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  1. That corresponds to a major theme in investigative journalist Mark Sundeen’s new book, The Unsettlers, coincidentally released within days of Trump’s inauguration (“Bad for America, good for my book,” he quips). Sundeen follows three different families as they chose to go back to the land — to varying degrees — in the name of living more sustainably and more meaningfully.

    What Sundeen finds is that “off grid” tends more toward aspiration than reality, even for hardcore homesteaders. “After meeting quite a few of them, I realized that most off-grid people were still enjoying the benefits of the global economy, which is to say they were telecommuting or car commuting,” he tells me. “They still have access to wealth, but they had put themselves in a place where they didn’t have to see any pollution or crowding or any racial inequity.”

    Sundeen describes this breed of off-gridder as “a suburbanite with a long driveway.” They’ve escaped the trappings of our insane economy, he says, “but they haven’t actually altered their behavior in a way that makes it better.”

    Which leads Sundeen to a surprise conclusion that echoes my own research: “If reducing your carbon footprint is your number one goal,” he says, “you should move to a city and participate in it.” The less glamorous but less expensive class of city — your Boises, your Chattanoogas — where the infrastructure is already in place and “you can build community much more easily.”

    This isn’t necessarily prescriptive — not everyone needs to up and move to Des Moines. But Sundeen has a point: What does refusing to participate in our problematic, complicated world really accomplish? If you remove yourself as a stakeholder, can you really change the system?
    https://grist.org/living/the-missed-opportunity-of-a-tiny-tidy-life
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2017-06-14)
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  2. f there is any indication of the cultural import and effect of the “millennials” – a term I dislike for reasons I will explain later – look no further than America’s malls. The Baby Boomer hubris and NIMBYism that sent malls into further and further orbits from city centers has come home to roost and it promises to change the face of retail in a big way.

    First, some statistics. I point to Columbus, Ohio because it’s where I’m from and I have plenty of data points. First, Sears is pulling out of two of Columbus’ once-mighty malls, Eastland and Westland. These “directional malls,” built between 1964 and 1969, were once the jewels of the city. Far enough from downtown commerce they let suburbanites stock up at any of their many anchor stores – J.C.Penney, Sears, K-Mart – and then eat at a fast casual spot like Red Lobster and, later, Outback. This self-contained world further became the locus for youth culture in the suburbs – a place to hang out that wasn’t outside – and, ultimately, became a symbol of a failed way of life.

    These mall suburbs are now magnets for the poor. Two forces are at work here. First, young people are moving back into the city center resulting in a rise in housing prices and the closure of many rent-stabilized buildings in the once-moribund Downtown area. Further, subsidized housing has ground in districts around – you guessed it – the old malls.

    From the Dispatch:

    Seven of the 16 ZIP codes within Columbus’ pre-1950 boundaries have lost subsidized households since 1994, according to housing authority data. Meanwhile, 33 of the remaining 35 ZIP codes in Franklin County have gained households using rent vouchers. That includes large gains in the three ZIP codes near Westland Mall (43228), the old Northland Mall site (43229) and Eastland Mall (43232).

    And don’t think fast food is safe. The old slop is rapidly aging, as Bob Dylan once wrote. To wit: the CEO of Buffalo Wild Wings – a chain that started in Columbus, Ohio as Buffalo Wings & Weck (BW3) and, in my gastronomic opinion, has since gone far downhill – said that lack of interest in casual dining joints like BWW and Applebee’s is slowly forcing a further contraction.

    “Casual-dining restaurants face a uniquely challenging market today,” current CEO Sally Smith wrote in a letter to shareholders. “Millennial consumers are more attracted than their elders to cooking at home, ordering delivery from restaurants and eating quickly, in fast-casual or quick-serve restaurants. Mall traffic has slowed. And, surprisingly, television viewership of sporting events (important for us, especially) is down.”

    In short, the rate of store closures is expected to double in 2017, a worrying trend for those who want cheap, bad food in a sterile, marble-clad environment prominently featuring plastic trees.



    Smith blames millennials. I blame Smith. As has been pointed out many times – most recently in Generation of Sociopaths that the demographics, the policies, and the preferences of the Baby Boomers rode a wave of absolute financial success from the nadir of World War II into the golden 1960s. The habits laid down in those years – the desire for cheap, fast food, the screen as babysitter, the penchant to trade the nameless (but often racist) anxiety of the city for a suburban lawn – defined the rise of fast commerce and will define its fall.

