Ecological Revolution for Our Time

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Ecological Revolution for Our Time
by Simon Butler

John Bellamy Foster. The Ecological Revolution: Making Peace with the Planet. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2009. 328 pp.

The-Ecological-RevolutionKarl Marx and Frederick Engels famously urged the world's workers to unite because they had a world to win, and nothing to lose but their chains. Today, the reality of climate change and worsening environmental breakdowns globally adds a further vital dimension to this vision of human liberation. We still have a world to win -- but we also have a world to lose.

The ecological crisis is not simply the result of poor planning or bad decisions. Nor is it an unforeseeable accident. It's the inevitable outcome of an unjust economic and social system that puts business profits before all else -- even as it undermines the natural basis of life itself.

With his previous books, such as Marx's Ecology and The Vulnerable Planet, and as the editor of the US-based Marxist journal Monthly Review, John Bellamy Foster has established a well-earned reputation as one of the world's most persuasive voices arguing for fundamental social change to tackle the looming ecological catastrophe.

His new book, The Ecological Revolution, could not have been published at a more timely moment. It argues a solution to the ecological crisis "is now either revolutionary or it is false."

The Vulnerable PlanetFoster draws on the warnings from leading environmentalists such as Bill McKibben, James Hansen, and Lester Brown among others.

McKibben has said we have now entered the "Oh Shit" era of global warming -- it's already too late to stop the harsh impacts of climate change entirely. NASA scientist Hansen has said the rapid pace of climate change amounts to a "planetary emergency."

In his 2008 book Plan B 3.0, Brown said: "We are crossing natural thresholds that we cannot see and violating deadlines that we do not recognize. Nature is the time keeper, but we cannot see the clock. . . . We are in a race between tipping points in the earth's natural systems and those in the world's political systems. Which will tip first?" 

The Ecological Revolution is a call for urgent action and an intervention into the debates about the kind of action needed to win this "race."

The dwindling band of climate change deniers aside, general awareness of the extent of environmental decay is more widespread than ever -- even among the world's elites. The upshot is that two distinct visions of ecological revolution have emerged.

The first tries to paint business as usual economics green. The second, following Che Guevara's maxim, holds it must be a genuine eco-social revolution or it's a make-believe revolution.

"The conflict between these two opposing approaches to ecological revolution," writes Foster, "can now be considered the central problem facing environmental social science today."


The Federation of Egalitarian Communities

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What is the FEC?

The Federation of Egalitarian Communities is a network of communal
groups spread across North America. We range in size and emphasis from
small agricultural homesteads to village-like communities to urban
group houses.

The Federation of Egalitarian Communities

Principles of the FEC

Each of the FEC communities:

  1. Holds its land, labor, income
    and other resources in common.
  2. Assumes responsibility for the needs of its members, receiving
    the products of their labor and distributing these and all other
    goods equally, or according to need.
  3. Practices non-violence.
  4. Uses a form of decision making in which members have an equal
    opportunity to participate, either through consensus, direct vote,
    or right of appeal or overrule.
  5. Actively works to establish the equality of all people and
    does not permit discrimination on the basis of race, class, creed,
    ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
  6. Acts to conserve natural resources for present and future
    generations while striving to continually improve ecological
    awareness and practice.
  7. Creates processes for group communication and participation
    and provides an environment which supports people's development.

National Geographic Magazine - "Emerging Explorers" of 2011

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - A Turkish ornithologist and conservation ecologist was included in the list of "emerging explorers" of 2011 by National Geographic magazine.

Çağan ŞekercioğluOrnithologist Cagan Hakki Sekercioglu, assistant professor at the University of Utah Department of Biology, was included among 14 newest explorers of 2011 by NG.

NG said, "by the end of this century, 25 percent of all bird species may be extinct. 'That is 2,500 unique species,' Sekercioglu warns. Many pressures that will ultimately affect other animals, and even people, are happening to birds first. They are, quite literally, the canaries in the coal mine."

The magazine said, "Sekercioglu not only documents the trend, but also works to reverse it by integrating his work as a highly cited scientist, director of an award-winning grassroots conservation organization, and accomplished wildlife photographer."

