Monthly Archives: June 2010

Preparedness Kits for Home and Away

  Travel Preparedness
The author of Build The Perfect Survival Kit was interviewed on The Survival Podcast episode, “An Interview With John McCann.”

Among many other topics, McCann described a very simple fishing setup and other handy items that could fit in a belt and get past security checkpoints.

I caught the following UCTV show on cable. Great ideas for preparing for water, power and/or gas interruptions are also shown in the video, which happens to be about prepping a house for earthquakes, “Home Preparedness in Earthquake Country.”

“First Aired: 4/26/2010
59 minutes”

“California is earthquake country. Dr. Matt Springer of UCSF shares valuable insights into how we can prepare now for our next big shake. Dr. Springer illustrates precautionary measures we can take at home to protect ourselves and our families from the effects of a major earthquake. (#18193)”

I personally experienced all the recent big quakes mentioned in the video: the 1971 Sylmar earthquake as a kid in Orange, CA, the 1989 “World Series” Loma Prieta (Santa Cruz) while I was working in San Francisco, and also the 1994 Northridge quake which collapsed part of the 10 freeway near the apartment I rented in Culver City.

Recently, TSP host Jack Spirko created a four-part video series on YouTube, “Survival Fishing With Flowers,” on how to catch small lake fish with found tree branches as a pole, only a little flower as bait, and how to catch catfish unattended with a floating empty water bottle and some paracord, typical monofilament fishing line and a snelled hook.

Fuel Film Shows Oil Alternatives

  Fuel Film DVD
I turned on the radio this morning while visiting L.A. for relatives’ birthdays and heard an inspiring interview with Josh Tickell. He is screening his Sundance awarded Fuel movie to benefit KPFK Saturday, June 26, 2010. (Tomorrow as I post this.)

I was struck by the number of different solutions that were offered by the filmmaker. He reminded me that electricity costs a penny per mile instead of a dime or more for gasoline and that green sources can be selected by electricity consumers in one way or another.

He also made a point that concentrated energy providers lead to concentrated points of political power and suggested that energy created by individuals and community groups would empower them politically as well. At the least they would be more self-reliant and not dependent on the gas pump.

About the film, the Los Angeles Times said this in a review:

“Fuel is a vital, superbly assembled documentary…doesn’t dwell on muckraking, however; it’s more focused on broadly inspiring viewers than preaching to the converted….Smartly animated interstitials, memorable archival material and a lively soundtrack round out the fast-paced proceedings.”

Amazon said this about the DVD:

“Eleven years in the making, FUEL is the in-depth personal journey of filmmaker and eco-evangelist Josh Tickell, who takes us on a hip, fast-paced road trip into America’s dependence on foreign oil. Combining a history lesson of the US auto and petroleum industries and interviews with a wide range of policy makers, educators, and activists such as Woody Harrelson, Sheryl Crow, Neil Young and Willie Nelson. Animated by powerful graphics, FUEL looks into our future offering hope via a wide-range of renewable energy and bio-fuels. Winner of the Sundance Audience Award.”

The theatrical trailer at YouTube.

Power for Emergency Communications

ABC News just ran a story, “Clean Energy: Why Is China Ahead of the U.S.?” It describes how NatSolar’s new solar panel technology was rebuffed in the U.S., but CEO Chuck Provini was flown in and welcomed by China and given a deal to create green jobs over there.

It seems energy production from any source has to overcome enormous legal barriers in this country. Here’s just one hurdle mentioned in the long article.

“. . .he [Provini] also worked with a major Washington, D.C., law firm and was told that a $750,000 application fee was necessary just to apply for a specific federal program.”

With big oil, coal, nuclear, solar and windpower facing legal hassles, we may have a low powered future in which we depend on whatever solar panels and turbines we can install in our private backyards for reliable energy.

The April, 2010 issue of ARRL’s QST magazine featured the vital role ham radio played during Haiti’s earthquake. An online article, “Amateur Radio Operators Provide Communications Support in Haiti” describes the ham support of doctors in Project Medishare.

Seismic scientists agree that California is in for a big quake perhaps sooner than later. The Haiti experience is instructive to anyone preparing for interruptions of utilities such as water, power and telephone service.

If landline phone service is knocked out, cell phone systems will likely be overloaded or knocked out because of landline network connections.

Ham radio doesn’t require learning Morse Code anymore. Passing a test on basic electronics, radio theory, and operating rules and regulations may be a small price to pay for uninterrupted communications (and no phone bill).

Stealthy Solar Shrub Shelters

  Underground Houses
From Slashdot’s “Idle” category comes this article, “Solar-Powered Shrub Car,” which quotes an Inhabitat story, “Solar-Powered Shrub Car Is Not Your Garden Variety EV.”

Justin Shull’s Terrestrial Shrub Rover is a vehicle based on a common cartoon sight gag. It looks like a great example of suburban camouflage.

(See this HowStuffWorks article about “How Military Camouflage Works” or the Wikipedia entry about “Camouflage”)

It’s possible to cloak an antenna for your hidden transmitter. It can be disguised as a hummingbird feeder, basketball hoop, flagpole and there are even some that work underground for certain frequencies.

Wind and Solar Deported To Mexico?

  Solar Handbook
A recent Greentech Media headline dated May 26, 2010 asks, “Will California Put Its Wind Farms In Mexico?.”

