CommunityMy FDL

Following Naomi Klein`s Good Advice

(cross-posted at my blog HotFlash)

I am writing this, my first FDL diary, as a response to papau`s excellent diary, Naomi Klein Speaks on the Solution to Climate Change — Anyone Listening? I`d started a comment but it just went on and on, so I figured I`d better stuff it on its own post.

Ah, Naomi, she is a great light.  Coincidentally, Mr HotFlash, a fan of both Dr Klein and the Toronto Public Library, came home from the library yesterday with a DVD of Naomi Klein`s May 2008 address at the Friends Meeting House in London (Eng). It basically reprises her Shock Doctrine, which we have both read, but still very, very much worth seeing.  At the end she concluded that if `we`want to avoid being swept up  by  New World Order with its hideous wealth transfer and (incidental, oops, sorry… yuck! I seem to have peasant on my shoe) crushing of humanity, we will have do what they have done:  We will have to prepare for the future.  Mr H remarked that that`s what we have been doing, although slowly, as mostly it takes all the running we can do to stay in the same place.  However, we do have a plan and a direction, and have been able to implement a lot of it.  It`s nowhere near where I`d like to be, but it`s enough out of the mainstream that most of our neighbours think we are weird, so I guess it`s something.

So, am I listening?  Yeah, here`s what we are doing and would love to hear what you are doing — we can`t ever have too many good ideas `lying around`.

Long ago, I concluded that if we wait for the govt+corp complex to lead on renewable energy we will all freeze in the dark.  Furthermore, it will not be possible to harness renewable energy in suffic q`ties to replace oil+coal+nuke power at current consumption levels any time soon, and probably never.   The good news is that the amounts and types of energy that would be responsible in the future are easy to produce on small scale, at home.  Yeah, really.  Life will be different than today, but not impossible or even unpleasant.  Our parents, grandparents or great grandparents managed just fine, and we can do way better than they did.

At Chez HotFlash we have inventoried our power use and are preparing for the future by working our way off the grid. We have a `normal`(heh) household plus we make our living building musical instruments in our home as well.  We live in a big city (Toronto).  Our area is an older village that got swallowed by Toronto over a century ago, but it still maintains its main streets, a lively shopping area and a local cohesiveness (google G20 Toronto Parkdale).

Over the past 25 yrs we have been consciously reducing and thinking in terms of renewable energy, and the has developed into what is now a written-out, step-by-step plan to take the house off-grid.  It`s a slow process but it`s also a learning and maturing process, so slow is fine. We don`t have a lot of $$ so we are doing most of the work ourselves.   And I think we`ve made more progress than the govt : ).

When I bought this house in the 80`s, one reason was that it had a nice south-facing roof peak, ideal for solar.  Abt that time the city instituted a building code change that outlawed roof installations such as solar panels or heat exchangers.   Thanks to Naomi and the `Lake and others, I understand now that that was corporate pushback.  (note:  that regulation has been recinded, but you still need lots of permits and stuff).  I had installed a natural gas-fired hot water heat system abt 30 yrs ago, reasoning that Canada has lots of natural gas, then came fracking so we recently moved `ìnstall solar hot water heating`up on the priority list.  Last fall we re-shingled and reinforced the roof deck and supports, we hope to get solar hot h2o going in 2012, but it`ll happen eventually.

Re electicity, we analysed our use to see how we can reduce it. Most elec used in our house is converted to mechanical energy.  It seems profoundly stupid to generate electricity, send it across a grid, then convert it to mechanical energy.  So we are moving from power tools to hand tools for much of our work, both biz and around the house.  It is both sobering and liberating to remember that the pyramids, the Cathedral of Notre Dame and the Taj Mahal were all built without a cordless drill or circular saw!  Some tools we are keeping (eg, the Big Bandsaw), but I can see a day when we may again have local sawmills or a local labour pool for help with the big jobs that we currently use these for.  Or maybe we`ll find better hand tools than are currently available to take their place.

Just thinking about things differently can lead to interesting solutions.

For instance, Why am I spending energy to heat my house for much of the year,  then spending more energy to cool one small area of it?  I am talking about the refrigerator.  I have replanned my kitchen, it will include a cold cupboard-cum-cold air intake (a heat exchanger, rather than raw outside air) built against the north wall to take advantage of some of that free, non-polluting cold.  For cooking we are currently using natural gas.  Wood gas seems a good, renewable and carbon-zero alternative, but not allowed under current codes, so for now we will replace the current Jennaire cooktop with more efficient gas burners which will take either natural gas or propane and will probably work on woodgas, assuming it will be allowed in the future (or govt will be so drowned that regulations aren`t enforceable — whatever).

Have already changed over the Big Oven for two toaster ovens and two microwaves.  They make much more sense for the way we cook.  We use the crock-pot a lot, we plan to put a direct solar cooking box in the roof to augment and if it works, replace it.  This to be done after we see where the solar h20 and PVC panels  are going.

Why convert sunlight to electricity, store it in batteries and then convert it back to light?  Work areas are being redone to take more advanatage of natural light, incl installing more windows, skylights or light tunnels to help.  Work schedule changed ditto, so more `sun-to-sun`.

About the only things we really need electricity, as in, actual stream of moving electrons, for is night lighting and computers.  And it seems stupid to generate 120v 60 cycle for stuff that takes 5v or 12v DC.  It even seems stupid to store lots of electricity in a batteries, since mostly if there is a need for light or computer, there will be a person involved.  A person-powered foot treadle (like powered my grandmas sewing machine) will power my laptop and some LED`s while I hang out at LateLateNight.  And a good use for that pesky  `restless leg syndrome`.

There`s lots of other areas to think about.  We are in the city so transportation is not a big problem.  Mostly we can move ourselves around by bicycle, there is pretty good public transit, if we need to move ourselves+stuff there is Autoshare and for just stuff there are lots of cartage companies. We can`t grow much in our tiny, dark backyard, well maybe mushrooms, but there are people like Erica Lemieux who have figured a way around that. 

I believe that the most important renewable energy source for the future, though, will be friends —  lots and lots of friends.  Although we are not by nature `joiners`, we made a conscious effort to join our local neighbourhood and residents associations, become involved with our local food coop and made a project of meeting and talking to every one of our neighbours — I have been keeping a database and it looks like we-all will soon be starting a neighbourhood blog or Facebook group or something to òccupy`our street in the coming year.  We will need friends with sunny backyards, friends with muscle, friends with a site for geothermal, friends with a cup of sugar, and  even friends with guns.  I hope not, but if it comes to that, I don`t think I can count on the Toronto Police Dept to defend me.

So, that`s what we are doing right now and the direction we plan to go in, although it changes as we learn more and make new connections.  I think this sort of thing will converge nicely with the occupy movement, too.  What plans do you have for the future?

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Harpsichord builder in Toronto, ON. Hometown is Port Huron, Michigan. I can't figure out why G Bush is still president.