    In short, technology has made us not want to go to the mall by bringing everything – from food to clothing to toilet paper – to our homes. But what comes next? Our species will never survive if it sits on the couch all day eating take-out from Seamless, streaming Netflix, and ordering from Amazon. Small town Main Streets have already been gutted by malls and there is little hope that Old Man Jenkins’ Five and Dime is opening back up. So what comes next?
    https://techcrunch.com/2017/06/12/wel...he-softer-side-of-gutted-sears-stores
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  3. Millennials are threatening dozens of industries.

    They don't buy napkins. They won't play golf. They aren't buying homes or cars. And they're not even eating at Buffalo Wild Wings.

    Millennials' financial decisions have been heavily covered by media organizations — something that has infuriated many of the generation, as news that "millennials are killing" another industry has become a common headline.

    "This is just some more millennial-blaming B.S.," one reader wrote in response to a recent Business Insider article with the headline "Millennials are killing chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee's."
    https://finance.yahoo.com/news/psycho...ennials-killing-dozens-165006423.html
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  4. The paper argues that such consumption-based emissions accounting is important to consider alongside the territorial, production-based emissions typically required to be reported by governments, since they highlight the links between local consumption and its global environmental consequences.

    The breakdown into regional data could also empower regions to implement more focussed mitigation strategies, the paper argues.

    The results show that people living in Eastern Europe, such as in Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary, have some of the lowest carbon footprints in the EU, with the per capita average in some regions just a third of that in several British regions and in Luxembourg.

    Carbon Brief explores the trends and drivers behind the data.
    http://www.resilience.org/stories/201...embodied-emissions-footprints-compare
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  5. For its nutrition Soylent 2.0 is perhaps the most ecologically efficient food ever created. You may think me smug but I and many other people have poured their lives into creating something amazing and we have every right to be proud of it. Using algae ingredients over farmland, avoiding refrigeration, spoilage, animal products, retail, cooking, using entirely recyclable packaging and considering the long term potential of synthesising the whole thing biologically off grid provides unprecedented environmental savings and potential. It is sterilized and packaged in a continuous, automated, scalable process with negligible human labor. It really is amazing. Soylent makes up about 80% of my calories and I eat out the rest of the time. This lifestyle is absolutely affordable to the mass American market, with people on average spending $600 / month on food 1 » . The time savings could be used for economic gains from studying, or just allow people to relax more or catch up on some sleep, which America needs a lot more than organic produce. I never plan to give up traditional food and don’t expect others to. I love meeting people that are passionate about food. I want food to be made by people that enjoy making it, and are good at making it. I’m just not one of them. Having fewer kitchens that are more heavily utilized is leagues more efficient than everyone having their own kitchen and ingredient inventory sitting around unused most of the time.

    Similarly, ridesharing is obviously more sustainable than individual car ownership. Automobile utilization in the United States is as low as 3% according to some studies. UberPool alone could yield enormous savings by moving twice as many people per car per gallon. Not only is the price broadly accessible, it could save millions from the debt and risks that come with car ownership. I do take public transit when it makes sense. For the record I think Los Angeles mayor Garcetti is doing a fantastic job of investing in public transit. Sharing also accelerates the adoption of newer technologies since the aggregate savings are so great. Consider how quickly Uber drivers adopted hybrid cars to save fuel. A personal vehicle may stay on the road for 25 years, leading to “clunkers” with soft tires wasting fuel. Every Uber driver I’ve spoken to enjoys the job for its flexibility. However, part of me knows that they will soon be replaced by self driving cars. More on that later.

    Finally, asserting that every factory in China is a sweatshop is prejudiced. I have personally seen factories in the United States (Las Vegas if you’re wondering) with worse working conditions than what I saw when I lived in China. Surely we both have room to improve, but every supplier I use is audited by third parties. Where do you think the clothes in American retail stores come from now? I find it more efficient and cheaper to buy direct and actually use the product than to have clothes sit around in warehouses and retail outlets for months or years. When I donate my clothes they get washed, which takes energy, but it’s in a larger centralized facility so more laundry gets done per person per machine. Again, higher utilization. It would be wasteful for me to run entire loads of wash with my few pieces of clothing. And shipping via ocean is shockingly efficient.

    Let’s take the Emma Maersk container ship for example, even though the newer Triple E class ships are 35% more efficient. A trek from Hong Kong to Los Angeles takes about 14 days and burns 1,209,600 gallons of fuel. That’s a lot but it’s moving 15,000 shipping containers, each capable of fitting 36,864 t shirts. So, each shirt is responsible for 8mL of oil, which is what I would burn driving a car 266 feet. Shipping a container from China to LA uses even less fuel than trucking it from San Francisco. Buying “local” is ineffective from a sustainability perspective. It’s just ingroup bias.

