August 2009

Monthly Archive

#48 Oroville Oral History

Posted by on 27 Aug 2009 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

22 August 2009

Tonight we will be talking with the director and members of the Oroville Living History project, conducted this past summer.  Dusty Taylor, Dustin Rollins, and Thunder Her will tell us their experiences collecting the memories of Orovillians for the archives of the Butte County Historical Society.

Listen to the show.

Background on Oral History

This might, initially, seem a bit removed from our usual topics on this program, which often focus on environmental issues.  But we see oral history as being central to an “Ecotopian” vision of the world, a meeting place of the ecosystems we explore on this program.

John Rouse once wrote in the magazine Media and Methods: “We are all storytellers, and our lives are the stories that we tell.”   We are spinners of yarns, for the most part “true” in our minds, but nevertheless turned into stories that, in turn, come to represent our world.

So just as witnesses at an accident scene present very different “fictions” to the police—all “true” in the witnesses mind, storytellers sift, interpret, and create a narrative. In fact, a truly “objective,” comprehensively detailed report of experience—what Donald Graves calls the “bed to bed” catalog of events—is pretty dull reading. We want our storytellers to separate the wheat from the chaff, the essential from the nonessential, to condense their experience into a good yarn.

In fact, we’ve probably all had the experience of the compulsive storyteller who doesn’t condense and extrapolate, but just starts talking, talking, talking.  Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner is about a guy who has a story he must tell, and at one point, desperate to be free, Coleridge’s narrator says, “Unhand me, greybeard loon!.”

So oral historians have an interesting task: On the one hand, they want to collect detailed memories, but they often edit and select, preparing focused stories, the sort you hear on  Story Corps, broadcast by NPR.  Since 2003 this independent nonprofit has recorded 50,000 stories that will be archived in the Library of Congress to celebrate the lives of everyday people.

And you hear good oral history in Ira Glass’s “This American Life” on NPR,  where stories are clustereed by themes to crreate what they describe as “movies for the radio.”  Sometimes these are told by well-know people like David Sedaris, but they are often from everyday people who have extraordinary stories to tell.

As many listeners know, these contemporary oral history projects are part of a rich tradition of oral history that goes back to the Federal Writer’s Project of the Great Depression.  We read from the home page of that project, whose documents are now part of the Library of Congress:

The Federal Writers’ Project materials in the Library of Congress Manuscript Division are part of a […] collection titled The U.S. Work Projects Administration Federal Writers’ Project and Historical Records Survey. The holdings from Federal Writers’ Project span the years 1889-1942 and cover a wide range of topics and subprojects. Altogether, the Federal Writers’ holdings number approximately 300,000 items and consist of correspondence, memoranda, field reports, notes, graphs, charts, preliminary and corrected drafts of essays, oral testimony, folklore, miscellaneous administrative and miscellaneous other material.

Well over one-half of the materials in this record group pertain to the American Guide, the sobriquet for the critically acclaimed state guides. The remainder of the material reflects other areas of interest that developed as the project grew in maturity. They include a rich collection of rural and urban folklore; first-person narratives (called life histories) describing the feelings of men and women coping with life and the Depression; studies of social customs of various ethnic groups; authentic narratives of ex-slaves about life during the period of Slavery; and Negro source material gathered by project workers. In addition, drafts of publications and intended publications are included. These publications express concern with the direction America was taking and with the preservation and communication of local culture. Titles include Hands That Build America, From These Strains, Lexicon of Trade Jargon, and Pockets in America.

The Federal Writers Project had its origins in FDR’s new deal, where (and we continue to quote from the Federal Writer’s Project home page):

The plight of the unemployed writer, and indeed anyone who could qualify as a writer such as a lawyer, a teacher, or a librarian, during the early years of the Depression, was of concern not only to the Roosevelt Administration, but also to writers’ organizations and persons of liberal and academic persuasions. It was felt, generally, that the New Deal could come up with more appropriate work situations for this group other than blue collar jobs on construction projects. […] The Writers’ Project, later characterized by some as the federal government’s attempt to “democratize American culture,” was approved for federal monies in June, 1935. […] As the Project continued into the late thirties, the director was powerless to stop increasing criticism by reactionary Congressmen who were intent on shutting down the enterprise. In October 1939, the Project’s federal monies ceased, due to the Administration’s need for a larger defense budget. After 1939, emasculated, the Project sputtered along on monies funded to the states, closing completely one year or so after America’s entry into World War II.

