Sunday, November 27, 2011

Collapsible Plans: Jason Mraz & His Song Collapsible Plans Featured in The Big Fix: New Film About Gulf Oil Spill

"The Big Fix" Blows Audiences Away With Shocking Truth About The Spill That Never Went Away

Check out the Video below of Jason Mraz singing "Collapsible Plans" on a Street in Europe. The song is featured in the film.

Click on Here to Buy Tickets to see "The Big Fix" in NYC from Dec 2nd-8th and take part in "The Big Fix" NYC "7 Nights of Awareness" happening at the AMC Village 7 theater after each 6 pm screening. The "7 Nights of Awareness" will involve interaction with the filmmakers and leading environmetal advocates from around the country who will participate in a post-screening discussion with the audience.

Friday, October 28, 2011

NYC Film Premier of "The Big Fix": The BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Is Still Very Much on the Horizon

Wide Coalition of Environmental Advocates To Gather for "7 Nights of Awareness" To Conclude Each Screening of "The Big Fix" at AMC 7 in East Village December 2nd-December 8th

Posted by Paul E. McGinniss

Josh Tickell and Rebecca Harrell-Tickell uncovering the truth about the oil spill in the Gulf.

Disclaimer: I am a huge fan of Josh Tickell and Rebecca Harrell-Tickell, the dynamic duo behind the Sundance Award winning documentary, "FUEL". I met them when they drove cross country from California in a green vehicle caravan and arrived to premiere "FUEL" in NYC. Josh and Rebecca are also the producers - directors of an astonishing new film, "The Big Fix". They weave together beautiful, haunting imagery of the Gulf coast. There are spot-on interviews with a diverse assortment of people and plenty of helpful, historical information - all the while uncovering the dirty truth about the BP oil spill.

The BP Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, 2010. Most of us thought the spill was "cleaned up" and the problem "went away". Unfortunately, to a large extent, the entire event has been supplanted in the media/mass consciousness by other major news stories and events from around the world.

After watching "The Big Fix", it is hard to conclude that things are so rosy down in the Gulf. In fact, the bottom line message from this well-documented film is that the BP oil spill in the Gulf never really went away. And, in fact, the oil is still spilling into the Gulf. Not to mention, the absolutely horrific fact is that the chemical dispersant, Corexit, which was and is still being used in the Gulf to "clean up" the oil, is an extremely toxic substance. The film reports that Corexit is wreaking havoc on the health of the people and marine life in the Gulf. It's the kind of "this can't be true" fact that is so terrible, you don't want to believe it, but must.

Film Poster for the Josh Tickell - Rebecca Harrell-Tickell film, "FUEL", which won the Sundance Award for best Documentary in 2008.

When you see and hear how the the Gulf residents captured in "The Big Fix" have been affected by Corexit and the spill which keeps on spilling, beware, it is both heart wrenching and frightening. When you see and hear Gulf residents driven to tears by this environmental tragedy, you want to cry with them. Rebecca Harrell, herself, was seriously sickened by Corexit during their filming in the Gulf. It is, literally, sickening to watch this toxic crime covered up.

And, when you listen to Marine/Eco-Activist, Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of champion of the seas, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, state so emotionally, "We're being lied to", you realize that the "cover up" depicted in the film is not the rant of uninformed "trouble maker activists", but a real cover up. We all need to unify our voices and join Rebecca and Josh and say - Enough is Enough.

Watch this video from Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ocean Futures Society which investigated the BP Oil Spill one year after it occurred.

When Josh and Rebecca emailed to tell me they were opening the film in NYC at the AMC 7 in the East Village and wanted to create "7 Nights of Awareness" in the theater, post-screening, I immediately jumped on board to help build the events and gather as many people and groups in NYC together to see this watershed film. Our purpose for the "7 Nights of Awareness" is, yes, to divulge the truth about what is going on in the Gulf, in addition to stimulating a dialog that will foster positive action and create solutions which will help our planet become less dependent on fossil fuels, more healthy and truly sustainable.

Despite the negative events depicted in the film, the filmmakers make a point to highlight, towards the end of the film, an endearing bayou local. He wears a yellow t-shirt and dons a Mardi Gras-like necklace across his tanned neck while installing solar panels on the metal roof of his modest home. Josh Tickell narrates at the end. He urges the audience to "unite and take a stand" and deal with the truth and get on with implementing clean energy solutions that are at hand. Tickell concludes, powerfully, asking: "In a struggle for true justice and a better world, where do you stand?"

Being solution-based, Josh and Rebecca, currently, have an additional film out, FREEDOM, which focuses on sustainable and renewable energy options already available which will enable us to be free from the use of oil and other sources of not-clean energy.

To date, the inspiring and passionate people and groups that have come on board for the "7 Nights of Awareness" include: NYC-based Fabien Cousteau (grandson of Jacques and son of Jean-Michel Cousteau) and founder of Plant A Fish; Rocky Kistner from the NRDC; Stefanie Spear and the new web site/newswire EcoWatch; Justin Bloom and colleagues from Waterkeeper Alliance; Dan Miner, founder of Beyond Oil NYC; New Orleans native and NYC-based architect, Drew Lang; Paul Mankiewicz, The Gaia Institute; Margaret Lydecker, Green Drinks NYC and Denise Katzman, EcoEdifier™ and Anti-Fracking activist; Stephen Del Percio, GreenBuildings NYC and Peter Fleischer of Empire State Future.

Any one interested in knowing more about this important film and the events we are organizing in NYC, please contact me asap to discuss. A full press release will be sent out in the next few weeks with additional details.

Please save the dates of December 2nd to December 8th and tell as many people as you can to come to the December 2nd - 8th AMC 7 screenings of "The Big Fix" and meet the inspiring Josh Tickell and Rebecca Harrell Tickell and the passionate NYC people mentioned above - all of whom are making a difference and helping to transform The Big Green Apple into being even more ecologically sound and resilient.

Copyright 2011 Paul E McGinniss

Contact Paul E McGinniss at:

Check out the trailer to "The Big Fix" below.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

International Living Future Institute asks: "What if every single act of design and construction made the world a better place?"

by Paul E McGinniss

Jay Kosa, Community Coordinator of the Living Building Challenge, at the International Living Future Institute, emailed me recently to tell me about the Understanding the Living Building Challenge Workshop which is taking place in NYC on Thursday, November 3, 2011.

Jay said: "We at the Living Building Challenge have been a fan of your blog dating back to your "Living Building Challenge 2.0 Certification Plays Lady Ga Ga to USGBC LEED's Madonna" piece. We're making steady headway with the pursuit of Living Buildings in the Northwest and around the world, and we'd really like to cultivate some discussion about what the city of New York could accomplish through the Challenge."

Cool. Bring on the challenge! What's great about the Living Building Challenge is it is a challenge. And it's part of a growing number of international eco-educational groups taking root in the Big Apple - groups like the Transition Town movement and Kitchen Gardeners International - social media networks which are spiraling out and reaching people online and also on the ground, block by block, trading information and creating social consciousness.

