Humans need to work more in tandem in order to survive in the long run. This site is a small effort to contribute to that direction. Stand As One is not a call for everyone to be the same, or follow the government, or lose their individuality or freedom. Nor is it related in any way to the End Times.

We can all agree, hopefully, that we would like the Earth to continue to support humans for as long as possible, at the highest standard of living as possible. Assuming that's the goal, this site is a small effort to present ideas to help anyone interested to work towards that goal in their own way. That's all Stand As One means. We have one planet that we've evolved to live on. If we screw this one up - there is no place left to go in the foreseeable future.

It ain't no doom and gloom - it's about challenges and opportunities.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Snapshot of "Do Nothing" Farming

The One-Straw Revolution: An Introduction to Natural Farming (New York Review Books Classics) 
(Concept from the book "Biomimicry," covered in detail in the book "The One Straw Revolution")

I wanted to throw this out to highlight some of the positive actions going on that counter the destructive nature of mass-farming. Almost 60 years ago now, in Japan, a guy named Masanobu Fukuoka was weeding the family farm. He noticed a rice plant growing on its own in a ditch, coming up earlier than the rice that had been planted in the surrounding fields. The thing he noticed, besides it's early sprout, was that it was growing in a patch of fallen rice stalks, not on the bare, cultivated field.

Over the next 30 years he took this observation and molded it into one of Asia's premiere sustainable farming techniques. He's learned to maintain his farm with almost no labor while its yields are among the highest in Japan.

Starting with a standing rice crop, he seeds the soil with clover. A little while later he seeds the same area with barley and rye. When the rice is ready, he harvests it and throws the rice straw on top of the field. The clover is well-established at this time, and it works to keep weeds in check and maintain nitrogen levels in the dirt. Rye and barley come up through the straw and clover. Fukuoka then seeds the field with rice and harvests the rye and barley. Then the rice comes up and he repeats...and blammo! - he's got a self-running system that fertilizes and cultivates on its own.

No time spent weeding, cultivating, or fertilizing, Minimal water use. Fukuoka brings in 22 rice bushels and 22 bushels of winter grains each year on a quarter acre of land. Other farmers have picked this up and this method is used throughout Japan and on over a million acres in China.

This method works just like nature. His soil is rich, not depleted. The plants healthy, not in need of new chemicals every year. The dirt holds in the water, so the soil does not erode off the fields. And he's saved his own personal time, money and effort while he yields crops equal to or greater than conventional methods. Win/win all the way around.

It's odd that even though this technique is 30 years old, most of us are just hearing about it in the United States recently. But the good news there is that this method can be done on a small scale, in backyards and small farms around the world. It could also be done on a large scale, if there was a will to do so. Would provide a lot more labor jobs that could be paid for with money saved on fertilizers and chemicals.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Brief Summary of Unsustainable Farming

(Concepts from the book Biomimicry).

With the documentary Dirt: The Movie coming out, it seems relevant to throw around some topsoil ideas. Well, at least to me anyway. Humans started farming 10,000 years ago, and over that time we've co-evolved with our crops, to where they are now mostly dependent on us for their survival, and us on them. Over that time and especially in the last 100 years, we've inadvertently made them weak by using pesticides, we've isolated them from other biodiversity, and stripped the topsoil of most of its nutrients, replacing them with fertilizer.

I was surprised to learn that topsoil is not a renewable resource (in the relevant near-term). Once it is washed away or poisoned with pesticides and herbicides, it takes thousands of years to rebuild. Each time the soil is plowed, its complexity is diminished, and it is less rich. It also loses its ability to clump, which, in normal topsoil, allows water to run down to roots. Instead, farmed topsoil packs tight and cannot hold water. The ground dries and the topsoil blows away as dust. Since the rain can't go into the dirt, it pulls the soil with it to the streams and rivers. Worldwide, from 5 to 100 tons of topsoil per acre per year are lost.