“Thanks to complex state regulations and lower costs, California could start getting its power from south of the border.”

The same article takes on excessive solar regulation.

“. . .the state faces an even bigger problem: bureaucracy. Solar developers like BrightSource Energy have been squeezed because of regulations. Some developers already plan to build California power plants in Arizona to avoid dealing with the state’s Fish and Game Department.”

That point about building California power plants in Arizona is linked to a previous Greentech Media story from March, 2010, with the headline, “Is Bureaucracy Killing Solar?” The article describes a widely reported news item:

“A proposal from U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein to protect one million acres of the Mojave Desert last year caused wind and solar developers to roll up plans to build in the region.”

I wonder how up to date the following passage is given the boycott by some California cities protesting Arizona’s recent immigration law.

“Solar thermal developer Tessera Solar North America has already contracted to build plants in California but will likely shift to building future power plants for California in Arizona because of the time and expense involved in building in the Golden State. In other words, California will get green power but not as many green jobs as it might otherwise.”

So, big renewable energy projects are being outsourced to Mexico and Arizona (or maybe just Mexico).

California must have quite a budget surplus to be turning away all those filthy money paying green jobs.

Responsible Aquaculture Industry Deported

  “Ecologic Collapse”
Wild caught ocean fish are getting scarce. From the Snapperfarm website:

“In 1980 just 9 percent of the fish consumed by humans was farm raised. Today that figure has grown to a staggering 43 percent. That is 45.5 million tons of farmed fish consumed each year. (FAO 2006) The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations predicts that an additional 40 million tons of seafood will be required by 2030 just to maintain current levels of consumption. This will only be possible through aquaculture.”

Brian O’Hanlon‘s Open Blue Sea Farm, using Steve Page’s Aquapod net pens, makes offshore farming in strong currents feasible.

As you will hear in the YouTube video clip from National Geographic‘s Strange Days On Planet Earth, more water flowing from offshore strong currents in Aquapods puts less stress on the fish, is less polluting to the immediate surroundings, and because the pods are far from crowded coastal waters, they are much less susceptible to disease-bearing parasites such as sea lice.

I heard Jack Spirko talk about O’Hanlon’s entrepreneurial beginnings on The Survival Podcast, with some emotional reaction to how approvals O’Hanlon needed from head-scratching bureaucrats were not forthcoming.

Jack Spirko spent most of his military service in Panama (if memory serves). He says Panama is a nice country, but it’s not his country. Spirko also expressed the opinion (paraphrasing here) that in a hungry world with a growing demand for seafood, a U.S. citizen who innovates a cleaner, more productive way to raise fish shouldn’t be forced to build his growing company in some other country.

According to the Mainebiz article, “Fishing for a future: A Searsmont entrepreneur’s aquaculture innovation is welcomed in foreign waters while the U.S. plays catch up,” aquaculture is not new:

“While the tools may be new, the idea of farming the oceans is not. That prescient explorer of the deep blue, Jacques Cousteau, promoted farming the oceans in the early 1970s. “With Earth’s burgeoning human populations to feed, we must turn to the sea with new understanding and new technology,” Cousteau said in his 1973 television show “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau.” “We need to farm it as we farm the land.” “

The author of the same Mainebiz piece shares Spirko’s frustration with government permission. Thankfully, there are foreign investors and customers who can get a new industry started.

“Since 2008, Ocean Farm Technologies has shipped AquaPods to companies in Puerto Rico, Panama, Mexico and South Korea. Interest has come from all over the world. Turkish businessmen paid Page a visit during a snowy day last winter to check out the AquaPod. And within the last couple of months, the governments of Ecuador and Indonesia have inquired about using the smaller cages, dubbed MicroPods, to help struggling fishermen become farmers. . .”

I guess opportunities with the jobs and money they bring are not wanted in the U.S.A. anymore.

Cellphones Inside Bee Colonies Are Bad

  Bee CCD background
From Slashdot, “Study Claims Cellphones Implicated In Bee Loss.” If you need a laugh, check out the reader comments on the story, such as “The queen should stop texting and get back to work.”

But seriously, this is an important issue for off-grid living since homesteaders are likely to depend on radio links of some kind and are also more likely than other people to have beehives pollinate their edible forest gardens.

Being a ham operator, I would add other variables besides transmitter power to a bigger study. Frequency (cell phones operate in or near microwave bands) and modes such as analog AM, FM, or SSB, also if there’s digitized content, check if the type (voice, music, or text) makes any difference.

The legal response to this new published study will not be swift because it’s not very authoritative. Only two hives were tested. Quoting an excerpt:

“. . .one fitted with two mobile telephones which were powered on for two 15-minute sessions per day for three months. The other had dummy models installed. After three months the researchers recorded a dramatic decline in the size of the hive fitted with the mobile phone, a significant reduction in the number of eggs laid by the queen bee. The bees also stopped producing honey.”

One of the readers noted in a comment that because of the inverse square law, the field strength of the transmitter inside a hive is many orders of magnitude greater than would be experienced from usage in real life.

Other theories for honeybee colony collapse disorder involve pesticide and herbicide chemicals, genetically modified plants, and transporting of hives from around the world to pollinate big cash crops like almonds.

Michael Pollan referred to this pool of unrelated hives mingling on distant farms as the annual “honeybee brothel” spreading diseases.