Picture of the Hawaii Preparatory Academy Energy Lab which was built under the Living Building Challenge standard. Conceived as a high school science building dedicated to the study of alternative energy, the new Energy Lab at Hawaii Preparatory Academy functions as a zero-net-energy, fully sustainable building.

What's appealing about the Living Building Challenge is how much it talks about building not so much just from a structural or technical standpoint but also from a philosophical, even metaphysical standpoint. For instance the challenge is described as: "A visionary path to a restorative future" And it is "at once a philosophy, advocacy platform and certification program". The challenge clarifies: "It defines priorities on both a technical level and as a set of core values, it is engaging the broader building industry in the deep conversations required to truly understand how to solve problems rather than shift them."

Despite how abstract the Living Building Challenge might sound, it is definitely performance based. Thus, while having specific, measurable, technical goals, it "leads teams to embrace regional solutions and respond to a number of variables, including climate factors and cultural characteristics."

And speaking of being performance based - The International Living Future Institute has just announced that it unveiled a Net Zero Energy Building Certification program. This new initiative will surely help foster the idea that all buildings should "perform" and be self sustainable, much like the Earthship model has tried to emphasize, and like the Passive House concept emphasizes as well.

Training and certification programs don't come super cheap these days of "Occupy Wall Street", when lots of the world is just managing to tread water. And there are more and more "green" educational and certification platforms to consider - running the gamut from the NAHB to USGBC. For some, the Living Building Challenge Workshop is a bit pricey, with the cost in the hundreds of dollars for the day, but for building professionals and those serious about green building, it is well worth the cost.

The NYC workshop takes place November 3rd at Acuity Brands Lighting, 5 Penn Plaza, 24th Floor (8th Ave between 33rd and 34th), New York, NY 10001.

It looks like the "Living Building Challenge", which grew out of green building initiatives in Cascadia, Washington State, is taking off internationally with projects emerging around the globe. Currently there are active programs in the United States, Canada and Ireland, with discussions occurring in other countries for future international launches.

In July 2010, The Living Building Institute of Ireland was established by a founding circle of local practitioners to oversee the operation of the Living Building Challenge in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The Institute reports: "It is interested in expanding its program in countries around the globe that have an interest in promoting truly sustainable design and construction practices"

Anyone reading this blog post who has an interest in seeing the Living Building Challenge program in their country can contact the Living Building Challenge to begin discussions. And if you start a challenge anywhere in the world, please let me know as I would love to follow the story and see where it goes.

Copyright Paul E McGinniss 2011

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Woodstock Film Festival Premier of "Cape Spin: An American Power Struggle"


By Paul E. McGinniss

Film poster for new must see film.

A thought provoking, almost surreal new feature documentary film called Cape Spin: An American Power Struggle cleverly captures the monumental ten year battle over Cape Wind, America's first proposed off shore wind farm planned for a 25 square mile area in the cherished blue waters of Nantucket Sound in Massachusetts.

This epic, often bizarre battle over the Cape Wind project is a red white and blue microcosm of America's struggle toward a green energy future. Cape Spin has a great soundtrack containing rock, pop, cabaret and Broadway style music. The film has engaging editing and colorfully depicts the rich, transcendent natural beauty of Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Sound, all the while showing the down to earth, comical, even ugly side of human nature, as the people depicted in the documentary take sides on a dramatic battle raging within their own "idyllic" community.

Cape Spin has a real ying yang pull, taking the audience from one side of the controversy to the other, showing how complex and layered the developing green energy revolution is, with unlikely alliances forming for and against the proposal to build one hundred and thirty, 440-foot wind turbines five plus miles off the coast of Massachusetts.

Pic Robert Kennedy Jr. on Nantucket Sound as he holds a demonstration against the wind farm. Following Kennedy's boat is a Greenpeace led boat demonstrating for the wind project and against Kennedy. Pic Courtesy Cape Cod Times.

An article in Cape Cod Times called Strange Boatfellows Clash in Nantucket Sound gives one an idea of what strange bedfellows this battle has made. Indeed, some of the eye opening revelations and ironies captured in the film is that Jim Gordon, the seemingly good intentioned developer behind Cape Wind, made a fortune in not so green and friendly gas fired power plants, some of which he still owns. Meanwhile, legendary environmental activist Robert Kennedy Jr is strongly against the clean energy project while the notorious activist group Greenpeace has taken the side of big energy developer Jim Gordon against the Kennedy eco icon.

Anti Cape Wind Demonstrators. Pic Courtesy Stage Coach Improv

What's wonderful about Cape Spin is that it manages to leave the viewer agreeing with and then questioning the logic and motives of both the anti wind farm camp and the pro wind camp. At times, the citizen activists in the film, both privileged and not - upper, lower and middle class - actually seem like characters trapped in a fictional drama; one gets the feeling "what a long strange trip it's been" for the subjects who jump out at you from the screen with an intensity and passion captured eloquently by the filmmakers who seem to be invisible and almost like all-seeing flies on the wall.

From left to right: Producers of Cape Spin Josh Levin, Libby Handros, Director and Producer, Robbie Gemmel and Director and Editor John Kirby. Pic Courtesy Woodstock Film Festival

I had the pleasure of seeing the film festival premier of Cape Spin at the Woodstock film festival and attend a lively Q & A with the film's directors and producers. After the Q & A I had the opportunity to interview one of the directors, Robbie Gemmel, the passionate young filmmaker who was the genesis of the film. Robbie was inspired to tackle the subject by a professor while an undergraduate at Emerson College in Massachusetts. Gemmel even went so far as to get a job on a fishing boat in Nantucket Sound to study the subject of Cape Wind. For him the making of the film was a battle all to its own because of all the barriers that come with creating an independent film with more passion than deep pockets.

Pro Cape Wind Demonstrators. Pic Courtesy Enterprise News

Before seeing the film I was hell bent on getting Robbie to tell me what side he took in the Cape Wind skirmish, since the previous press for the film proclaimed it was the filmmakers' objective to be objective and not take sides in the controversy. Despite the successful efforts of the filmmakers not to take a stand, I imagined, surely Robbie had formed an opinion by now.

Robbie said when I spoke with him: "I can honestly convince myself either way - to be for or against the Cape Wind farm. I think both sides have a lot of valid points and there are reasons to build it and not to build it. But in the end I ultimately think the controversy is really good for the course of conversation around renewable energy development and for the awareness it's brought to where our current energy is coming from and the challenges we face to build large scale renewable energy sources."

I also met the film's other director and editor of Cape Spin, John Kirby, who became part of a creative team that produced the film. By meeting and speaking with John along with Robbie, I saw how they, even amongst themselves, debated the merits and downfalls of Cape Wind and still to this day continue the debate by questioning the up-sides and down-sides of the Cape Wind project.

