata:

I am writing …

The ugly truth shall set us free. It offers hope.

My new god for the week is Kevin Anderson, former head of the UK’s Hadley Centre (for climate studies), who is able to think clearly about both economics and the science of global warming. He also seems to have a taste for the whole truth, however ugly. I like that, because no matter what the issue, once you get a grip on the Whole Ugly Truth, ALL of it, you’re …

The subject is scale.

The planet is a big place, its population large. When I see and hear of solutions to this or that aspect of our problems I often wonder: Will it scale? Or, How can it be scaled up?

Think of the forces that have gotten us into this jam: A huge infrastructure of big coal-fired power plants, an enormous interstate highway system, Big Pharma, Big Agriculture, feedlots, great automobile factories churning …

Why not replenish the nation’s kitty, but locally?

Social Security, if you care to think of it that way, is the national “kitty,” the place we put money people will need later. It helps orphans and the disabled as well as the elderly, and I’m alarmed to see that the kitty may be plundered as part of the country’s belt-tightening.  We do so little for the population at large, compared with other nations—even many much less prosperous than …

How is quitting smoking like writing a blog?

Among the founders of Johns Hopkins University—bear with me, please, this story has a point—was a man known as Popsy Welch, who founded the world’s first School of Public Health. The story goes that Popsy’s office was largely consumed with pile upon pile, a shoulder-high mess of books and papers, till the day came for his move to larger quarters. Popsy looked up and nodded to the workmen, then kept …