Thursday, December 10, 2015

Permaculture Interview With David Holmgren

The link below is to an hour and a half interview of David Holmgren, one of the founders of the Permaculture movement.  Holmgren does an excellent job explaining such concepts at the energy decent (we are running out of cheap fossil fuels) and what the impacts on our society might be, some possible future scenarios we might face, what permaculture is, how it can be implemented in the suburbs, the importance of forming community, along with many other relevant topics.  I would encourage anyone in the Transition North Twin Cities network to invest some time and watch this interview.  I think you will find it time well spent.  

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Season for Humility

Tis the season for giving. The intention of giving is good, but today's execution of giving is not. In a world of more, we also expect more. Thus, needing bigger stockings.

Last week, I went to visit and bring soup to my grandmother. Nathan and I sat down to visit with her for a while. She is 92 years old and grew up near St. Cloud in the great depression. Her memory is amazing and it was so humbling to talk to her and share her stories.

We talked about our homestead/transition activities of gardening, storing, poultry and canning. In hearing us talk about these activities that brought out many stories from her and also more questions from us. 

We heard of stories of her father growing potatoes for the family, her killing a gopher with a rock, and pumping water from the well in the winter. They did not have running water any time of year. First silly question, "Grandma, what did you do for baths in the winter? Did you need to boil the water?". She looked confused, so we thought she did not hear us. We repeated and then she said "We didn't bathe in the winter. Sponge baths, maybe". 

On to the second silly question. Her mother would keep the fire going in their wood stove to heat their house in the winter and her brothers would walk along the railroad to pick up coal that fell off the trains to add to their fires. I then asked her if she received any coal in her stockings. She gave me a blank look and said "we didn't have any stockings". Well, that made me feel like a spoiled millennial and also grateful yet . I asked if she received any Christmas presents. She said her father wanted to buy them presents one year when they had extra, but her mother said "no, they will just break them anyway". She did say she remembers receiving oranges one year for Christmas.

These stories reminded me that we really expect too much especially during this season. I saw that sign in a coffee shop and was rather disappointed that we "need" bigger stockings to be filled with more things. 

Stories show the strength of ones that came before us, that we can survive with less, much less. They also humble us and give perspective in our life. Provide encouragement towards the goals of transition. Transition towards less. As I continue to transition towards a simpler life, I find more meaning in my grandmothers stories. More connections to my family, community, fauna and flora.

There is a reason this is a season for giving, family, love, thanksgiving, etc. After the summer provides a bounty of goods, we are to give thanks and share our bounty. It is a season to be grateful for what we have been provided and what we already have. We have not reached this season alone, nor have we provided only for ourselves. A season for thanksgiving, not a season of expectations. 

We should be thankful for stockings. This is a season for thanks, community, and celebration.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Some Sane Reflective Responses to Acts of Terror from Transition-ers.

These ideas are from a larger article by Erik Lindberg Posted on Transition Milwaukee Blog.  Read the entire post here: .

1.        What we really need to do is change the way we live and stop consuming at a rate five times the global average.  Too often this also falls into the “political wish-list category” as we make bland and effectual calls for someone to “get us off of oil.”  But it doesn’t have to be relegated to the wish list.  We can join together and find collective ways to create strong and resilient communities that share, reuse, and live far more simply than we do now.  We can avoid discretionary air travel, live in smaller homes, and buy fare fewer new things.  We can get out our bikes, walk, and grow some vegetables in our yards.  In fact, we can turn our whole yards into vegetable gardens and orchards.  Our high rate of consumption is not caused by someone else.  It is us, and we need to take action and responsibility of our own accord.

2.       We need to apologize as sincerely and vocally as possible for what we have caused.  If we don’t have any good venues for the apology, then it is our job to create them.  If we are truly sorry, we will find a way to have our apologies heard.