The struggles of the Writer’s Project have also been told in a wonderful feature film, “The Cradle will Rock.”

So the connections with an Ecotopian vision are pretty clear: Oral histories provide a network, a sense of community, and history that, if we are wise, can guide us into a better future.

Our Conversation with Dusty, Dustin, and Thunder

  • Please tell us about how you became involved with the project. What did you think when you first heard about it?
  • Did you have any oral history or interviewing experience before you began?  What did you learn about how to do good interviews?
  • Who were the people you interviewed?  How did you locate them?  They were all interesting people, but are there stories that you found especially interesting or enlightening?
  • During the past week, you did some audio editing of the interviews. How easy or difficult was that to do?  What sorts of decisions did you have to make as you edited the tapes?
  • You brought along a sample of an interview—Let’s play it.
  • Play interview tape.
  • As you reflect on the project, how do you think oral history helps us understand our community?  Did you personally learn some lessons from your interviewees?
  • The products of the project will be placed with the Butte County Historical Museum—tell us what you know about when and how they will be available.

Do-It-Yourself Oral History

We come now to the do-it-yourself part of the program, and as we talk about oral history, we sort of have to say, “Do what we say, not what we do.” For we both have regrets that we never quite got around to recording interviews with our grandparents (we would have had to use an old fashioned reel-to-reel recorder) or our parents (whom we could have gotten on cassette).

But with the wealth of digital equipment out there you can avoid our error and do really neat oral history projects inexpensively and with high quality.

At KZFR, we use digital recorders that only cost about $200, have great microphone sensitivity, and record directly onto a memory chip that you can slip into your computer.

The big thing is just do it. Instead of vowing to get granny on tape, set up a time:

  • Family visits and holidays.
  • Hospital or nursing home visits.
  • Birthdays, anniversaries.

Other technologies:

  • A lot of oral historians also use home video cameras to record interviews.
  • And if you have a computer at home, it probably already includes audio and video editing software that allows you to tighten up the interviews and maybe insert some commentary of your own.
  • You can also use PowerPoint software to do neat stuff that can include audio and video clips as well as photographs.
  • And many families are creating entire websites using the Jumla program or WordPress (which we use for Ecotopia), programs that make it easy for you to put up texts, photos, audio, and video.
  • Plus as former English profs, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention writing. Although many people have a something of a block on writing or are nervous about grammar and spelling, with a little encouragement many older (and younger) folks we’ve worked with can get hooked on journaling (the written form of blogging) that can produce material you can edit or use as is as part of your family history.

If you need to learn more, there are a number of web sites that will help you get started including:


Just google for “oral history” or “family history” and add “how to” to the search term.

Playlist for Ecotopia #48  Oral History

1. Reckoner  4:50    Radiohead          In Rainbows

2. Tell Me a Story     2:08    Frankie Laine And Friends     20 Great Tracks

3. Story of My Life    3:19    Rich Cronin        Billion Dollar Sound

4. Story of My Life    3:10    Chris Hoch    Shrek – The Musical (Original Broadway Cast Recording)

5. Tell Me a Story     4:08    Krista Detor     Mudshow

6. Weave Me the Sunshine           4:28    Peter, Paul And Mary          The Very Best of Peter, Paul and Mary

7. A Place Called Home     3:43    PJ Harvey   Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea

8. The Story   3:31    Ani DiFranco      Ani DiFranco            Alternative

9. House You’re Living In   4:18    Voices On The Verge      Live In Philadelphia

Ecotopia #47 $20 Per Gallon

Posted by on 18 Aug 2009 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

18 August 2009

As we drove in to the studio today the average gas prices at the pump were about $2.89 per gallon.  Our guest on tonight’s Ecotopia predicts that an eventual rise to $20 per gallon is inevitable. Chris Steiner, a staff writer for Forbes magazine has written some bad news/good news scenarios as gas goes up—to $6, to $10, to $18–and he’ll share some of those prophesies with us.

