7 Great examples of people and communities living a post-carbon world

7 Great examples of people and communities living a post-carbon world
1. Community Cooperative Utilities

As a chain of volcanic islands, Hawai’i doesn’t have coal and natural gas readily available to generate electricity. The state depends on oil, shipped in by tanker, to generate electricity. In 2002, Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) became the first and only member-owned utility company in the state, aiming to solve this energy problem.

At that time, Kaua’i residents were 92 percent reliant on oil for their energy needs and had some of the highest electricity bills in the country. That reliance was a major problem – in some years, oil imports cost the island close to $100 million.

Renewable energy appealed to residents who wanted lower utility bills and were concerned about the environment. “People were tired of oil,” said Jim Kelly, the cooperative’s communications manager. “It was up to us to cut the cord and not be at the mercy of oil supply.”

KIUC has been working to do this by reducing fossil-fuel dependence while keeping money, jobs and utility operations on the island. Fossil-fuel use has dropped to just 60 percent as solar, biomass and hydropower investments take effect. Because of this, energy bills are expected to drop by at least 10 percent over the next 10 years – even as oil prices rise. Ideally, Kelly said, greater reliance on renewables will mean more stable utility rates, regardless of what happens to the cost of oil.

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2. An Electric Bicycle Commute

Cycling brings better health to people and neighborhoods alike.

Studies show that cycle-friendly infrastructure has positive effects on local economies. When people bike, they’re better able to connect with and do business in their communities. But for many people, the effort of cycling holds them back. Sweating and the physical inability to climb hills or cross bridges is a barrier.

E-bikes may be the solution.

Think hybrid car, but applied to a bicycle. Depending on the e-bike, you control the motor either with a button or based on how hard you pedal. Users enjoy the functional advantage of increased power, but also the pure joy of riding a bicycle.

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3. Perennial Grains

Living regionally requires farming closer to home, but with current farming methods – especially when it comes to grains – that’s a challenge. America’s wheat and corn spread over vast, uninterrupted fields far from urban centers.

Grains are an essential part of our diet: 70 percent of our calories come from them, writes Wes Jackson of The Land Institute. But we need to change how we grow them. For 12,000 years we’ve farmed annual grains and since the mid-20th century, we’ve bolstered production with pesticides and nitrogen fertilizer. This was known as the Green Revolution and it fed the world. Only now do we see the costs clearly: eroded topsoil, thousands of dead zones in the ocean (where fertilizer runoff gathers and suffocates marine life) and dependence on fossil fuels. The American Midwest is now defined by dusty swaths of monocrops dotted with anhydrous ammonia tanks.

Enter perennial grains. Where annuals leave the soil bare, according to Sieg Snapp, a researcher at Michigan State University, perennials build it. Their roots, staying longer and growing deeper, hold the soil together and rely on little to no fertilizer. And they can be grown on less desirable farmland, potentially closer to larger population centers.

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4. In Alaska Schools, It’s Fish for Lunch

The University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Center for Alaska Native Health Research is pushing local fish for school lunch – and it’s not talking fish sticks.

Since 2009, Andrea Bersamin has been leading the center’s Fish to School program, which serves locally caught fish, primarily salmon, in school lunches statewide. Made possible with a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the program grew out of a concern for Native health and food sovereignty and draws upon Yup’ik culture, which emphasizes subsistence fishing. Alaska’s climate limits its agricultural capacity, so 95 percent of its food is imported. That won’t be possible in a post-carbon world.

Source: EcoWatch

Date: July 2016

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