    On the production side I lean mostly toward polyester, which is not only easily recyclable, it has a negligible water footprint. For energy, a polyester t shirt takes about 12.5MJ to make, which is 3.5kWh, less than half a cycle in a washer and dryer. So if you’re not washing a bunch of clothes at once it can be more efficient to make new clothes than to wash them. 2 » 3 » 4 » 5 »
    http://robrhinehart.com
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  6. Although the analysis above has much room for refinement and development in context and household specific ways, it has been demonstrated that what we have called low-tech options have the potential to significantly reduce the energy intensity (and water intensity) of our ways of living. Our personal experience practising all of these low-tech options at times, many of them often, and some of them always, also gives us confidence that the results above are broadly correct. Indeed, when low-tech ‘demand side’ strategies are applied in conjunction with hi-tech ‘supply side’ strategies (e.g. solar PV), our personal experience confirms that people can be net-producers of renewable electricity, provided ordinary consumption of electricity is significantly reduced. Moreover, we know that this can be done without diminishing quality of life, although low-tech practices do often demand a greater time investment than their conventional alternatives, which can call for broader lifestyle changes to accommodate this increased time commitment.
    http://www.resilience.org/stories/201...sponse-to-climate-change-and-peak-oil
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  7. The sustainability movement has been charged with being elitist—and it most certainly is. You need a fair amount of disposable income to afford ethical and sustainable consumption options, the leisure time to research the purchasing decisions you make, the luxury to turn up your nose at 95% of what you’re offered, and, arguably, a post-graduate degree in chemistry to understand the true meaning behind ingredient labels.
    Choosing fashion made from hemp, grilling the waiter about how your fish was caught, and researching whether your city can recycle bottle caps might make you feel good, reward a few social entrepreneurs, and perhaps protect you from charges of hypocrisy. But it’s no substitute for systematic change.


    Beyond making big lifestyle decisions such as choosing to live in a dense urban area with public transportation, cutting red meat out of your diet, and having fewer children (or none at all), there are diminishing returns to the energy you put into avoiding plastic or making sure your old AAs end up in the appropriate receptacle. Globally, we’re projected to spend $9.32 billion in 2017 on green cleaning products. If we had directed even a third of that pot of money (the typical markup on green cleaning products) toward lobbying our governments to ban the toxic chemicals we’re so afraid of, we might have made a lot more progress by now.
    “It’s a gesture,” Brown says of fretting over these small decisions. “Well-meaning signals that you care about the environment. But the action itself makes no difference.“

    Instead of buying expensive organic sheets, donate that money to organizations that are fighting to keep agricultural runoff out of our rivers.
    Instead of driving to an organic apple orchard to pick your own fruit, use that time to volunteer for an organization that combats food deserts (and skip the fuel emissions, too).
    Instead of buying a $200 air purifier, donate to politicians who support policies that keep our air and water clean.
    Instead of signing a petition demanding that Subway remove one obscure chemical from its sandwich bread, call your local representatives to demand they overhaul the approval process for the estimated 80,000 untested chemicals in our products.
    Instead of taking yourself out to dinner at a farm-to-table restaurant, you could take an interest in the Farm Bill and how it incentivizes unhealthy eating.

    On its face, conscious consumerism is a morally righteous, bold movement. But it’s actually taking away our power as citizens. It drains our bank accounts and our political will, diverts our attention away from the true powerbrokers, and focuses our energy instead on petty corporate scandals and fights over the moral superiority of vegans.
    So if you really care about the environment, climb on out of your upcycled wooden chair and get yourself to a town hall meeting. If there’s one silver lining to the environmental crisis facing us, it’s that we now understand exactly the kind of work we need to do to save the planet—and it doesn’t involve a credit card.
    https://qz.com/920561/conscious-consu...s-a-better-way-to-help-save-the-world
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  8. 10,000 years ago, a hunter-gatherer needed about 5,000 kcal per day to get by. A New Yorker today, once all the systems, networks and gadgets of modern life are factored in, needs about 300,000 kilocalories a day That’s a difference in energy needed for survival, between simple and complex lives, of 60 times – and rising. Does that sound like a resilient trend?

    The world is not in danger of running completely out of oil. A lot of oil and gas remain in the ground and under the sea. But those reserves cannot drive growth with the same gusto as before. Today’s thermo-industrial economy grew using oil that, if it did not literally gush out of the ground, was easily extracted using oil-powered machines. In 1930, for the investment of one barrel of oil in extraction efforts, 100 barrels of surplus or net energy were obtained for economic use. Since then, that happy ratio has declined ten-fold or more.