News for Gasaholics

We’ve been monitoring news stories about the price of gas this week, and they are a dime a dozen, much less than gasoline.  From the Vallejo Times-Herald comes a typical story on gas prices in California:  Gas prices up, leveling off

Gasoline prices have leveled off after a slow upward climb over the last week, according to the latest report from AAA Northern California.  However, prices at the pump are up 16 cents from last month with the average price statewide at $3.05 per gallon, AAA reported.  In Vallejo, the average price of gas is $3.03 per gallon, up 15 cents over last month.  Gas is 10 cents higher in Benicia where the average cost of a gallon is $3.13.  Most cities in California are now above the $3 per gallon mark, and the state’s average gas price is the third highest among all 50 states, the AAA reports. But that is considerably cheaper than what motorists were paying last year when the average price of gas in California was $4.12 per gallon. […] The national average price of $2.64 is up by 12 cents, which is still $1.17 cheaper than the national price on this date last year — $3.81.  The recent oil rally, AAA analysts say, is based on optimism over the economic outlook nationally and overseas. The weak dollar has also encouraged investors to purchase oil, the agency noted.  The cheapest gas in Northern California can be found in Chico, Marysville, and Modesto while Eureka had the highest average price at $3.30.  Springfield, Mo. has the least expensive gas in the country at $2.38 a gallon.

Up, down, leveling, declining—who knows what it will cost to fill the tank.  Last December on Ecotopia we interviewed Antonia Juhasz, author of a book called The Tyranny of Oil, and we reached the general conclusion that fluctuations in gas prices contradict everything we learned about the free market in our high school economics class—supply and demand just doesn’t explain what’s going on with oil worldwide. In fact, world wide oil consumption is actually down—perhaps due more to the economy than conservation–yet prices still waver unpredictably. (You can listen to that show or read the script  at Look in the archives for Ecotopia #11.)

To toss gasoline on the blaze, we want to read from a provocative guest editorial in this week’s Chico News and Review, where Steve Thompson, Chairman of the Butte County Republican Party, argues that

“Money from offshore drilling could have saved many social services,” but the Democrats in the state legislature refused to permit drilling off Santa Barbara that could bring the state $100 million this year and a potential $1.8 billion over the next 14 years. Enough,” [he says,]  “to have covered the programs for abused and neglected children, as well as community services for the elderly.”children, as well as community services for the elderly. How many IHSS workers could be hired with the $100 million that Democrats tossed away so callously? […]

His recommendation?

Open the gates and remove the shackles. Put restraining orders on the regulatory agencies and let people once again make money. Get government out of the way so that our economy can rebound. The abundant wealth created in newly opened markets will provide more than enough tax revenue for those dependent on the system.

Put more succinctly, Drill, baby, drill!!!

Mr. Thompson punctuated that last sentence with not one, but three exclamation points!!!

If you prefer conservation to consumption, you probably were interested in the announcement by General Motors last week that the new hybrid Chevy volt may get astronomical gas mileage.  From the press release at

WARREN, Mich.The Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle is expected to achieve city fuel economy of at least 230 miles per gallon, based on development testing using a draft EPA federal fuel economy methodology for labeling for plug-in electric vehicles.  The Volt, which is scheduled to start production in late 2010 as a 2011 model, is expected to travel up to 40 miles on electricity from a single battery charge and be able to extend its overall range to more than 300 miles with its flex fuel-powered engine-generator.  “From the data we’ve seen, many Chevy Volt drivers may be able to be in pure electric mode on a daily basis without having to use any gas,” said GM Chief Executive Officer Fritz Henderson. “EPA labels are a yardstick for customers to compare the fuel efficiency of vehicles. So, a vehicle like the Volt that achieves a composite triple-digit fuel economy is a game-changer.”

Within hours of the announcement, Automobile Mag dot com editor Eric Tingwall challenged the GM’s 230 mpg estimate: He wrote:

[…] we’re not buying it.  For a vehicle like the Volt […], 230 mpg doesn’t make any sense. In fact, any mpg rating that attempts to combine the efficiencies of the electric and gasoline powertrains doesn’t make sense for a range-extended electric vehicle like the Volt. Some consumers, who diligently charge their Volts and drive less than 40 miles, may never fill their cars with gas. And others, who drive on cross-country road trips, may only see 40 gas-free miles before covering the next 2000 miles with the help of the gas engine. For those very long drives, the real-world mpg number will effectively become the fuel economy of the gas engine – maybe around 40 mpg.  So we’ve now got Volts returning infinity mpg and 40 mpg….