It said, "he charts and analyzes the causes and consequences of vanishing bird populations via projects in biodiversity hot spots such as Costa Rica, Turkey, Ethiopia, Nepal, and Tanzania."

"Sekercioglu's rare ability to combine world-class science with local conservation efforts gives communities new reasons to protect threatened bird habitats," NG said.




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O.U.R. Ecovillage LandHistory

Located on an extraordinary 25 acres near Shawnigan Lake, British Columbia, O.U.R. ECOVILLAGE began operations in 1999 with a vision to create a model demonstration sustainable village community rooted in social, ecological, and economic well being. O.U.R. Ecovillage is the host site for O.U.R Community Association, a registered nonprofit society dedicated to the promotion of sustainable community living. People from all walks of life and all ages are able to benefit from educational programs facilitated within O.U.R developing site. The idea of O.U.R. Ecovillage had its genesis in the early 1990s when a number of people lived in a cooperative household in Victoria. During this time the O.U.R. acronym (One United Resource) was created. Subsequent events can be described in seven different phases.


Phase I (March 1999) 

involved the private purchase of 25 acres of land near Shawnigan Lake in order to secure it from future development. The former owner was eventually convinced that the proposed development of a vibrant, environmentally friendly community would be a very positive use of the land, and ended up donating a third of the original asking price. A group of approximately 14 people came together as the Creation Team, taking responsibility for the ongoing design and development process of the community project.

O.U.R. Ecovillage Canada Geese

Phase II (2000-2002) 

saw the establishment of O.U.R. Community Association, a registered not-for-profit (541542). An overriding principle was established: that the project would be created “by the community, for the community and through the community” so that none of the overall project would be established for anyone’s primary personal gain — all people would be here as stewards. During this time the Cowichan Community Land Trust and the Land Conservancy of British Columbia worked to create a flora and fauna species mapping of the overall site in order to determine the most vulnerable ecological areas. Next, O.U.R. Community Association embarked on a far-reaching visioning process involving hundreds of communitarians from nearby neighbourhoods, various levels of government, people from corporate and educational backgrounds, and international visitors. This enabled O.U.R. Community Vision to be a broad representation of what folks wanted to see happen at O.U.R. Ecovillage.


Phase III (2002-2004) 

focused on creating a precedent-setting rezoning for O.U.R. Ecovillage. The “Sustainable Land Management Design” evolved concurrent with several years of permaculture design. The 25 acres were to stay intact and become a multiactivity integrated land use zone with: a) A conservation area consisting of one third of the property under a protective covenant b) Allowance for educational activities c) An organic production farm, and d) An off-grid eco-home cluster of 9 homes (in addition to the existing home currently used as a residence and Bed and Breakfast). This work with regulatory authorities brought in major support and funding from government. Eventually O.U.R. Team began working with engineering and regulatory teams in earthen construction (natural building) using alternative wastewater treatment and other innovative technologies and doing so within approved building codes.

Phase IV (2002-present)

O.U.R. Community Association develops “TOPIA: The Sustainable Learning Community Institute.” TOPIA offers a wide array of on-site sustainable living programs (e.g. natural building, organic food production, bio-fuels, community building, etc.)


Institute of Nautical Archaeology

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The mission of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology is:
"to fill in the gaps of history and provide answers to challenging historical questions through the study and examination of the vessels that have traveled the world's waterways for millennia, carrying people and cargo, and making possible the widespread exchange of ideas, innovation and invention."

INA has been part of the team led by the RPM Nautical Foundation that discovered the bow of the vessel VolageINA is the ONLY international organization of its kind that can work globally, to locate, document, excavate and preserve significant underwater and nautical archaeological sites. Continuing the work that our founders began over 50 years ago, INA researchers are bringing to light those remnants of our collective past that speak most powerfully to us, about who we are, what we have done, and what we are capable of and doing so while upholding the highest scientific, academic and ethical standards. We spend many hours studying our finds and conserving them in our labs. We work hard to place history in museums where it can be shared. We speak about exciting new findings through the media and at conferences and seminars, publish academic and popular books and articles, our newsletter, the INA Quarterly and our yearly review, the INA Annual and we are reaching ever more people online to ultimately deepen the understanding of human history worldwide.

