At the intersection of Christianity, Libertarianism and Sustainable Energy

The Solar Industry, even with unprecedented subsidies in the US and abroad,  is struggling.  In a second term Obama administration, what is the outlook for Sustainable Energy?  Read this for an industry insider’s perspective.  In closing, the writer makes this plea.

“It is absolutely critical – whether or not you have a new legislator – that you and your team introduce yourself to them,” Resch agreed. “Make sure they know they have a solar company in their district.”

It’s hard to be a libertarian purist.  As a matter of principle, a libertarian refuses to be part of the corruption, pork-barrel politics and influence-buying that is our government.  I acknowledge that is how the game is and always has been played.  Refusing to play it that way puts me at a distinct disadvantage.

There are more paradoxes.  I want to be self-sufficient.  Solar can be a source of “free”, liberating energy.  With enough innovation and scale, solar can be an economically viable solution, freeing me from the tyranny of the military- industrial-governmental complex.  I want the solar industry to succeed.  But I want it to do so in a free market without the distortions created by government meddling.

We are losing that battle.  But, as they say, “all politics is local”.

What can I do?  That which is important; Maintain my personal sense of integrity and support that which is good in the world.  How to be “in the world, but not of the world”?  John 17    Isn’t that the Christian struggle between good and evil?

Who is John Galt?  Where is Galt’s Gulch    Hint.

 

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Demographics Drive Change

Whether it’s population or economic growth, exponential growth inevitably ends with bust and collapse.
Here is a video that explains the impact of exponential growth. 
World news is fixated on the UN’s pronouncement that we are passing the 7 billion population mark.
Ironically, there are many countries where population collapse is the issue as chronicled in this op-ed from AlJazeera, “BABY BUST SPELLS TROUBLE FOR RICH NATIONS”
Japan is the poster child, but Russia, Europe and even the US are on the list of countries now or soon unable to support aging populations. For those interested in seeing what the future looks like for countries with aging populations, check out this blog on the rusting of Japan.   Written from the perspective of an affluent expat financial analyst who is fluent in the Japanese language and culture, I find it fascinating in an eerie-dreary sort of way.
While energy resource depletion (aka Peak Oil) is one of the fundamental tectonic plates shifting beneath our feet, population demographics is another one.
Demographics defined my thirty year career. Perhaps nothing is as sensitive to or exposes demographics so clearly as how people eat. I was at the forefront of exporting American food service and retail chains to emerging nations around the world. I successfully developed well-known brands like IHOP, Papa John’s, Pizza Inn, 7-Eleven, Dunkin’ Donuts, Baskin-Robbins and Blockbuster Videoin over fifty countries.

7-Eleven's could be found EVERYWHERE in Thaila...

Baskin-Robbins Korea 1 of thousands

In the 70’s, it was Japan. There was a massive demographic shift as young mothers entered the workforce (similar to what had occurred in the prior 15 years in the USA. Japan was becoming more affluent. Young families with growing incomes and less time wanted convenient food options. Japan was mimicking America’s infatuation with chain restaurants. Japan’s growth curve was steep and so was the decline.
None of the brands I represented had the marketing or financial clout of McDonald’s, so I had to be sensitive to targeting only countries that had youthful, aspiring populations, mostly in developing countries where success was assured. For me, that almost always meant youth in Asia. Our greatest successes were in places like Japan (in the early days), Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other middle Eastern countries and more recently Eastern Europe, China and India.  Developing Latin American Countries

I opened this shop in Pakistan

were OK for inexpensive products like Dunkin’ Donuts).  Western Europe was always a tough nut to crack. My career taught me to be intuitively sensitive to population and economic demographics. Lesson number one.

Lesson number two was equally grounded in fundamental tectonic fact as expressed in the phrases “watch where the feet point” and “follow the money”. In the politically charged, sometimes back-stabbing corporate world of a senior executive, it was often difficult to know what alliances would form to support or betray you. Even hero de jour, Steve Jobs, was thrown out of the company he founded.  Those things shift quickly in the winds of expediency and personal interests. But if you have your ear to the ground you can always sense the grinding at the tectonic level. That is where the truth is.

