New Books and Movies

February 20, 2011

I knew Prince Charles was interested in sustainability, architecture, and climate change, and I knew that he was writing a book. I still haven’t read Harmony: A New Way of Looking at the World, but I recently found out that there is a movie by the same title.

I can’t wait to see the movie Carbon Nation, released February 11, 2011. The reviews have generally been favorable regarding its treatment of clean energy and green technologies.

I was listening to KUOW on my way to school the other evening and listened to an interview with Mark Stevenson. He has a new book out, entitled An Optimist’s Tour of the Future – One Curious Man Sets Out to Answer “What’s Next?” He set out on a journey around the world to talk with experts on everything from climate change to robots to synthetic biology. He came away with an optimistic view that the future is going to be fantastic. There are some really great videos on his website that are worth watching.

I just started an Energy Management program at a local community college. I have to say, I’ve never been this excited about learning something new. Energy efficiency, renewable energy, sustainability, climate change. All the relevant topics of the day.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ve heard a lot about sustainability. But what does it actually mean TO YOU? I had to really think about this. For me, sustainability means being able to protect, restore and enhance the earth’s natural systems and the ecological processes that sustain them so that species and ecosystems have resiliency and viability over time.

In my view, social justice is inherently part of the discussion.  Every human being on earth should be afforded the ability to meet its basic human needs in such a way that does not further deplete or incur long-term damage to in-tact systems.

My view of sustainability never included energy conservation, per se. I’ve never viewed it as going deep enough in creating the kinds of dramatic changes that will correct our course. But now I view it as bridging the gap between where we are now and where we need to be.

As businesses have taken up the call to address stockholder and customer concerns regarding corporate sustainability, many in the business world view sustainability in terms of being able to “sustain” economic growth while at the same time “maintaining” natural ecosystems. This is absurd. The pursuit of so-called economic growth is, I believe, the reason why we are experiencing such massive natural destruction of the Earth’s ecosystems. I would argue that the maintenance of current conditions doesn’t go far enough. Businesses have stepped into the sustainability fray due mostly to governmental regulations and are driven to reduce impacts accordingly. Minimizing degradation is not an appropriate strategy for real change to occur.

Lester Brown is a thought leader in sustainable development. He’s the president of Earth Policy Institute, an organization dedicated to building a sustainable future

Check out what Lester Brown has to say by clicking on the link below and let me know what you think.

Lester Brown and Sustainability

Costa Rica Developments

July 29, 2010

From Ecotourism to Megatourism

I’ve just returned from a month in Costa Rica. What a trip it was! But do you ever wonder why we turn everything we love about our beautiful natural surroundings into a homogeneous recreational pleasure trove?

This small peaceful country has changed considerably from the time I served there as a Peace Corps fisheries volunteer. In the mid to late 1980’s, I earned $160 a month. My rent was $15 a month. Most people rode public buses everywhere. Beaches were still pristine and I felt safe everywhere I went.

Every five years I return to the country where my soul feels most at home. Each time I go back to Costa Rica, I see changes that trouble me. Read post

If you’ve wondered what’s happened to me, I’ve been taking some much needed time off to get myself centered and rethink a new approach for my blog. My husband and I recently bought a house and it has provided me with so much great material that I’d like to share with my readers.

I am re-tooling my site so that I can just write without thinking about SEO and trackbacks. I’d like to hear more from my readers. Read post

moneyEver wonder how the government buys land? I can tell you it’s not easy. The criteria or purpose for buying land must be thought through and well established for an acquisition to move forward. Funding for land purchases can be lined up years in advance and comes from as many sources as there are public agencies.  The due diligence checklist is extensive and the approval process seems to never end. Read post

CaliforniaRun, Forest, Run! If Forest Gump was in California, he would be running for states nearby where economies, while they may be bad, aren’t hemorrhaging.

Let’s look at Idaho as an example of a state where  Californians (and others) are hoping to buy rural land and get some economic relief by seeking lower taxes (1475), lower jobless rates, clean air, less highway congestion,  lower crime rates, a strong sense of community, and a higher quality of life.

