November 2009

Monthly Archive

Ecotopia #61 Smart by Nature

Posted by on 23 Nov 2009 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

24 November 2009

Our theme for this show is “Smart by Nature,” which is the title of a new book by our first guest, Michael K. Stone, from the Center for Ecoliteracy in Berkeley. For twenty years the Center has been developing  sustainability education programs all over the country, and we talk with Michael about some of the principles of good environmental education.

We also talk with Chicoans Sherri Scott and Stephanie  Elliott, who conduct gardening programs for preschoolers in our area, helping them get a head start on being smart about nature.

Same Exemplars of Kid Ecoliteracy Projects

In an earlier edition of Ecotopia, we described some of the winners of the 2008 Presidential Environmental Youth Award. This has been a project of the Environmental Protection Agency, which each year identifies young people who as individuals, as part of school, or as part of camps or other organizations have done exemplary work on the environment. Here are several of the winners from 2007:

  • In Forest Hills, Long Island, Raphael Spiro created a Bedsidebooks program. While visiting his grandfather in a nursing home, he noticed that good reading materials for the residents were in short supply. Returning home to his neighborhood, Raphael observed bundles of books and magazines at the curb on recycling day. He realized that people were throwing away what appeared to him to be perfectly good books. He started collecting and donating books to schools, nursing homes, homeless shelters, and wounded soldiers to reduce the volume of books and magazines in garbage dumps and landfills in New York City. Over time, Raphael expanded his local project by creating a Web site to encourage other students to conduct similar programs in their own communities. To date, more than 200 students in 16 states have collected and distributed 44,000 books.
  • In Huntingdon, Tennessee, the Huntingdon Primary School, a small Title I school of 400 students in rural West Tennessee created the Wiser Misers Energy Team of third graders. The team posted an energy saving tip promoting “Change a Light, Change the World Day” on 16,000 Carroll County, Tennessee, electric bills. In return, the team received pledges from community members to change one light from an incandescent bulb to a compact fluorescent lamp. In addition, these third graders reached more than 12,000 people with an energy saving display at the Carroll County fair.  The team’s first annual “Walk to School Day” attracted 500 participants and generated interest by the Town of Huntington to apply for a $250,000 Safe Routes to School grant. The grant was received and will fund 11,000 linear feet of sidewalks, crossings, and ramps for the disabled.
  • Another Presidential Youth Environmental award in 2007 went to Reeds Spring, Missouri, High School, which formed a Stream Team. 11th and 12th grade students monitored water quality in streams each month after school and on weekends. They conducted tests at the streamside, including pH, dissolved oxygen, ammonia, nitrates, phosphates, conductivity, turbidity, and Macroinvertebrate sampling. The data they gathered were analyzed and sent to the Department of Natural Resources to be included in a state-wide water quality database. The students also floated the James River to pick up litter, sample stream invertebrates, test water acidity, and take water samples back to the laboratory to measure fecal coliform counts. They prepared maps, graphs, and spreadsheets of data to illustrate the results of water testing. Stream Team members also gave presentations to school staff and organizations to inform the community about protecting its streams and how individuals can become involved in improving the quality of Missouri’s streams.
  • And the Redmond, Washington, High School received a Presidential Environmental Youth Award for a Cool School Campaign that challenges teachers to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide generated in the classroom through transportation, recycling, electricity, and heating. In its first year, the Cool School Campaign reduced 72 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2). The students began the project by asking each teacher in the school to complete a pre-survey that introduced the “Cool School Campaign” and provided simple tips on how to reduce energy usage. The students asked teachers to sign a pledge to reduce 1,000 pounds of CO2 during the year in their classrooms.Once the teachers signed the pledge, the students provided a poster for the classroom and a ream of 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper. The posters added a competitive spirit to the challenge and encouraged other teachers to sign the pledge. The students educated and encouraged teachers to take simple steps to reduce energy usage. Small changes, like turning the temperature down a few degrees, using only two of the four sets of ceiling lights, car pooling, turning off DVD players at the power strip, and drinking coffee out of reusable mugs, meant a big reduction in the CO2 emissions. In the first year, the teachers’ actions saved the school district $7,500.