As world resources become increasingly strained and rich nations slide into poverty, I see a growing call coming for population control measures that will target the less productive members of society, the old and infirm. It will be justified as “scientific” and natural survival of the fittest. Alex Jones and commentators like him attribute that to the “New World Order” elites, rising fascism, communism and the “banksters”. The mass media counters by marginalizing that rhetoric as nut-case “conspiracy theory” or “fear mongering”. It is hard to forecast who will be the leaders, the movers and shakers in a radically changing world. But it is clear that the world is about to shake because at the tectonic level (demographics and resources) there are unmistakable clues to the inevitable. Leaders like Hitler are impotent by themselves. Their power derives from their ability to tap into the tectonic forces of the masses. Demographic tectonics tells me there will be a mass of people clamoring for solutions. History tells me that someone like Hitler will offer solutions. The solution to over-population and under supply of resources is inevitably eugenics.

Under the din of claims, counter-claims and fault-finding, the tectonic plates of the masses continue to shift. Regardless of where one hangs the blame, earthquakes, like nature in general, move without regard to our feeble attempts to explain them.   It seems an ironic twist of language that my early career was defined by the potential of youth in Asia, while in later life I am thinking more about the potential for euthanasia. My early analysis of the demographic potential of “youth-in-Asia” led me to respond correctly and productively to the needs of the masses by developing thousands of restaurants and retail outlets in emerging nations. Later analysis of demographic potential for euthanasia leads me to the conclusion that in a eugenic world where only the fit and productive survive, we had better get on with the job of being not only fit, but productive and self-sufficient.

My baby boomer generation has mortgaged future generations with debt that cannot be repaid.  Those generations will default on that debt just as surely as sub-prime mortgagees did.

Aftermath of 9/11 – Hope, Peace, Power

Victor Guzman survived 9/11 from the 85th floor of the World Trade Center  Watch this video to see how he lived to tell how 9/11 changed his life in a positive way.
In a strange way, his story is my story.

I was on the opposite coast that dreadful morning, but the impact was no less devastating.  I had celebrated my 50th birthday 12 days earlier by being downsized from the best, most lucrative position of my career as International Division President of Allied Domecq (Baskin-Robbins and Dunkin’ Donuts).  I almost never watch TV, but for some reason that morning I flipped on the news a few seconds before the image of the first plane hitting the first tower seared itself into my consciousness.  I believe the impulse to turn on the TV at that moment was not an accident.  I called my family together and remember telling them that I didn’t know what it meant, but it was hugely significant and the world would never be the same from that moment forward.

Newly emancipated from my career at its peak, I was still full of confidence.  I decided to take advantage of that moment of freedom and reward my dear wife, who had faithfully followed me across the world as we climbed the ladder.  We abruptly sold our California house, moved to Atlanta and built our 5,000 square foot dream house where we could be near her family.

What followed was four years of unemployment.  It was a period when, like Mr. Guzman in this video, I had the time to be intensely involved with my family.  We enjoyed precious moments working, playing and studying the scriptures together.  It was also a time of grief and depression.  My oldest son, stricken with the disease of schizophrenia took his life.  The first five years following 9/11 was punctuated by some consulting work and one year as International Division Managing Director (President equivalent) at Papa John’s International.  In that year, my performance exceeded all the targets I was given, but within one year to the day, I was fired by a boss who had never intended to fill that position and knew it would be vacant again one year from filling it.  I had sold our Atlanta home and relocated to a place we didn’t want to be.  Success meeting my objectives at Papa John’s had refreshed my confidence, but this time I was done with living inside the matrix, the corporate life.

It had been just over five years since 9/11 and my departure from Allied Domecq.  The second 5-year phase of post 9/11 life began.  Always supportive, Becky followed me as I threw what was left of our life savings and all of my energy into building a community where we could live free and independent, surrounded by honest, supportive, creative and hard-working people of like mind, good people who care about their fellow-man as Christ taught.  This second 5-year segment has not been easy, nor financially profitable. Today, I have more questions than I have answered.  But, of the things that are important, I am blessed.  My children are now all independent – two in college, two married with children.  I had time to be with them in their formative years, building and enjoying them. I live in a place of immense natural beauty.  My personal land and home are debt free.  I have time to think and have spent a much of my time meditating, reading and writing.  My wife has thrown herself into raising a garden that feeds us.  We have a secure, private supply of clean, pure, life-giving water.  Our efforts have yielded a core group of trusted, beloved friends.

