Get Adobe Flash player

Hi folks.  A bunch of new exciting developments in the works which you will hear about shortly, not the least of which is that we now have a webmaster, which is very exciting for me as I have been doing this all by myself for the last 3 years.  I just wanted to let you all know that we are here, we have been having meetings.  The facebook page is a lot more up to date, but as I said that is going to change soon, the website will be just as current.


Hi folks, just an FYI, the tree planting has been postponed to May 11th, due to the planting sites still being frozen.  Still Sylvan Hill, and 10 am,  just a different day.

There will be a meeting of the Commission Steering Committee this Friday, April 5th, at 9am, at Allister Deacons, in Washington Square downtown.

Agenda Commission Agenda 4 5 13

Our Thoughts On Updating the States Iron Mining Laws

Below is the letter that was sent to the state legislature, and read at the hearings for the original AB426, the iron mining bill.  Just about sums it up, new version of the bill or not.

January 24, 2012

To whom it may concern,

It is with a heavy heart, that I must write this letter on behalf of the group I represent.  I have read the full text of AB 426, and am beyond dismayed at what I have seen.

This bill, effectively guts all regulation related to iron mining in the state.  It spends a very large and longwinded amount of time elucidating how it will change iron mining regulation only to state at the end that the few regulations the bill will have left standing,  can be appealed, and gives the DNR only 15 days to decide upon said appeal.  As a person accustomed to working in governmental and bureaucratic situations, 15 days is like asking the DNR to decide something in one day.  It simply does not happen, as I am sure, ( beyond the shadow of a doubt , as you all work under the same circumstances I do, you all know.
This bill removes any public hearings on the Environmental Impact Statement for a proposed mine.  It removes the ability to contest cases at the hearings the bill still allows.  There is no longer testimony under oath at these hearings, just as there is no ability to cross examine.  It completely removes the limited recourse that the people have to protest a problem mine by banning contested case administrative hearings.  It effectively gags the people.  May I remind you that the US Constitution’s first amendment clearly states; Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the Government for a re-dress of grievances.  In denying a citizens right to protest a problem mine you are denying their first amendment right.

The sins of this bill against democracy and due process go even further however.  It shortens the time to consider a mining application to one year.  Whereas this is understandable, as I do realize the wheels of government can move maddeningly slow, saying that if the DNR does not respond within the one year allotted the application is automatically approved, is not understandable.  Frankly, it is recklessly endangering the lives of thousands of people, as given the government can be very slow it is highly likely that many incomplete or barely complete iron mining applications will be approved by this loophole.

Furthermore, stating that an application is automatically complete thirty days after its submittal to the DNR, whether in reality it is or not, is again heavily favoring a mining industry well known for its disregard for human life and a long line of environmental abuses.  To make the betrayal of people’s rights to clean air and water complete, it also states that the DNR has to view an application as complete, and therefore the one year time limit for approval begins ticking, whether it is in fact complete or not.  As long as the components are there; the mining plan, the reclamation plan, the waste site feasibility study, plan of operation and EIR, the DNR has to view the application as complete regardless of and I quote “the quality of the information provided”.   In other words, a mining company in essence could submit a one line reclamation plan and the DNR would have to accept it.  The environmental implications of this bill are nauseating and far reaching.  This bill in essence allows companies to pay off the state on issues of water, wetlands, and waste disposal.  They can do what they like and the bill clearly states under the section entitled “standards for approval”, that mining companies do not have to comply with state or federal environmental regulations.  They can just come in and do what they like, regardless of the consequences.

