Monday, April 1, 2013

Green Medley: Climate, Population, Off-Grid

American scientist Virginia Burkett: violent weather threats to coastal energy. Activist Dave Foreman on population & immigration. Sheri Koones "Prefabulous & Almost Off-Grid" green building. Radio Ecoshock 130403 1 hour.


Listen to/download this "Green Medly" Radio Ecoshock in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

Listen to/download the Virginia Burkett interview in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Listen to/download the Dave Foreman interview in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Listen to/download the Sheri Koones interview in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


Dr. Virginia Burkett, USGS

In this show, leading American scientist Virginia Burkett explains how a more violent climate could damage the fossil fuel infrastructure we currently count on. Dr. Viginia Burkett is the Chief Scientist for Climate and Land Use Change at the U.S. Geological Survey. She has been a lead author in past reports for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Dr. Burkett is from Louisiana, and was a specialist there in the oil and gas sector. She well remembers the impacts of Hurricane Katrina, and has studied the impacts of that 2005 storm on offshore facilities, coastal lands ripped away, and damage to both ports and refineries.

Up to one third of all oil imported into America comes through the Gulf States. When those are knocked out, even pipelines supplying heating oil as far away as New England are threatened.

Add in the constant rising seas, and we could see a situation where gas and oil products could be in short supply if climate change brings more violent storms to the Gulf Coast. Burkett expects those storms will arrive again, and more often.

Massive amounts of American highways also run near the coast. The damage to the bridged and highways of the Gulf States was extreme after Katrina. That means food and other supplies may not get through. Where, in these days of bankrupt governments, will we find the money to constantly rebuild coastal highway systems, including the interstates?

Burkett notes that after Katrina, some freight railway traffic was routed further inland, as far as St. Louis, to avoid the coast. We'll see more of that - but then what happens to the passenger rail trains near the coast, where about 50% of Americans live? Freight generally helps pay for passenger lines. The dream of using more passenger trains to help save climate emissions may be endangered by rising seas and storm surges from existing climate change.

In our interview, we also discuss this document: "Public Review Draft USGS Global Change Science Strategy: A Framework for Understanding and Responding to Climate and Land-Use Change", U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia, Open-File Report 2011-1033, 32 p.


Listen to this Radio Ecoshock show right now.



Dave Foreman

Dave Foremen came to public attention in the early 1980's with his involvement with the Earth First! environmental activist movement. Few people know that Dave worked with more conventional conservation groups in the 1970's, before he realized that wasn't working.

Dave published "Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching" - disabling logging and other equipment to save the ancient forests and habitat for wildlife. The introduction is by Edward Abbey. That book is still available online here.

The authorities didn't like that book and that kind of eco-activism. In my opinion, the FBI entrapped him in the early 1990's, by charging Foreman with handing his book (remember free speech?) to an undercover FBI agent investigating the bombing of a power line in the South West. Dave had nothing to do with the bombing, but got labelled with all that by the media. Some people today still think he's guilty because of that media smear. Learn more about that case here.

In fact, Dave Foreman went on to become a Director of the Sierra Club. He left that group in 1998 when Sierra Club renounced it's previous policy of limiting the size of the U.S. population.

In our interview, Foreman emphasizes he is a "conservationist" rather than an "environmentalist". He wants to save room for other species, and does so through his group The Rewilding Institute.

We talk about world over-population, and immigration. Dave just published an essay on all that in the book "Life on the Brink: Environmentalists Confront Overpopulation." Plus he has his own book "Man Swarm and the Killing of Wildlife."

Dave Foreman doesn't hold back. We have a lively conversation which is sure to generate some comments from listeners.

Please remember the views expressed by our guests may not reflect my own, or those of our radio stations. On the other hand, unless we want to see Ethiopia go over 100 million people, and Nigeria to 300 million, we've got to start talking frankly about over-population (before the rest of the species and Nature get wiped out!)


Radio Ecoshock is all about local and hand made. So why the heck am I enthused about factory-built homes?

It all started with my interview and recorded workshop on the Austraian super low energy "Passivhaus" design with architect Guido Wimmers. Google "radio ecoshock and Guido Wimmers" to find that on our site at That will take you to a two part workshop on Passivhaus design. Or listen to my 21 minute interview with Guido here.

Guido says in no uncertain terms that we cannot build super tight low energy homes using standard construction on site. They need to be build on jigs, inside, with very strict standards to make everything fit literally seamlessly. It's a new way of looking at Green construction. Plus, there is less waste in the factory production method.

My interest was further stimulated by the new book by Sheri Koones called "Prefabulous and Almost Off the Grid". Sheri uses photos and text to illustrate leading edge prefab homes across the United States - from New England to the South West.

Author Sheri Koones

For example, we find out Christine Tod Whitman, former New Jersey Governor and former head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, built a model low-energy pre-fab home. Sheri Koones describes some of the choices Christine made. The home looks like it has been there for 100 years.

Robert Redford wrote the foreword to this book.

I was also interested to see a prefab go up in Chicago, where the building codes are notoriously difficult to meet.

My wife and I are looking into a green-enabled home at a much lower cost from Marlette homes, a subsidiary of Clayton Homes. That is controlled by Warren Buffett. Apparently Buffett decided factory homes are the future of new buiding at low cost, in times of high energy prices.

Check out the Sheri Koones interview for insight into all that. Find her blog here.

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Tune in next week, and thank you for listening.

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