John Kirby elaborated: "This Cape Wind controversy is happening all over the country. There are solar projects that are in contention, there are other wind projects in contention right here in New York. So if there is a lesson to take from this controversy it is - don't wait for a developer or the federal government to come in and say - this is where we are going to put this new energy facility - go ahead and build your own. It belongs to you - the wind, the sun, this belongs to you. That to me is the message to Cape Spin- power to the people."

The Colony Cafe in Woodstock, New York, hub for the Woodstock Film Festival. Pic Courtesy the Woodstock Film Festival.

So what does this writer think about Cape Wind and whether or not it is an appropriate project in that location at this specific time? After seeing the film I was not so sure what I thought. It became clear to me that maybe in eco cinema one not need take a firm position to still get a clear pro environmental message across.

As I told the one of the producers of Cape Spin, Josh Levin, when we spoke at the Colony Cafe in Woodstock, part of me is RFK Jr who has come out swinging against the project. And part of me is Greenpeace which has come out vociferously promoting the project, ironically taking the side of the project's developer Jim Gordon, who as I mentioned the film points out, made a fortune on gas fueled power plants and stands to make another fortune on the Cape Wind project if it ever gets completed.

Picture Wind Farm in Denmark

Offshore wind farms are fairly common in other parts of the world, such as Denmark, where large portions of their electricity are generated from wind and other renewables. But as Cape Spin masterfully depicts, here in the USA, a whopping $70 million dollars has been spent by the opposing sides fighting for and against our country's first offshore renewable energy project. One could imagine what good $70 million dollars would do toward making the the Nantucket Sound region more "renewable" with energy efficiency and small scale renewable power than thrown out the window in a surreal fight that seems as absurd as it does endless. But like the team behind Cape Spin points out, despite the enormous amount of money spent, with no clean, renewable energy generation to show for it, the controversy has created awareness about the issues and that helps.

In the end, no matter what you think about Cape Wind, and the film about it, what Cape Spin really becomes is a sly educational tool showing the do's and don'ts about how to move forward to a clean energy future. Cape Spin asks more questions than it answers, raises both red and white flags and shows all the gray within the green.

Pro Cape Wind Image via Greenpeace

To further educational goals, the producers and directors of the film are collaborating on a multimedia educational platform called the Electron Project which was inspired by the Cape Wind controversy and the decade long journey of the film and its subjects. The Electron Project will show citizens across the country, exactly what amount and type of energy they are using and where it comes from. And it will offer resources to show people regionally how to become more energy self-sufficient.

As Robbie Gemmel explains: "The idea is that the Electron Project will accompany the film and as we roll out the film we are going to educate people about where their energy comes from and get them involved in it. We want to make an interactive process and connect audiences to local resources so they can live more sustainably and help develop a cleaner energy future for our country"

The Woodstock Film Festival stated appropriately "Cape Spin was “Fueled by a satiric ‘revolutionary’ soundtrack, and is a gripping and entertaining study of eco-capitalism and grassroots democracy.” One puzzled looking woman in the film says simply yet profoundly at one of the many heated, over-the-top demonstrations about the wind farm: "It's interesting to see the public process unfold at these events - this is what America is all about."

Anyone who gives a damn about giving a damn should check Cape Spin out.

Copyright 2011 Paul E. McGinniss

Check out the trailer to Cape Spin below.

Cape Spin Trailer from Rebirth Productions on Vimeo.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Green Security: The U.S. Military Fights Climate Change and Declares War on Fossil Fuels

by Paul E. McGinniss

Picture Courtesy Pike Research

When thinking of protecting the environment and fighting climate change, one hardly thinks about the U.S. Military. But in fact, according to a new study by Pike Research, "Increased access to clean and reliable energy has become a leading priority for the U.S. Department of Defense and military agencies around the world."

In a ground breaking speech at a 2010 Energy Security Forum in Washington, D.C., Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke like a leading environmental activist: "We are in fact seeing evidence of climate change’s potential impacts on our security." Mullen's inspiring speech sounded more in line with the NRDC than Exxon/Mobile, as Mullen stressed "how important it will be to take a holistic view of energy security and, more broadly, our overall sustainability." He emphasized how vital it is we all focus on these issues: "Americans around the country are starting to connect the dots between energy, security and our future."

It's refreshing to think there's a whole new way to look at green army fatigues, now that the U.S. military has declared war on use of fossil fuels.

Ray Mabus, the Secretary of the U.S. Navy, and a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, proclaimed he wants 50 percent of the power for the Navy and Marines to come from renewable energy sources by 2020. Just a few renewable products our forces are developing: hybrid ships and extended range hybrid jeeps, uniforms incorporating thin film solar textiles which charge devices, tents with thin film PV woven into them, rollable solar panels, portable wind turbines and hydrogen fuel cells. There's even plans to take exhaust from vehicles in Iraq to make drinking water for troops, and efforts to cut back on water needs by recycling shower water.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said about the military's push toward environmental and energy security in the new York Times: "There are a lot of profound reasons for doing this, but for us at the core it’s practical”

The fact that U.S. forces in oil rich Iraq are becoming paragons of sustainability and lessening dependence on natural resources like oil and water, should make the rest of us stand at attention and listen. Average citizens should hear the green bugle call and take note that military forces are going green, so fast, with such a sense of urgency, and start thinking about how we can do the same. As Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said: "while leadership at the top certainly matters, this can’t be just a top-down effort. True innovation doesn’t work that way. "

Importantly, Chief of Staff Admiral Mullen emphasized that green military initiatives are not just about fighting battles in some inhospitable, far off bases, in dangerous territory. Mullen stressed: "We can also make improvements closer to home. For instance, each of the services is bringing several bases up to a net-zero energy standard within the next few years." Like a conservationist, he said: "These efforts will not just achieve savings in the long run but will ensure the environment around our bases is cleaner and healthier for our people and their surrounding communities. At Twentynine Palms, California, for example, a new micro-grid controller will make the Marine Corps’ largest base an even better neighbor by reducing its energy consumption, diminishing its carbon footprint and better enabling it to be independent of California’s power grid when needed."

With renewable technology prices coming down and the cost of other fuels going up, getting a little green security has never made more sense or been so affordable. And our military's support of the environment and renewable energy technology will be a help to us all. According to Pike Research: "Military investment in renewable energy and related technologies, in many cases, holds the potential to bridge the “valley of death” that lies between research & development and full commercialization of these technologies. As such, the myriad of DOD initiatives focused on fostering clean tech is anticipated to have a substantial impact on the development and growth of the industry as a whole. "

Having a sustainable military certainly gives the whole idea of winning the battle for clean energy and fighting climate change a whole new meaning. I think it's time we all get drafted into the growing army of green and be part of this fight to protect ourselves by protecting our planet. As Admiral Mullen said in his rousing speech: "Every American must play a part – changing how we live, how we work and perhaps most importantly, how we think about these challenges. "

Copyright Paul E. McGinniss 2011

Monday, August 22, 2011

Solar Decathlon 2011: Shout Out for Two New York City Teams Competing in the Upcoming U.S. DOE Solar Decathlon

by Paul E. McGinniss

The public takes a first look at the solar-powered houses on the first day of the 2009 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon. Photo Credit: Stefano Paltera/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon takes place every two years and challenges 20 collegiate teams from around the globe to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective and energy-efficient. Anyone wanting to check out cutting edge home design and how to live 21st century style needs to check out what the student teams are up to. Two NYC teams are competing in this year's decathlon which takes place September 23rd to October 2nd on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

This New Yorker is excited to have two local student teams going down to Washington D.C. to build their prototype homes on the National Mall; even if neither team takes first place in the competition, they will be winners for New York and show the rest of the world their innovative, smart dwellings and highlight NYC as the hot bed of green activity that it is has become.