And we’d like to know how the electricity for daily recharging of the Chevy Volt is generated. How many electric miles do you get for burning a lump of coal?

Our Questions for Christopher Steiner

Chris Steiner is a senior staff writer for Forbes magazine and the author of a new book, $20 Per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2009.

Part I: The book and your predictions

  • You open your book with a description of “Bill,” your typical American suburbanite. How is Bill representative of the petroleum culture?  So what’s going to happen to Bill, his family, and the rest of us in coming years? How do you see their lives and lifestyle changing?  What’s the time frame for the rise to $20 per gallon?
  • What tools or measurements did you use to forecast the rise of gasoline prices to $20?  [On this program, we’ve had several discussions about how the price of gas is actually set. What are your thoughts?  Is this capitalism and the free market?  supply and demand? the middle eastern oil cartels?  speculators and profiteers?]
  • You suggest that rising gas prices will result in:
    • a skinner America
    • the end of the big yellow school bus
    • the disappearance of Las Vegas and Disneyland.
      How do you get to those kinds of conclusions?
  • Here in Chico, Wal-Mart has proposed expanding its current store to create a Super Center. What do your predictions have to say about Wal-Mart and other big box stores?
  • You believe that the airline industry is already on the brink of collapse.  What is its future as gas prices rise? How will we get from here to there if the planes disappear?
  • Your book generally points in directions that the “greens” support—localization, wind and solar power.  Yet you also see a major place for nuclear energy in this picture, which leads to several questions:
    • Several people we’ve interviewed on this program say that nuclear energy is so costly it will price itself out of the market.  You seem to think that the price of gasoline will actually make nuclear affordable. Please give us your thoughts on that.
    • You also seem to think that nuclear energy has gotten something of a bad rap as dangerous and ecologically unsound.  How do you reach those conclusions?
    • Wouldn’t new nuclear energy require vast restructuring of the grid, in apparent opposition to the kind of localization that you predict in your book?
  • What’s the worst case scenario you envisage as gas prices rise?  Will we love or be at war with our neighbors?

Part II:

In the first part of the interview, we talked mainly about your predictions. In this segment, we’d like to hear from you about how people can best prepare for the future.

  • The subtitle of your book emphasizes that the “the inevitable rise in the price of gasoline will change our lives for the better.” How do you reach that conclusion? What’s your best case scenario for the future?
  • How do you see the current U.S. military efforts in Iraq and Iran, as well as our concerns about Iran, fitting into the future scenario?  (Might war, in general, become too expensive for the power nations to pursue?)
  • There have been widespread predictions that “green jobs” and green industries can provide a boost to the economy. Does this seem to you to be true?  Would you advise young people to major in “green”?
  • Is our current economic stimulus package going in the right direction?  Should we bailing out auto companies if the future does not include the SUV? Are there better ways in which we could stimulate the economy?
  • Might not our government intervene to moderate or subsidize gasoline prices to maintain the status quo?  Surely Wal-Mart and the auto makers and all sorts of corporate megabusinesses will not leave the scene without asking first for government support.
  • Suppose petroleum were an unlimited resource. Do you think people might implement the kind of life style changes you predict without that pressure?  In short, is humanity smart enough to save the planet without the petroleum crisis?
  • How can people today prepare for the future you predict? Please give us any recommendations you have for further reading, research, or action.


There are lots of places on the web that can tell you how to get better gas mileage, whatever you drive. One of these is is, a site run by the Environmental Protection Agency, which includes good info—mostly commonplace info–on:

Fuel economy and driving tips

Hybrids and flex-fuel vehicles

Ways to rate your own vehicle’s fuel efficiency

But we also thought it would be interesting to look up the answer to a claim that we’ve heard since we were kids, and for which there is some positive evidence.  The questiion is, “Can Cars Run on Water?”  Here’s an answer from the Earth Talk section of The Good Human Web Site:

There are a number of online marketing offers of kits that will convert your car to “run on water,” but these should be viewed skeptically. These kits, which attach to the car’s engine, use electrolysis to split the water (H2O) into its component molecules—hydrogen and oxygen—and then inject the resulting hydrogen into the engine’s combustion process to power the car along with the gasoline. Doing this, they say, makes the gasoline burn cleaner and more completely, thus making the engine more efficient.