Cool schools and cool kids. You can learn more about the Presidential Environmental Youth Awards at

Our Conversation with Michael K. Stone

Michael K. Stone is Director of the Center for Ecoliteracy in Berkeley. He is author of a new book called  Smart by Nature: Schooling for Sustainability that describes his and the Center’s work in establishing sustainable school and community programs all over the country.

  • Please tell us something of the history and work of the Center for Ecoliteracy.  When was it established, and what is the range of its work? Who funds the Center?  How many schools and districts have you worked with over the years?
  • Please describe one or two “favorite” or exemplar projects. (One of our favorites is the Howard Middle School, Belfast, ME, growing veggies at -10o.)
  • The projects described in the book are very much “hands on,” with kids greening up the cafeteria, creating recycling systems, monitoring the school’s electrical use.  What is the educational philosophy behind this kind of learning?
    • Please tell us about the “habitat hat” and what it represents.
  • You say that  school itself is an “ecosystem,” yet it is also one that is prestructured around classes, subject matters, bells, test scores, standards, and a general public perception that the purpose of education is to prepare students (rather narrowly) for higher education and jobs. How do you integrate or get around these limits and perceptions?
    • Is a sustainability curriculum sufficiently broad to cover, say, a basic knowledge of U.S. and world history, the periodic table, algebra, or skill in reading and writing?
    • Have you worked with schools that have replaced the entire traditional subject-matter curriculum with an integrated ecocurriculum?
  • Let’s close with a quotation that is found on the Barnes School in Vermont: “Sustainability is another word for justice, for what is just is sustainable, and what is unjust is not.”  This sounds like a formula for global social change. Ideally (or practically) how do you see Ecoliteracy helping to solve the greatest global issues such as hunger, poverty, war, decimation of the planet?

or if that question is impossibly broad

  • What are your highest opes for the Ecoliteracy movement in coming years?

Thank you, Michael Stone. The book is Smart by Nature: Schooling for Sustainability.  It’s published by Watershed Media in Healdsburg and distributed by the University of California Press.  You can learn more about the Center for Ecoliteracy at

Our Conversation with Sherri Scott and Stephanie Elliott

In the studio with us now are Sherri Scott and Stephanie Elliot. They are members of GRUB (Growing Resources, Uniting Bellies), which is Chico’s intentionally planned community, living and growing things out on Dayton Road. As part of their work promoting sound and sustainabile environmental practices, they works in area pre-schools with gardening projects.  .

  • What is the green garden project?
  • How did it get started?
  • Who is involved?
  • What is your program or “curriculum”?
  • How do teachers, kids, parents, and staff react?
  • What are your future plans for the program?

How can people learn more about it or get involved?

Additional Resources for Ecoliteracy Education

The United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution  to put in place a United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD), spanning from 2005 to 2014  The project is being led by UNESCO, the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, and shows the potential of Sustainability to provide a curriculum focus for the 21st Century.

We are  especially impressed by the DESD’s educational philosophy, which is overtly designed to break down traditional education by promoting:

– Interdisciplinary and holistic learning rather than subject-based learning

– Values-based learning

– Critical thinking rather than memorizing

– Multi-method approaches: word, art, drama, debate, etc.

– Participatory decision-making

– Locally relevant information, rather than national

The UNESCO sustainability curriculum strands are equally progressive, covering:

Some of of the UNESCO sustainability education project’s recent activities include:

  • An international seminar on climate change at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. It brought together some 60 experts in climate change and education for sustainable development and curriculum creation.
  • Focusing International Youth Day – “Sustainability: Our Challenge. Our Future,” with workshops, cultural events, and meetings involving national and local government officials and youth organizations all around the world.
  • A workshop for sustainability education in Swaziland with educators and policy makers from Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Aftica, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Swaziland.

