From Growth to Efficiency?

What comes after “growth?” Jeremy Grantham suggests it’s “limited resources” or what I’d translate as “resource efficiency.” He suggests that the shift we’re making now might be as big as the Industrial Revolution. In a world where so many observers are talking so much about what is ending and collapsing, his is a refreshing view of what is emerging, of what comes next. via this NYTimes Magazine article.

As big chunks of the world as we know it are downgraded and dissolving, this seems a useful view to organize what comes next — in personal and organizational life. In terms of the Inviting Organization story, efficiency seems to invite and require a return to purpose. Resource efficiency would seem to be the process of not doing, using, spending anything that isn’t directly supporting Purpose, in every situation and context. So it would seem that in all contexts, purpose will be more important than ever. No longer good enough to go farther or faster in the same old direction, now we’ll have to go most efficiently, which implies that we also have to know something about the right direction. Hmmm…

B-Corps to Support Responsibility

A heartening development in corporate law, that allows corporations to be more responsible, not just talk about it. Via

Maryland and Vermont have passed Benefit Corporation legislation with similar legislation on the table in Colorado, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia. In these states, Benefit Corporations, unlike traditional corporations, must by law create a material positive impact on society; consider how decisions affect employees, community and the environment; and publicly report their social and environmental performance using established third-party standards.

From a company’s point of view, the new law empowers directors of Benefit Corporations to consider employees, community and the environment in addition to shareholder value when they make operating and liquidity decisions. And, it offers them legal protection for those considerations.

National Park(ing) Day

National Park(ing) Day 2008, an annual event, is coming up on September 19th. It celebrates parks in cities by creating temporary parks in public parking spaces. National Park(ing) Day is an all-volunteer event, and any participation is welcome. One can, build his or her own park, help others build parks, or simply visit Park(ing) Day parks throughout the day. Get the details here, a how-to manual, photos and videos, or to connect with participants near you.

Chicago Civics 101: Getting (Green) Things Done with City Government

A political education and organizing workshop:

Saturday, June 28
10AM – 1PM
Chicago Center for Green Technology

Learn how the city works from the people who do it everyday! Work more effectively and strategically with aldermen, ward staff, and city departments to get green things done and build the healthy neighborhood food systems we envision. This three-hour workshop will provide tools, insights, and guidance – and a chance to converse with policy makers about ways we can help them to help us, help each other. More Info and Register Online

Water Walk

In Chicago, we drink out of Lake Michigan, so things like this matter:

Two Anishinawbe Grandmothers, and a group of Anishinawbe Women and Men have taken action regarding the water issue by walking the perimeter of the Great Lakes.

Along with a group of Anishinabe-que and supports, they walked around Lake Superior in Spring 2003, around Lake Michigan in 2004, Lake Huron in 2005, Lake Ontario in 2006 and Lake Erie in 2007.

…to raise awareness that our clean and clear water is being polluted by chemicals, vehicle emissions, motor boats, sewage disposal, agricultural pollution, leaking landfill sites, and residential usage is taking a toll on our water quality. Water is precious and sacred…it is one of the basic elements needed for all life to exist.

More about the walk and news from this year walking around Lake Michigan again.


In these last two months, we’ve gone from 40s to 80s. I think we had all of four days in the 70s and then suddenly it’s summer.

A big chunk of the work here lately has been outside. Installing and planting the window box I built for the front. Spreading grass and wildflower seed out front. Depaving (busting up concrete and replacing with grass) almost 200 sq. ft. of the backmost backyard, moving the rubble to the space under where 400+ sq. ft. of raised vegetable gardens will be installed later this year or next spring.

Design has focused on shaping the retaining walls, garden, deck and fencing, including irrigation (rainbarrels) and drainage. Research and shopping has been focused on green vs. conventional choices: stone vs. wood for the veggie garden retaining wall (we favor stone), treated lumber vs. new composites for stairs and decking (treated wood seems not as toxic as it was pre-2003), asphalt vs. steel vs. aluminum roofing to catch rainwater for the veggie garden (no clearly best solution 1 2 3 for safest water collection, but we like aluminum pending cost research), and what about photovoltaic (solar) shingles? It is possible to generate a significant share of electricity we use with solar shingles. Also, soil testing, several sources for new composted soil, and learning about nitrogen levels (the peach tree wants lots of nitrogen, the veggies not as much as might be expected in tree-chips compost mixes).

Next up inside, plumbing updates, plaster repairs, window restoration… after I finish wrassling a herd of facilitation projects that have popped up in the last couple months.

We’re one year old here next week, and we figure it’s another year to get things really all updated, rebuilt, refinished, and sustainably efficient.

Land Connecting

Terra Brockman, founder of The Land Connection to save Illinois farmland, sends out one of the first signs of spring around here: an invitation to RampFest.

Ramps are the first edible greens to appear in our Midwestern forests each spring. They are in the allium family (along with onions, garlic, and leeks), and were called chicagoua by the native Miami and Illinois peoples. This was also the Indian name for the Chicago River, along which ramps grew abundantly. In the late 17th Century, French explorers began referring to the area at the mouth of the Chicago River as “Chicago.”

The foliage, stems, and bulbs can be used raw or cooked — in salads, soups, on pizza, or in sandwiches. They are especially good in omelets and quiches. Many chefs say that ramps are the best-tasting member of the entire onion family.