Idaho joins Wyoming, Montana, Utah and New Mexico as the states with the lowest unemployment rate in the nation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Idaho’s jobless rate ranks 18th in the U.S. at 7 percent, compared to California’s whopping unemployment rate of 11 percent (the 5th highest in the country).

Idaho ranks consistently high as one of the states with the highest quality of life.  Money Magazine ranked Idaho as one of the best places to live and work. Having lived just outside of Sandpoint for years, I can tell you that National Geographic Adventure, Sunset Magazine and Forbes all raved about Sandpoint’s outdoor appeal, ranking it among the Top 10 Dream Towns. Read post

ContractingHome_150x195For those of you that are looking for the ultimate guide to building a house, look no further. I am so impressed by the American Home Counsel book, The Ultimate Guide to Contracting Your Own Home. It is well written and full of knowledgeable information, tips and advice. For such a small price you get a fantastic home building resource, a Money Savings Guide, and a book of very useful forms. The President of the American Home Counsel, Bill Edwards, has over 30 years of experience to back up every word. He covers everything before the purchase, from the ground up, and from the inside out.

You’ll find out what you need to get started, how to determine your budget, and how to finance your new home. People that want to build or contract their own home or act as their own general contractor generally do it because they want to save money, or be in control of the process, or both. As the cost of building a house continues to increase, who wouldn’t want to save 30 to 40 percent on home building costs? Read post

EasementA conservation easement is a voluntary, legal agreement between a landowner and a qualified conservation organization, government agency or Native American Tribe that permanently limits a property’s uses in order to protect its conservation value. The type of property restrictions will vary depending on the needs and interests of the owner. Therefore, each easement is a unique document.

To fully understand the easement concept, think of owning land as owning a bundle of rights. These rights might include the right to harvest timber, build structures, grow crops, drill for oil, etc. A landowner may sell or give away any or all of the individual rights that make up the full bundle. When you donate or sell a conservation easement, you give up those rights.

For example, you might sell hunting and fishing rights to local outfitters and guides, you might sell the right to harvest timber or grow hay, or you might donate the right to subdivide your parcel into 5-acre tracts. When an easement is written, the owner (grantor) and the prospective easement holder (grantee) agree as to what can and cannot be done to the property. The enforcement of the restrictions is typically conveyed to a qualified third party, such as a public agency, a land trust, or a historic preservation organization.

Easements are often called different names, according to the resource they protect. Easements used to protect historic buildings or lands are referred to as historic preservation easements. An easement that preserves an agricultural operation is called an agricultural easement. Easements can also be written to protect aesthetic resources or scenic viewsheds; these are called scenic easements. Read post

Ted Turner, once known as “the mouth from the south,” may be better known as the man who created the Cable News Network (CNN) or the man who owned the Atlanta Braves from 1976 to 2007. He’s won the America’s Cup and was once married to actress Jane Fonda.  Did you also know that he currently holds 42 honorary degrees, he’s won 176 sailing trophies, and he owns the largest private bison herd (50,000 head) in the world? But that’s not what impresses me…


Ted Turner is the largest private landowner in the United States, with 2 million acres spread across 15 ranches in 7 states. Read post

Wise AcresThis is the second in a series of reviews focusing on land buying guidebooks. Robert Minnella’s Wise Acres Guidebook to Buying Land informs land buyers about the necessary permitting requirements prior to building their own home. Mr Minnella’s permitting expertise is apparent when it comes to teaching land buyers what to ask before making an offer to purchase vacant land.

The Wise Acres Guidebook is not directed at those land buyers searching for information about saving money buying land via purchase negotiation or creative financing. Rather, Mr. Minnella’s premise is that “you can save thousands of dollars by simply knowing what questions to ask” in your property search. Before making your final parcel selection, make sure you consider how a slight change in location can have an effect on the amount you will ultimately pay to build your home – impact fees, building permits and other site development costs can vary widely from one jurisdiction to the next.

This book also provides readers with detailed information and tips for developing land, including driveway construction and home position or placement. The guidebook offers readers, by way of a few good examples, valuable information on the impact location can ultimately have on the overall cost of building a home.