  • Preparations of the June 2010 BrazilChildren and Youth International Conference in Brazil, with the theme  Let’ s Take Care of the Planet. The conference seeks to mobilize and engage youth (between 12 and 14 years) within the school community in research and debates about current sustainability  challenges.

The Decade of Education for Sustainability Development web site has links to all sorts of projects and curriculum materials.

And please remember:
Ecotopia and Education are synonyms and are Smart by Nature

Playlist for Ecotopia #61: Smart By Nature

1. Glorious  5:19  MaMuse       All The Way

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

3. Supernova      4:42  Liquid Blue   Supernova

4. Teach Your Children 3:02  Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young    Four Way Street

5. Wond’ring Again      4:16  Jethro Tull  Living In The Past

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

7. The Teacher   3:36  Paul Simon You’re The One

8. Slower Than Guns (LP Version)  3:50  Iron Butterfly    Metamorphosis

Ecotopia #60 Pew and Porkchops

Posted by on 17 Nov 2009 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

November 17, 2009

Our opening theme tonight was the late and immortal Pete Seeger performing “Whoopie Ti-Yi-Yo, Get Along Little Dogies,” to introduce tonight’s topic: the care and feeding of farm animals.

We’ll have two guests tonight.  The first is Robert Martin, who is Executive Director of the Pew Commission, which has recently published a report on industrial farm animal production and has made a number of recommendations for reform of farming practices.

And then we will talk with Nicolette Hahn Niman, who is a rancher, lawyer, mother, and author of a recent New York Times Op Ed called “The Carnivore’s Dilemma” as well author of a book called The Righteous Porkchop.

Background Information on the Pew Report

There has been a bit of controversy over the past year and a half over a report of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production. “Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America,” was a two-year project of the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health .We’ll get into details of the report when we talk to Robert Martin, Executive Director of the Pew Commission. The report that came out in April of 2008 recommended a number of reforms in industrial animal production, including federal legislation to end the routine use of antibiotics on factory farms.

  • The September 1 online issue of The American Veterinary Medical Association reports that “The AVMA contends the report is not consistent with the well-documented, science-based reports that the Association has come to expect from the Pew Commission.” Dr. David R. Smith, a professor and the extension dairy and beef veterinarian for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, one of the AVMA volunteer leaders who read the Pew report, evaluated the commission’s recommendations, and authored the AVMA’s response, says that the report “lacks insight into animal health issues, why antimicrobials are used in food-producing animals, and the regulation of those antimicrobials.” In addition, “Dr. W. Ron DeHaven, AVMA CEO, wrote a letter to members of Congress that states the Pew advertisements are misleading and scientifically untrue.”

The article in the AVMA online journal also quotes Dr. Charles L. Hofacre, secretary-treasurer for the American Association of Avian Pathologists who said he did not find any new information in the Pew Commission report. The article goes on to say that “Dr. Hofacre said the report does not account for the needs of a growing global population, and dependence on the “idyllic” farms the committee seems to prescribe would greatly increase the amount of land needed for food production.

“If we were to turn all the chickens and pigs and cattle loose like they would like to see done, the cost would be extremely high, so people would have to pay a lot more for their food,” Dr. Hofacre said. “And there would be shortages, because I don’t know where you would raise all of those animals.

Read the full article at

  • However, Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), was highly critical of AVMA’s response to the Pew report. Pacelle’s article of September 19 of this year, entitled “AVMA Off Course From Veterinarian’s Oath,” laments that “AVMA policies are out of step with a large share of veterinarians and the organization typically takes unfriendly positions on many of the major animal welfare questions of the day.” He asserts that “we’ve seen time and again how the livestock veterinarians, such as the swine and poultry veterinarians, control the thinking of the organization. These vets typically work for agribusiness and they embrace the mindset of the industry, including the view that animals are just production units. And unfortunately, it’s standard for the AVMA to stand in the way of sensible reforms in the realm of industrial agriculture.