3.       We could come together with our neighbors, our charitable groups, our religious communities, and adopt refugee families.  There is no gesture more powerful than inviting people into your home.  We talk to our children about taking responsibility for our actions, and our leaders blow overtime about a culture of responsibility.  Let’s actually live responsibly and add to it a culture of love and caring, by sponsoring families in need.  Let’s bring those looking for a new start in America to our cities and towns and at our expense.  Let’s find housing, help with employment, create a welcoming committee and provide space for people to tell their stories and describe their lives.  If we want to “send a message to those who hate us,” here’s a new one:  Come to our homes, share our food, allow us to wash your feet after your long journey.   They’ve heard the message our leaders, without a blink, have been sending.  Now it’s time for we the people to send an open-hearted, vulnerable, message of love and solidarity.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

7 Things You Should Know About Permaculture

  1. Permaculture is a Design System That Uses Ecosystem Principles to Meet Human Needs.  
  2. Permaculture Regards Humans as Part of the Solution.
  3. Permaculture is a Way to Reframe the World.
  4. Permaculture is a Metric to Define Sustainability. 
  5. Permaculture is a Systems Approach to Design.
  6. Permaculture is a Set of Solutions.
  7. Permaculture is a Bunch of Disciplines Rolled Into One.

See the following blog post for more information.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Degrowth Defined

What follows is an excerpt from the keynote address given by Samuel Alexander at the LOCAL LIVES, GLOBAL MATTERS conference.  The entire talk titled WHAT IS DEGROWTH? ENVISIONING A PROSPEROUS DESCENT is available at the following link:

What would life be like in a degrowth society?

In a degrowth society we would aspire to localise our economies as far and as appropriately as possible. This would assist with reducing carbon-intensive global trade, while also building community and resilience in the face of an uncertain and turbulent future. We must ride our bikes more and fly less.

Through forms of direct or participatory democracy we would organise our economies to ensure that everyone’s basic needs are met, and then redirect our energies away from economic expansion. This would be a relatively low-energy mode of living that ran primarily on renewable energy systems.

As noted earlier, renewable energy cannot sustain an energy-intensive global society of high-end consumers. A degrowth society embraces the necessity of “energy descent”.

We would tend to reduce our working hours in the formal economy in exchange for more home-production and leisure. We would have less income, but more freedom. Thus, in our simplicity, we would be rich.

Wherever possible, we would grow our own organic food, water our gardens from water tanks, and turn our neighbourhoods into edible landscapes as the Cubans have done in Havana. As my friend Adam Grubb so delightfully declares, we should ‘eat the suburbs’, while supplementing urban agriculture with food from local farmers’ markets.

More broadly, we must turn our homes and communities into places of sustainable production, not unsustainable consumption. This involves increasing self-sufficiency and reskilling ourselves and our communities to regain practical knowledge that is on the cusp of being lost.

We would become radical recyclers and do-it-yourself experts. This would partly be driven by the fact that we would simply be living in an era of relative scarcity, with reduced discretionary income.

But human beings find creative projects fulfilling, and the challenge of building the new world within the shell of the old promises to be immensely meaningful, even if it will also entail times of trial. The apparent scarcity of goods can also be greatly reduced by scaling up the sharing economy and the non-monetary economy, which would also enrich our communities.

We do not need to purchase so many new clothes. Let us mend or exchange the clothes we have, buy second-hand, or make our own. In a degrowth society, the fashion and marketing industries would quickly wither away. A new aesthetic of sufficiency would develop, where we creatively re-use and refashion the vast existing stock of clothing and materials, and explore less impactful ways of producing new clothes.

Degrowth sees ugliness in the clothes dryer and elegance in the clothesline. As Leonardo da Vinci once wrote: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

One day, we might even live in cob houses that we build ourselves, but over the next few critical decades the fact is that most of us will be living within the poorly designed urban infrastructure that already exists. We are hardly going to knock it all down and start again. Instead, we must ‘retrofit the suburbs’, as David Holmgren argues. This would involve doing everything we can to make our homes more energy-efficient, more productive, and probably more densely inhabited. We need to redesign our communities based on permaculture principles, nourishing the earth that nourishes us.

This is not the eco-future that we are shown in glossy design magazines featuring million-dollar “green homes” that are prohibitively expensive. Degrowth offers a more humble – and I would say more realistic – vision of a sustainable future.

In short, degrowth means living lives of frugality, moderation and material sufficiency – but lives that are rich in their non-materialistic dimensions.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

October 26th 2015 Meeting Location

For our Monday October 26th meeting, we will meet at the Starbucks in Blaine (1384 109th Avenue located in the Southwest Corner of the intersection of Highway 65 and 109th Avenue). Meetings typically last from 6:30 to 8-9 pm. Come when you can and leave when you need to. Topics to be determined by talkers who attend. Maybe bring ideas on future meeting topics, other venues, etc.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Seed Balls - The Movie

At our last meeting, Zach taught us the fine art of making seed balls.  Some highlights from the event are captured in the very short film below.  Looking forward to the spring when I can see what comes up from the seed balls I cast.   