    The calamitous decline in net energy is one reason renewables are not the solution. Green energy strategies suffer from an existential flaw: They take ‘global energy needs’ as a given, calculate the quantity of renewable energy sources needed to meet them – and then ignore the fact that it takes energy to obtain energy. In Spain, for example, the Energy Return On Energy Invested (EROI) of their huge solar photovoltaic intallations is a very low 2.45 despite that country’s ideal sunny climate.

    Our capacity to think clearly about energy is further handicapped by driving blind. In most economic activities, the energy that you can measure – such as the electricity used by buildings, or in an industrial process – is only one part of the picture. A new technique called Systems Energy Assessment (SEA) estimates the many energy uses, that businesses rely on, that are hidden. Phil Henshaw, who developed SEA, describes as “dark energy” the four fifths of actual energy useage that conventional metrics fail to count.

    Eighty percent at five percent

    When pressed, technical experts I have spoken to tell me that for our world to be ‘sustainable’ it needs to endure a ‘factor 20 reduction’ in its energy and resource metabolism – to five percent of present levels. At first I believed, doomily, that Factor 20 was beyond reach. Then, by looking outside the industrial world’s tent, I realised that for eighty per cent of the world’s population, five per cent energy is their lived reality today – and it does not always correspond to a worse life.

    Take as an example, healthcare. In Cuba, where food, petrol and oil have been scarce for of 50 years as a consequence of economic blockades, its citizens achieve the same level of health for only five per cent of the health care expenditure of Americans. In Cuba’s five percent system, health and wellbeing are the properties of social ecosystems in which relationships between people in a real-world local context are mutually supportive. Advanced medical treatments are beyond most people’s reach – but they do not suffer worse health outcomes.

    Another example of five per cent systems that sustain life is food. In the industrial world, the ratio of energy inputs to the food system, relative to calories ingested, is 12:1. In cities, up to 40 percent of their ecological impact can be attributed to their food and water systems – the transportation, packaging, storage, preparation and disposal of the things we eat and drink .

    In poor communities, where food is grown and eaten on the spot, the ratio is closer to 1:1.

    My favourite five percent example – a recent one – concerns urban freight. In modern cities, enormous amounts of energy are wasted shipping objects from place to place. An example from The Netherlands: Of the 1,900 vans and trucks that enter the city of Breda (pop: 320,000) each day, less than ten percent of the cargo being delivered really needs to be delivered in a van or truck; 40 percent of van-based deliveries involve just one package. An EU-funded project called CycleLogistics calculates that 50 percent of all parcels delivered in EU cities could be delivered by cargo bike.

    According to ExtraEnergy’s tests over several years, an average pedelec uses an average of 1kWh per 100km in electricity. Once all system costs are included, a cargo cycle can be up to 98 percent cheaper per km than four-wheeled, motorised alternatives. Some e-bikers reckon that electric bikes can have a smaller environmental footprint even than pedal-only bicycles when the energy costs of the food needed to power the rider are added.
    http://thackara.com/infrastructure-design/energy-thriving-on-5
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  9. Memories are the new Mercedes Benz. The shift to experiences rather than material things accelerated, often out of need, during the Great Recession. It follows academic research showing that people get more lasting pleasure from activities rather than possessions.
    http://time.com/money/4539056/why-ret...t-luxury-goods-business/?xid=homepage
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  10. The concept of ownership is no longer relevant

    James Hamblin, The Atlantic’s columnist, explains the phenomenon as follows: ’Over the past decade, psychologists carried out a great amount of research proving that, in terms of happiness and a sense of well-being, spending money on new experiences is much more profitable than buying new things. It brings more joy.’
    Experiences help us make friends

    Social interaction between people is crucial to whether they feel happy or not. Talking to others and having a lot of friends makes you a happier person. But would people rather hear about how you spent a year in a wild country or about how many apartments you’ve already bought?

    Here’s an extract from Hamblin’s article:

    ’Turns out people don’t like hearing about other people’s possessions very much, but they do like hearing about that time you saw Vampire Weekend.’

    Remember that even a bad experience can become a good story. Material things cannot.
    Buying things makes us worry

    There’s one more thing. The things we own, especially if they’re very expensive, make us worry about their condition. If you buy a car, you’ll flinch every time someone’s alarm sounds outside. If you buy a house and fill it with expensive items, you’ll be afraid of being robbed. Not to mention the fact that a car can be scratched or break down, and a super expensive TV might break after a year of usage. But no one can ever take away the experiences you have.
    https://brightside.me/inspiration-psy...uy-cars-and-apartments-anymore-238710
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