Students and faculty from the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture and the Grove School of Engineering, of the City College of New York, comprise the culturally diverse and interdisciplinary called: Team New York.

One NYC team participating is called Team NYC and is from the City College of New York. Team NYC at CCNY is interdisciplinary, comprised of creative minds from architecture, engineering, and the arts. The students, were engaged in all the project phases, from initial concept design to through to the fabrication of cabinetry. Their Solar Decathlon entry is called “The Solar Roofpod.” It is designed for the most underutilized real estate in the city: the flat rooftops of existing mid-rise (4 to 10-story) residential or commercial buildings.

Picture of the “The Solar Roofpod.” which was designed by Team New York, comprised of students from the Spitzer School of Architecture and the Grove School of Engineering at The City College of New York

The Team NYC web site states: "These roofscapes offer tremendous potential as living space because of their direct access to solar energy, ventilating breezes, and nourishing rain. Team New York’s Solar Roofpod is designed to enable eco-conscious urban dwellers to live lightly, as stewards of a more resilient urban environment, cost-effectively producing solar power and heat, cultivating roof gardens, and retaining and recycling stormwater."

The second NYC team participating in the upcoming Solar Decathlon is a team comprised of students from a consortium of New York institutions and was designed through a collaboration between Parsons, The New School for Design, The Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy at The New School, and the Stevens Institute of Technology.

The Parsons, the New School for Design and Stevens Institute of Technology Solar Decathlon team (Courtesy of the Parsons the New School for Design and Stevens Institute of Technology Solar Decathlon team)

The house by the consortium is called Empowerhouse, and will consume up to 90% less energy for heating and cooling than a typical home in Washington, D.C., with its use of passive house technologies.

By working in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity, the team has arranged so Empowerhouse will eventually be moved and serve as a future residence for a family in the historic Deanwood community of Washington, D.C. The team web site explains: "Empowerhouse embodies Habitat for Humanity's vision that all people deserve safe, comfortable, affordable homes. The compact 1,000 sf one-bedroom structure showcases the whole-life approach while being sensitive to the existing urban fabric. The shape, building envelope, window placement, and shading were optimized through feedback from energy modeling. In addition, sustainable materials reduce maintenance costs and create a healthy environment."

A computer-generated rendering of Empowerhouse, the house of Parsons, The New School for Design and Stevens Institute of Technology (Courtesy of the Parsons the New School for Design and Stevens Institute of Technology Solar Decathlon team)

New Yorkers should consider heading down to D.C. to see all the homes that are part of the 2011 Solar Decathlon and support our teams from NYC. This writer is headed down to D.C. for a few days on the convenient, low cost bus that leaves from Chinatown in NYC and costs only $35 round trip.

You can hop on the bus in the morning and by afternoon meet the Solar Decathlon students as you tour the Solar Decathlon homes which will be on he National Mall between Sept 23rd and October

These clever, inspiring students are leading our city and country by building with their own hands, in a spirit of collaboration, homes that are designed to generate all their own energy, be affordable, practical and beautiful. They are showing us that clean energy for all is possible right now, and not at some far off place in a fossil free future. I for one am inspired to "hop on the bus" and head down to D.C., eager to learn from all their hard work.

Copyright Paul E. McGinniss 2011

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Nick Rosen: Man on a Mission

Help Fund Nick's New Film About Worldwide Movement Of People Going Off Grid

by Paul E. McGinniss

Confession: I am a big fan of Nick Rosen. He's raising money to support a new film called "Off the Grid and on the Cloud" and everyone should check out info about it on indiegogo and support the film. It's actually planned as a series of stories about a dozen efforts around the world to "go off grid" and become totally self reliant.

I just had the chance to do a phone interview with Nick while he was in the UK after getting back from China where he is filming a documentary on billionaires in China. When we spoke Nick reflected on the dramatic changes going on in China. Despite increased awareness, he explained how little is still understood by the general public about what is happening there and how it affects us in the west. He said: "A lot of people talk about the great Chinese economy and how it's going to be the number one economy in ten years time, but basically it seems for everybody like a black box."

Nick also reaffirmed what I have seen reported elsewhere, that despite the massive environmental problems resulting from China's incredible, fast paced development, the Chinese are actually at the forefront of renewable energy technology production and use of renewable energy. Clearly, development in China is interconnected with the world economy and environment. Nick reported: "In a way China is a very interesting example of the sort of reason that we are all going to have to make a radical change in our lifestyle."

Luckily, Nick's journalism and exploration of the Chinese economy, which is delicately intertwined with ours, will help shed some light on the good and bad of what is happening there, and help us determine the best steps for the world to take, collectively, as it is hurled into the 21st century.

During our dialog I asked Nick what he meant by the title of the film "Off the Grid and on the Cloud" and he said: "On the Cloud is partly about using mobile Internet - also about floating free as a cloud."

In 2003, the power grid failed in NYC, and residents were left without basic services and commuters were left stranded unable to travel. Picture Courtesy

Nick has written two books about living off the grid. His first was: "How To Live Off Grid", which was about people in the UK. His second book on the subject was: "Off The Grid: Inside the Movement for More Space, Less Government and True Independence in Modern America", which is about people in the USA. Interestingly, his idea of writing both these books grew out of him being in NYC during the huge blackout in 2003 where power in many parts of the USA shut down. A few years after experiencing the massive power failure in NYC, Nick drove across the UK and then the USA to document the stories of people who have gone off grid.

The book "Off The Grid: Inside the Movement for More Space, Less Government and True Independence in Modern America" has an excellent history of the American "back to the land" movement that started back in the 1960's and brings us into the present time. There's a great chapter in that book too which explains how the power grid came into being in the first place and the entire book is worth buying just to open
your eyes with the history of the grid and how and why it came to exist. (Another great book to read that explains a lot about the history of the grid is Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America's Energy Future.

Nick Rosen also started an excellent web site - that is creating a global community of people who want to go off grid or already are. I read it regularly and consider it a must read.