AB426 also states that the DNR must consider the “net positive impact” a proposed iron mine would have on the area the mine is located.  With half of the tax revenue going directly to the state general fund, the likely beneficial impact of a mine for the area it is in is already severely limited.   But allow me to go further, as I intimately understand the financial plight of the Northwoods and the state in general.  What wages will be earned in the mines are directly negated by ; A, the severe safety concerns of working underground ; B the destabilization of the areas bedrock as the entire Northwoods sits on a gigantic plate of iron.  Earthquakes and sinkholes will be quite the common occurrence  resulting in property damage death and injury which again , this bill provides loopholes allowing mining companies to get out of financial responsibility; C. the related acute and chronic long term health effects of the areas water supplies and air being contaminated resulting in disease and death for local residents, a problem already rearing its ugly head in the area as the area was founded on exploitative mines that polluted the groundwater already.  One could say the damage has already been done and they are right, both physically and economically, but to say we should make it worse is a callous and abominable approach.  The reality is that Hurley and the surrounding areas have long been victim to boom and bust economics associated with mining.  The boom isn’t really a boom as while people are making money they are paying for it with their health and lives, and the busts are so devastating as to remove entire towns from the map.  The people of this region deserve a more farsighted approach to their economic woes, surely a more sustainable and stable solution can be found.  Otherwise, it is history repeating itself, with appalling consequences.

I choke at the statement of “The people of the state of Wisconsin, represented in senate and assembly, do enact as follows:”  and the end of this bill.  This administration has done little to foment the will of the people.  It has summarily ignored the protests of tens of thousands in favor of a few corporate sponsors.  It is a very sad day for democracy when the voice of the people is ignored in favor of greed and plutocracy, and a mining company can come in have laws re-written for it, in opposition to the will of the people.  And so I leave you with this.  It is the the first five lines of the preamble to the declaration of independence.

“When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
2.1 We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
2.2 That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
2.3 Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
2.4 But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.”

Debra Weiss
Chairwoman-The Commission for a Greener Tomorrow

Environmental Justice=Social Justice

“Justice is dependent on Truth”

All too often environmentalists are portrayed at caring only about the Earth and nothing about their fellow man. This is simply an untruth. Yes there are some people out there, who maybe this is true for, and certainly there can be a disconnect sometimes. It was only recently I was seeing campaign ads against a certain Wisconsin representative who apparently introduced a bill to tax gas at a higher rate, trying to discourage the frivolous and wasteful use of it, but in reality making the lives of working Wisconsinites even more difficult. I dont know the exact particulars of the bill, but I dont really need to. It is a story that gets repeated more than the majority of good things folks like us do, to serve the interests of those who profit from environmental degradation. I have always said it, and I always will say it, you must think, you must follow the money, and must acknowledge there are too many people out there whose ego and greed decide everything for them. Transcending this cacophony, true environmental justice, is social and economic justice, and you should care about the Earth, because the continued pillaging of her, directly translates to your own impoverishment and oppression.

To begin with, why don’t we address petroleum.  Economically, we are all slaves to the pump, whether we like it or not.  The average household, depending on their daily commute are paying at least $100 a week, just to fill their tanks and be able to go to their jobs.  Rising food prices at least in part are due to rising fuel costs as the traditional forms of agriculture and the food supply chain are heavily dependent on petroleum.  Large scale farming relies on mechanized equipment, that runs on gas, the fertilizers they use, are petroleum based, the trucks that transport food from the heart of the Midwest to the rest of the country run on diesel.  Theships that take our surplus food to China and Africa also run on diesel.  I posted it in the Urban Agriculture section, “the Oil We Eat”, but no truer statement could be made about our farming system.  Theoretically, if large scale mono-cropping, is replaced by small scale community farms that practice sustainable organic and biointensive practices, all of that oil use is removed, save for $10 worth of fuel to drive the crops into the urban center, a drop in the bucket in comparison to the $300-400 a semi uses to drive the same amount of produce halfway across the country in some cases, thereby drastically cutting the demand for oil, a causing the price to drop.  I say theoretically because the oil cartels are notorious for jacking up prices, even when the price of oil per barrel drops.

