Posts Tagged ‘close to home strategy’

New programs link cities with science experts to tackle resiliency challenges

Two new programs aim to get subject-matter experts linked up with local and regional governments to take on their most pressing resiliency challenges.  Andy Revkin offers up his typically link-infused overview of these efforts, centered on Thriving Earth Exchange, which is networking to bring in experts to help cities with specific issues such as flood risks to food distribution systems, adapting to extreme heat, responding to drought, and many others.  Meanwhile, the Obama White House rolled out a similar program dubbed The Resilience Dialogues, an “online consultative service will help communities find, use, and understand information, tools, and programs to support their climate-resilience needs.”

Both of these programs are actively soliciting requests from cities for expert guidance, and subject-matter experts willing to share their insights.  If you’re active in your local community’s transition, resiliency, or climate response programs, check them out!  Start with Revkin’s introduction, then dig in.

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Permaculture Transition Manual: a new guide for smallholders

Acclaimed permaculture teacher Ross Mars has just released a new book that will be a valuable resource for the burgeoning crop of small farmers working on modest landholdings, as well as for people moving toward increased self-reliance on their property while maintaining their jobs away from home.  As Mars notes, “Today in North America, the fastest growing forms of agriculture are small peri-urban farms of less than 20 acres growing vegetables for market.”

The Permaculture Transition Manual: A Comprehensive Guide to Resilient Living is a hefty (450 page) resource that features in-depth guidance on all elements of permaculture design and personal homestead resilience—land, labor, wildlife, energy, and your own mindset—as well as case studies of four diverse projects.  We fully support Ross’s underlying respect for the value of permaculture’s insights:

Permaculture connected many streams of the world’s traditional knowledge with modern forms of science and urged ordinary people everywhere to continue that lineage of empirical investigation. The books were a prospectus for a worldwide distributed experiment in ecological subsistence agriculture for the post-industrial world.

That experiment is now over 30 years old, and I will argue that its fruits are abundant and that results have validated the original thesis well enough that we should expect it to meet the needs of a new generation of garden farmers whether they be former pastoralists settled into towns in Botswana or industrial workers made redundant by energy descent in Boston.

Check out the Table of Contents and Introduction. Then go get some dirt under your fingernails!

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Small towns: lure your kids home to launch a start-up

Not long ago, I stumbled across The Daily Yonder, an excellent website that focuses on rural economic and social issues (try their Weekly Yonder email to get a taste). This week, they featured an inspiring interview with Maury Forman, Senior Manager for Rural Strategies and Entrepreneurship for the Washington State Department of Commerce, who urges small towns and cities to cultivate an entrepreneurial culture that can entice young and middle-aged kids who left town to return to start small businesses. In contrast to the concern about “brain drain” in small towns, he says, “Let kids get out and explore. People keep saying we want to keep our kids after high school. I think we should let them go out and explore new ideas, new things, and then come back educated and experienced, so that they can start a business, and create new jobs, and live in healthier communities.”

Forman enthuses:

I actually think it’s easier to do economic development in rural areas than it is in big cities. …. When you have small successes in rural, they’re big successes; the thrill is so much bigger there than it is if Seattle hires 10 employees. It’s going to make the newspaper in a rural community. I find rural communities to be easier to work with, more fun to work with, they take life a little less seriously.

Forman has also collaborated with a colleague to put together one of the best concise primers on raising capital that we’ve seen, and they’re giving it away free online. Startup Wisdom: 27 Strategies for Raising Business Capital offers succinct 2 or 3 page overviews of everything from crowdfunding to local investing clubs to grants (while also making nods to the lottery and even lemonade stands!). It won’t get you all the way to being funded, but it’s a perfect first read to help you narrow down the avenues you want to investigate further. They put this booklet together after finding that many potential rural entrepreneurs were struggling with Step 1, since “banks were not loaning to people in order to get businesses started. They didn’t like the idea. It was a risk. The whole bank idea of making bank loans just wasn’t in the banks’ interest, especially in micro-loans. That’s really what many small communities are looking for, probably under $50,000.”

Forman is offering just the kind of practical, localized guidance that can invigorate the regional vitality that is essential to the flourishing resilient economies and social networks that we envision in The Resilient Investor.  Here’s to both local communities and early- to mid-career rural expatriates taking this advice to heart!

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Catch the bug: rooftop solar is highly contagious!

