Saturday, December 1, 2007

Holiday Orangettes

Here is a recipe that becomes possible in more parts of the world as the climate warms. Slice ends off four oranges, score the peel from one end to the other, and remove the peels from the oranges.

Slice the peels into thin strips and trim the edges.

Using a medium size pot, place the peels in boiling water and blanch them for a few minutes. Rinse the peels, and repeat this process a second time. This is done to remove the bitterness of the peels.

Prepare the simple syrup by combining 8 oz. water and 8 oz. sugar in a saucepan. Bring the syrup to a simmer, place the peels in the pot, and simmer for 1 hour. Check occasionally to make sure they have water. Once the peels have cooked, remove them from the pot, and place on a rack to cool and drain.

Melt 16 oz. dark chocolate over a double boiler.

Dip the candied orange peels in the chocolate, remove them quickly, and let them cool on a piece of parchment paper. Refrigerate or store the orange peels in an airtight container.

Thanks for this great recipe and photos from Candy Girl at Smitten Kitchen.

Substitutions can include grapefruit, lemon or lime peels, and carob and coconut for toppings. When choosing chocolate, go for the good (unprocessed) stuff that is high in antioxidants. See Bill Buford's foray into extreme chocolate in The New Yorker for some suggestions about sources.

The Palestinian Factor

November 29, 2007

I have been saying in my speaking gigs since September that the price of crude and the Middle-East peace talks were linked, and that Condi Rice was sent off on shuttle diplomacy in order to turn the spigots wider in Saudi Arabia. I couldn't prove that, it was just speculation, but the evidence seems to be mounting now that something like that is going on.

First, there is still controversy about whether Saudi Arabia, the only country in the world with spare capacity, actually has any spare capacity. ASPO-Houston did a breakout session on this, and on the one side you have the good people at the Oil Drum, who admit nobody really knows, and Matt Simmons, who says we should know that by early in 2008 because the Saudis have promised to OPEC and they will or will not bring oil to market by then. On the other side you have the government indices, think tanks and markets, who think there is still reserve capacity, but suspect the Saudis are intentionally squeezing supply.

My guess is that the White House, filled with oil people, is in that second camp, despite what Matt Simmons or the CIA tells them. It is not that they really care about the price of unleaded or what it will do to the US economy, but lately they are having trouble getting supplemental spending for war through Congress, and since the military is the largest consumer of petroleum products, price begins to matter.

The Saudis have always been strong backers of Palestine, as have other Arab nations to a greater or lesser degree. What has been happening in the West Bank and Gaza for two years and counting has been very shocking to them, and to say they are angry about the Bush administration's unwillingness to interfere with Israeli policies that are even unpopular in Israel is an understatement.

To me it looks like the Saudis finally decided, about late July, to do some dog training. If the Palestinians were going to suffer,USAnians would suffer more. If the Palestinians caught a break, so would the world. So the squeeze began, and the markets reacted. You can see a graph of it here in cents per gallon of crude oil:

The second part of the dog training is the reward. So, after Bush did the elaborate Kabuki Show in Annapolis for the assembled Arab world,they threw him a biscuit. Oil dropped to $90 per barrel (although it is back up today on news of a Canadian pipeline fire). Abu Dhabi bought 5% of Citigroup for 7.5 billion, which staved off the threat of default from the subprime meltdown.

Another subprime victim was Bear Sterns, who was just rescued with a billon-dollar infusion by China to create a trade center in Hong Kong. That is less about Palestine and more about saving the dollar,which China has a lot of and is starting to worry about.

All of this serves to postpone, for a moment, the inevitable. Will Tel Aviv agree to share control of Jerusalem, give up the Golan, or permit a right of return? Not likely. Will Ramalah accept a two state solution based on a fragmented non-contiguous map of the Palestinian Territories, nullification of its elections, and a wall 2 football fields wide and nearly 4 times longer than the Berlin Wall?I don't think so. And Condi Rice is no Jimmy Carter.

Annapolis buys Bush a year to show once more how elusive peace can be. For those needing to get out of the stock market, sell suburban real estate, and stockpile tools and supplies, it is a little more breathing room.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

A Better Mousetrap

There has been a sudden surge of interest in ecovillage and intentional community in the popular media. Why do you suppose this is?
  • Eco-Couple Go Prime Time August 4, 2007 Eugene Register Guard - Article on members of Maitreya Ecovillage going on ABC's Wife Swap reality TV

Monday, September 3, 2007

The Mexican Trigger

Aug 14, 2007

I am back in my hammock under a palm thatch roof on an island triangulated between three potential hurricanes' current positions. The closest of these storms is less than 90 miles away, and we are getting some rain here, but at this moment, none of them seem on a collision track with my location. I am setting aside the mariner's Rule of Threes. This palm-wood house perches only a meter above the sea, its foundations entirely sand. It is a Tibetian Sand Mandala.

Puerto Morelos 2050Image: Tacoria in Puerto Morelos, photoshop effect by author.

I have stopped here to watch the whale sharks and listen to experts trade stories about them after a gig at Hotel Caracol in Puerto Morelos, where I ran out some of the themes I have been exploring on this page these past few months. (By the way, if you are ever in Puerto Morelos, I cannot say enough good things about La Petita, a sand-floor restaurant one block back from the beach, except to say thank you to the proprietors for opening it up to tourists -- it used to just be for the local fishermen).

I began with images of the Chicxalub asteriod flying through space, the impact sequence, the dust clouds, the extinction event at the P-K boundary, the shrimper, Rudesino Cantarell, whose nets gummed up with oil in 1976, and the rapid exploitation and depletion of the second largest oil field ever discovered, followed by the Tortilla Rebellion, to cut to the chase. It was delightfully synchonous to discover only today, in one of the island's three internet cafes, that my friend Sharon Astyk has been exploring some of these same ideas at Casaubon's Book (Final Frontier Part I).