Pacelle continues his rebuttal of the veterinarians:

We fought for years to ban the abuse of downer cows—those too sick or injured to stand or walk on their own—by the livestock industry, and the AVMA stood on the sidelines as we sought to advocate for humane handling of these animals and better food safety procedures. It took our investigation at the Westland/Hallmark slaughter plant to finally overcome the objections of agribusiness and to see a no-downer policy adopted.”

Just a few years ago, the AVMA supported the egg industry’s routine practice of starving egg-laying hens for days on end to extend the laying cycle of the birds. It wasn’t until a veterinary group aligned with the poultry industry, the American Association of Avian Pathologists, introduced a resolution in 2004 that the AVMA changed its position on the subject.”

“Similarly, for years the AVMA supported confining calves in veal crates so narrow they couldn’t even turn around for months at a time. After the American Veal Association passed a resolution in 2007 urging the veal industry to stop using veal crates, only then did the AVMA change its policy. In both cases, the AVMA showed no leadership on animal welfare, but simply followed the lead of industry.”

The younger generation of vets usher in changes in this ossified organization. We’d like some day to stand shoulder to shoulder with the AVMA on matters relating to the defense of animals. But too often, we stand on opposite sides of the major policy debates for animal welfare in America.”

Wayne Pacelle includes several other examples of AVMA’s failure to support the abuse of animals on his blog, .

Our Conversation with Robert Martin

Robert Martin is Executive Director of the   independent Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, which was formed to conduct a comprehensive, fact-based and  balanced examination of key aspects of the farm animal industry.

  • Please give us a little background. How and why did the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production come into being?
  • Tell us about the assessment that the Commission recently conducted of the  animal industry. What was the Commission trying to learn? How did they conduct the assessment?
  • Who are the commissioners?
  • What did the commission, in fact, learn? What are the most important findings? (report issued on April 29, 2008) What most surprised, interested you, or shocked you? (This will lead to the big concerns  about antibiotics, which we should spend the most time on. Out of  curiosity: Are there any findings about hormones?)
  • The American Veterinary Medical Association responded to the report in August of this year disputing the results and methodology and saying that your report creates a romantic vision of an idyllic farmscape that could never meet the food needs of Americans and the world. What is your response to those criticisms?
  • What are some of the practical recommendations of the report? Who are these recommendations directed toward? What “force” do they have?
  • How do you use the findings of the Commission? Do you go to farmers  directly? Do you work through political channels? Government policy  groups (FDA, CDC, EPA)? Are there farming organizations that you target?
  • What indications do you have that things are changing or might change?

We have been speaking with Robert Martin, executive director of the  Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production. You can read more about the Commission online,

Our Conversation with Nicolette Hahn Niman

Nicolette Hahn Niman She is an attorney and livestock rancher, living in OBolinas, California in northern Marin County.  Much of her time is spent speaking and writing about the problems resulting from industrialized livestock production, including the book, Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms  (HarperCollins, 2009). She and her husband, Bill Niman, were featured in an August 2009 TIME magazine cover story about America’s food system.…/dp/0061466492

  • You’ve just published an op-ed on “The Carnivore’s Dilemma” in the New York Times that has attracted a great deal of interest nationwide.  What is that dilemma?
  • Your book, Righteous Porkshop, has gotten rave reviews as among the best books on industrial animal farming ever written. What are your biggest concerns about factory farming? What should we be most worried about? (Antibiotics will be a major part of this discussion. Other pharmaceuticals? Hormones?) What is the environmental impact of industrial farming?
  • What concerns do you have about the animals themselves?
  • What alternatives do we have to eating industrial animals (and eggs)? What should we be aware of? What can we do to become good consumers?
  • What do you hope will be the impact of your book and your other writing and speaking?
  • Are things changing? What do you see for the futu
  • Tell us about how you got started as an animal and environmental activist.
  • You’re married to Bill Niman, whose farms are famous for naturally produced meat and healthy animals. You have access to very good meat. Why are you a vegetarian?