But forget about them, a society set up where people, unless they are farmers or homesteaders, who dont need to run into town everyday, move to urban centers (and by urban I don’t necessarily mean huge cities, just places where there are more than a 1000 people living and working together), doesn’t need petroleum anymore really.  the rampant obesity epidemic in this country would go a long way to being cured if folks would move close to their jobs, or find a job close to their home, and either walk or bike to work.  Not only does this cut out gas budgets, but it cuts out the car payment on the average $20,000 car.  That would free up a bit of spending money now wouldn’t it?  Even in winter time, if you can’t stand the cold, using a bus system running of compressed natural gas, a fuel with dramatically less emission and can be sustainable sourced(I’ll cover that more in a minute) again removes the need for fossil fuel.  You need to go visit aunt Nettie three states over, take the bus.  Yes the bus system as it stands right now, needs a little help, but improve it to where it needs to be, and be amazed at the results.

Now before I go any further I need to address the subject of entitlement.  People and animal are literally dying to appease the American sense of entitlement.  The diamond you give your girlfriend to marry you, comes from diamond mines in Africa where adults and children a like are forced into slavery by militias and warlords, and very often killed, mutilated and or forced on drugs.  The smart phone some people have to wait in line for 3 days for, and have to replace every six months, when it is discarded in favor of the next greatest thing, very often ends up in a ghetto in China, where workers dismantle them for their precious metals in their own home, for $12/day and very often end up getting cancer as a result.  The steel that goes to make cars, comes from China as well, with no environmental standards, and China now has overtaken the West in carbon and mercury emissions.  This doesn’t even to begin the cover the fact all our jobs were shipped overseas to them, direct relationship, lack of environmental justice equals lack of socio-economic justice for us, environmental justice equals socio-economic justice.  The jet fuel used in commercial airliners, again petroleum, which comes to us through aging pipelines, that regularly leak, leaks that are wholly ignored by the mainstream media, and are refined at refineries that consume more energy, either coal(mercury) or nuclear(radiation) based, than most other industries.  With a gulf that is still bleeding oil, and air and water polluted with mercury, I ask, is your smart phone or car, worth the lives of millions?  Is your comfort and ego worth another mans life?  Is it worth your own, as the truth of the matter is we are killing ourselves along with killing life on this planet.  If you had any sense of shame or decency, you would say no, nothing is worth the life of another.

Those who would over simplify the issue into environmentalists only care about trees are downright evil, because they are glossing over the fundamental truth that what we do to the earth, we do to ourselves.  They would have you commit suicide, as what we are doing to the planet is in fact the same, we are not removed from the natural life sustaining systems.  Perhaps you could built a bunker with all you would need for a thousand years should disaster strike, but is that really how you want to live? And tell me, after a thousand years, would you even be human anymore?  Like H.G. Wells Time Machine, what would a thousand years underground mutate us into?  We are children of the Earth, we may be entirely different from any other creature on this planet (all though not as much as you might think), but we are still at least part animal.  The insidiousnesss of trying to convince people they are not, that we can somehow live without trees and sunlight, is nightmarish, but yet it is the reality.  Billions are spent influencing the government to keep the status quo, whether it be oil, ag or coal/nukes, while billions more are spent buying the media and using television to influence public opinion and brainwash people into believing what in the end is their own destruction.  That the sky really isnt blue, buying into the disposable society is ok, just throw it away and buy something new, it will make you feel better, and if it doesn’t we have a pill to stifle the nagging doubt of the God within, your conscience, so in the end you just wont care that the throwaway society, views you as disposable too.

The problems we face, as they are interrelated, Earth and economic, are also never going to respond to simple band-aid fixes, such as slapping a tax on carbon or gas, they need deep reflection and thought by us, as Thoreau put it, “I went into the woods because I wanted to live life deliberately”.  We are all overworked, over stressed, poorly nourished on our diets of pink slime and HFCS, and rarely do you meet a fellow who acts from thought, not desperation.  The depression that is plaguing our society, is a result of a toxic diet laced with hormones, anti-biotics and other drugs, a diet far too reliant on unsustainable meat; as it is a result of a misery as to what our world is really like.  Anyone who has stopped and bothered to think about life they live and the world they are living it in, has to feel sorrow, if they do not there is something wrong with them.  What we do to ourselves we do to the Earth, and vice versa.  The two are one, it is delusion to think otherwise.