But [some] experts say the energy equation on this type of system is not, in reality, efficient at all. For one, the electrolysis process uses energy, such as electricity in the home or the on-board car battery, to operate. By the laws of nature, then, the system uses more energy making hydrogen than the resulting hydrogen itself can supply, according to Dr. Fabio Chiara, research scientist in alternative combustion at the Center for Automotive Research at Ohio State University.

Moreover, Chiara says, the amount of greenhouse gases produced by the vehicle “would be much larger, because two combustion processes [gasoline and hydrogen] are involved.” Finally, there is a safety consideration for consumers who add these devices to their cars. “H2 is a highly flammable and explosive gas,” he says, and would require special care in installation and use.

The electrolysis process could be viable in saving energy if a renewable, non-polluting energy source such as solar or wind could be harnessed to power it, although capturing enough of that energy source on board the car would be another hurdle.

Researchers today put more focus on using hydrogen to power fuel cells, which can replace internal combustion engines to power cars and emit only water from the tailpipe. And though hydrogen is combustible and can power an internal combustion engine, to use hydrogen in that way would squander its best potential: to power a fuel cell.

Hydrogen fuel cell cars are gaining traction, but commercialization of hydrogen fuel has not yet been accomplished. “The potential benefits of fuel cells are significant,” say researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). “[H]owever, many challenges must be overcome before fuel cell systems will be a competitive alternative for consumers.”

The state of California operates a “Hydrogen Highway” program that supports development of hydrogen fuel cell technology and infrastructure. And many companies are working on ways to produce, store and dispense hydrogen. Cars powered by fuel cells are in prototype stages now, nearing production.

While we all wait to see how that shakes out, the best choice today for high mileage and low emissions is still the gasoline/electric hybrid car.

References: Center for Automotive Research,; NREL,; California Hydrogen Highway,

Playlist for Ecotopia #47: $20 Per Gallon

1. In My Merry Oldsmobile      2:31   Bing Crosby Classic Voices 5

2. Beverly Hillbillies Theme Song (Ballad of Jed Clampett)    2:30   Roger Bass Man Kurt     So – Low!

3. Only So Much Oil In The Ground (LP Version)          3:50   Tower of Power    Urban Renewal

4. North Sea Oil (2004 Digital Remaster)   3:12   Jethro Tull        Stormwatch

5. Giant (from the Warner Bros. film, Giant)        3:15   Warner Bros. Orchestra     Movie Music: The Definitive Performances

6. Weave Me the Sunshine      4:28   Peter, Paul And Mary       The Very Best of Peter, Paul and Mary

7. Route 66 3:29   The Cheetah Girls      Route 66 – Single

8. Route 66 3:01   Natalie Cole      Unforgettable: With Love

9. Route 66     7:12   The Brian Setzer Orchestra     The Ultimate Collection

10. Route 66        3:03   Buckwheat Zydeco     Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire

11. Route 66        2:57   Beegie Adair   Martini Lounge

Ecotopia #45 Utopians and Visionaries

Posted by on 11 Aug 2009 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

August 11, 2009

In the past several weeks, we have speaking with people about a range visionary and even utopian thinkers and explorers: we heard about about Henry Ford’s ill-fated utopian community in Brazil; we talked with the skipper of the Plastiki, who is setting out to explore the technology of recycling and to alert the world to the dangers of plastic; we’ve heard from leaders of the California Conservation Corps with their vision of reclaiming the land and offering job training to young people; and we’ve interviewed Chico leaders in the permaculture movement, with its aim of creating a sustainable, post-industrial society.

For this program, we  depart from our interview format and simply read some writings by and about visionaries. We read from some of the better known older utopias—those of Sir Thomas More and Francis Bacon—some more recent, like 19th century feminist Charlotte Perkins Gilman and 20th Century science fiction writer Ursula LeGuin. And we read about visionaries a diverse as John Muir and a mother and daughter who sell hotdogs in Denver. And we even read about a vision of an America of the past from the dome car of the California Zephyr, which used to run from Chicago, down the Feather River Canyon, to Oakland.

The Readings

The title of our show is taken from Ernest Callender’s 1973 utopian novel describing a new nation, consisting of northern California, Oregon, and Washington, which has seceded from the U.S.   Reporter William Weston from the U.S. based Times-Post is the first journalist invited to visit Ecotopia. In tonight’s program break the cardinal rule of the book report, and tell you how the book ends.  Weston sends all his notebooks and reports back to his editor and tells the boss he is not coming back:

  • Ernest Callender. Ecotopia. New York: Bantam Books, p. 181.