So, you can see, 9/11 has a great deal of significance to me.  You could say it was the beginning of a ten-year journey through tumult, failure, sadness, depression, blessings, hope, peace and empowerment.  The journey has just begun.

In this moment of reflection, I am impressed to tell you that
the outcome of the next years will depend on whether we sink into confused despair or realize that we are individually and collectively powerful.  With God’s guidance, we can create a world of hope, peace and power.

Hands-On Preparedness Fair – Workshops

Our call for highly qualified workshop leaders has been answered in spades.   The quality and diversity of topics to be covered at the Fair on July 23-24 is outstanding.  See some of my older posts for a flyer and overview.  Here is a sampling  Preparedness Fair Schedule 7-24-2010

A sequence of three presentations, starts with
Permaculture Design and philosophy, (Saturday @ 10 am)

Permaculture is a design science that takes a whole-ecosystem approach to sustainable development. The term, Permaculture, means permanent agriculture and permanent culture. Permaculture developed in Australia in the late 1970s, by Ecologist David Holmgren and Natural History Professor Bill Mollison, and has since spread throughout the world. Leaders of the sustainability movement are applying Permaculture principles and design methodologies to everything from gardens, home sites, village designs, businesses, and entire regional economies.

Participants will be introduced to a unique tool that incorporates natural design systems into problem solving on multiple levels. Design Resource will offer future classes with in depth studies on topics like energy, food, healing aspects of the landscape, community networking and financial permaculture                                              

 BACKGROUND:   Kevin Guenther is a registered landscape architect, Leed AP professional and certified permaculture designer who has focused his consulting business (Design Resource) on sustainable design

Followed by:
Foraging and Gathering Food and Meds  (Saturday @ 11 am)

Hike through our 500 acre natural preserve in Sewanee Creek Gulf:  Foraging for food and Medicine is the 2nd hour of the permaculture presentation                                                                                                   

Workshop leader, John Rose says, “I work very much hands on, and each location I visit is different. There are a few guidelines common to the practice of safely interacting with anything in nature, whether it is wild plants, wild animals, weather, the elements in general, and ones approach to them.  Includes a general document that will help clarify these things.  I will also include a list of items that are useful learning tools such as a good small notebook with pen, or pencil for drawing and describing plants in their element.  This same notebook can be used as a nature journal for keeping track of such things as time of year, environmental conditions, weather, terrain, and many other aspects, all important to correctly identifying a plant at any given time of year, and under varying conditions.  I will look at not only edible and medicinal plants, but also poisonous plants, and plants that have other utilitarian uses for such things as fire starting, cordage, shelter, and other things.”

And third in the sequence:
Preparing Foraged Foods and Meds  (Saturday @ 2 pm)

Dr. Christina Berry adds that simply identifying edible plants and meds won’t get you far if you don’t know what to do with them.   This workshop will teach about preparing foods and meds from the foraged vegetation found on your foraging journey. Preparations of tinctures, teas, salves and syrups will be made and explained. Discussions of the use of different herbs for different treatments will also be discussed. Resources will be provided for further research.

And there will be much more.  Other workshops include:

TVA’s energy expert, Les Hartman and Village founder Grant Miller present
Alternative Electricity Generation Options.  (Saturday @ 9 am)

Understand available options, pros & cons of each, cost/KWH range, personal work cost, etc.    Understand options for grid tie vs. local battery storage.  See various electricity production options including water, PV, a Lister Diesel Generator and Wood Gasification.

Delve deeper into PhotoVoltaic Solar electricity with George Horrocks, chief design engineer with Tennessee’s largest PV installer.
Power from the Sun  (Saturday @ 10 am)

 Learn the Basics of Producing Electricity from the Sun and Why There has Never Been a Better Time to Go Solar. Whether you want to lock in your energy costs for life, clean and green the world, have backup security when the grid goes down, or see solar as a revenue generator for your family or business, with the price reductions of nearly 50% for solar in the last two years, coupled with incentives in the form of grants, tax credits, and TVA’s Generation Partners payments, now is the “perfect storm” of opportunity to install a solar array.