Here at the Shark Conference I am taking a break and thinking about what more I can say when I hit the road again this Fall. In September and October I have an ambitious schedule of workshops, seminars, and speaking events which will variously find me in Dublin, Cloughjordan, Cork, Kinsale, Aughnacloy, Kirtland, Ohio (birthplace of the Mormon faith), and then, in a sprint ...
Tues Oct 2 - New Haven CT
Wed Oct 3 - Cooperstown NY
Thurs Oct 4 - Manhattan
Fri Oct 5 - SUNY Community College Loch Sheldrake
Sat Oct 6 - Binghamton NY
Sun Oct 7 - Milford NY
Mon Oct 8 - Philadelphia - White Dog Cafe
Tues Oct 9 - NYC -- All day gig
Wed Oct 9-10 - Omega Inst., Rhinebeck NY
Fri Oct 12-14 - Southern Festival of Books, Nashville
Wed Oct 17-18 - ASPO USA Houston
Fri Oct 19-25 - Natural Building Colloquium, Kerrville Texas
Friday Oct 26-31 - Natural Building Course at The Farm, followed by Gaia University, Permaculture and Shiitake Mushroom workshops into November.

I am skipping both the Fourth National Conference on Peak Oil in Yellow Springs and the World Energy Conference in Rome because I just can't manage it, and besides, I was in Italy only last month. With luck, the Survival Guide will be out in italian by Christmas.

As I meditate on what I should be saying when I tour, I keep coming back to why I am even doing this. Glibly I wisecrack that I share a birthday with Paul Revere. That barely seems adequate. Someone I respect told me I am doing it to feed my own ego. I thought a lot about that but ultimately rejected it as facile psychology. I am deeply aware that this whole effort is caught in the dance of causing karma, and that ceasing that dance is perhaps as high a calling as continuing to work out the steps. Knowing that nothing need be done is where I begin to move from. "In the fires that destroy the universe at the end of the kalpa, what survives?" is my koan.

Image: Tiberon Ballena, photo by author.

Gary Snyder wrote in 1969, "Man is but a part of the fabric of life -- dependent of course on the whole fabric for his very existence, and also responsible to it. As the most highly developed tool-using animal, he must recognize that the evolutionary destinies (unknown) of other life forms are to be respected, and act as gentle steward of the earth's community of being." I think if you ask Gary today, he might backtrack on some of those adjectives, like "most highly developed" but the sentiment is still overarching. We have an obligation to use our gifts for good ends. The Chinese poet, Tu Fu, said, "The ideas of a poet should be noble and simple."

Gary Snyder went on to say, "It seems evident that there are throughout the world certain social and religious forces that have worked throughout history toward an ecologically/culturally enlightened state of affairs. Let these be encouraged: Alchemists, hip Marxists, Anarchists, Third Worlds, Teilhard and cryptoGnostic Catholics, Druids, Witches, Taoists, Biologists, Yogins, Quakers, Tibetans, Zens, Shamans, Sufis, Amish and Mennonite, American Indians, Polynesians - all primitive cultures, all communal and ashram movements of all persuasions, etc. The list is long. Since it doesn't seem practical or even desirable to think that direct bloody force will achieve anything, it would be best to consider this a continuing 'revolution of consciousness' which will be won not by guns but by siezing the key images, myths, archetypes, eschatologies, and ecstasies ...." (Whole Earth Catalog Supplement, September, 1969.)

My Fall show is beginning to take on a cohesion around this rather nebulous Snyderian construct. Show (as briefly but persuasively as possible) our dilemma vis. peak everything and climate change, especially the pretty dire conclusions coming from Cox, Crutzen and others, as chronicled and synthesized by Lynas, Lovelock and Pearce, and knock down the oft-bandied myths of technology, ten-years, and ecovillage lifeboats, and bring the audience around to appreciating, hopefully through a humorous and self-effacing catharsis, that we screwed the pooch, possibly before any of us were born, and it is now Bedtime for Bonzo. And having gotten to that low point of the evening, absolutely essential as a reality check on my bone-fides as a prognosticator, the challenge is then to raise hope and provide something real to do: a way for our Hero to escape the trap in the Third Act. And I fully appreciate that there may in fact not be a prestige for this trick, apart from reincarnating on Mars as the fungal offspring of spores carried aboard Pathfinder spacecraft, but I nonetheless have to give it my best shot. So let's go ahead, change our light bulbs. Grow a garden. Plant trees. To quote Oliver Wendell Holmes' speech at Harvard commencement in 1895 (which Teddy Roosevelt liked so much he put Ollie on the Supreme Court):

"Who of us could endure a world... without the divine folly of honor, without the senseless passion for knowledge outreaching the flaming bounds of the possible, without ideals the essense of which is that they can never be achieved?"

How about this for synchronicity: Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius discovered in 1895 that adding carbon dioxide, methane and other insulating gases to the Earth's atmosphere will cause the planet to warm. Arrhenius correctly determined that a doubling of CO2 from pre-industrial levels, for instance, would result in a 5-degree rise in the average temperature of the world. Analogizing this phenomenon to "greenhouse" warming was first suggested by John Mercer at Ohio State University c. 1960. Present thinking is that doubling pre-industrial CO2 will result in a 5 to 21 degree temperature change. We should reach the doubling mark by 2020-2050 at present rates of consumption. We could delay the inevitable by hard discipline taken in the next ten years, which I consider unlikely. We might even reverse the process, but it would take a level of organization of the caliber only possessed by those who have fully appreciated their likely fate if they fail to act, have banded together, and are prepared to take heroic, sacrificial action.

And that is my message and mission, sweetened with local, organic recipes and a sense of humor.




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