Monday, July 22, 2013

When farming is in trouble, we're in trouble

"One strategy would be to promote the use of locally produced compost to increase the moisture-holding capacity of fields, orchards and vineyards. In addition to locking carbon in the soil, composting buffers crop roots from heat and drought while increasing forage and food-crop yields. By simply increasing organic matter in their fields from 1 percent to 5 percent, farmers can increase water storage in the root zones from 33 pounds per cubic meter to 195 pounds.
And we have a great source of compostable waste: cities. Since much of the green waste in this country is now simply generating methane emissions from landfills, cities should be mandated to transition to green-waste sorting and composting, which could then be distributed to nearby farms.
Second, we need to reduce the bureaucratic hurdles to using small- and medium-scale rainwater harvesting and gray water (that is, waste water excluding toilet water) on private lands, rather than funneling all runoff to huge, costly and vulnerable reservoirs behind downstream dams. Both urban and rural food production can be greatly enhanced through proven techniques of harvesting rain and biologically filtering gray water for irrigation. However, many state and local laws restrict what farmers can do with such water."

Solutions to the problem of climate change for farmers. It's gonna be tough for some types of crops like apple trees that take years to mature.  Other crops like corn or potatoes can move north or south depending on how the local climate is changing.  But definitely, we don't want laws preventing farmers from making needed adjustments.

NSA snooping provides cover for repressive regimes

"Internet experts say Washington's covert program to track the online activity of foreigners by tapping into the servers of Facebook, Google, Skype, and other U.S. companies could play directly into the hands of repressive regimes. The revelation could provide them with potentially powerful justification for existing programs that restrict online freedoms -- as well as cover for implementing new measures.

EXPLAINER: What Are U.S. Surveillance Programs Spying On?

Ronald Deibert, the director of the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab, one of the world's foremost research centers on how cyberspace, global security, and human rights interrelate, says the United States has now largely ceded the moral high ground on Internet freedom.

'As countries realize that a lot of the structural power conferred on the United States and other countries comes from their ability to essentially coerce domestic telecommunications carriers into colluding with their intercept and wiretap programs, countries around the world will quickly look to rectify that by building and encouraging their own national networks and subjecting them to their own territorialized controls,' Deibert says. 'That naturally leads to a spiral towards a more Balkanized Internet. It is really a kind of perverse set of unintended consequences that we're nurturing.'"

   Either we're living in a 1984 world where our government spies on us 24/7, or we are free.  I prefer the latter.

Monday, July 15, 2013

More tiny houses,0,563473.story

"Builders usually pack in two or three bedrooms, stacked in two or three stories. Size typically ranges from 1,000 to 2,000 square feet, allowing for a spacious living room and kitchen on an open floor plan.
The homes are clustered in mini-communities, a modern twist on L.A.'s famed bungalow courts. There are no shared walls, but neighbors are separated by mere inches. Developers enclose the miniature gap between the homes to keep out water and unwanted critters, giving the impression of town houses.
Such projects grow from a 2005 Los Angeles city ordinance that aimed to add more affordable for-sale housing — at least by L.A. standards — in densely packed neighborhoods. It lets developers carve up a lot zoned for multi-family use into small single-family plots, allowing multiple homes with separate foundations. The regulations chopped the minimum single-family lot size in those areas from 5,000 square feet to 600 square feet. The city of Glendale is now considering a similar ordinance."

I'm amazed how many tiny houses there are here in my home town of Rapid City, South Dakota.  I looked at one 400 square foot house for sale that eventually sold for about $40,000.  There are many a bit bigger than that scattered all over.

Personally I think 800 square feet is about right for a single person, and maybe 1000 for a couple.  Throw in kids and who knows.  Savings on congestion, heating and cooling, etc.