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Monday October 12th Meeting

For our Monday October 12th meeting, Zach will be putting on a seed ball workshop. I think the link below provides a bit more details on the history and usage of the seed/earth ball. We will be meeting at my garage located at 866 113th Lane NE, in Blaine. Feel free to bring assorted seeds (if you have some), dress appropriately as apparently the clay used in the seed ball mixture can be a bit messy. Meeting will start at 6:30 and should run until 8 or 9. Come when you can and leave when you need to.
Seed ball (or for the french speakers boule de graines)  link here:
Drop me an email at  if you would like to be added to our email list.
Tom Jablonski


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Sustainable Development A Worthy Goal?

As Bob pointed out at our last meeting, the world’s heads of state are heading to New York this week to attend the UN’s Sustainable Development Summit.  Part of the summit will be the signing off on the Sustainable Development Goals that are hoped to be achieved within 15 years.  These laudable goals include 17 topics that include the likes of: ( )

1.       End poverty in all its forms everwhere
2.       End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
3.       Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
4.       Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
5.       Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
6.       Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
7.       Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
8.       Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
9.       Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
10.   Reduce inequality within and among countries
11.   Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
12.   Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
13.   Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts*
14.   Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
15.   Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
16.   Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
17.   Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

On the surface, these all seem like good goals to strive for.  But as anthropologist Jason Hickel points out in his recent Guardian piece titled “Forget 'developing' poor countries, it's time to 'de-develop' rich countries” (  ), a continued focus on growth, as highlighted in goal 8, is likely to get us to the same place our current growth has, which is an increase in the problems the goals are trying to eliminate. 

Per Hickel –

The main strategy for eradicating poverty is the same: growth.
It will take 100 years for the world’s poorest people to earn $1.25 a day
Growth has been the main object of development for the past 70 years, despite the fact that it’s not working. Since 1980, the global economy has grown by 380%, but the number of people living in poverty on less than $5 (£3.20) a day has increased by more than 1.1 billion. That’s 17 times the population of Britain. So much for the trickle-down effect.

Orthodox economists insist that all we need is yet more growth. More progressive types tell us that we need to shift some of the yields of growth from the richer segments of the population to the poorer ones, evening things out a bit. Neither approach is adequate. Why? Because even at current levels of average global consumption, we’re overshooting our planet’s bio-capacity by more than 50% each year.

In other words, growth isn’t an option any more – we’ve already grown too much. Scientists are now telling us that we’re blowing past planetary boundaries at breakneck speed. And the hard truth is that this global crisis is due almost entirely to overconsumption in rich countries.

Either we slow down voluntarily or climate change will do it for us. We can’t go on ignoring the laws of nature. But rethinking our theory of progress is not only an ecological imperative, but also a development one. If we do not act soon, all our hard-won gains against poverty will evaporate, as food systems collapse and mass famine re-emerges to an extent not seen since the 19th century.

This is not about giving anything up. And it’s certainly not about living a life of voluntary misery or imposing harsh limits on human potential. On the contrary, it’s about reaching a higher level of understanding and consciousness about what we’re doing here and why.

So what do you think - can we keep on growing and eventually outgrow our problems?  Or is it time for us to grow up and learn how to live a meaningful life on our finite planet? 

Monday, July 27, 2015

What is Permaculture?

Permaculture is an ecological design process that integrates landscape and people to provide their food, energy, water, shelter and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way.

The concept brings together whole-systems thinking inspired by lessons from nature and creative design processes. A wide range of technologies and techniques are fed into specific designs as appropriate to individual projects. Starting from a mostly land-based focus, it is now being applied to all aspects of human habitation, from agriculture to architecture, from technology to education and even economics.

Permaculture started in the late 1970s and was initially adopted and tested by people at the margins of society – innovators, back-to-the-land smallholders, ecologists and radical development workers. It has spread rapidly ever since via grassroots education and a lot of practical implementation. From small beginnings in Australia, it is now a worldwide movement spanning 135 countries, with more than 250 national, regional and international organisations and many tens of thousands of local projects and practitioners.

From the article by Andy Goldring available here:  Designing The World We Want


Friday, July 10, 2015

Local, self-sufficient, optimistic: are Transition Towns the way forward?