So what is the deep thoughtful fix that will save us?  For everything you take from the Earth, you must give something back to her in return.  Simple phrase, with profound implications.  Furthermore, we need to get back to basics, to really evaluate what we need as human beings, focus on making that an art, a daily ritual if you will, and rely on our technology less.  Technology is great, but it is replacing our jobs, it is depleting the Earth’s resources and making us all into fat lazy slobs.  So many jobs would be added back into the workforce, if farms were tended by humans versus machines.  Technology has it’s place, I do not begrudge folks for having a phone, a computer, that they hold on to until it is worn out, just as I feel we should turn our sights to the stars and use ion drives to see what is really out there, because like HG Wells, our society is already split, there are those who want to stay here, close to the Earth, and then there are those whose wanderlust impels them to take to the skies.  Gene Roddenberry had it right that there would come a time, where those who wanted to explore could, and those who wanted to stay could, there is room for both, and it does fix the overpopulation problem in relatively short order.

But if we are here, on this planet, we must observe and respect her laws and rules, the biggest being the aforementioned for all that you take you must give in return.  We as a society must close the cycle.  Landfills and compost heaps produce natural gas, instead of forcing toxic chemicals into the ground through fracking, collect the gases from decaying matter.  We reduce our energy requirements enough, it does become conceivable to run everything off of those two sources.  As gross as it sounds, it is the natural order of things, that our waste, as well as those of our animals, when properly composted and cured, is fertilizer, better than any chemical fertilizer ever made.  Humans are still the most efficient machines, and we are a resource in abundance right now, instead of our machines, we should be tending the garden with shovels and hoes.  Instead of staying up all night, furthering mental disorders and depression (as insomnia and lack of light has been scientifically proven to contribute to depression and mental illness), make use of natural light, be active during the day, build your home to be south facing letting in as much natural light and heat as possible, again reducing energy consumption.  This is not to say you shouldn’t take a stroll in the moonlight sometimes, because you should, again balance and respecting the circle, but you shouldn’t be doing most of your tasks at night.

On the subject of depression is the concept of working together.  We humans are social creatures, we need each other, even if it is only one other person, there are very few people who truly function better entirely alone.  Instead we have a society straying farther and farther from real human contact and bonds everyday, and not surprisingly, depression is rising in direct proportion to this ill fated phenomenon.  The concept of local economy is further based off of community.  It is environmentally friendly as goods are no longer being shipped over great distances, slashing to dependence on not only oil, but foreign oil, the reason for wars and further social injustice, the reason most of the Arab world hates us.  With local economy, the possibility for artisan crafts becomes again the norm as they replace cheaply made plastic disposable goods, plastics again that are petroleum based.  Sustainability dictates that we work together, build things to last, we take responsibility ofr our existence and all we consume, and restore the balance, that is the recipe for not only environmental justice, but socio-economic justice as well.

Preserving the Harvest


Well, I was going to write an orginal article on the subject, until I discovered a very good one written on Mother Earth News Online. So to begin with here is the link to the article on preserving.

There are more than just root veggies and such to preserve, so for those let me give you some canning recipes. Note that all of these recipes are for a pressure cooker.

Tomatoes-pack raw in jars, crushing the tomatoes down as you go so that in the end they are covered in their own juice, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. 2T lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, 1t salt, per each quart. Process 10lbs pressure for 25 minutes
pints-1Tlemon juice or vinegar, 1/2t salt per each quart. Process at 10 lbs pressure for 25 minutes

Peppers (note if canning hot peppers make sure you have VERY good ventilation, the steam will irritate your eyes, nose and throat and can cause nosebleeds) pack peppers in jars loosely, may be packed whole or chopped. Cover with boiling water leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Process pints at 10 lbs pressure for 35 minutes

Green Beans-pack into jars tightly leaving 1 inch headspace. Cover with boiling water leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Process at 10 lbs pressure, pints 20 minutes, quarts 25 minutes

Finally, there is another method of preserving and that is drying. Not only is there the drying of herbs, tying them in a bundle and hanging them upside down till dry, but also roma tomatoes may be sun dried, and celery can be dried as well. Romas may be dried on a reflective cookie sheet (the normal silver kind are what I mean). Cover them with plastic wrap, and set out in the bright sun. Turn them occasionally, but with a day or two you should have sundried tomatoes. If you have one, a solar oven works the best for this. Celery may be dried by the same method as drying herbs, tied in a bundle, and hung upside down till dry. Make sure you do all your indoor herb drying in a dry location. Do not dry them in the basement as they will more than likely mold.