Picture of pedestrians in NYC literally taking over the Brooklyn Bridge in attempts to get out of the city during the 2003 Power Failure. Because of subways and trains being shut down millions of people trying to exit the city blocked traffic causing massive traffic jams. Picture Courtesy

Personally, my goal is to become independent from the grid in the near future and it's totally inspiring to see people across the world all unifying in the common goal of being more independent and more resilient. The "grid" was invented only 125 or so years ago so this avant garde concept of living "off grid" i.e. not relying on centralized energy sources (or food sources or other fragile networks) is really, going back to the future.

To conclude, I have to add, I'm excited that Nick will be part of my upcoming Ebook, Survival Cool, which includes information from stimulating talks I've had with some other really awesome people like Sylvia Earle, Fabien Cousteau and Ray Kurzweil, all of whom are part of the change agents who are actively trying to make the world a better place.

Copyright Paul E. McGinniss 2011

Click on the image below to see info about how to support the film "Off the Grid and on the Cloud" and help support this film which will capture the worldwide movement to go off grid.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

City Inspired: Green Seeds Sprouting Up Throughout Toronto

Picture of James Thoem from Walk T.O. (in white T shirt) with my awesomely cool fellow journalists on top of the Green Roof at the Robinson Building in Toronto. Left to Right: Francisco Frausto, James Thoem, Raquel Manero and Lisa Davis.

I had some doubts about the greenness of Toronto while entering the city for the first time from Pearson International Airport. I was invited by Tourism Toronto with four other journalists to cover "Living Green In Toronto" and the weather on arrival was gray and dreary. As I was whisked by car into the city, the blah weather seemed to be an appropriate back drop for the many new, generic, glass box condo towers I saw on the Toronto horizon that my driver melancholicly told me popped up in Toronto in a rash of development over the past ten years. At first glance upon entering downtown Toronto, thinking about the former, natural waterfront landscape lost to growth, there seemed to be a kind of urban sterility to the skyline and the highways. On the thoroughfare entering Toronto, amidst all this new development, I hardly noticed Lake Ontario off in the distance or observed any trees or vegetation anywhere.

View of Downtown Toronto from Ward Island, an aquatic oasis that is part of a growing park system within the city.

Luckily, first impressions are not always correct. I learned during my recent trip that Toronto is, step by step, transforming itself, bringing nature back to urban development. A range of green initiatives are, literally, growing from the ground up, as well as being initiated from the top down. One transformative initiative coming from the top down is Toronto's Green Roof By Law, the first local bylaw in North America to require a green roof on all new development. Another city initiative by the Toronto Environment Office is the Eco-Roof Incentive Program which provides grants to promote green and cool roof retrofits on Toronto’s existing industrial, commercial and institutional buildings. (50% of green or cool roof costs, up to $100,000, can be given to building owners who take the plunge.) According to the Toronto Environment Office, the City is also actively planting trees. Torontonians have planted over 400,000 new trees over the last seven years with a goal to double Toronto’s tree canopy to 34% coverage.

Looking at Toronto Skyline from a corner of the Green Roof at the Robinson Building located at 215 Spadina Avenue in downtown Toronto.

From the ground up, grass roots sustainability initiatives include those by Transition Toronto which is part of the world-wide Transition movement. One of the community programs Transition Toronto offers to help make Toronto more green and resilient is a workshop on organic gardening and permaculture. It includes hands-on teaching that introduces permaculture theory while showing how to apply the concepts to your home or community garden.
So, despite perhaps not being so obviously green upon first glance, by the end of my trip I found myself inspired by the green wave washing over Toronto. And, with so many more trees being planted on the ground and so many more green roofs coming to the city, Toronto could blossom fully into a lush, green urban landscape that could rival the sustainability of any of the other world cities which are also trying to balance economic growth and development with a healthy, sustainable, locally-powered resiliency.

Picture of the Grande Dame, Fairmont Royal York, in the heart of downtown Toronto. This famous hotel was one of the first buildings in the city to grow food on the roof. It has bee hives along with an herb and vegetable garden on a 14th floor rooftop.

What's cool about Toronto's green wave is that visitors to the city can easily explore and see first hand what is going on. Here are two suggestions for green minded trekkers heading to Toronto:

**Fairmont Royal York Hotel offers an Urban Forest Excursion package that includes a walking tour with arborist, Kent Nielsen. It's a fantastic way to learn about different kinds of trees and the importance of caring for them, all the while enjoying the streets of the city. The package also includes a tour of the hotel's rooftop herb and vegetable garden on the 14th floor of the hotel. (FYI: There are awesome views to enjoy.)

**And, if green globe trotters want to see some of the inspiring green roofs popping up in Toronto, you should definitely seek out James Thoem at Walk T.O. He does a great Green Walking Tour and can get you up on hidden green roofs with spectacular views of the city. James was passionate, yet fun, and by the end of the tour we all felt like we had met a new school chum. Check out the video of James below as he talks about green roofs in Toronto.
Copyright 2011 Paul E McGinniss

Friday, May 27, 2011

Toronto Green Finds: Blog BEC Green Is A Must Read

Could the Jetson Green of Canada be BEC Green?

Photo of Royal Ontario Museum, (ROM), Toronto

Before my journey to cover "Living the Green Life" in Toronto, I discovered, while surfing the web, a kindred spirit by the name of Cathy Rust. Cathy is author of the excellent blog BEC Green. The tag line for BEC is "Locating Green Building Materials Just Got Easier" and it's full of insight and information that made me an immediate fan.

While in Toronto, fellow journalist, Lisa Davis, Cathy and I had the most invigorating conversation with Andrew Knox and Martina Rowley from Transition Toronto over some java.

Cathy Rust of BEC Green across from ROM in Toronto.

Thanks to everyone who helped facilitate an amazing trip to Toronto,especially SeeToronto, Melanie Coates and the Fairmont Royal York.

There are many amazing green things happening in Toronto. Anyone looking for a cool place to go should check out this multi-cultural city on the shores of magnificent Lake Ontario. Look forward to my next posts about Green Roofs in Toronto. I'll also be telling you more about the bee keeping at the hotel, Fairmont Royal York, which is part of a network of creative Toronto locavores harvesting honey!!!

Melanie Coates, Director of Public Relations for the Fairmont Royal York, in her bee keeping suit as we head up to the 14th floor roof where the bee hives are kept. One of the honey bee hives on top of the Fairmont Royal York in downtown Toronto is called "Honey Moon Suite" and the views are sweet as well! Bee keeper Melanie reported that the Fairmont bees even socialize with bees tended by a nearby opera company.

Copyright 2011 Paul E McGinniss

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Musings on Earth Day 2011: Man Shops Globe vs Low Impact Man

Is it Possible to be an avid LOHAS Consumer and a diehard LOCAVORE at the same time?

by Paul E McGinniss

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (I shop therefore I am), 1987
photographic silkscreen/vinyl


Last week on Earth Day I left the bucolic countryside of Ulster County, New York and attended a media lunch hosted by Ted Ning and LOHAS at the restaurant, Rouge Tomate, in NYC. Rouge Tomate is a soaring, elegant space hidden just off bustling 5th Avenue in the East 60s. Barneys Men store is across the street, a place where you could easily spend 400 dollars on what are, basically, sneakers. Just to give a non-New Yorker a sense of the territory.

