Virginia Climate Fever – Author Stephen Nash Speaks Weds. 3/25

From Superstorm Sandy to Typhoon Haiyan, climate change is already causing extreme weather, sea level rise, droughts, and more – all around the globe. In his book Virginia Climate Fever:  How Global Warming Will Transform Our Cities, Shorelines, and Forests, environmental journalist Stephen Nash details the current impacts and future threats of climate change in our very own state.

Stephen Nash will speak on Virginia Climate Fever at Charlottesville’s Central Library on Wednesday, March 25, at 7pm in the McIntire Room. You are invited to join the Sierra Club for this important discussion. Refreshments will be provided. For more information, please contact Suzanne at (434) 245-9898 or or

Virginia Climate Fever – The book we’ve been waiting for.

Book Review by John A. Cruickshank, Chair of the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club

A group of fifteen activists met four times this winter to discuss how climate change will affect the Old Dominion during the 21st century.  To provide a framework for our discussions, we all read Virginia Climate Fever by Stephen Nash.  This recently released book provides a detailed description of the climatic disruptions we can expect in Virginia and the steps needed to adapt to these changes.  Nash warns that Virginia has made little progress in reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that are a major cause of climate change and is not making the necessary preparations for the challenges we face in the decades ahead.

Climate change has already come to Virginia.  Average temperatures have risen, flora and fauna across the state have been affected, and our coastal areas are experiencing significant flooding.  Nash allows the research to speak for itself.  His book provides essential data with easily understood maps and charts.  He describes his many conversations with respected scientists, government leaders, and Virginians who are now dealing with climate disruption.

During most our meetings the participants examined what is happening in our own community. We discussed actions citizens can take to reduce our carbon footprint and prepare for the inevitable problems ahead.  Most of us will not live to see the worst effects of climate disruption, but we are concerned that our children and grandchildren’s lives will become more difficult because of the actions (or inaction) taken today.

We recommend that everyone read Virginia Climate Fever.  It brings home the seriousness of this issue that will affect the lives of Virginians for many years to come.  It is available at the library and local book stores.

Our book group was organized by the Sierra Club, 350 Central Virginia, and Transition Charlottesville Albemarle.  To become involved and learn more about what you can do to prepare our community for climate disruption, please go to the websites of these local groups.

Review: Rebuilding the Foodshed

By Nancy Carpenter

On June 26, Philip Ackerman-Leist, author of Rebuilding the Foodshed, discussed his work in an online “Community Resilience Chat” from Transition US and the Post Carbon Institute.  The main themes were: defining the term “Rebuilding the FoodShed”; how specialization affects the foodshed; the idea of local; what issues to review when starting to rebuild the food system; the Transition background perspective and examples of successful foodshed rebuilds.

The idea of rebuilding the foodshed incorporates reclaiming, renaming and “unsaming” the existing foodshed.  Specialization, in and of itself, is not problematic.  It becomes problematic in a foodshed when it reduces diversity in agricultural production.  Reclaiming involves building diversity and resilience back into the food system.

rebuilding-the-food-shed-350A little bit of history about the term “foodshed”.  It was coined in 1929 by Walter Hedden in his book, “How Great Cities are Fed”.  Hedden described a ‘foodshed’ as the ‘dikes and dams’ guiding the flow of food from the producer to consumer.   Hedden contrasts foodsheds with watersheds by noting that “the barriers which deflect raindrops into one river basin rather than into another are natural land elevations, while the barriers which guide and control movements of foodstuffs are more often economic than physical.”

There was a discussion surrounding the idea that local food production has come to be seen as the end all be all of food production.  There is a purist notion that whatever is local can replace everything which is almost guaranteed to fail due to the complexities of a local food system.  The fact that local is nested in regional-national-global food systems can’t be ignored.  Even though local is the most beleaguered, it is the most trusted food system and can be the most transparent and accountable food system.

There are many issues to consider when rebuilding the local foodshed and understanding that local in one area may not be able to address issues in another area is one of the first ones.  There are many variables: what does the society look like; health issues (poverty, obesity, and diabetes rates); farm ownership (and the percentage of minority ownership); farm workers issues; and processing center employee issues.  The travesties of the past are resulting in injustices today.  If the people involved in the production of food cannot afford the product, it can create a quagmire.