Seasonal Attunement

The Three Sisters”


With the arrival of the first of August, comes the awareness that fall is soon on its way.  Traditionally Aug 1 is the beginning of harvest.  We at the Commission are proud to have supported and promoted sustainable gardening practices for several years now.  No doubt those of you with gardens, myself included, are faced with a glut of beans and zucchini  with the annual avalanche of tomatoes just beginning.  Like all things in nature, there is a reason, and wisdom for the order in which vegetables come in.  What follows are an overview of some of the basic nutritional principles of Oriental Medicine, a discipline that has been tried and true for over 4000 years, and their relevance for sustainability today.

As we are just coming off the height of summer, with temperatures still regularly in the 80′s, it is still pertinent to share seasonal attunement information for spring and summer.  Spring is a time to clear out the gunk of winter.  In early spring the fruits and veggies that show up first, rhubarb, berries, spinach, greens and green onions all serve to cool and detoxify the liver, the organ that takes the most beating during the winter where heavy fatty meals predominate, while the early peas and potatoes provide a light and vegetarian source of protien as well as a nearly complete nutrient spectrum, while lighter fast type meals predominate.  Common herbs at this time are chives, mint and chamomile, with chamomile to be found growing wild in this area.  You cannot mistake its sweet relaxing smell.  On a side note, members of the allium family, onions, chives etc are in fact warming, but they specifically act on the liver to stimulate it out of stagnancy.  It should also be noted that Oriental Medicine is a Taoist medical system, that being said it’s most fundamental principle, is the balance between opposites, no matter what time of year it is, include both warming and cooling foods, in summer the balance leans to cooling, in winter it tips to warming, but one should always be present with the other to maintain homeostasis.

As Spring gives way to Summer, the brightly colored/”watery” vegetables become more appropriate, and accordingly after the Solstice if one has planned accordingly (and started them indoors in Jan/Feb in the case of nightshades) is when a person should start seeing tomatoes, peppers,  and zucchini.  The veggies serve to hydrate in the hot summer months.  In addition, hot peppers, actually serve to thin the blood making them cooling in the long run.  Couple this with the already existing diet of detoxifying green and berries and you have a natural way to adapt to the heat, without relying on excess energy in the form of A/C

Now, if one is to divide the year simply in halves, Summer and Winter, there is no doubt a transitional period between the two.  This occurs around early March and September.  White and yellow veggies, in very early spring, onions and potatoes, and in very early fall, corn and yellow squash, ease the transition between seasons.  We are entering into one of these times right now, and again, the ears of corn are coming in right on que.

No doubt if you have a garden you have a few winter squash and pumpkins developing at this point, and the beginning of fall is when the starchy vegetables and beans should begin to take over.  Carrots, Parsnips, Butternut Squash, Acorn Squash, Spaghetti Squash, Pumpkins, Yams/Sweet Potatoes are all appropriate and begin to “thicken” the blood to prepare the body for colder temperatures.  Green beans are a fresh protien source that can be consumed or stored to last throughout the winter (so can everything else for that matter)Early fall is when the apples drop, and late fall is when the cabbage and broccoli are ready, and continuing the principle of balance these are to be included even though they are cooling.

Winter is the time for beans, and lots of them (I know do you really want to be locked in the house while consuming nothing but beans???).  The protien in beans, in addition to the mountain of winter squash you will no doubt have at this point, will keep you nice and warm all winter, as will the warming spices of black pepper, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg.  You also will no doubt have storage onions and garlic, who as stated before are warming as well.  Finally salty foods are actually a good thing (in moderation) in the winter as they draw the energy of the body inwards making it easier to stay warm.  Miso, soy sauce and the like are but a few examples.  Obviously there are the various meats available, most of them very warming, and rich and as such should be consumed in moderation, as they can stop up the liver, leading to an angry, arrogant, egocentric personality, unfortunately commonly displayed by many westerners.

