Thursday, January 29, 2009

Buses, Biofuels and Climate Change

I just finished reading Vandana Shiva’s book Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis. Shiva’s work has been an inspiration to me ever since I read her book about ecofeminism. Her writings talk about science, sustainability, economic theory, social justice, and feminism in an accessible and articulate way – for anyone interested in these topics, I highly recommend her work!

The issue of global warming has been on my mind for some time now. Pondering the immense changes that humanity now faces sometimes makes me feel paralyzed – there’s just so much to be done! For myself, I have found it productive to think of the climate crisis as an opportunity towards community transition to sustainability.

I am often dismayed by the popular solutions to this issue, like nuclear energy, carbon trading, and geo-engineering. Shiva’s book reaffirmed for me the need to break out of the limited choices put before us by the corporate establishment – we must continue to seek our own answers that are rooted in re-localization, self-reliance, and resiliency.

The whole point of this post was to actually talk about biofuels, since it directly relates to skoolies! When Erin and I first grasped upon the idea that we too could convert and live in a bus some three or so years ago, doing a WVO-conversion on our diesel engine was a key component. In fact, we decided early on that in making the choice to fully enjoy the benefits of living in a rolling home, it was essential to take the necessary steps to ensure that our choice impacted the environment as little as possible (especially since the automotive and construction industries are both notorious polluters).

Our plan has always been to do a full conversion so that we can run our bus on straight veggie oil. However, we've always wanted to leave the option open to use biodiesel too. It might be encouraging to read about how nations around the world are starting promote biofuels as a means to curb global warming. I am realizing, though, that it is becoming more important than ever to make a distinction between local, sustainably-produced biofuels and the growing global industrial biofuel industry. It turns out that industrial biofuel production actually continues to jeopardize people's food and water security and the planet's ecosystems and climate.

Industrial biofuel production requires deforestation and the conversion of lands used to produce food to fuel. It is heavily reliant on monoculture and genetically modified crops that in the end destroy biodiverstiy and serve to benefit large corporations, not small farmers. These crops require massive inputs of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, water, and fossil fuel itself. Industrial biofuels maintain a car-centered infrastructure, contributing little to fuel efficiency or more sustainably designed communities

When faced with such facts, it's hard to know which direction to take. I think we all desire to limit our contribution to pollution and global warming as we drive to work or visit our friends and relatives (or travel in our housebus!). But we also want to support real, long-term solutions to the converging crises humanity now faces.

Industrial biofuels are not a solution to global warming. They are a means for the automotive and agribusiness industries – those most responsible for the climate crisis – to continue to pollute and expand their profits.

I feel the key concepts here are decentralization, local community control, ecological biodiversity, and a resiliency rooted in diversity. I am excited to participate in ongoing conversations about how to foster this kind of energy program, especially with other bus-folks who may be thinking similar things! Obviously, addressing the question of energy and biofuels cannot be an isolated endeavor, but must be integrated in the full dynamics of sustainable community transition.

Onward to exciting vagabond DIY energy adventures!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bus Project Brainstorm

Now that Holiday Market is over and Erin and I are finally starting to come out of our recuperative period, we've been dreaming a lot about all the exciting things we want to accomplish on our bus! Though we haven't had time quite yet to delve in (besides tidying and cleaning), we have a pretty extensive list of projects that we'll be undertaking in the near future.

Up until leaving Eugene, our main focus was getting the "main systems" in place - making her a functioning living space. Now that we've had a chance to really live in our bus full-time and travel a bit, we're about ready to start the "tricking out" process. Well, before that actually, there's still a few function issues to be smoothed out, as I expect there'll always be. To get us started, I thought I would share our rough brainstorm of the projects at hand. In no particular order:

