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Green Methods Catalog and Forum
The Green Spot, Ltd., a major supplier of biological pest control agents and integrated pest management paraphernalia, has a 60-page 2004 Green Methods Catalog available free. The catalog describes biocontrol and IPM in detail. Request a copy by calling 603-942-8925; Faxing 603-942-8932; writing to The Green Spot, Ltd. at 93 Priest Rd., Nottingham NH 03290-6204; emailing email@example.com; or visiting www.greenmethods.com.
The Green Spot, Ltd., has also launched a free Internet discussion forum at www.greenmethodsforum.com. Sign on to talk, share, learn and succeed.
New SARE Publication on Business Plans
Building a Sustainable Business is a guide to developing a business plan for farms and rural businesses. Innovative farmers and ranchers know that alternative crops and value-added products give them an edge in the market. Effective planning is crucial to the long-term profitability of any new venture. Building a Sustainable Business brings the business planning process alive to help alternative and sustainable agriculture entrepreneurs transform farm-grown inspiration into profitable enterprises.
The step-by-step strategies detailed in the 280-page book help develop a detailed, lender-ready business plan or map ways to take advantage of such opportunities as organic farming; on-farm processing; direct marketing; agri-tourism; alternative crops; and adding value. The book follows dairy farmers Dave and Florence Minar through a major transition on their Minnesota farm. The Minars ’ experiences and excerpts from their sample worksheets lend a real-life perspective, illustrating how they and five other farm families set goals, researched alternatives, determined potential markets and evaluated financing options. Blank worksheets in the book help you create and organize your own plan.
You can order the $14 publication (plus $3.95 shipping and handling) by calling 802-656-0484.
by Jim Merkel, New Society Publishers, British Columbia, 2003 (www.newsociety.com)
250 pages, paperback, $17.95
Four of us live in a 1200-square-foot, smaller-than-average-American house. Passive solar and a small wood stove keep us warm. We buy "green" electricity, and most of our light bulbs are compact fluorescent. Most of the food we eat is organically grown and low on the food chain; much is from our own garden or local growers. Our clothes dry on a locally-made, wooden drying rack. My morning commute is 15 paces, from the pot of organic coffee (one of our non-local addictions!) in the kitchen to the computer. Goodwill is one of our favorite stores, and when the urge to shop strikes, we often head for the swap shop at the recycling center, bringing something to leave there in the process.
Yet my personal "ecological footprint" -- the amount of land that my habits of consumption require -- is still a little over 7 acres. That’s not bad, compared with the average American’s footprint of 24 acres, but it’s not good, considering that only 4.7 acres are available for each global citizen -- and more global citizens keep being born. And even if each of us uses only 4.7 acres, that leaves nothing wild.
I figured my ecological footprint using tables and simple calculations given in the book Radical Simplicity by Jim Merkel. Merkel was a military engineer who was sitting in a bar in Sweden one day, awaiting an appointment to try to sell his latest techno-invention to the Swiss military, when news of the Exxon Valdez crash and oil "spill" flooded the TV screen in the bar. As reporters sought a guilty Valdez crew member, Merkel "knew it was me. I drive. I fly... How could I plea bargain with twelve gasping whales? ... fossil fuels are part of every item I consume." That was a transformational moment for Merkel, who returned to his home in California, assessed his own impact on the earth, and started to change.
That change included, of course, quitting his lucrative but destructive job. Then he learned about measures of ecological footprints and methods for lowering consumption. He pared down his own consumption, and found ways to help his community lower its footprint -- by lobbying for bike paths, for instance. He set his income at below-taxable level, so that he wouldn’t be contributing to the government’s military spending.
That was 14 years ago. In Radical Simplicity, Merkel describes tools to simplify life -- tools he adapted from the book by Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees, Our Ecological Footprint; and Vicki Robin and Joe Dominiguez’s Your Money or Your Life.
Using these tools, you can first get a quick, rough idea of your ecological footprint by answering several questions about your diet, housing, transportation and goods you own. Then you can refine that number by looking much more closely at these four categories. You can compare the acreage used to take a trip across the country by plane, train, car, fuel-efficient car, horse and bicycle. Riding a horse can be worse than driving a fuel efficient car! You can compare the impact of owning a computer and sending e-mails with that of sending snail mails. Using Merkel’s assumptions, e-mail has more than three times the footprint of snail mail.
Looking more closely involves monitoring (even weighing and measuring) your daily activities and goods usage over several months. This exercise itself, says Merkel, will often prompt change.
Merkel spends a chapter on "Your Money or Your Live" (YMOYL), talking about how much we work, what our real income is (considering what we have to spend to get to work), how we reach the "slippery slope of beyond enough" as our income increases, and how our consumption habits decide other creatures’ fates -- "who lives and who dies." He relates, for example, that people work about one day a week to pay for their vehicles
Reading this book made me more aware of how much I consume and how I could cut some of that consumption. Driving less and raising and storing more food are two options. I can sprout more seeds in the winter; store more in the root cellar ("A root cellar makes my list of the seven sustainability wonders of the world," says Merkel.), dry more fruits, greens and tea plants, buy organic foods in bulk, and harvest more wild foods.
Merkel encourages readers to focus their attention on nature. With less need to work as we have less need for money, we can become intimately familiar with special places in nature. Nature can save us from some perceived "needs," too: "If you are aching to add on to the house, consider simple improvements to its solar performance and take more walks on the beach," suggests Merkel. Lucky us, who live in Maine.
Radical Simplicity raises some provocative questions. When does it make sense to refuse expensive medical treatment, if we know that the money saved could relieve the worst poverty for thousands of children? What are some alternatives to expensive, institutional learning?
Merkel addresses population in his "one-hundred-year plan," as he suggests that having an average of one child per family would shrink world population to one billion by the year 2100, instead of the projected 10 billion. "Humanity could then average six-acre footprints and still leave 80 percent of the Earth’s bioproductive space wild" -- and from then on have an average of two children per family.
Radical Simplicity offers a feast for thought. You may not agree with all of it, but the book provides a baseline, and lots of data, from which valuable discussions could grow.
Copyright 2004 by the author. For information on reproducing this article, please contact the author through firstname.lastname@example.org.
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