Tuesday, February 28, 2012


I guess I’m entitled to my fair share of this planet.  The question is just how much is my share and is it fair? 
There are a number of devises that can help compute how much of the Earth’s resources we use, our “eco-footprints, ” based  on a series of lifestyle questions, dealing with our use of food, housing, transportation, heating and cooling, water, etc. 
Here’s one if you’d like to see where you rank.  http://myfootprint.org/en/
One reason for living in a yurt in Hawaii is to consciously attempt to lower my footprint.  So:

·         My heating and cooling impact is near zero.  Other than a warm blanket on a cool night, my impact is minimal.  Climate clearly comes into play.  The temperature ranges between 60-80 degrees.
·         Cooling food is another issue requiring sizable amounts of energy.  No one likes warm beer. We generate 99% of it through photovoltaic systems.  It runs the ‘fridge, lights, pumps, computers, etc.  Surprisingly much of Hawaii gets its electricity via standard generation using expensive, dirty, imported oil.
·         Currently propane is used for cooking and hot water.  This needs to change. Solar is the obvious solution.
·         Water is plentiful, large catchment tanks are common to supply household needs, using gravity to move it to where it is needed.  Since is rains often, refills are free!
·         We grow some food here, and could do better.  Right now there are bananas, strawberries, chard, basil, cilantro, tomatoes, and eggs.  Taro, pineapple, artichokes, beans, and others are coming in soon.  A greenhouse helps.  Plenty of sun, water and compost are added as needed.

·         Transportation is via gasoline powered car, big part of the footprint.  A hybrid would be nice.  Someday.  Meanwhile we ride share and use the public bus system, which is free!  And of course there was a long airplane ride here.  I have done a carbon purchase to help offset the fuel used.  Somewhere in the world, someone is planting trees for me.

I think I have reduced my impact to a reasonable share.  
But we all could do better, right? 
So what will you do?
Next time:  Work!


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Feral Pigs and Tomatoes

There are ecosystems when they are right - plants, with animals, water, sun and soil -  mostly interacting in a “positive” manner, following slowly a predetermined but ever changing scheme.  And then there are ecosystems when they are wrong - with plants and animals that are not native, and a climate that is becoming atypical. 
It seems from what I hear and see, Hawaii is the latter.  Most of what you see, green and blooming, flying and crawling is new here, relatively, within the past century or so.  They are thriving, but destructively to the flora and fauna that was introduced over the past millennia, and therefore more native.  Much of this, created by the hand of humans, is way out of hand.  People brought things that they thought would be useful and things that were familiar.  I guess I am doing that as well, very carefully.  I hope at least in my case the lesson is learned.

So I have planted some tomatoes, zinnias, and sunflowers.  They sell the seeds here so I assume they are not prohibited.  I am growing them in pots, so I can keep a watchful eye on them.  Gardening can be productive but it is not easy.  When it does rain, plants can be swamped.  When the wind blows, they can take a pounding.  I will try to nurture them.

There are fruits that grow wild and weedy, like the guava.  It is invasive, I believe, and is the main food for the feral pigs.  They do a good job of spreading the seeds.  I’ve eaten a few myself.  Am I a feral "pig?"

And there are orchids, lovely, growing solitary and in small clusters.  A clump of them grow right outside my front door.  They are a marvel.

Next time, assessing my environmental impact.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Perfect Circle

My Great Uncle Newman once tried to engineer a machine that would scribe a perfect circle.  He of course knew that no such thing could be invented.  None the less, he tried to get close.
Perhaps there is a bit of him in me.  I appreciate the circular circumstances that I find myself in.  Living in a yurt is sometimes referred to as living in the round.  It is an enjoyable situation, pleasing in a slightly magical way, no corners, no angular issues.  And adhering to the philosophy of Wabi-sabi, I am keeping it simple.  So far.  There is beauty in the open space, the glow of golden yellow wood, and white latticed walls.
But ultimately, it also needs to be a space that I can live in with a certain amount of functionality.  So the task at hand is how do I keep the aesthetic and still find a way to deal with the everyday needs of living?  Where do I put the dirty laundry, the wires to the computer, etc.?  I'm getting a bit tired of piles and storage boxes...
I have been trying to do this slowly, which I think is good self-advice.  Household furnishings, sometimes found in antique/junk stores are somewhat rare.  Cost and quality come into play. Textures and color seem important.   And what there is available, is built for the traditional house with 90 degree angles.  I am attempting to fill a round hole with square pegs!
Most pleasing so far is my hammock, bought in Mexico, which now forms a geometric Chord from one circle side to another.  It's gentle bend is a complement to the walls.
So for the time being, I will continue to go slowly, looking, thinking, and learning to be patient with space and place.
Next time:  What grows here?