First on the priority list for preparedness is water.
Rain Water Collection Systems Tour and Demonstration  (Friday @ 3 pm & Saturday @ 1 pm)

Join Paul Owen of Nature’s Tap for a tour of the Miller Home off-grid system.  Understand the benefits and costs of setting up a Rain Water Collection System that can reliably supply all of your water needs.

Then explore options for Water Purification with George Miller,  water quality lab manager for the Palm Springs/Coachella Valley Water District via internet link from California. (Saturday @ 1:30 pm)

Discuss water purification options including filtration, chemical, UV, distillation, etc.    Learn the best use of water from various sources, its treatment primarily for drinking, and its storage.

What about food?
Tour the garden, greenhouse and orchard with permaculturists and gardeners.  (Friday @ 5pm & Saturday @ 1pm) Explore your questions about self-sufficient gardening.  Then learn how to prepare food, observing dutch and solar oven prep’s.  (Saturday 11 am through lunch).  Enjoy tasty BBQ catered from local restaurant, Holy Smokes and learn how to preserve meat and fish by smoking, drying and making jerky.
Sample some local favorites while observing the process of milling wheat for bread, home-made yogurt from milk and tasty jam from local berries.

And you can Can.  Learn how with Carolyn Park and Becky Miller
“Food Preservation Made Simple, Quick and Easy, By Dry-Pack Canning Method”  (Saturday @ 11 am)

CLASS OBJECTIVE:
Have a hands-on experience while learning a proven food storage method.
PARTICIPANTS WILL…
-Learn how to properly can foods such as whole grains, legumes, sugar, and other dry foods.
-Participate in a step-by-step process for canning and sealing dry food in #10 cans and mason jars without the use of electricity.
-See how proper food storage can extend food shelf life for up to 30 years.
-Obtain handouts to help you gain the knowledge to build your own food bank and become food secure.
DISPLAYING:
-Other Food Preservation Methods
-Equipment
BACKGROUND:
Carolyn and Becky have had life long experience in gardening and food preservation. Experience was drawn from three generations of family farming and homemaking.  Recently they have focused on long-term food storage to promote family sustainability and wellness.

“But wait, there’s more”   🙂

  • For hunters or wannabe hunters, expert hunter Bob Blackburn will host a round table discussion on hunting in the Tennessee Woods.   (Friday @ 7:30 pm)
  • For self-defense, expert Brad Bleasdale will present a two-hour course entitled “Choosing and using a Pistol for Defense”   (Saturday @ 10 am)

This Class will cover gun safety, types of handguns, how to eliminate “caliber confusion”, holsters, lights, and lasers, and a host of other topics.
Designed for people considering a pistol, or as a refresher for those who already carry.  Perfect for women, youth, or novice shooters.
Class will include hands-on instruction, and range time with a certified shooting instructor.  Gun and ammo will be available for those without.
Children are welcome but must be accompanied by an adult.

Bio:  Brad Bleasdale is a lifetime shooter and shooting instructor.  Blessed with the heart of a teacher, Brad teaches novice and intermediate shooters the basics of firearms safety and competence.  Brad has instructed hundreds of people in the safe and effective use of firearms, with specialized classes for women, youth, and church groups.
$10/person or $25 / Family.  MUST HAVE:  Eye Protection (sunglasses are fine), ear protection, folding chair, notebook, water.   Bring your own Handgun and Ammo

Alternative HealthCare for mind and body.

  • Start with a 2-hour Native American flute lesson that will soothe and heal the soul, by renowned musician Tony Gerber.  This hands on instruction includes a Native American Flute, all for just $60. (Friday @ 4 pm)
  • Take care of the physical you with a discussion of holistic healthcare methods that have worked for you.  Remedies for every day live.  This round-table will be presented by Dr. Cliffton Brady.  (Saturday @ 1 pm)

Entertainment and Fun

  • Enjoy a movie under the stars at the 26′ wide Village Amphitheater.  Bring your own steak or hot dogs to grill for an outdoor feast.
  • Groove to the jam session sounds of “Space Craft”  (Friday Supper, Saturday Lunch)
  • For the young in body and spirit, learn to rappell off the cliffs near Miller’s Falls with certified instructor, Jesse Gainer or play Village Games with Haley Blackburn.