We live six houses from the River, on land once held by the Miami people. My guess is that it’s probably not a great idea to go foraging for this sort of food along the cleaner-than-it-used-to-be, but not as clean as it should be, Chicago River.

Even so, it’s good to be thinking about fresh food, garden and growing. We’ve got several inches of snow that might just disappear this weekend and a bungalow landscaping workshop tonight.

Nope, not a new Obama website. highlights the people and organizations in Baltimore-Washington who are working for positive change. This is a place where people can come to get information, learn something unexpected, and be inspired to take action. More on Mission…

The posts are short. The pictures give colorful views of encouraging work. Interesting and relevant beyond their regional focus.

Permaculture Seminar in Chicago

Bill Wilson of Midwest Permaculture says Permaculture is a creative and artful way of living, where people and nature are both preserved and enhanced by thoughtful planning, the careful use of resources, mimicking the patterns found in nature (bio-mimicry) and a respectful approach to life. Thus embraced, these attributes create an environment where all may thrive for untold generations.

We’re intrigued. So Jill and I are signing up for the upcoming seminar here in Chicago. Join us?

Saturday, March 29th – 2:00- 5:00 p.m.
Hosted By: Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center
1246 West Bryn Mawr Avenue, Chicago

Fee: $50 Door -or- $35 with Pre-registration (by March 26, 2008)
To Register – Call Yoga Center: 773-878-7771 (MC/Visa)
You may call or email the center if you have questions.
The Sivananda Yoga Center is in the early stages of creating a permaculture design for their urban location.

Evening Meal and Discussion 5:30 – 8:00
Topic: Spirituality and Permaculture – Exploring the Connection?
Stay into the evening for an open discussion. Share your thoughts.
Suggested Donation for Dinner and Talk: $20

How Much Water Does It Cost?

This from MoneyWeek recently…

“A typical meat-eating, milk-guzzling Westerner consumes as much as a hundred times their own weight in water every day,” says Fred Pearce, former New Scientist news editor and author of When The Rivers Run Dry.

That’s because it takes between 2,000 and 5,000 litres of water to grow one kilogram of rice, 11,000 litres to grow the feed for enough cow for a quarter-pound hamburger, 50 cups of water for a teaspoon of sugar and 140 litres of water to produce just one cup of coffee. The world today grows twice as much food as it did in the 1960s, but uses three times as much water to grow it. Two-thirds of all the water taken from the environment goes to irrigate crops. “This is massively unsustainable, and has led many people to conclude that the apocalypse wasn’t averted, only postponed,” says Pearce.

And the over-use of water doesn’t just apply to food production. Every T-shirt you wear will take 25 bathtubs of water to produce. Every small car uses 450,000 litres. If what you wear or drive is imported, you in the West are helping to empty rivers across the world. Water used for growing food and making products is called “virtual water”. Every tonne of wheat arriving at a dockside carries with it, in virtual form, the 1,000 tonnes of water needed to grow it, explains Pearce.

Fancy water as the new gold, or new oil? Getting more precious and powerful all the time. Here’s another stunner…

London’s long-term average rainfall has now dropped below that of Istanbul, Dallas and Nairobi, points out Juliette Jowit in The Observer.

Crossposted to the C3 Blog, where I’m back into posting again.

Inviting Food Expo

Jim Slama at Sustain invites:

Join us on March 23 & 24 at the Chicago Cultural Center for the 3rd Annual EXPO – the one event in Chicago where farmers, families and friends all come together to celebrate delicious, healthy, local and organic food.

You’ll have the chance to meet local family farmers, shop the farmers market and learn from informative exhibits set up by local food businesses and organizations. There are a wide variety of workshops to attend; keynote speakers including top names in the food world; great movies; an interactive Organic Kids Corner; bookstore with hundreds of titles; and demonstrations by some of Chicago’s hottest chefs including Rick Bayless, Bruce Sherman, Gale Gand, Karyn Calabrese and Timothy Young.

Buy your tickets online at and get two tickets for the price of one!

Inviting Water 2.0

uv water purification unit in south africa

I’m hearing a lot about Global Warming realities and Web 2.0 technologies these days. Not connected, mind you. More like a pulsation in attention between long-term and short-term spans, big and small scales, very outside and very inside, if you will. But more and more, it seems the causes of Warming and the potential for Tech are dwarfed by immediately obvious needs of Life:

  • 2.0 billion people have to go outside of their homes to get drinking water.
  • 1.2 billion of those go out to get water that isn’t even safe to drink.
  • 600 million others have unsafe water piped into their homes.

That’s one third of all people on the planet without safe water to drink. In Bangladesh the situation is even more acute. 46 million choose daily between arsenic-poisoned groundwater (arsenic at 30 to 50 to 100 times the EPA and WHO safe limits) and bio-contaminated surface water. Most choose slow death by the poison over a swifter death by disease.

Ashok Gadgil, interviewed by Massive Change in November, 2003, is working directly to solve these things. An environomental physicist, he’s invented kiosks for UV purification of water and is now working on the arsenic issue. Refreshing and heartening to hear him talk about his work at the intersection of planetary life science and human-scale social interaction, a quieter ground between warming alarms and techno buzz.

The point is that this is brand new Life tech AND it fits easily into how people already Live. That’s the unit on the wall behind the people in the photo.

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