Today, there is a greater need than ever before to support the work done by INA. An unparalleled assault on the world's submerged history is under way from more than simply the ravages of time or the continued theft of our heritage by treasure hunters and looters who trade in history for financial gain.

Improved technology has allowed us better access to see beneath the waves and it has become clear to all who care to look, that human activity is having a devastating impact on even the most remote and isolated of environments. Deep sea trawling and dredging has been destroying entire ecosystems and along with them the very shipwrecks that INA is dedicated to preserve. The damage done on all fronts is considerable and growing in scale. We are in danger of losing again what was already lost, only this time it will be permanent. There will be no knowledge gained from these endangered sites once the ocean's floor has been scraped clean.

Help INA venture forth to reach out and save history before it is lost forever, as we excavate significant wrecks that have the potential to rewrite history. Support us in this mission and join in the excitement of exploration and discovery. Learn more about how you can help or make a donation online or contact us directly by email or telephone through the INA office in Texas (979) 845 6694.


The Institute of Nautical Archaeology conducts archaeological research to increase knowledge of the evolution of civilization through the location and excavation of submerged and buried ships, submerged ruins, and their associated artifacts.


Thermal Mass Housing / Garbage Warrior

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Thermal mass housing

Garbage Warrior (2007), directed by Oliver Hodge

Jay Bernard

Architect Michael Reynolds wants to save the world and believes he can do this through ‘self-heating, self-regulating’ houses. The film is a welcome breath of fresh air in a climate that collocates any discussion about alternative approaches to the environment with pointless schemes such as ‘offsetting’ your carbon footprint or scratchy handwriting that appeals to tweedy, green-wellied middle Englanders.

Garbage Warrior begins with Michael Reynolds digging in the middle of the desert, packing mud into a tyre. This is one of the methods he has come up with for harnessing one of the central concepts in the film: thermal mass. Reynolds believes that by mastering it, he can set himself and others free. He builds houses using beer cans, empty petrol cans, tyres and borrowed trucks. In the middle of the desert, he has created a collection of quirky houses, each an improvement on the last.

There is no reason for Reynolds’ vision to be limited to hippies – which is a recurring concern, when his major point is so pertinent. As I write, the papers are filled with bleak forecasts about the housing shortage, about the property boom coming to an end, about young people not being able to get on to the ladder, about the possibility of people losing their homes. Most of us have nothing to do with the economic forces that determine our livelihoods. It is largely accepted that faceless traders, brokers and other businessmen create – or at least stimulate – the conditions in which the rest of us must survive. The question Garbage Warrior is asking is ‘why should I be tied to this system?


Kenneth Ewart Boulding

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Kenneth BouldingKenneth Ewart Boulding (January 18, 1910 – March 18, 1993) was an economist, educator, peace activist, poet, religious mystic, devoted Quaker, systems scientist, and interdisciplinary philosopher.[1][2] He was cofounder of General Systems Theory and founder of numerous ongoing intellectual projects in economics and social science. He was married to Elise M. Boulding.



Boulding was born in Liverpool, England in 1910. He graduated from Oxford University, and was granted United States citizenship in 1948. During the years 1949 to 1967, he was a faculty member of the University of Michigan. In 1967, he joined the faculty of the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he remained until his retirement.

Boulding was president of numerous scholarly societies including the American Economic Association, the Society for General Systems Research, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was not only a prolific writer and a creative integrator of knowledge, but an academician of world stature—indeed, a magisterial figure in the discipline of social science.[3] For Boulding, economics and sociology were not social sciences—rather, they were all aspects of a single social science devoted to the study of human persons and their relationships (organizations). Boulding spearheaded an evolutionary (instead of equilibrium) approach to economics.[4] 

Boulding, with his wife Elise, was an active member of the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers. He took part in Quaker gatherings, served on committees, and spoke to and about the Friends. The two were members of meetings in Nashville, Tennessee, Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Boulder, Colorado. Interestingly, although he stuttered, when he ministered in a Friends meeting, he spoke clearly. In March 1971, he even conducted a silent vigil at the headquarters of the American Friends Service Committee in Philadelphia to protest what he considered its distancing itself from Quakers. He penned the widely circulated "There is a Spirit," a series of sonnets he wrote in 1945 based on the last statement of the 17th century Quaker James Nayler. 