More Information on Food Sources and Good Animal Practices

For additional information, we want to introduce you to a webpage that we’ve found valuable: Eatwild’s website describes the site as a “source for safe, healthy, natural and nutritious grass-fed beef, lamb, goats, bison, poultry, pork, dairy and other wild edibles. This website provides:

  • Comprehensive, accurate information about the benefits of raising animals on pasture.
  • A direct link to local farms that sell all-natural, delicious, grass-fed products.
  • A marketplace for farmers who raise their livestock on pasture from birth to market and who actively promote the welfare of their animals and the health of the land.”

A number of NorCal farmers and producers are listed among the businesses that provide pastured animals. The criteria for being a participating farmer are:

  • Raising animals in a natural environment and treating them humanely.
  • Protecting streams and other water sources.
  • Managing grazing practices for land health.
  • Supplementing grazing with grasses, not grain, soy, corn.
  • Not treating animals with hormones or routine antibiotics.
  • Not confining animals except for birthing and extreme weather.
  • Organic certification is desirable, but not essential.

The site also has a link to news and information, such as research about the value of grass-fed animals, the results of taste tests on factory and pastured animals, ways to tell if eggs are really fresh, the roles children can participate in and learn from on the farm, the response of Europe (and other parts of the world) to American standards for meat production, the impact on health of meat and dairy produced and prepared in various ways. The site also has links to detailed explanations of Grass-Fed Basics, Food Safety, Benefits of pastured practices for Animals, for the Environment, for Farmers,,and for one’s health.

There is also a section that “features journal references relevant to grass-based production”

They are sorted into the categories of:

1. Fats in products from pasture-raised and confinement-raised animals

2. Health benefits of diets with a low ratio of Omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids.

3. Vitamin content of products from pasture-raised and confinement-raised animals

4. Environmental consequences of grass-based versus confinement-based

animal production

5. Animal health and welfare in grass-based and confinement-based animal


6. Questionable ingredients in feedlot diets

7. Consequences of the use of feed antibiotics, steroids, and other drugs in animal production

8. Worker health in animal confinement operations

9. Meat quality

10. Food Safety

11. Added health benefits of products from pastured animals

We found to be an easily navigable, highly accessible, and credible site for learning more about the whole world of pastured animals.

Playlist for Ecotopia #60: Pew and Porkchops

1. Whoopie Ti-Yi-Yo, Get Along Little Dogies     1:31  Pete Seeger    American Favorite Ballads, Vol. 5

2. Farm Animals  3:20  Spook Less    Trail Riding Edition       Country

3. Cows     2:51  The Seldom Herd    Philadelphia Chickens

4. Farm     2:57  Imagination Movers    Juice Box Heroes

5. Factory Farms 3:40  Trouser    Factory Farm Songs

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

7. Pigs, Sheep, And Wolves   3:58  Paul Simon    You’re The One

8. Rain On The Scarecrow    3:46  John Mellencamp    Scarecrow

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

10. Tsmindao Ghmerto 3:10  Kitka    Sanctuary: a Cathedral Concert

Ecotopia #59 Space Junk

Posted by on 09 Nov 2009 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

November 10, 2009

Consider:  Ecotopia includes Outer Space.

Tonight we  look at environmental issues in outer space. Our first guest is Suzanne Metlay, Operations Director for the Secure World Foundation in Colorado, and she is concerned about orbital debris, or what is called “space junk,” from literal nuts and bolts to dead satellites  in orbit around the earth.

Then we talk with Craig Eisendrath, Chairman of the Project for Nuclear Awareness in Philadelphia, who is author of a book titled The Arms Race for Outer Space and will talk with us about some of the myths and realities concerning weapons in outer space.

Our Conversation with Suzanne Metlay:

Dr. Suzanne Metlay is Operations Director for the Secure World Foundation <>, which is “dedicated to maintaining the secure and sustainable use of space for the benefit of Earth and all its peoples.”  She is also an educator and has down a great deal of work with high school and college students. .