  • Tile around wood stove and on kitchen counter - we're ready to replace all that grey Wonderboard with some color and texture! Plus, I think our bare wood kitchen counter has about had it from all the sudsy water from the sink, uck. While in Santa Rosa, we scored some sweet recycled tile at the local ReStore perfect for the project.
  • Fix range/oven issues - the range fan still needs to be tweaked and the oven is mysteriously not working either.
  • Install our 3-way mini fridge we scored at Bring - this project probably won't happen for a while since our fridge is in Oregon and we are now in California. Interestingly, we've pretty much been living without refrigeration completely this winter. All it takes is not buying milk and eating your veggies pretty soon after you buy them! We'll see how that goes come summer-time though...
  • Extend couch - we've been re-designing our whole living room zone. We took out the sewing table corner and are changing the space up in exciting ways. Making the couch zone more comfy is a key ingredient of this.
  • Carpentry finishing work - this includes putting some sweet doors on our cabinets to start, but also finishing all those rough edges to our novice and hasty construction job. Also, we still have that pile of recycled hardwood oak flooring we want to put down! Other small jobs like making our kitchen table a few inches shorter, putting up a few more shelves, the list goes on...
  • Re-design clothing closet system - we've realized that two people actually need quite a decent amount of space to store their clothes. The main thing we are lacking is some kind of closet rod to hang our jackets and some precious garments of Erin's... but where??
  • Re-vamp some electrical kinks - this involves installing a DC plug so we can charge our computer more efficiently, rigging up a sweet stereo system, finally covering up all our dangling wires, perhaps investigating some new lighting fixtures and/or investment in a strand of 12v LED lights to make it super cozy.
  • Finish ceiling details - our bus-friend Michael that we met on the Smith River had ingeniously used a cloth tapestry as a ceiling covering (instead of paint or wood, etc.) This is a very exciting idea for such a fiber-lover as Erin! Now we just have to find the right tapestry and a nifty non-toxic glue to attach it with.
  • Streamline fresh & grey water systems - we want to create a fresh-water fill nozzle on the outside of the bus. Also, we are very much looking forward to finding a more permanent spot where we can build an experimental constructed wetlands to process our grey water! No more yucky smelling grey water to empty...
  • Beautify the driver's cab - self explanatory. This also involves finding a more convenient and permanent location for all our tools (right now they ride right under the passenger's (me) feet when we drive... a little awkward).
  • Build a sweet roof rack/deck.
  • WVO conversion!!
Well I'm sure there are a million more things to be accomplished, but this is a start. We will keep you all updated on our progress. First thing up - re-designing the living room zone. We've already started on this and hope to post pictures soon.

Thanks to everyone's patience as we slowly get back into sharing our bus-life adventures after a short hibernating hiatus.

All our love.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Our Blogs are Getting Divorced.

YES YES YES!! Yay!!!!!!!!!!! I can't tell you how many hours of work it took me to transition to my site!! I'm still selling stuff through Etsy, still blogging about my housebus here but now I'm going to be able to blog about craftiness in my very own craft blog. I also got my portfolio up so that everyone can see all the best stuff I've made over the last couple years. WOOOO!!! (the new one) was also my first foray into Wordpress so we'll see how that goes. So far, so good...sort of. I sure learned alot. I'm not one of those gals who can just deal with a pre-made theme so messing with the code to get it all just right was a learning experience...that...took...forever. I'm used to just good ol' html but this was god-knows-what and databases and all those fancy bells and whistles. Phew. Hopefully the worst is over. (Thanks to Allegra's fiance, Alyn, for giving me a friendly hand in a moment of sheer blog crisis!!!)

In the meanwhile, check it out and let me know what you think. I was also able to update a lot of our links and blogrolls (on this blog and the new one) so I apologize for slacking on that. It's not personal - we love you all!

xoxox, erin

Monday, January 5, 2009

Woodcut Mini-Journals and Cards

Here's some new purdy pictures I took of our latest block print/woodcut mini-journals and cards. I carved all of them except for the sun and river one - that one is Julia's! Once I got her started, she was the primary book-binder/printer. (I was too busy sewing!!)

I want to post them on my Etsy store but there are so many different color combinations (we made a BUNCH....seriously) that I'm overwhelmed by cataloging it all for folks' shopping the meantime, you can see more of my photoshoot here.