There can be a Transition perspective in collaboration with rebuilding local foodsheds.  One has to think of a foodshed as having concentric circles.  Home can be the innermost circle where an individual can have the most influence for change.  The circles outside the home could be the porch/balcony, the backyard or the neighborhood.  Also initiate activities such as composting on a local scale, creating food co-ops, in areas of food deserts build a grocery store out of straw bales ( yes this has been done), have winter farmer’s markets, or even advocate for public schools to educate students about becoming local farmers.

The presentation identified many successful local food systems. Vermont is a leader in food systems and the “farm to plate” movement.  Athens, Ohio was mentioned as a mature, complete local food system.  Northeast Iowa’s Luther College was recognized for their efforts in rebuilding food systems.  The front range of Colorado food system maximized efficiencies with the scale of production by looking at whether to be hyperlocal or expand.  Besides food systems based on production of fruits and vegetable, other food production, such as seafood should be considered.  Ocracoke Fisheries in North Carolina is operated collectively by local fisherman whose product would not stay fresh for the trip to the mainland.  They needed this processing facility to be able to harvest local seafood and provide economic opportunity.

This presentation was uplifting as it provided very concrete examples of how a foodshed can be reclaimed, renamed, and unsamed.  We do not have to accept the status quo as it relates to food production.  We do not need to create food fiefdoms but work together within those concentric circles for the larger perspective, statewide and regional.

Listen to the complete webinar (103 minutes) at

Nancy Carpenter is a Scottsville, VA, resident and an activist for peace and social justice. She has recently applied to represent the community as interim supervisor on the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors.

Sacred Economics and Conscious Community

By Ben Coe

Most of my life I’ve been involved with creating events – events with the purpose of bringing people together in celebration, contemplation, and spiritual deepening.  After my first visit to Burning Man in 2003 I saw how profound an event could be.

Events have a way of bringing people out of their every day experience and dropping them into a lower mental operating frequency.  The concerns of the week wash away under the influence of music, friends, and drugs of any sort.  People come alive and it’s a beautiful site to behold.  Burning Man elevates the social possibilities by operating on a gift economy and a mantra of “participate.”  Imagine being inside a theatrical play where all 50,000 participants are actively engaged in creating the experience and expressing their gift.  There is nothing else like it on planet earth.  It’s a window into what could be in our society.

After that first Burning Man, I spent a lot of time considering what “it” was that united all the different people at Burning Man.  Ultimately I came to the conclusion that people there are engaged in creating what I called at the time “Conscious Community.”  These are people who want to create a better world, and who want to be aware of their impact.  At the same time in my life I came to the conclusion that something was flawed with our money system (not money per se, but the system that manages it) though I wasn’t sure what.

SacredEconomicsFast forward several years and I find that the idea of conscious community and the money system stem from the same source.  This is how I see it.  When you meditate, take psychedelic drugs, spend time in nature, surf, rock climb, or improvisational jam with other musicians, among other things, you enter a space where time slows down and the life force of the world opens up.  In that space it is clear that all is one. There is a connection between all of life – your inner self, those around you, and nature.

Our money system, and our society at large, does not share this view.  We live in an individualistic society where each person is considered separate from all of life: every man for himself.  Rather than thinking (like they do at Burning Man) about how to express your gift for all the other citizens of the world, we instead focus on fearfully collecting enough money to retire.  The idea that we are separate from the rest of life is also what allows us to plunder the earth for our own means rather than consider it part of ourselves.

What I see at Burning Man is a city of people actively trying to create a world based on the idea of connectivity; participate, go deeper, live from your source.  If you can live from your source, that means your barriers are down.   If your barriers are down then you’ll recognize that you are one with all.  And when you’re one with all you’ll see that the money system reinforces the idea that you are separate and in competition with every single other person on the planet.

Charles Eisenstein’s book, Sacred Economics, came into my life right as I was discovering all of these ideas.  I first read a couple pieces he wrote for YES! Magazine and I was blown away by how astute his observations were and how eloquently and efficiently he was able to describe “problems” and solutions.   I learned he had this book, Sacred Economics, so I immediately bought it.  The name alone captured its contents perfectly.