  • Please tell us a little about the Secure World Foundation and its and interests.
  • You and the foundation have a particular interest in orbital debris or “space junk.”   What is this stuff? How much “junk” is out there?  Where did it come from?
  • What dangers does orbital debris create? to projects in space? to people on the earth?
  • What happens to space junk over time?  Does any of it enter the atmosphere and burn up? Does some of it stay in permanent orbit? Does some of it come back to earth?
  • What agency keeps track of material in orbit?  Does the monitoring include space junk as well as satellites? How much does this cost taxpayers and others?
  • What international agreements govern the insertion of stuff into orbit generally and the generation of space junk in particular. Presumably, these have not been very effective. What more is needed?
  • Please tell us about both U.N. and U.S. current efforts to limit and control space junk.  What is your degree of optimism that the world can, in fact, reach consensus on the problem?
  • Polls show that Americans are “concerned” about the environment, but that is much lower priority than, say, jobs, the economy, and health care.  We’d suspect that space junk is probably well below, say, global warming, on peoples’ agendas. What programs have you developed (including school programs) to educate the public?
  • What can our listeners do to monitor and even become involved in this issue?

The Secure World Foundation  is on the web at

Our Conversation with Craig Eisendrath

Craig Eisendrath, who Chairman, of the Project for Nuclear Awareness and Author, War in Heaven: The Arms Race in Outer Space. (2007)

  • In 1958, as a young man, you were working for U.S.  of State at the United Nations Political Office. Please tell us about that work and your early interests in outer space weapons.
  • In 1967, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution on the use of weapons in outer space, and the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs continues to monitor what it calls “outer space law.”  Does the original resolution have any teeth? Are there other laws, treaties, or de facto agreements among the major rocket-developing and/or nuclear nations about outer space weapons?
  • Please tell us a little about your Project for Nuclear Awareness. (We know that your interests here go beyond outer space weapons, although we want to focus mainly on those weapons systems in this interview.)
  • One of your areas of specialty is, as indicated by the title of your book, The Arms Race in Outer Space. What’s the nature of this arms race today, particularly in our post-cold-war era?
  • Movies like Star Wars and the James Bond series may have warped our imaginations about what is possible with space weapons.  Could somebody build a Death Star? Could we blow it up if somebody else built one?  What about laser cannons from outer space?  Could we create a satellite that gobbles up other satellites? Please educate us about the “real” developments in outer space weaponry.
  • What are some the less likely or wildly fanciful plans for outer space weapons?
  • Could there be a “Pearl Harbor from outer space” as some military people fear?
  • Earlier this year, the Chinese destroyed a satellite in orbit (creating in the process as many as 40,000 items of space junk).  How has this affected discussion of weapons in outer space
  • Have Pentagon plans and research changed at all since President Obama took office, especially in contrast to the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld regime?
  • With the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty up for discussion and renewal, do you see opportunities for limiting the development of space weaponry?
  • What are your most optimistic predictions concerning the control or elimination of outer space weaponry?  and your gloomiest?
  • How can our listeners learn more or take an active role in limiting space weaponry?

Check out the web site of the Project for Nuclear Awareness:

Important Announcement for Northstate Ecotopians

We want to close tonight with an announcement of special interest to Ecotopians.

This coming Sunday, November 15, a new group called GREEN TRANSITION CHICO will hold an inaugrual meeting and potluck at the Chico Grange, beginning at 4:30.

This group is an outgrowth of the Chico Green Film and Solutions series sponsored by Chico filmmaker Gerard Ungerman. The aim is to capture the momentum for environmental change here in the northstate and to bring together leaders and activists to talk about common interests and ways of catalyzing transition to a new ecology.

Green Transition Chico will unveil its new website at that time and encourage brainstorming about new directions.  This is very much an Ecotopian project.

For the potluck, please bring a dish to share and your own dining ware.  The session begins with informal conversation at 4:30, an introduction to the project at 5, dinner at 5:30, and a brainstorming session from 6:30-8:30. This at the Chico Grange, 2775 Old Nord Avenue, Sunday the 15th.