The genre of Utopia was originated by Sir Thomas More in 1516, about an island—Utopias are often isolated geographically—with a social structure of communal, sustainable level. Here’s a passage from Book II, Of Their Trades and Manner of Life:

  • Thomas More. Utopia. First published in 1516. 901. New York: Ideal Commonwealths. P.F. Collier & Son. The Colonial Press. This book is in the public domain, released July 1993 by the Internet Wiretap. Prepared by Kirk Crady ( from scanner output provided by Internet Wiretap.

Life in Frncis Bacon’s 1626 New Atlantis was so good that the Atlantans tried to shoo visitors away from the shore of their island and give them 16 day visas!  The Atlantans, however, do nurse the narrator back to health and show him and his crew the House of Salomon, which is essentially a research university for the betterment of life on Atlantis:

  • Francis Bacon. The New Atlantis. 1626.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard Classics, 1909. Volume 3, pp. 172-173.

We’ll fast forward a several centuries and read from Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1915 utopian novel Herland.

  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Herland. Exact date of writing not known, but the “author” of the text gives it as 1915.  New York: Pantheon, 1979.

And here’s a short passage from Ursula LeGuin’s 1974 Science Fiction novel, The Dispossessed:

  • Ursula LeGuin. The Disposessed. New York: Harper & Row, 1974.

Here’s a vision of a lost utopia from Bruce McGregor’s and Ted Benson’s book Portrait of a Silver Lady: The Train They Called the California Zephyr. This excerpt is called “Father’s Magic Carpet.”

  • Bruce McGregor and Ted Benson. Portrait of a Silver Lady: The Train They Called the California Zephyr. Boulder, CO: Pruett, 1977. p. 207.

Susan: From Amity Shales comes this description of Franklin Roosevelt’s utopian vision for the Tennessee River Valley. (You may recall from our interview with Greg Glandin that Henry Ford had also had his utopian eye on this valley, but was thwarted by congress. But during the depression, Washington decided to get into the River business and create “a river utopia.”)

  • Amity Shales. The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression. New York: Harper Collins, 2007. pp. 173-4,175-6.

Here’s an episode from the life of visionary John Muir. Growing up on a marginal farm in Wisconsin, he mostly spent his days in grueling labor, but he developed a passion for reading, mathematics, and invention even if he had to get up in the middle of the night. This passage suggests some of the traits that led Muir become arguably the greatest nature visionary:

  • Thurman Wilkins. John Muir: Apostle of Nature. Norman, OK: Oklahoma University Press, 1955. pp. 24-25.

Like John Muir, another visionary who was able to put his utopian views into action, was A. S. Neil, who in 1921 established Summerhill, a model for progressive educatiion that is still running today.  Summerhill’s web site today opens with a quote from Neil, who asks you to:

Imagine a school…

Where kids have freedom to be themselves…>

Where success is not defined by academic achievement but by the child’s own definition of success…>

Where the whole school deals democratically with issues, with each individual having an equal right to be heard…>

Where you can play all day if you want to…>

And there is time and space to sit and dream…>

…could there be such a school?

We read a bit more about Neill’s vision in this passage from his 1960 book, Summerhill:

  • A. S. Neill. Summerhill: A Radical Approach to Child Rearing.  New York: Hart, 1960.102-103.

As we’ve seen in the case of John Muir, visions are accompanied by hard work. Here’s a great story about street-level visionaries from Kitchen Table Entepreneurs by Martha Shirk and Anna Wadia. It’s called, “Moving Up: One Hotdog at a Time.”

  • Martha Shirk and Anna Wadia. Kitchen Table Enterpreneurs.  Cambridge Center, MA: Perseus, 2002. pp. 1-2, 20-22, 25-26.

Why do people do visionary, utopian work? The psychiatrist Robert Coles has written “a witness to idealism” in his book  The Call of Service.  In a chapter on Young Idealism, Coles explains how he came to understand his own passion for public service.

  • Robert Coles. The Call of Service: A Witness to Idealism. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1993. pp. 174-177.