The proper balance (and your body will tell you what that is) will make enduring the long cold Wisconsin winter much more bearable.   I personally, with the aid of a nice fuzzy sweater and longjohns, can comfortably ride out the winter with the thermostat set to 60 during the day, and 55 at night.  The difference this makes in energy consumption is actually greater than you might expect.  Setting a thermostat at 60 versus 70 is actually an exponential difference in energy costs.  It also means you are not shocking your body everytime you come in from the cold to a very warm house (and in summer the converse), which actually lowers your immunity.   It may seem a little off topic to post about seasonal nutrition on a sustainability site, but the choices we make for our food does make a big difference for the planet.  A local seasonal foods diet, cuts down on the gas used to transport food over hundreds of miles, not to mention cutting out the amount of energy to grow things in a climate controlled greenhouse off season.  A diet that works with the flow of nature as opposed to against it saves energy in the form of heating and cooling costs.  Every little bit counts.

Finally it should be noted that no where in here do I mention refined sugar.  Sugar and HFCS are like razor blades in the damage they do to your body.  They have been linked to tooth decay, diabetes, and what many people do not know, is that they severely hamper your immune system.  They are equally toxic for the planet, as 90% of the corn grown in this country goes on to further refining, either for HFCS or Ethanol, consuming massive amounts of energy.  The fertilizers used to grow said corn are petroleum based, further depleting the oil reserves of this planet, not to mention adding to the severe runoff problem in this country that is choking many of our waterways.  Artificial sweeteners are extremely toxic to your liver, in some cases breaking down into formaldehyde.  You will also notice I do not mention whole grains either.  While traditional Oriental Medicine does ascribe grains to specific times of the year, wheat/oats in the spring, corn/amaranth in the summer, millet/barley in the transitional times, rice in the fall, and again beans in the winter, ancestrally humans consumed a largely grain free diet.  This has been termed the Paleolithic diet, and it consists of veggies, fruit and meat/eggs.  Modern science has discovered something called leptin resistance that is intimately associated with obesity.  Grains can trigger this resistance.  That being said, grains should actually be consumed the least, behind vegetables, fruits and protien, in that order.  You will also notice I do not mention dairy.  Most dairy is laden with antibiotics and completely unsustainable, but it is also a case that we were never meant to live off the milk of another species.  I love my sugary Christmas cookies with the vanilla icing as much as the next guy, but they are really bad for you and for the planet.  Just keep that in mind.

Next post will be on the basics of canning and preserving, as many veggies can be sundried for winter storage, or stored in a root cellar without any processing at all.  Happy eating!

Wattage of Household Appliances


   In continuation of the topic broached in my previous post, about small portable P/V kits, here is a list of wattages for the electrical items we use everyday. The P/V I had discussed had an inverter of 200 watts, so that is its max draw at any given time, larger inverters are available, Harbor Freight sells them, but the larger the energy draw, the faster battery reserves are depleted.  As always, you should reduce your energy consumption, first and foremost, and being aware of what consumes what, is the first step.

Wattages in ascending order of plug-in devices;
wifi router-6watts
PC modem-12watts
phone modem-12 watts
small table fan-25watts
cable box-32watts
window fan-63watts
box fan-100watts
sewing machine-100watts
laptop computer-180watts
electric blanket-200watts
clothes washer-500watts
electric drill-750watts
toaster 800-1500watts
coffee maker-900watts brewing, 3 watts standby
Window A/C unit(medium)-900watts
portable heater-900watts
electric frying pan-1200watts
electric oven 350degrees-2000watts
electric clothes dryer-3500watts

Hardwired applaince consumption, FYI
ceiling fan-75-100watts
central air unit-3500watts