I'd been to Rouge Tomate before - the first time for the swanky Eco-Luxe happening, a luxury off shoot of the more pedestrian national eco event series called Go Green. If you had to explain the difference between Go Green and Eco-Luxe, I'd say Go Green was more New York Post and Eco-Luxe was more Wall Street Journal - same focus of "going green", but different economic strata and spin. Underneath the consciousness raising, both of these green events were essentially about shopping. And, I wanted to mention this because the concept of green shopping is at the heart of my current reflection.

So, I was happy to head back to Rouge Tomate again. Despite being a native of New York City, I chose the refuge of living upstate in Ulster County, NY--land of post 911 NYC refugees who have fled the hyper-tourist consumerism of the ever-expanding Big Apple. As a “noveau townie”, I still love hopping on the low carbon footprint, everyman Trailways Bus from crunchy New Paltz to enjoy a splashy day out with my ex i.e. New York City.

William Burroughs once said about heroin, (and I paraphrase), which I think really applies to New York City: "Doing heroin is like being in a relationship. Even if you break up with your lover and don't see each other for a long time, when you see them again, in the back of your mind, you know you might just end up sleeping with them again.”

So, my point in telling you all this is this. Ever since moving upstate to the Hudson Valley and becoming somewhat of an obsessed enviro-journalist, green-truth-seeker-of-all-things-on-how-to-have-no-impact-and-save-the-planet, I have been in a conundrum of sorts. Let me explain.

Image of poster for the film "No Impact Man." The story revolves around Colin Beavan and his family's attempt to live as much as possible without consuming all that modern society has come to rely upon.


Standing on the asphalt parking lot at the somewhat dowdy bus station in New Paltz, on my way to the LOHAS media luncheon, I'm thinking of Ken Kesey's line from "The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test": On the bus or off the bus? I'm waiting for the bus. To NYC. Happy to get out of Bumbletown--as my friends in Long Island call upstate NY. (Actually, for them, anything north of Central Park IS upstate.) On the bus I decide to get a little “light” reading in, namely an article entitled “Temporary Recession or End of Growth” by famous Peak Oil prophet, Richard Heinberg. (Heinberg is on the list of people I plan to interview for my book "Survival Cool", so I needed to brush up on his thinking.)

Heinberg proposes that we can not shop and consume our way out of the current world dilemma and, in fact, continuing to consume like we do now, no matter how "green", is not remotely sustainable. The opening of the text I read on the bus is: "Everyone agrees: our economy is sick. The inescapable symptoms include declines in consumer spending and consumer confidence, together with a contraction of international trade and available credit. Add a collapse in real estate values and carnage in the automotive and airline industries and the picture looks grim indeed."

Picture: Book Cover for "Pipe Dreams" which is “dedicated to the people of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey who are linked by a post-Soviet oil pipeline." The haunting photos in this book explore the negative impact the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline has had on the region.

Heinberg- a die hard locavore if there ever was one – goes on: “Thus a high priority must be placed on the building of community resilience through the preferential local sourcing of necessities and the maintenance of larger regional inventories, especially of food and fuel.”

As I read his exquisitely argued text, essentially an attack on much of modern culture and commerce, (I am not sure Heinberg thinks there is a difference between modern culture and commerce), I pause and think about what is going on in upstate New York, where I live, and elsewhere and around the country. There is a whole back-to-the-land/back-to-the-garden kind of migration. There are more and more people like me who have tried to flee the rush rush of modernity for something a tad more simple, a tad more affordable on both economic and stress related levels. A tad less consumer focused,as well,I hope. I keep musing on all the people who author/advocate Nick Rosen writes about in his excellent book, “Off the Grid”, people who want to set up a life system where they have the basics covered, people who are secure even if laid off, even if peak oil makes many things we now take for granted unaffordable...people thinking of how to be safe and secure even if Fukushima happens here....

Book Cover for Nick Rosen's new book - a must read for anyone who wants to be on the pulse of what is going on in post-peak-oil America.

The final stretch into Manhattan requires a descent that takes our bus down the tube (tunnel) and under the Hudson River before being hurled into the canyons of New York City. Paradoxically, it's more like a take-off than a splashdown. I always liken the experience to being catapaulted into the future so fast we don't even realize it is happening, the Singularity , as Ray Kurzweil calls it.

My head is spinning, no, swimming with the idea of hob nobbing at the expensive and luxurious Rouge Tomate. But, as I start to salivate on chilling with the media elite invited to LOHAS' shin dig, there is that gnawing feeling in my gut about the compound in the woods. That current obsession I have; I can not get it out of my head or ignore. The fact that what I really want to do with all my heart is create a grid-connected but grid-independent community that grows its own food and generates more energy than it needs without fossil fuels, a community that is removed from mega malls and strips malls and shopping centers or anything even remotely resembling anything “retail”. A place, though, that stays connected and has its own servers connected to independent satellite channels and even has flying robot drones that look like real birds which circle above to keep watch on the compound from above. A magical, secure, secluded place that will protect me from strife and literally change my life.

As my bus pulls into the Port Authority, Heinberg's text goes on and I hear it as if this mad max academic is reading to me: "A case can be made that dire events having to do with real estate, the derivatives markets, and the auto and airline industries were themselves merely symptoms of an even deeper, systemic dysfunction that spells the end of economic growth as we have known it."


So, I get to the Big Apple and all I can think about is if the world is going to destroy itself if we don't stop shopping so much and end growth AND what is going to happen to 5th Avenue and all the luxury shops? It would be just my luck that just as I could afford luxury it would be gone. And, if growth ends, what is going to happen to Rouge Tomate? From my readings on the bus I gather Heinberg thinks that ending growth could mean endless recession. Everywhere. But, what are the alternatives?

Now, all this intense economic theory should have been my sole and primary concern while walking through the 21st century streets of Manhattan to Rouge Tomate. And, until recently, there were semi-quiet streets, even in midtown, on which deep thoughts could be indulged. However, now, walking the streets of New York is somewhat of a battle, not because of crime, but because of congestion. I had to pay close attention to defend against getting run over by a double decker bus, or the more difficult to avoid groups of tourists or being clipped by bikers both in and out of the bike lanes multiplying in every city like New York. Considering the incredible, astounding amount of human beings on the street before me, I really needed to stop thinking about Heinberg and sophisticated economic theory - which I barely understood anyway - and pay attention to the dangers at hand.

I weave my way through the current bursting-at-the-seams insanity of New York. I walk across 42nd street and up through Times Square. It is teeming with throngs of people from all over he world. They are eating and buying and walking and spending time and money and talking on their phones and texting and moving like one large organism in unison. I wondered in amazement whether these individual "consumers" of the brand that is New York realized that THEY were part of an unending, unified sea of breathing consumption.