"The Transition network was founded in 2005, as a response to the twin threats of climate change and peak oil. Unlike other campaign groups, the Transition network never set out to frighten people, but seemed resolutely upbeat, determined to find opportunity in what most regard with dismay.
One of the movement's most fundamental ideas was to ask what the world might look like in the future "if we get it right" – then work out backwards how to get there. Generally speaking, the Transition vision is of a move towards self-sufficiency at the local level, in food, energy and much else, but the specifics of what "getting it right" might look like were never handed down from above."
For more on the Transition Initiative see the article in the Guardian available here: 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

How Our Economy Doesn't Work and Some Alternatives

A great 12 minute video illistrating how our economy works (or actually how it is failing) along with some ideas close to our Transition group on human alternatives can be seen below.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Growing, Growing, Gone!

Growing, Growing, Gone:  Reaching the Limits.  Some interesting quotes from an interview of Dennis Meadows, one of the authors of the study of “The Limits Of Growth”.    

"Continual physical growth of population and economic activity eventually reaches the point where the globe simply cannot accommodate anymore. Biophysical systems press back, whether through disease, scarcity, climate, or other response mechanisms. These pressures are danger signals, indicating overshoot of some aspect of the planet’s physical limits."       

“The economics profession is based on the assumption that continual growth is possible and desirable. Likewise, most politicians have a predisposition for growth because it makes the problems they address—unemployment, poverty, diminished tax bases—more tractable. Instead of having to divide a fixed pie, which gets you in trouble with some constituents, you can grow the pie so that nobody has to make a sacrifice or compromise. So there was—and is—a set of vested interests in the notion of growth.“

“White water rafting provides a useful analogy here. When you are going down the river, most of the time it is placid, but every once in a while, you hit the rapids. When it is placid, you can sit back and think where you want to be, how you should time your journey, where you want to stop for lunch, etc. When you are in the rapids, you focus on the moment, desperately trying to keep your boat upright until you return to quiet waters. During the placid moments, it is very useful to have a discussion about where you want to be tomorrow or the day after. When you are in the rapids, you don’t have the luxury of that kind of discussion. You are trying to survive. Our society has moved into the rapids phase.”

“ Conventional oil production peaked around 2006. Unconventional oil production, e.g., fracking and tar sands, has continued some degree of growth, but it is a totally different matter. Conventional oil is inexpensive and yields a relatively high energy return on investment. Unconventionals don’t do that. They are expensive, and the net energy return on investment is quite low.”

“When you don’t have conventional energy sources like oil, you cannot sustain the kind of economic growth rates that we have seen in the past. As a practical matter, then, there is now very little real wealth generation. Most of the economic activity these days consists of those who have more power getting richer by taking away from those with less. This is why we see widening gaps between rich and poor.”

“Many of the futures, including some of Tellus’s, presume large-scale energy consumption of one kind or another. It is energy intensive to coordinate and motivate large assemblies of people and organizations. Absent abundant, cheap energy, this becomes more difficult. I expect that the trend towards global integration is going to stop and then start to recede.”

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Feeling Full?

Herman Daly, an ecological economist, provides a nice explanation for what is wrong with our current economic system in the essay “Economics for a full world”.   Daily’s essay explains how our current economic model was designed from the vantage point of the world being mostly empty (of humans and their impacts).  Economic growth has gotten us to a place of fullness, and it may be time to change our economic models to become more in line with the real world, while we still can. 

The introduction to the essay states:

Because of the exponential economic growth since World War II, we now live in a full world, but we still behave as if it were empty, with ample space and resources for the indefinite future. The founding assumptions of neoclassical economics, developed in the empty world, no longer hold, as the aggregate burden of the human species is reaching—or, in some cases, exceeding—the limits of nature at the local, regional, and planetary levels. The prevailing obsession with economic growth puts us on the path to ecological collapse, sacrificing the very sustenance of our well-being and survival. To reverse this ominous trajectory, we must transition toward a steady-state economy focused on qualitative development, as opposed to quantitative growth, and the interdependence of the human economy and global ecosphere. Developing policies and institutions for a steady-state economy will require us to revisit the question of the purpose and ends of the economy.

Read the entire essay at the following link for more insights on the inherent problems with the current economic model and some suggestions for a revised more realistic model.