   Finally it should be noted that for heating purposes, natural gas is more efficient than electric. Burning gas is a direct output of heat, whereas electricity is made by taking the heat from burning coal (or nuclear fission) to boil water, to turn steam turbines, to generate current, which travels to your house via powerlines, and then is converted back into heat energy for whatever application. Part of what the Commission has been working on in the last year is the conversion of the gas pipelines from natural gas derived from hydraulic fracturing, a very unsound environmental choice, to Landfill Gas (gas derived from decomposing landfills) and biogas (derived from rotting compost and manure piles on farms, both of which are far more sustainable energy choices. In conclusion, it was in the news the last week that the EPA, has slated 57 coal-fired power plants for shutdown in 2012. It is a small step in the right direction as we move from dirty and dangerous modes of energy production to developing a “clean” energy economy based on wind and solar.

Beating the Heat



If you live in Central Wisconsin or south, you no doubt have been enduring the excruciating heat.  Well we at the Commission would like to give you a few tips to beat the heat, without consuming excess energy. Yes, it can be done, and without air conditioning.

Keeping a house cool without consuming extra energy begins with keeping the windows shut during the day, and the shades drawn.  Most heat inside occurs from not only the hot air blowing in from outside, but also radiant solar energy.  This is the easiest and simplest step.

Number two, after the sun goes down, open a window or two and put a fan that blows the cool air from the outside, in.  Run this the whole night, and shut it off as soon as you wake up and close the windows and blinds again for the next day.  Whereas fans do suck energy, they use a significantly smaller amount than A/C units.  This is because they operate by centripetal force, and very little energy is needed to maintain their spinning once attained.

Third, if you have a basement, you will no doubt have noticed it tends to be 20 degrees cooler.  A fan at the base of the stairs blowing up will circulate the cool air into the rest of the house, and an upstairs ceiling fan if you have one, will force the hot air down into the basement.

A neat trick is to put a damp (NOT sopping wet) towel over in the back of an upright floor fan.  Make sure you are not completely blocking the inflow as you will burn out your fan, but the evaporation will add an extra 5 to 10 degree cooling factor to the air blown out.  This factor only doubles if you put this on the fan you have in the basement.  Taking a cool bath everyday also serves to get the oils (which retain heat) off your skin, and obviously the cool water, well, keeps you cool.

Another way to keep cool is to help your body adapt to the heat.  Mother Nature tends to provide the types of food that naturally have this effect, just as the corn beans and squash that come in late fall warm the body to prepare it for winter.  In early spring, lettuce and greens, scallions, rhubarb and berries serve to “thin” the thick blood needed for freezing weather, in addition to helping the body fast and to shed excess winter weight.  The peppers, tomatoes and zucchini that begin to come in after the summer solstice, further cool the body to prepare for the scorching summer heat we are experiencing now.  Hot peppers are diaphoretic, meaning they make the body sweat.  They may be hot at first, but they actually in the long run cool the skin and body down.  As always, real lemonade and apple juice also keep the body cool.

Finally if you want a way to keep food cool without a fridge and without ice, another neat trick is the terracotta pot cooler.  Take two terracotta pots, one that fits within the other with a little bit of space in between.  Fill said space with sand, all the way to the top.  Get the sand wet.  Put whatever you want to keep cool, inside the smaller pot and cover with a wet towel.  The evaporation creates a phenomena that will keep whatever you put in there at near refrigerator temps.  It goes without saying to keep your terracotta pot cooler out of the sun, in a shady place.

There you go folks, a way to keep cool without adding too much the underlying greenhouse gases that are making it so hot in the first place.  If you have a small solar array you can conceivably run your fans, in addition to a small laptop and a small fridge completely coal and nuke free. 55 watt solar kits are available from Menards and Fleet Farm for about $300, they include an inverter and charge controller.   Make sure in addition you buy 1 or 2 deep cycle RV/Marine batteries to store power.  Whereas you cannot charge them as one, you can use them as one if they are wired together, they sell the proper wire set at any automotive parts store.  Keep cool! :)