Channel Istanbul: New Water Passage for Istanbul

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Channel Istanbul

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday announced a massive project to construct a new water passage through western Istanbul province, broadcaster CNNTürk reported.

The new passage, named "Channel Istanbul," is planned to be built on the outskirts of the European side of the city and will connect the Black Sea to the Marmara Sea and is planned to be 45-50 km long, the prime minister said, speaking at a conference in Istanbul.

The project is aimed at reducing the amount of transit vessels passing through Istanbul's Bosphorus to zero, Erdoğan said.

Erdoğan did not mention the exact location of the channel or how much it might cost, but said, "There will be no problems financing it."

Preliminary studies of the project will take two years, Erdoğan added.

In 2008 Erdoğan announced he had a "crazy project" in mind for Istanbul and that he would unveil it when it was ready.



China Green Buildings - EcoBlocks

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EcoBlocks aim to be mass replicable, economically viable, and nearly entirely resource self-sufficient communities. EcoBlocks are an alternative way to meet the huge and growing demand for urban space in China, currently filled by inefficient and wasteful apartment blocks. The EcoBlock concept is still a only a concept, but it’s creator Harrison Fraker, former dean of the UC Berkeley School of Architecture, has worked with Arup to prove the concept and is in talks with various Chinese cities to build an EcoBlock. The slide show below is Professor Fraker’s full introduction to the concept, and I will focus on a few key slides in my post today.
Harrison Fraker- EcoBlocks
Whole Systems Design
Professor Fraker has done a masterful job of using whole systems thinking to design the EcoBlock. As the schematic below shows, the EcoBlock considers the many interactions between the energy, water, and waste systems. The anaerobic digester is a prime example: water used to flush the toilets goes into the septic tank as waste, which then goes through the digester where it is turned into energy. This is an interesting example of “waste equals food”, a concept Will McDonough and Michael Bruangart champion in Cradle to Cradle.


The upshot of this whole systems thinking is a development that is almost entirely self-sufficient from a resource perspective. As the chart below shows, thanks to significant energy efficiency measures and on-site generation, EcoBlocks is a net-zero energy community and doesn’t need to be connected to the grid.

What is Biomimicry?

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BiomimicryBiomimicry or biomimetics is the examination of nature, its models, systems, processes, and elements to emulate or take inspiration from in order to solve human problems. The term biomimicry and biomimetics come from the Greek words bios, meaning life, and mimesis, meaning to imitate. Other terms often used are bionics, bio-inspiration, and biognosis.


Humans have always looked to nature for inspiration to solve problems. One of the early examples of biomimicry was the study of birds to enable human flight. Although never successful in creating a "flying machine", Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) was a keen observer of the anatomy and flight of birds, and made numerous notes and sketches on his observations as well as sketches of various "flying machines".[1] The Wright Brothers, who finally did succeed in creating and flying the first airplane in 1903, also derived inspiration for their airplane from observations of pigeons in flight.[2]

Here is a short video (in French with flemish subtitles for now, english version coming soon!)

Otto Schmitt, an American academic and inventor, coined the term biomimetics to describe the transfer of ideas from biology to technology. The term biomimetics only entered the Websters Dictionary in 1974 and is defined as "the study of the formation, structure, or function of biologically produced substances and materials (as enzymes or silk) and biological mechanisms and processes (as protein synthesis or photosynthesis) especially for the purpose of synthesizing similar products by artificial mechanisms which mimic natural ones".