We’ve been hearing about the rapid expansion of solar power, and most of us have probably noticed more rooftop panels and small community solar projects in fields.  But it turns out that solar’s spread is not simply due to climate concerns or enticing economics: there’s a strong “contagion” factor, as new solar owners encourage their friends and neighbors to get on board.  Check out this animation, from northern Colorado:

According to SolarCity, the largest solar installer and leasing outfit in the US:

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Kramer on permaculture in life and finances

Here’s an author interview that takes some fresh new angles: Michael Kramer recently spoke to the folks at Urban Farm about the ways that permaculture has informed both his life and our resilient investing approach.  The interview can’t be embedded here, but you can hear it on the Urban Farm page: Michael Kramer on Permaculture and Economics.  Poke around their site a bit; you’re likely to find other articles and interviews that’ll be of interest.

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Slow money can jumpstart your resilient investing plan

Did you hear the joke about why the farmer crossed the road? The punchline is that she wanted to go to the bank to ask about getting a loan. Not very funny, except that by the logic of bankers and Wall Street, the idea that a farmer would qualify for financing might elicit a guffaw or two. Small-scale farming is considered a high-risk, low-return activity that any prudent investor should steer clear of.

And yet, wending their way across the highway to the farm, who’s that? Why, it’s a gaggle of Slow Money investors, taking action on their desire to build local food systems. Are they just being charitable, driven by idealism to donate a bit towards keeping a neighborhood farm alive? Not at all—they actually are investors, doing exactly what a traditional investor does. They are considering their own financial situation and how it fits into their overall portfolio. They are asking lots of questions, getting to know the business, assessing the risks, and looking for ways that not only their money, but their expertise, could help assure the success of their investment. And they are negotiating a deal that works for both parties.

Wall Street “professionals” can’t relate to this new breed of more creative and engaged investors because

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Deep retrofits redux: crunching the numbers

Last quarter my article on “Deep Retrofits, Broad Paybacks” generated several questions about how these types of retrofit add value to a house over time. How does a deep energy retrofit compare to something like a kitchen remodel? Is it worth the cost of doing the retrofit? If I spend $50,000 on a deep retrofit will it add $50,000 to the value of my house? Probably not. Or, it depends. Maybe. Possibly. It’s a tricky question, with some complex answers.

Let’s start with whether you plan to sell your house soon or not. If you are planning to sell in the next few years, or are forced to sell, the ROI picture is probably pretty bleak. We can draw some clues from other big remodel projects. Looking at the numbers might scare you. At mid-range national averages for 2015, adding a steel door is the only remodel project that adds value. That is, you’ll recoup a little more than you spent to buy and install it. (Move quickly before a toddler dings up that new door!) All of the other remodel projects are a losing proposition. It’s even worse for upscale projects, where the best ROI is upgrading to fiber-cement siding, and it doesn’t recoup even 85% of the $15,000 average cost of the project.

But anyone spending $100,000 on a deluxe kitchen upgrade isn’t doing it to make money when they sell – they’re doing it to improve their quality of life while living in the house. A temporary reduction in full value because of a quick sale isn’t anyone’s best financial plan. I think this will be true for deep retrofits as well.

Some remodels do add value even when a house is sold soon after,

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NZ community buys long-private beach via crowdfunding

It’s an all-too-familiar scenario: a prized corner of your local landscape is suddenly up for sale, slated for houses or a hotel.  Maybe it’s a place where generations of locals have had informal access, or perhaps it’s always been kept tantalizingly private.  Either way, the new plan is a step too far. . . . and it sure would be great if it were saved by a conservation group, or for a state park, or maybe just by a public-minded conservationist.

But nowadays, we don’t have to wish for a savior: a community effort in New Zealand recently made history by crowdfunding over $2 million to purchase an 18-acre beach and open this pristine beauty to the public!  The effort caught wider public attention, thanks both to the novelty of the initiative and its location near a popular National Park, and attracted donations from 40,000 people—along with a modest commitment from the New Zealand government—to outbid nearly a hundred other prospective buyers.

That’s what we call some inspired Zone 4/9 investing, coming together to protect an important tangible asset for the people, using the latest evolutionary finance models! Chalk one up for the power of creative thinking by two locals who organized the crowdfunding effort after a holiday conversation.  “At 10:57 last night we delivered a pristine piece of beach and bush into the hands of all New Zealanders to look after and to cherish and to treasure and enjoy forever,” announced Duane Major, one of the two, after the successful fulfillment of their ambitious dream.


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Preparedness tips for non-preppers

OK, so you’re totally on board with The Resilient Investor‘s goal of being “ready for anything”—you’ve clarified your own idea of where the world seems to be headed, while also realizing that you don’t really know when or how one of the countless wild cards in play might change the game in fundamental ways.  You get that focusing significant energy Close to Home will pay off no matter how the future unfolds; perhaps you’re also committed to pushing our society in those enticing Evolutionary directions.