Most topsoil on farms today is just a shadow of its former black, rich prairie or forest soil. Most of the fungi and microorganisms are gone. In many places we're already mixing into the layer of subsoil beneath the topsoil. So we add fertilizer, which runs off into our estuaries and poisons them. We attack insects and weeds with chemicals, something that worked in the short term but today insects and weeds are evolving around the chemicals. Each year a few survive, and those come back so that the more chemicals you use, the more chemicals you need to use. Since 1945, for example, pesticide use has gone up 3,300% to 2.2 billion pounds of pesticides each year - and crop loss from pests has increased 20% since then. So to boost production, we throw on 20 million tons of anhydrous ammonium fertilizer each year. All of this activity makes agriculture the number 1 polluting industry in the USA - doesn't that seem a bit odd? Growing food is the most damaging thing to our nation's land. Amazing, ain't it?

More later.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Confessions of a Radical Industrialist

From base year 1996 through 2008, Interface cut net greenhouse gas emissions not by Kyoto's 7%, but by 71% in absolute tons. During the same time period, their sales increased by two-thirds and their earnings doubled.

Do you consider yourself a "successful" business person? Are you a "cutthroat" industrialist? A cold-eyed, shrewd, bottom-line, profit-driven capitalist? Great! Now, are you tuned in to sustainable business, what it is, and how it works? If you're thinking "not so much," or "treehugger bullcrap," or "Al Gore," then you definitely need to stop thinking those things and check out this book - or you won't be competitive for long and you'll be easily outmaneuvered in the market.

Ray Anderson is the founder and leader of Interface Global, a $1B+ company that has been manufacturing floor carpet tiles since 1973. Making carpet is an industry that relies heavily on oil for petrochemicals and transportation, and on fossil fuels that run manufacturing equipment. For 20 years Interface ran like any other manufacturer, using cheap oil and adhering to the required governmental environmental regulations, which it saw as a pain and a liability. It polluted and did not consider any environmental factors in its production cycle. If you're familiar with manufacturing or business in general, you know that this is the norm.

In 1994, however, Anderson set the goal of being completely sustainable by 2020. They didn't have a clue where they were going, or if the technology existed or not, or even what they meant by sustainable at the time. They knew it had to do with their raw materials, the energy they used, materials they wasted or threw away, scrap, and where their product ended up (landfills). Anderson set high level, general goals for all Interface associates. "We need to be 100% sustainable by 2020." By harnessing the creative power of the people at Interface who are intimate with every aspect of day-to-day business, they are almost there. From base year 1996 through 2008, Interface cut net greenhouse gas emissions not by Kyoto's 7%, but by 71% in absolute tons. During the same time period, their sales increased by two-thirds and their earnings doubled. The main financial drivers for their increased ability to compete in their market have been driven by their sustainability goals.

Anderson has written a road map for any business to follow, based on nearly 20 years of proven bottom line results in the pursuit of sustainability. Do you hear people say a manufacturing plant can't run on solar power for a profit? They already are. How about a plant that harnesses landfill/methane gas from under a landfill at a profit? Interface is doing it in Georgia, turning a government liability into a local government revenue stream and a for-profit power source for manufacturing. Have you accepted the fact that business has to pollute to make a profit? It's interesting to note, then, that there are manufacturing plants today where the water leaving the plant is cleaner than the water entering.

Interface has also looked to the discipline biomimicry - examining nature for engineering solutions - to solve engineering challenges, and have come up with far-reaching new products that opened up new markets and new revenue streams, such as eliminating the need for glue during carpet installation by researching how geckos walk on glass and ceilings.

For those that might think that this is just some freak $1B+ company, Interface has been instrumental in influencing companies like Walmart, who are now starting to walk down the same path to sustainable operations. Walmart is the third largest company in the world, and few if any would argue that they are not profit-minded and profit-central in their outlook. So when Walmart decides to change (and change all of its suppliers), then it has far-reaching implications in how business is done. And luckily there are many more examples each year. Sustainability makes a company lean, tight, more competitive, more marketable, a better place to work (thus drawing the best talent), and years ahead of any government regulations, even decades. Sustainability looks at the people who live where your materials come from, the people that work for you, your customers, and all the people you impact in any way.

The bottom line is that when a company looks at sustainability variables, they find new revenue streams and more efficient operations. If you're in business, whether in an office, or manufacturing, or service, then this book is a must read to keep your long term competitive edge.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Pale Blue Dot

I grew up reading and watching Carl Sagan. This short segment of the Cosmos television series represents some of the best content ever developed for TV, and sums up the idea behind this small blog effort.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Fungus Attacking Bats

Photo Credit: New York Department of Environmental Conservation

One of the points of this blog is to learn, show, and communicate about how things are linked together and thus why they matter to humans at all. "White-nose syndrome" is a fungus that is attacking and killing bats in the US northeast, starting in New England and over the last year spreading down into PA and West Virginia. It was found that 11,000 bats died in Albany NY in 2006. As the disease spreads, researchers are finding that as many as 90% of the bats in a given cave are dying after infection.