Playlist for Ecotopia #59: Space Junk

1. Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zoroaster), tone poem for orchestra, Op. 30 1:43        Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra      2001: A Space Odyssey

2. Reqiuem for Soprano, Mezzo Soprano, Two Mixed Choirs & Orchestra      6:33        Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks      2001: A Space OdysseyLux

3. Aeterna (Alternate Version)       6:02  Stuttgart Schola Cantorum   2001: A Space Odyssey

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

5. Tsmindao Ghmerto   3:10  Kitka     Sanctuary: a Cathedral Concert

6. Zabljalo mi e agu˘nce      5:25  Kitka      Sanctuary: a Cathedral Concert

Ecotopia #58 Down to Earth.

Posted by on 07 Nov 2009 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

Consider:  The Buddha was an Ecotopian.

Our topic for this program is “Down to Earth,” the title of a book-in-progress by our guest, Chicoan Lin Jensen. Lin’s book presents his personal, Buddhist philosophy of how and why we need to take care of the earth.

Background on Green and Global Buddhism

We’ll start our discussion tonight with this statement from The Friends of the Western Buddhist Order on “Green Buddhism”  They write:

The essence of Buddhism is timeless and universal. But the forms it takes always adapt according to context. […]

Caring for the environment is a natural part of the Buddhist path. The Buddha encouraged us to understand more deeply the underlying unity and interconnectedness of life. Values such as simplicity of lifestyle, sharing with others, taking responsibility for one’s actions, and compassion for all living things have always been at the heart of the tradition.

In today’s world, we need to hold to these values ever more strongly. More and more, we are finding it appropriate to identify clearly Buddhist ethics with ecological awareness. This involves conscious choices in the way we lead our lives and run our own buildings and organisations. Many of our Buddhist centres are now using eco-friendly services and supporting local green initiatives. […]

The Friends of Western Buddhism have other articles on Buddhism and the Environment.

s a powerful example of an ecologically conscious Buddhist center, we want to read from  this story of Singapore’s Buddhist Green Building: The Po Ern Shih Temple by Chris Tobias on the Buddhist TV Channel:

One year after opening, and about two years after construction began, the Poh Ern Shih Temple (or Temple of Thanksgiving in English) is looking great. I’m dropping by to visit the temple and check out progress on this green Buddhist sanctuary.

[…] I locate Boon, the temple president, just before lunch and we sit down for a chat.

“The building performance has been great,” he tells me. “We’ve generated 15 megawatts of power from our first phase PV systems so far in the first year, and we’re going to install another set in our second phase of construction.”[…]

7 large solar hot water heating units have also proven worth the investment. “We’ve had a consistent flow of hot water since we started operations, which is really good as we are catering for quite a congregation now,” Boon says. Gathered in the lunchroom are at least 150 people, and there are several classes going on upstairs.[…]

[…]Boon shows me the upper floors of the temple. The main worship hall has been completed, its lotus dome beautifully lit by thousands of energy efficient LED lights. The passive ventilation design of the dome and open walls channels the air through the space, allowing cooling to take place without the need for air conditioning. With a capacity to hold several hundred people, this is no easy task.

On the same level as the worship hall, there’s a terrace that is now fully planted with a garden. Butterflies are all over the place. “Let me show you something else,” Boon says.

He reaches down to pull open an access hatch. “We’re also storing some of our own water on site. We still haven’t gotten full permission for all the rain tanks we had planned to install, but this one was approved. We now can use the rainwater that falls to water the plants in the terrace garden.” As Singapore gets significant year-round rainfall, this will be a worthwhile investment for the future.

We go up one more level in the temple to get a better view of the pagoda structure that lets light in to the lower regions of the temple’s interior. During phase two of the construction, the pagoda’s overhangs will also be covered in PV panels. “Shhh,” Boon says, “don’t tell the architect!”

In addition to the pagoda, there are Solatubes also dotted around several of the terraces on the back of the temple, allowing natural sunlight to penetrate the lower levels. “It cuts down on the amount of lighting we need, and electricity we would need to run them. They work really well,” Boon informs me.