And yes, you recognize that there is a chance of painful disruptions to life here on American Easy Street.  Maybe you think any hiccups are unlikely to be severe . . . or you harbor a secret dread that’s too nebulous to really figure out how to address.  You certainly aren’t into being a serious Prepper, stockpiling supplies, fine-tuning a “go-bag,” and overlaying that kind of dire filter onto your day to day life.  If it comes to that, you figure we’re all toast, or we’ll all be in it together, and there are better ways to spend your time in the here and now.  But you also have a niggling sense that you could be a little more prepared for a  societal speed bump: it’s not so hard to imagine some sort of grid snafu (cyber-attack or solar flare) or regional weather or terror event that could make things rough for a week, or maybe even a few.  Just-in-time supply chains, vulnerable water supplies, our reliance on fuels and electricity. . . yeah, there are a few weak links out there.

While we’ve pointed to writers and resources that aim to help you prepare for various Breakdown scenarios, if you don’t really identify as a “Doomer,” you’ve probably held off on digging into all that very deeply.  Well, here’s a less-scary entry point for those of you that have been thinking you really consider doing something: a well-curated collection of The Best Emergency Preparedness Supplies from the good folks at Sweethome/Wirecutter.  

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Best of 2015 from Stockholm Resilience Centre

Scandinavians have grappled with social challenges more diligently than most of the rest of the world, and it’s no different in the realm of resilience.  The Stockholm Resilience Centre has long been the global leader in researching and teaching about the nuts and bolts of what resilience is and what it can offer to communities, planners, and the world.  They’ve just compiled their most-requested new papers of 2015, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better syllabus for getting up to speed with the most current municipal experiments and global thinking in resilience.  Topics range far and wide, with a special emphasis on recent practical attempts to implement resilience, along with the important question of how we can or should assess or measure resilience.  If you’re active in local or regional resilience planning or Transition Town programs, you really do need to jump on over to the SRC website and peruse this collection.

Here’s a taste of the topics covered; their site includes a full-page summary of each one, some with video and most with a sidebar of related papers and links:

  • Learning to apply resilience: First in-depth analysis of a resilience assessment put into practice
  • Don’t fence me in: Managing ecosystems for predictable outcomes may backfire, new study warns
  • Beyond measure?: Reducing resilience to a few measurements can block deeper understanding
  • Planetary Boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet
  • Five factors for successful management of natural capital: Strategies for successful governance, for both people and ecosystems

Kudos to the Centre both for funding this important work, and for offering such complete summaries of each paper to help guide visitors to the ones that are most relevant for them.  Great work!

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Recollections from 2115

Alex Steffen recently gave a keynote talk at The Nature Conservancy’s annual trustees meeting that could serve as a statement of purpose for the Dreamers and Drivers among us who continue to believe that we can find our way through the eye of the historical needle.  It’s in the form of a talk to a conservation gathering a hundred years from now, looking back:

We’ve lost so much. We came far too close to losing nearly everything. If things went on as they were, we might have.

Instead, we live today on a healing planet. Yes, much has been lost, but much was saved or restored or reinvented, and what was saved and healed and made anew has become a powerful legacy.

Those gifts became the seedbeds from which sprouted our new world. That we have so much left from which to coax a long and bountiful tomorrow is no accident. Those seeds of hope were saved and planted and tended to by people who made the decision that they would live as if the future mattered. As if nature mattered. As if we mattered.

These were visionary people. Responsible people. Courageous people. All around the world, our best ancestors took up the challenge of leaving a different, bolder legacy, one not of error and loss, but of leadership, stewardship, innovation.

Take five minutes to soak in Steffen’s vision of how we became the ancestors who, “when they understood the planetary crisis they faced, their answer was not cynicism or surrender, but to seek out others and together meet that crisis with action.” It’ll perk you up for another day of doing what we can today to assure that our descendants have a future worth living in.  (That final link is another compelling essay, in which Steffen makes the moral case for not giving in to despair.)

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Future Economy: rhetoric or reality?

There seems to be no shortage of “practical visionaries” with big ideas about how we’re reshaping our global and local economies to be more just, ecological, and responsible.  A joint initiative of EcoTrust and e3 (economists for equity and the environment) called Future Economy is producing reports that seek to answer the key question about such initiatives: are they mostly hype and hope, or are they something really new that’s emerging and can make a large-scale difference?

The first minute or so of this video gets at the purpose here:

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