So who the hell cares? I mean, bats! Stupid flying night mice!

Well here's an interesting way to look at it:
  • There's a communicable disease currently attacking a mammal population with a 90% fatality rate (something like Ebola to humans).
  • Bats make up fully one quarter of all mammals on the planet Earth
  • Diseases can jump from bats to humans in several ways, either direct, or bats can serve as a host for a virus, a reservoir for a virus like Ebola, for example.
I'm not directly implying that humans will start to get itchy white noses and then fall down dead 90% of the time (although it could be remotely possible). But...disease can mutate and spread between species, or it could open disease opportunities in bats for something else that then mutates to a direct or indirect infection in humans or our livestock. Bats are currently threatened by many different human activities as well, as is very well detailed in this article, and therefore should this disease help to speed their demise, then as bats die they will leave voids in their respective ecosystems. When a void occurs in nature, other organisms move in to fill that gap, and the population exponentially expands for whatever moves into the void. That organism(s) could be dangerous to humans and/or our food crops.

Then, think of all the insects that bats eat. Bats help keep insect populations in check. Take away the bats, and insect populations may explode depending on the location, and if mosquito or other harmful insect populations swell, then harm to humans increases and if the bats don't come back, the threat may become permanent, expand, and evolve into new opportunities for disease.

Additionally, bats contribute largely to plant pollination. Since plants are the main source of food (directly or indirectly) for all animals, then this is a pretty obvious concern, especially when coupled with the mysterious illness that is attacking another great pollinator, the bees.

Like a football game, or a competitive company, or just working hard, it's the small things that add up to a win or a loss. And now, many little things are piling up on the world's bat populations (as with bees and thousands of other species). And these things will, over time, begin impacting people, as many have already. Then the little things will begin piling up on our backs.

No illness related to white-nosed syndrome has been linked to human sickness, so there is no need for people to run out and begin mass-murdering bats. The main point, I think, is that, when researchers figure out what's causing the disease, that we work to help bats and prevent the disease from decimating bat populations, because they are valuable to the ecosystems that we are evolved to live in, and if they go away, the ecosystem will change, and most likely that won't be in our favor. We're losing bats, bees, songbirds, frogs...too much too fast, and we may not just miss these animals, we might find out--too late--that we needed them.

Here are a few places that I'm just beginning to investigate:
  • Bat Conservation International:
  • Organization for Bat Conservation (must be tough to answer the phone there)
  • Bat Conservation and Management
And then there's tons of stuff in state governments and other places too, you can find more info based on your location. I think I'll start with something easy like a bat house.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Electric Vehicles and 2-Way Grid Closer Than Thought

Great article in Forbes on the smart garage concept going to market in two years or so. The idea behind smart garage is that people drive electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles that we not only charge up at night, but also sell energy produced by the vehicle back into the grid. The consumer will also be able to specify what type of electricity they want to purchase for their vehicle, for example, solar and wind only. The article explains it better than I can here, definitely worth the read.

More on the smart garage concept here at RMI Move, the folks that developed it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

New Honda Insight

I can't rave enough about my 2000 Insight, which now has about 180,000 miles on it. So, even though I likely won't be buying one the first year (since mine is paid for), I like the direction Honda is going with its newly designed Insight. Sales of the 2-seater, teardrop-shaped Insight were dropping steadily with 2,000 units in 2005 and only a thousand in 2006, despite the vehicle's 59-high 60's mileage and terrific performance, and the car is no longer in production. So, Honda updated the car, as you see above, and has scheduled an April 2009 release.

The new Insight should come on the market around $19,000, which is pretty affordable, especially if there are Federal and State tax incentives in place. Where the original Insight was a perfect commuter car, the new Insight is more practical. It has plenty of room for 5 passengers, and is a hatchback. Honda has launched a blog for the Insight as it moves into production for those who want to keep current on all the happenings. Otherwise check back here and I'll update with bigger news items.