BiomimicryIn 1960, the term bionics was coined by psychiatrist and engineer Jack Steele to mean "the science of systems which have some function copied from nature".[3] Bionics entered the Webster dictionary in 1960 as "a science concerned with the application of data about the functioning of biological systems to the solution of engineering problems". The term bionic took on a different connotation when Martin Caidin referenced Jack Steele and his work in the novel "Cyborg" which later resulted in the 1974 television series "The Six Million Dollar Man" and its spin-offs. The term bionic then became associated with 'the use of electronically-operated artificial body parts' and 'having ordinary human powers increased by or as if by the aid of such devices'.[4] Because the term bionic took on the implication of super natural strength, the scientific community in English speaking countries shied away from using it in subsequent years.[5] 

The term biomimicry appeared as early as 1982.[6] The term biomimicry was popularized by scientist and author Janine Benyus in her 1997 book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature. Biomimicry is defined in her book as a "new science that studies nature's models and then imitates or takes inspiration from these designs and processes to solve human problems". Benyus suggests looking to Nature as a "Model, Measure, and Mentor" and emphasizes sustainability as an objective of biomimicry.[7]


IPC10 - International Permaculture Conference and Convergence

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 International Permaculture Conference and Convergence, IPC10

The biennial International Permaculture Conference is the world's premier permaculture gathering. 

The next International Permaculture Conference and Convergence, IPC10, will be held in Jordan across September 2011.  The theme is "Plan Jordan ~ Water".

HRH Princess Basma
bint Ali of Jordan
will be Patron of IPC10

Princess BasmaThe 1-day IPC10 Conference (open to all) and 4-day IPC10 Convergence (open to Permaculture Design Certificate graduates only) will be held in Jordan (Amman and Wadi Rum, respectively) and will be coordinated by Nadia 'Abu Yahia' Lawton & Charles Hamilton. Prior to the start of the Conference and subsequent Convergence, a two-week International Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course will be taught by a team of respected permaculture educators and pratitioners, and all three events will be followed by tours and permaculture site visits.

You are cordially invited to support this valuable initiative with your presence and involvement! Click here to learn more about the events and to book. 

  Jordan Wadi Rum

Jordan Wadi Rum2011 IPC10 Key Dates

3rd - 15th September 2011 / Amman, Jordan 

Conference Opening Dinner
16th September 2011 / Amman, Jordan 

Conference Day
17th September 2011 / Amman, Jordan 

Travel Day (Amman to Wadi Rum)
18th September 2011

19th - 22nd September / Wadi Rum, Jordan

From 23rd September



A New We - Ecological Communities and Ecovillages in Europe

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A New We

— Ecological Communities and Ecovillages in Europe


A two-hour documentary — available now on DVD. 

"Every once in a while, a film comes along that can transform the way we live. A New We by the Austrian filmmaker Stefan Wolf is such a film..."
- Will M. Tuttle, Ph.D., author, The World Peace Diet

The variety of situations and voices in A New We inspires hope for the future of humanity and all life on the planet. The lives shown here are more motivated by imagination, vision, respect and cooperation than by economic forces and social expectations. In these 10 communities, the creative solutions to many social, environmental and economic challenges exemplify the nearly infinite capacity for human-, community- and self-development.

It’s a film that enlightens, encourages and spreads hope – for a new world and A New We 

The FIC is proud to announce that it is the sole North American distributor of the English language DVD of A New We (in the NTSC format), a two-hour video created in 2010 by Austrian Stefan Wolf that profiles 10 different European communities with a core commitment to sustainability.


Prince's Foundation plots Indian Poundbury

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Poundbury, Dorset  The Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment
has opened its first Indian office, in Mumbai, with the aim of building a new eco-town based on Poundbury and bringing values of “sustainable urbanism” to projects on the sub-continent. 

The charity, headed by the Prince of Wales, is working in a joint venture with Milestone Ecofirst Advisory Services, which will provide pro-bono office space in India and 50% of an architect’s time against a fee-sharing agreement.

It hopes to turn a 10ha site, either on the outskirts of Calcutta or Bangalore, into a mirror of its “model” village in Dorset.

Foundation chief executive Hank Dittmar said: “India is a fast growing economy and there is real potential to develop the concept of sustainable urbanism within the Indian planning system.

“Local people feel disenfranchised from the planning system – and this is true whether it be in Europe, America or India – and I hope that the work of the Prince’s Foundation will be able to help combat that feeling of disillusionment.”

Work at the office will also include educational and research activities in collaboration with the International Network for Traditional Building Architecture & Urbanism.

The charity has a history of working on international projects in countries including China, Afghanistan and the US.

Read more: http://www.bdonline.co.uk/news/princes-foundation-plots-indian-poundbury/5011396.article#ixzz1BVcHkOe0


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