Idealists, visionaries, and utopians are often regarded with great skepticism. You may remember from H. G. Wells’ 1915 The Time Machine (either the book or the film), that the Time Traveller’s efforts are regarded with great skepticism by his circle of friends. Having shown his buddies a miniature model of the time machine—which disappears in time, but everybody thinks it’s a trick—he takes them out to the lab to see the real thing;

  • H. G. Wells. The Time Machine. 1915.

Filby may wink, about the time machine, but in our time, a theoretical physicist named Paul Davies has written a book on how to build a time machine. For the layperson, he explains much of modern physics—relativity, uncertainty, curvature of time and space—and then has a chapter suggesting how a worm hole time machine could be constructed and explains how it would differ from Wells’s machine and would differ from some of the problems encountered by Marty McFly in Back to the Future.

  • Paul Davies. How to Build a Time Machine. Harmondsworth, Penguin, 2001. 91-92.

We have just one do-it-yourself item tonight for all you northstate utopians.  Check out “Utopia: the Game” which says:

Welcome to Utopia, a world where reality and dreams come together, a world where the lowliest of peasants can become the world’s greatest heroes. A world unlike any other that you may have experienced now stands before you. Any peasant can become Lord of their own province, but only the greatest can survive. Being a leader in the world of Utopia will challenge your every skill and demand your careful attention. Without diplomacy and tact, you will never rise to the respect the people demand of you. You must decide when to be ruthless and when to be compassionate. Will you run an empire of might or magic? Perhaps one of cunning and betrayal? Alas, it is almost impossible to do them all. Every decision, every challenge will be yours and yours alone.

Playlist: Ecotopia #45  Utopians and Visionaries

1. Beautiful Day       4:08    U2    All That You Can’t Leave Behind

2. Glorious                 5:19    MaMuse   All The Way

3. The Road to Utopia                     4:54    Utopia    Adventures In Utopia

4. Utopia        4:58    Alanis Morissette    i-Tunes Originals – Alanis Morissette

5. Life Uncommon   4:57    Jewel      Spirit

6. Weave Me the Sunshine           4:28    Peter, Paul And Mary      The Very Best of Peter, Paul and Mary

7. Kodachrome         3:31    Paul Simon

8. Joy To The World 3:16    Three Dog Night       Three Dog Night – The Complete Hit Singles

Ecotopia #44 Permaculture

Posted by on 04 Aug 2009 | Tagged as: Uncategorized


Ecotopia #44

Date:  8-4-09

Tonight our focus is on a sustainable approach to living called Permaculture, which is receiving great interest globally and here in the Northstate.  We talk with Stephanie Ladwig-Cooper, who is using the concepts of permaculture in landscape design, and with  Adrian Johnson, who is a certified permaculturist and co-convener, with Stephanie, of a new Permaculture Guild in Chico that aims to help people garden, farm, and live more sustainably.

World News About Permaculture

to give you a better idea of what permaculture entails, we read from a recent article in Examiner dot com by Amy Graecen. It’s called Permaculture 101: Getting the Most Out of :Small Spaces.  She writes:

Permaculture [sometimes called Biodynamic gardening…]  is a system of farming or gardening that generates high crop yields from small spaces — from four times to some reports of 31 times the yields of conventionally-farmed acreage. For those of us gardening in tiny urban or suburban lots, permaculture concepts offer the possibility of genuinely productive food gardening.

Permaculture gardeners see the farm or garden, and the soil, as holistic, living organisms. They mimic relationships found between plants and animals in nature, and adopt an intensive-management approach to plants. […]

Read the whole article at:–getting-the-most-out-of-small-spaces

To emphasize the contrast between Permaculture and other forms of agriculture, from Permaculture Planet comes a story by Jeff Randall that the UK’s Prince Charles is warning that genetically modified crops and factory farming—the very antithesis of permaculture– risk causing the Biggest Ever Natural Disaster. He writes:

In his most outspoken intervention on the issue of GM food, the Prince said that multi-national companies were conducting an experiment with nature which had gone “seriously wrong”.

The Prince, in an exclusive interview with the Daily Telegraph, also expressed the fear that food would run out because of the damage being wreaked on the earth’s soil by scientists’ research.

He accused firms of conducting a “gigantic experiment with nature and the whole of humanity which has gone seriously wrong”. […]

Relying on “gigantic corporations” for food, he said, would result in “absolute disaster”. […]

Small farmers, in particular, would be the victims of “gigantic corporations” taking over the mass production of food.