I laughed at myself, now in control, walking like the New Yorker I am. Surely, I was NOT part of this consumption machine, was I? No way Jose Cuervo. I was a lone enviro commentator trying to make sense of the world at the dawn of the 21st Century. NOT. Despite my “neo Thoreauvian” Walden Pond sincerity, I absolutely had to marvel at the astounding amount of screens and moving images before me. So much for the endless trees of the Castkills and Adirondacks! Ha - this was human nature at its finest! Before me was a digital forest, whole buildings as TV screens – block after block of virtual reality merging with the street reality. As I pass through the madness of Times Square, the organism continues. In Central Park there are more crowds, unending crowds, all vying to take the right picture of themselves to send through the atmosphere to friends back home. Look! Here I am consuming New York!

As I get closer to Rouge Tomate, off 5th Avenue, I wander past the Apple Store thinking I could cruise in there and look at the latest iPad which I have my eye on. Lo and behold the store is literally too crowded to enter. No more people could physically get into the store. It was like the ark was so full not one more pair of animals could get on board to be saved from extinction. Too hyper to wait to get into the APPLE wonderland, I continue on, like an amoeba circulating in the blood stream of a huge all encompassing entity. Instead of checking out the Apple technology, I end up killing some time perusing the latest, as David Bowie would say, "fa fa fa fa fashion" at DKNY and ARMANI, art gallery-like shrines to "feel good looking" shopping.


At Rouge Tomate, almost first thing, I meet Ted Ling--Mr LOHAS, as he calls himself. Ted was as cool as an organic cucumber mask, in a good way. You could tell he was master of his game. His resume almost seems eco fiction to me. Some excerpts from his bio: international expert and lecturer to CEOs on “green” i.e. LOHAS consumerism. He's, naturally, an outdoor enthusiast, his family developed a nonprofit that helps impoverished women in Vietnam and Guatemala through micro credit financing. He's studied Chinese, in Asia. Lived in Japan where he was a ski coach during the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. I mean, you couldn't make this stuff up if you were a Hollywood screenwriter and coming up with the back story for a green wonder boy! And, here's part of his bio close to my heart: Ted's a member of a community supported organic farm where he gets his meals, he recycles and composts to reduce family waste and lives in a green built home powered by solar.

Ted Ning, otherwise known as “Mr. LOHAS". Ted has been the executive director of the LOHAS Forum, executive editor of the LOHAS Journal and and is the epicenter of all things LOHAS. He is a strategist, key trend spotter and guru of the expanding $290B LOHAS marketplace who teaches effective communication strategies to businesses on LOHAS consumers and the integration of LOHAS values into corporate cultures and personal lives. (Via

As the mini crab cakes pass by, Richard Heinberg and Peak Oil is the farthest thing from my mind. I have a quick chat with Jack Walsh from (Penny Wise Planet Brilliant) which is a new incentivized shopping system where you can get points and rewards for eco conscious purchasing choices. He tells me that they have a relationship with the well respected GoodGuide - a credible web site that gives you the LOHAS lowdown on whether green products are bxxxsxxx or not, a kind of "Cradle to Cradle" Consumer Reports.

As the artful appetizers glide before me, my mind is racing for story ideas. It is a media lunch after all and I'm thinking, as my grandmother used to say, "There's no Free Lunch." A few crab cakes later, I'm introduced to Susan Alpin from Bambeco, (Hot Style for a Cool Planet), purveyor of products made with sustainable materials in a sustainable way. I check out the catalog for Bambeco. I'm thinking my friend, Nan (The Mistress of Hospitality on Long Island who calls upstate Bumbletown), would absolutely adore the Bambeco organic cotton tablecloths that had intricate weaves and color designs, fabric art that would make any meal a feast for the eyes.

As I sipped an intoxicating green mint tea concoction, a beverage that was sure to be anti-oxidizing something, I forgot about about melting ice shelves, Libya or the fact that I lived within 50 miles of a major nuclear power plant. I forgot about the latest bloodbath in Syria and the robotic spy drones that looked like real birds circling over my yet-to-be-Fukushima-proof compound.

For the luncheon I sat at a table with, among others, Caroline Chin, Director, Integrated Solutions Digital, Whole Living. We chatted a bit about Martha's green venture with KB Homes: a venture that got some criticism from certain green enviro commentators for being a bit of green washing. (I do not particularly agree, because if anyone can help sway the masses to build net zero energy homes, it's Martha.)

Picture of Net Zero Energy Concept Home called KB Home GreenHouse™: An Idea Home Created with Martha Stewart. Image courtesy Builder Magazine Concept Home

At the table I also sat next to Jenny Cross, Global Sustainability Director for Mohwawk Industries, one of the sponsors for the event. Mohawk makes many products including rugs and flooring and was one of the many corporations out there that had people like Jenny working full time on how to be more sustainable and profitable at the same time. I told Jenny I wanted to do a Skype Q & A with her about sustainable business practices and product development at Mohawk for "Green Real Estate Daily." She happily agreed to talk with me after I got back to the garden, back to the country and continued my Skype search for all things green and sustainable.

Thus, by the end of the LOHAS lunch, hidden behind the exclusive walls, mere steps from Central Park, I managed to completely forget about the looming doom and gloom and end of growth concept, the end of glorious unending shopping. I forgot about "The Long Emergency" as James Howard Kunstler would describe it. I forgot about gas heading toward $5 dollars a gallon and global warming. In fact, the enthusiasm and forward thinking of one of the sponsors I met helped to sway me towards the positive. Steve Davies, Director of Marketing & Public Affairs for NatureWorks LLC, provided hope for my post-peak-oil worries as he heralded the development of a new bio plastic venture called Ingeo. (Ingenuity from plants, not oil.)

Upon leaving the fancy, eco chic restaurant, my mind was at ease, momentarily. Half way back to the Port Authority, I was back to clawing my way through the hungry tourist throngs, maneuvering around tiny "Earth Day NYC" booths scattered haphazardly around Times Square, booths almost invisible in the ocean of consumption. Once again, I was happy at the prospect of returning to Bumbletown and disappearing into the woods.

Photo Jeff Greenbery, Courtesy NYC & Co.

BACK ON THE BUS: THE LOHAS vs LOCAVORE SHOWDOWN: Does one or the other really have to win?

So, yes, I am back on the bus. On this leg of the proverbial journey I decide to
reread parts of "Beautiful and Abundant" by Bryan Welch. Bryan is a contributor to the dialog about how to grow this little planet of ours up, so to speak. He lives on a farm all the while running Ogden Publishing which issues, among many titles, "Mother Earth News."

Bryan says in the book: "Abundance is healthy. Excessive consumption for consumption's sake is a kind of pathology." Aha! I start thinking. Maybe there is a healthy a way to consume. Maybe I don't have to worry about 5th Avenue. Maybe we can have abundance without cutting off our Rain Forest nose despite our Dolce and Gabbana meets Lady Ga Ga Polaroid glasses face.