Unfortunately, one of the most innovative features of the The Po Ern Shih Temple [Boon, the Temple President says:]

“We were going to trial micro-hydro power generation in our rain gutters, since rain from the roof falls nearly 25m to the base of the structures. We don’t have approval yet. Something like this has not yet been done in Singapore, so it makes people a bit nervous. We don’t fit in the box.”

Something else falling outside the box is pollution monitors. Boon has been concerned for some time about the oil refineries located on an island just off the coast of Singapore.

He points to several stained points around the structure where airborne pollution has been brought down by rainfall.  “The temple is only two years old, and yet we already have signs of air pollution in the area. Our building already bears some of the scars,”

“I’ve already written three letters about the pollution, and if nothing is done by the government, we’re going to install monitors here and have the data live on our website. With asthma and COPD diseases on the rise in Singapore, people need to know what they’re breathing and how it affects them,” he says.,8440,0,0,1,0

We think that’s a pretty remarkable example of not only of ecological consciousness, but technical savvy, something one might not ordinarily associate with Buddhism.  And that is only one example: In an April program we read the story of Thailand’s  Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew temple which was constructed out of over a million recycled bottles.  Here’s the link to that article:

Our Questions for Lin Jensen

Our guest tonight on Ecotopia is Lin Jensen of Chico, who is writing a book called Down to Earth: A Buddhist Guide to Deep Ecology.

Part I: Your ecological and philosophical perspective:

  • What is your background in Buddhism?  How did you come to it?
  • At what point in your life did you encounter Zen Master Dogen’s Tenzo Kyokan, or Instructions to the Cook?
  • What do you mean by “deep Ecology”?
  • In addition to Buddhism, what background and biography do you bring to your study and practice of the care and preservation of the earth?
  • In your writing, you “indulge memories of a period of United States history occurring over sixty years ago.” What are some of those memories?   What do they tell us?
  • Throughout history, older generations have always grumped about the world getting worse. What makes you think this period—1930-2010—is different?
  • You write about compulsive consumption as an ecological problem and as a kind of “thermometer” of human behavior (also reflected in global warming). Please explain.
  • The scientist and nature writer Loren Eiseley tells the story of “The Starfish Thrower,” a young man who at low tide is saving starfish one at a time by throwing them back into the ocean.  You save earthworms stranded on the sidewalk, so we can ask you the question that comes out in Eiseley’s essay, “Does that really make a difference?”  How do earthworms fit into your ecophilosophy?

Part II: From philosophy to practice.  What can individuals or groups do?

  • You write: “In the long chronicle of earth’s evolution, we humans are being written into the story. Who shares the story with us? What is our role?” Who does share the story with us?  What is our role?
  • On this program, we’ve talked from time to time of “co-evolution,” that changes—natural or otherwise—can affect how creatures adapt and survive.  Can humans change the co-evolutionary plot line?
  • How can people distinguish between need and want?
  • Back to the starfish thrower: What steps can individuals take to make a difference? Do you see a role for group action in the form of political or legal action?  Can we write rules and regulations that will make a difference? Does your Buddhist philosophy include direct and/or group action?
  • Many people have written bleak prophesies of what will happen if people do not change their ways. What is your most optimistic answer to your question, “How does the story end?”

Playlist for Ecotopia #58: Down to Earth

1. Om Mani Padme Hum       6:31  Mercedes Bahleda  Path To Bliss

2. Forgiveness    3:35  Krishna Das    One Track Heart

3. Gone Gone     7:58  Geshe Michael Roach & Lama Christie McNally    Angel Of Diamond

4. Gayatri           4:17  Girish    Shiva Machine

5. Kandroma [Edit]      6:57  Mercedes Bahleda   Path To Bliss

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

7. Under the Wings of Blessing      6:29  Nawang Khechog    Tibetan Meditation Music

8. Gending Erhu  10:59        Gamelan Pacifica    Trance Gong

9. The Diamond Cutter Chant        5:00  Mercedes Bahleda          Path To Bliss