The Prince of Wales’s forthright comments will reopen the whole debate about GM food. The Prince will be braced for the biggest outpouring of criticism from scientists since he accused genetic engineers of taking us into “realms that belong to God and God alone” in an article in the Daily Telegraph in 1998.

[…] The Prince, who has an organic farm on his Highgrove estate, held out the hope of the British agricultural system encouraging more and more family run co-operative farms.

When challenged over whether he was trying to turn back the clock, he said: “I think not. I’m terribly sorry. It’s not going backwards. It is actually recognising that we are with nature, not against it. We have been working against nature for too long.”

You can read the full article at

Our Questions for Stephanie Ladwig-Cooper

  • We know that “permaculture” takes in a lot of territory, but could you just start by giving us a general definition of what permaculture means?
  • What are some of the guiding principles of permaculture?
  • How did you learn about permaculture? What does becoming a certified permaculturist mean?
  • How do you translate some of these principles into practice? in your own life? in your own business?
  • What do you think are some of the best practices we already have in the Northstate? How can we extend these ideas?
  • How can people learn more about permaculture?

Our Questions for Adrian Johnson

  • Please tell us about the Chico Permaculture Guild.  What is it? What are its aims?
  • Why did you start it?
  • What has happened with your first two meetings?
  • What do you plan or hope to have happen next?
  • How can people get involved in the work of the Guild?


We want to recommend a source we quoted from earlier, Permaculture Planet, a U.K. group that publishes an Online Permaculture Magazine  “Solutions for Daily Living. Their August 2009 issue includes articles on:

  • KITCHEN GARDEN– the summertime flourishings of a prolific urban patch.
  • RECONNECTING LAND & PEOPLE– planning for genuine low impact development.
  • SUSTAINABLE BEEKEEPING to help reverse the global  plummeting of honeybee populations
  • CYCLING FOR SUSTAINBILITY–converting to pedal power for our daily transport.
  • A STITCH IN TIME—a guy learns how to shun the fashion industry and make and mend his own clothes.

These articles are not free, but they are inexpensive and you can download them and many more at.

Another excellent source for practical and theoretical information on permaculture can be found at the Permaculture Activist site coming up from Australia. These articles are free and a number of them are written by major permaculture leaders such as David Holmgren and Joel Salatin.  In one of those articles Salatin talks about a kind of Permaculture Approach to his own children:

We have to appreciate their talents and create opportunities for children to express their natural abilities rather than saying, “Well, I raise chickens so you are going to raise chickens.” Let the children express themselves.

Read the full article about how Joel’s kids become involved in quilts, art, flowers, rabbits, and maple syrup.

Permaculture activist:

Salatin Article

Playlist for Ecotopia #44 Permaculture

1. Nature’s Way        2:40    Spirit   Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus

2. Mr. Soil’s Song     1:45    Singin’ Steve   Billy the Bean

3. Dirt  4:20    Mary Mary   The Sound

4. Mother Earth (Natural Anthem)            5:11    Neil Young   Ragged Glory

5. Plant a Radish     2:34    Hugh Thomas & William Larsen  The Fantasticks

6. Weave Me the Sunshine           4:28    Peter, Paul And Mary   The Very Best of Peter, Paul and Mary

7. We Share Our Mothers’ Health (Ratatat Remix)        4:02    The Knife   We Share Our Mothers’ Health

8. Glorious     5:19    MaMuse   All The Way

9. Mother Nature’s Son       2:48    The Beatles   The Beatles (White Album)

Ecotopia #43 BIONEERS: Revolution from the Heart of Nature

Posted by on 04 Aug 2009 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

For this program, we played a one-hour Bioneers Radio Special, “They Don’t Call Her Mother Earth for Nothing: Women Re-Imagining the World.

Transformational women leaders are restoring societal balance by showing us howto reconnect relationships – not only among people – but between people and the natural world.  This astounding conversation among diverse women leaders provides a fascinating window into the soulful depths of what it means to restore the balance between our masculine and feminine selves to bring about wholeness, justice and true restoration of people and planet. Join Alice Walker, Jean Shinoda Bolen Nina Simons, Sarah Crowell, Joanna Macy, Akaya Winwood, and Joan Blades; Co-Founder Of Moms Rising And, to imagine a future where women, children, men and the planet can thrive.

Your can download the full podcast via <>