As I get lost in this must read book, I realize that Bryan Welch is indeed addressing the same concerns as Richard Heinberg. Bryan, like the peak oil worry warts, was also looking at the kind of eco conundrum we are in. Welch says in his book: "As our economies are now structured, we depend on population growth. The rule is so deeply ingrained in our economics that it's seldom acknowledged. As population grows, so grows the demand for housing, food, automobiles, refrigerators, furnaces, Tupperware, movie theaters, restaurants, airplanes, hotels, computers, toys, clothing, shoes and jewelry."

Toys, clothing, hotels, theaters! OMG,Bryan was talking about New York City. NYC. The Big Apple. All that wonderful abundance. Welch's book washed over me and was a kind of antidote to the Peak Oil paranoia I felt on the way down to NYC. Bryan Welch was talking about the same thing as Heinberg,but in a different way. Welch speaks about how to solve the conundrum: "We love to climb. But, the first step in our journey toward true sustainability is relatively simple. If we are to form the global consensus, we will need to support sea changes in human attitudes, in economics, and culture, then we need to visualize, as individuals, and as a species, successful outcomes."

Image of ceramic product found in Cyprus during an episode of Sundance Channel's TV show Man Shops Globe.


So, there I was lost and then finding myself on the bus. I started to think I was beginning "to get the conundrum" of the avid LOHAS Man Shops Globe vs Locavore showdown. From what "Beautiful and Abundant" seems to be saying, maybe, there does not have to be a showdown between shopping and end of growth. Sustainability is a new way of living that we have to find together. We are not sure what the answer is yet, but we are now asking the right questions. Maybe I don't have to choose between being an advocate of the LOHAS approach and that of the die hard - I'm freaking out -the-world-needs-to-stop-shopping-before-it-drops hermit in Walden 2.0.

Now I am thinking - thank God I don't have to abandon fashion to be a peak oil activist locavore off gridder. I mean, the anti consumerism - head - to the commune -sixties were cool, but my God that awful hair. (Not to mention the bell bottom pants!)

As the bus left New Jersey and barreled northward toward the Catskill region, I thought about Bryan Welch's advice to visualize the future. And, I visualized the change that I needed to make. I saw myself at my neighbor's Yoga Studio. I visualized that yoga pose where you stand like a tree on one leg and balance with your hands behind your head.

Then, I visualized the world as if it was a person doing yoga. Yes, that was it. We need to all visualize the world in balance and doing its own kind of yoga. It was like what Bryan Welch said: "The First step toward sustainability is relatively simple." Just like yoga is so simple. You can do yoga just by moving and breathing if you know the stances and poses. It is that simple.

But, then, the secret shopper within me starts to grin. Surely, if I am going to do yoga again, I'll need to get a new yoga mat. And, while I am at it, I'll need a really cool t-shirt made of bamboo, dyed organically. I mean, if I am gonna sweat that much, I want to look good. Who wants to look like a schlep when pointing your backside skyward in a downward facing dog? (Hey, that god like guy up there wearing the Prana outfit is pretty hot. And, I love that backpack with the solar PV on it!)

Why should I feel guilty because I want to do sun salutations and stand on one leg while ordering some new things via bluetooth. I mean, I'm sure even the Dalai Lama has more than one of those awesome robes he wears. He must with the travel schedule he keeps. (I do wonder if he considers the carbon footprint of his jetting trails.) And, he surely must have an iPAD by now to keep in touch with his followers at the KTD Monastery in Woodstock, near where I live in upstate New York.

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, Dharamsala, India, on April 22, 2011.


As I race through New Jersey and the glamour of the Upper East side fades away, I stop to ponder one last time. Am I cornucopian or dsytopian? I realized then, even if momentarily, that I didn't care anymore if my green glass was half full or half empty. Do I even have a glass? (Maybe I lost it at the party and picked up someone elses instead.) I don't have to choose between being a No Impact Man and a globe trotting shopper of all things cool a la the TV show Man Shops Globe. I want my vegan flourless chocolate cake and I am going to eat it too, thank you very much.

As Exit 18 on the New York State Thruway neared and I was getting closer to my Bumbletown, the many green voices inside my head began to quiet down. Despite all the contradictions and opposite ends of the spectrum that all the obsessed greenies like me were looking at the world from, it occurred to me that all these people were looking at how to make the world a better place. I mean, I'm not naive. Lots of these "voices", these change agents, were making money or wanted to make money. We all have to make money. The point is that all, in their own way, big and small, are trying to help the world figure out how to get through the next Tornado, the next Tsunami, the next Fukashima, the next Holiday Season with the in-laws, the next Day After Tomorrow.

I'm not going to snub my green nose at the LOHAS marketers and the LOHAS consumers because I'm one of them and I want to shop, therefore I am shopping.

Granted, I'm not going to live in a mall and spend the majority of my time thinking about buying stuff. But, I mean, who does? The fact of the matter is, the majority of people, even in wealthier countries, have to work so much now to make ends meet. And, most of these "consumers" aren't exactly raking in so much dough they have nothing better to do than throw their hard earned money out the window as mindless consumers trying to rape the planet of natural resources. They're just trying to get by and put a little comfort and beauty in their lives whether it be falling in love, getting some make up at Sephora, doing some volunteer work or wanting to buy a really nice house and fill it with nice things.


Picture of a Diver descending from the cliffs outside New Paltz, New York into the glacial Lake Minnewaska.

The bus pulls into the New Paltz parking lot. I see the Mohonk Tower in the distance, a vantage point from which one can look out over thousands and thousands of acres of preserved land on and below the Shawangunk Ridge. Just a stones throw from where I stand are glacial lakes with "National Geographic" photo worthy waterfalls and views to die for. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the Starbucks across the street. And, there are a string of restaurants catering to the SUNY New Paltz crowd. Everything from pizza pies to Thai, shawarma, falafel, burgers and beer, sushi, pretty much anything you'd ever want to eat from around the world. Yes, this is the nouveau country, bliss at the end of the road with the rest of the world creeping in. The whole world trying to get away from each other and ending up back together again.

Standing at the bus stop, waiting for my ride, I hold my Chico bag full of LOHAS promotional items. I turn on my new iPAD and check out one of my favorite REM songs, actually a video of it on YouTube. The manic, magical, frenetic, fun words of Michael Stipe wash over me like the pineapple sorbet at Rouge Tomate:

"Uh oh, overflow, population, common food, but it'll do to save
yourself, serve yourself. World serves its own needs,
listen to your heart bleed.....

It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine."

And, I do. Happy Earth Day 2011. My Earth Day greeting is a little late in coming, but here none the less.

Copyright Paul E McGinniss 2011

Check out REM performing "It's the End of the World As We Know It" on the streets of Toronto.