And that’s just a sampling.  So much to learn and do.  So little time.  Come, join us for the first annual Preparedness fair at the Village on Sewanee Creek.

Self-Reliant Living: Alternative Energy

We keep pushing the envelope, learning how to live independently.  I love the sense of freedom and peace of mind that gives me.  Water and food were our first focus.  That foundation is feeling pretty solid now.

Our next focus has been energy.  We have been seriously researching lots of alternatives for reliable, low cost electricity generation.  Most people think of solar PV, wind and, to a lesser extent, micro-hydro for green power. But there are problems with each.

Solar Photo Voltaics are expensive.  The costs are beginning to come down, but aren’t there yet.  Probably won’t be for some time.  I want to power my house without bankrupting the occupants.  And I don’t want to have to sacrifice so much on consumption that I give up all the conveniences.  Then there are the cloudy days, requiring big battery backup.  PV cost per KWh is just way too high.

Wind is nice.  Lots of new innovations, especially with vertical axis turbines.  They are primarily designed to make wind power acceptable in an urban environment by putting the turbine close to the ground.  But that’s where there isn’t much wind.  Oh, well.  We’re rural, so that’s no advantage.  Wind’s disadvantage for me?  You need really strong, consistent wind to produce a lot of electricity – like on the plains of Nebraska.  We are on a plateau at 2,000 feet with nice breezes, but not gale force winds.  We could still do it, but would need multiple windmills to make enough electricity for our needs.  Again, the costs become too high relative to the output.  Plus, you only get electricity when the wind blows.

Then there’s hydro power.  It’s the lowest cost per KWh alternative, but you need either a big river or a perennial creek with lots of head (drop in elevation). We have the latter, but flow varies a lot depending on recent rainfall.  Summer flow isn’t enough.

It all comes down to cost and continuous reliability.

We discovered a little-known, low-cost, low-tech and proven alternative.  It’s called wood gasification.  Surprisingly, over a million cars in Europe were powered with wood during World War II when gas was short.  Unlike the other green power sources, we have an abundance of fast growing, renewable, free wood here.  So, we are installing a system that converts wood into a gas that can run an internal combustion engine with plenty of horse power to drive a generator.  We can run it any time, in any season, independent of the weather.  And, best news of all, the cost is competitive with the big utilities on a cost per KWh basis.

The founder of the company that has brought this technology into the 21st century will be here a week from next Saturday installing our new system.    Give me a call if you would like to see it or any of our other self-sufficiency systems in action.

3rd Annual Independence Day Celebration @ the Village

An independent, self-sufficient lifestyle is one element that defines the Village.  So, Independence Day is OUR day, our 3rd annual.

We will start celebrating on Friday the 3rd with a double feature on the big screen under the stars in our amphitheater.  Call for an invitation to join us.  You might even consider bringing a tent or RV to camp out near by.

The 4th will start out with an early flag ceremony.  Bring a flag to plant in a field of flags.  Celebrate the freedom and independence promised by our constitution.  At the amphitheater stage, we plan to have bluegrass and country music with some free form jamming.  I’ll bring my sax.  You’re welcome to join in.  You can hike and explore our 500 acre nature preserve.  In the evening, villagers will share a potluck dinner and fireworks.

If you would like to join us, please RSVP us at (931) 442-1444.

Spring Green and Peace is in the Air

It’s that beautiful time of year when the new green is fresh and delicate.  Recent rains have filled the creeks to overflowing and the waterfalls roar.  At our elevation, the dogwoods, wild azaleas, wildflowers and mountain laurel are about a month behind Atlanta – now in full bloom.

Spring brings out the best in us.  While the dark clouds of the economy and world events are still with us, people are breaking free of fear and indecision.  In the past couple of weeks we have sold seven lots and our new Villagers are a cut above.  Intelligent, hard working, concerned about having and being good neighbors, there is a sense of excitement, energy and cooperation awakening in the Village community underlying a sense of well-being and deep calm.

New owners are voluntarily working together to share information, green construction ideas and purchasing power as they build their homes.  It’s a good place to be.  This year promises to be the best ever.