Charles Eisenstein

In his book Charles first discusses the Economics of Separation (what we have now) and then discusses the Economics of Reunion (how we get there).  He doesn’t skimp on down and dirty economics theory and practice either.  If you like technical economics then this books shouldn’t disappoint you.  And if you’re not into that but you’re searching for solutions to all of our dilemmas from a social perspective then it will still be great for you.  In the end he brings the book to a close by discussing how we can live the new economy.  The beauty of this book is that it illustrates the problems, gives large-scale solutions, but also gives you individual “change the world from where you sit” kind of solutions too.  I’ve read plenty of books that speak to the idea of creating a Deep World where our society would reflect the “new” values of connection but none hit the heart of the matter like this one.  Changing our money system is most critical for creating a sustainable and thriving society.  If you want to know how to change the world for good, this is a must read book.


Post-note: I loved this book so much that I sought out Charles and scheduled him to come visit us here in Charlottesville.  Please consider joining me for an Evening Talk with Charles Eisenstein on Friday, August 2 and/or a full-day workshop with Charles on Saturday, August 3.  It’s going to be awesome. Visit Deeply.Be to register.

Ben Coe is an architect of deep experiences based in Charlottesville, VA. He started Deeply.Be to foster and develop those on the leading edge of the cultural movement toward a deep world: a culture that deeply feels the connection to all of life (self, nature, and others) and a civilization that promotes the flourishing of the natural environment and all of humanity. Read more of his blogs at

Book Review: “Making Home” by Sharon Astyk

I just finished reading Sharon Astyk’s latest book, “Making Home:  Adapting our homes and our lives to settle in place“.  I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants some guidance or wonders what Transition might look like for their particular situation.  She talks about how climate change and fuel shortages will specifically impact our daily lives, and then covers a huge range of adapting techniques and tips:  from heating and cooling yourself to starting a garden to biking to the importance of tribalism.  She provides helpful case studies of real people, and weaves the themes of generosity and compassion throughout her suggestions.  I particularly enjoyed her discussion of house pets, and her “25 things you might want to consider growing” list.  If you’re not up for another entry on your reading list, she also has two great blogs:

Book Review: “Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back” by Zolli and Healy

Interesting review from Forbes:

In his seminal 1988 book Searching for Safety, the great political scientist and risk theorist Aaron Wildavsky dissected the precautionary principle and anticipatory risk regulation mindset and warned of the dangers of “trialwithout error” (the precautionary principle approach) compared to trial and error (the resiliency disposition). He argued that “the direct implication of trial without error is obvious: if you can do nothing without knowing first how it will turn out, you cannot do anything at all.”

This explains why precautionary thinking and its resulting policy responses poses such a profound threat to technological progress and human prosperity. Under a public policy regime guided at every turn by a precautionary principle, innovation and technological progress would be impossible because fear of the unknown or hypothetical worst-case scenarios would trump all other considerations.

This makes the case for resiliency even more powerful. Resilient humans and institutions are both better prepared for an uncertain future and able to engage in the sort of trial and error experimentation that will ensure us that the future is a better one. Resilient peoples and systems are both wealthier and healthier precisely because they embrace change and even failure in the recognition that wisdom and progress are born from them.

That does not mean it will be easy going. As Zolli and Healy’s properly point out, “living systems are messy and complex, and they operate in ways that are less than perfectly efficient—they are in a state of constant, dynamic disequilibrium.”

Click here to read the rest of the review-


Book Review: “Depletion and Abundance” by Sharon Astyk

Transitioners will identify quickly with this insightful book by Sharon Astyk.  Astyk starts with a review of the forces of Peak Oil and Climate Change, and clearly explains why we are heading for a drastically different low-energy lifestyle. She delves into many associated topics, like over-population, water shortages, food insecurity, unemployment, etc. But, this is NOT a Doom And Gloom book; far from it.

She asks three fundamental questions:

  • What is your fair share of the world’s resources?
  • What can you do now to help postpone the “long emergency”?
  • What can you do now to plan for your family’s success during the “long emergency”?

From there she paints a colorful picture of what low-energy lives can look like, why we need to go back to the concept of Victory Gardens, and why we need to go forward towards a more considered and fair use of resources.

It’s hard to do justice to all the eye-opening ideas she introduces over a huge range of topics, so I will just close and urge you to go read it. Now. Seriously, nothing you have planned for today is as important as getting a copy of this book.  : )