The New GoldSmiths of Today–-Eco-Metallurgists & Solarcell Smithies–The Guilded Craftsmen of our Micro Generation

It’s funny how things are passed down thru the family tree – poetry, passions, proclivities, and possessions and my younger brother’s penchant for metal parts in toy robots, trucks, and trains, and G.I. Joe Die-Cast Metal toys – but funnier still is how craft guilds of the medieval ages have re-germinated and indeed exploded in today’s “Micro Generation” i.e. ‘Micro Breweries’ (like Moab Brewery in Utah, K-hole in Montana, and Clipper City Brewing Co. in Maryland); and ‘Micro Farming’, (the Code word for ‘Slow Foods’, ‘Sustainable Agriculture’ and its ‘Locavore’ devotees); and ‘Micro Living’, (Magazine issues synonymous with dozens of clever Do-It-Yourself Makeovers in small residential places); and ‘Microventures’ and ‘Micro Loan Investing’, (Buzz words for Venture Capital and Angel sources of funding); and ‘Micro-Manufacturing’, (exemplified by the e-commerce website ‘’, where hundreds of artisans sell their unique handmade arts and crafts and vintage wares on the internet).

But perhaps less publicized in today’s ‘Micro Generation’ is the ‘Micropower Movement’ – the quiet but inventive engineering craftsmenship of today’s green energy systems being deployed on small-scale, decentralized locations thru community-sponsored solar rooftop programs that encourage ‘solar electricity panels’ and ‘solar hot water panels’ and thru private investments such as Brooklyn-based ‘Solar Ivy’ – whose unique modular design combines photovoltaic technology and piezoelectrics with eco-art — a customized leafy-like arrangement of solar collectors “that draw inspiration from ivy growing on a building”. Other manifestations of this ‘Micropower Movement’ include private investments in underwater tidal turbines in state waterways like the type being installed in New York City’s East River, and thru wind turbine farms, the largest of which can be found in Texas and California and soon to be constructed – America’s first offshore wind farm on Nantucket Sound. This materials challenge for developing renewable energy systems using eco-friendly processes and recyclable metallic materials, ceramics, composites, powders, and thin films is what might be called the modern-day equivalent of the ‘Quest for the Holy Grail’ – the idea being that our civilization is in the middle of a huge transformational shift that will reshape the world we now live in – where the association of guilded craftsmen will give way to “eco-smithies” – and their “eco-breakthrough technologies” – new technologies that will reduce CO2 emissions and convert waste into useful fuels – increase energy-efficiency and boost environmental strategies around the world.

No where is this more evident than at ‘Ecotech Institute’ in Aurora, Colorado which just opened up its doors for the first time on July 7, 2010. As their brochure states, this is the “first and only college entirely focused on preparing graduates for careers in the rapidly growing fields of renewable energy, sustainable design, and energy efficiency.” And at the Rocky Mountain Institute in Snowmass, Colorado, a new business model is being used to accommodate and boost “eco-smithies” for the “Next Industrial Revolution”. Just as the blacksmiths, tinsmiths, silversmiths, and goldsmiths were the locally grown ‘agents of change’ in their day – so too are today’s ‘ecosmiths’ – except their domain is the whole planet – its ecological systems and energy sources in addition to specialty material technologies.

But I rather think that we perhaps have come full circle rather than adjusted our eco-priorities – for my younger gifted brother, like his knightly sword-smithing ancestors before him, works on super alloys – in search of a new type of ‘Excalibur’. Surely no legendary eco-craftsman is as powerful on the imagination as that of the medieval imagery of the Lady of the Lake who bequeaths to King Arthur his mythical sword – forged by the mystical realms on the Isle of Avalon and imbued with such magical powers as great as nature itself. That story more than any other medieval tale, speaks to us metaphorically about the ecological consequences of a broken sword in a way that makes the guilded craftsmen of that time and place– as relevant today – as they were in King Arthur’s time. And surely no truer eco-knight ever lived!

Looking Towards Summer? – How About Do-It-Yourself Eco Mosaic Art?

March 19, 2011 by  
Filed under ECO-ARTS

I truly believe there is a ‘summer sunshine artiste’ deep down within all of us – especially after being dumped on by 32 inches of snow in just one day! The fact that my 4th great-grandfather had endured the Valley Forge, PA. winter encampment back in 1777-1780 and the ‘Hard Winter of 1779-1780’ up at Jockey Hollow in Morristown, N.J. during the American Revolutionary War – gave me only a slight feeling of warmth during this snowy crisis – but then again, I was determined not to become one of Thomas Paine’s disparaging “summer soldiers” and “sunshine patriots”!

So, instead, I dug in and looked for inspiration eastwards – towards Athens, Greece – ‘the cradle of democracy’ – and sunny Rome, Italy – the architectural hub of the Roman Empire — and the mosaic decorations that once enlightened the Parthenon and the Baths of Caracalla – and hit upon the eco-idea that I was going to heal my relationship with Nature by creating a domestic interior that reflected the beauty of summer gardens, the buzz of bumble bees, and the serenity of summer cottages on pink beaches.

Assembling together small pieces of colorful broken tile and glass, old tea cups and saucers, egg shells and sea shells, and various beads, buttons, pebbles, and corks of all sizes, I then attacked in flourishing patterns with my glue gun in one hand and my grout spatula in the other – a gallery of household objects that had once seen better days – my porch-weary terra cotta pot, my cracked foyer mirror, my chipped kitchen crock, and my favorite stain-fingered coffee table scrapbook.

To say that everything turned out perfectly and I am ready to join the illustrious Society of American Mosaic Artists and be showcased inside the Women Environmental Artists Directory – would certainly be considered an overstatement – but there is now a warm new glow in my environment – a sense of optimism – that I can co-exist within the realities of my snow-bound environment by doing what I do best – restoring my household ecosystem in an eco-friendly artistic way – and dreaming of next summer’s mosaic patio!

America’s #1 Eco Sport: Birdwatching! – The ‘Mini Dinosaur’ Revolution

March 17, 2011 by  
Filed under ECO-SPORTS

When I was a kid back in the 1960’s, I thought my family was unconventionally special – more eccentric even than the family cartoon characters drawn by Charles Addams in the neighboring town of Westfield, New Jersey. Whereas the fictional Addams Family characters spent most of their time living in a gloomy mansion next to a swamp and cemetery at Cemetery Lane – my family lived on top of a former golf course – in a retrofitted Cape Cod house overlooking a compost pile, a leviathan trash can with a homemade anemometer attachment and various interplanetary travel equipment and several monster-fingered, kid-eating bushes and trees that stealthily moved into our backyard at night.

It was in those very same bushy-eyed beastly shrubs that my older brother took refuge – tracking the scurrying movements of tiny beaked creatures that flittered in and out – that decades later would be identified by paleontologists as the evolutionary miniaturization of once massive meat-eating dinosaurs. Indeed, it came as no surprise to me to learn that today’s feathered birds were once prehistoric monsters — because as children, my two brothers and I had long accepted the fact that ‘monsters’ were just other members of our household who happened for the most part to enjoy living in our attic, our basement and under our bed, and of course, scaring the bejesus out of us.

But did you know that ‘bird-watching’ is now the fastest growing outdoor family activity in America – with over 75 million viewers and still growing? Even more remarkable are the adventure trends in bird-watching and the birding products and technologies now being offered in today’s marketplace. Here are just a few samples:

– Spa-Heated & Year-round Heated Birdbaths for the Backyard
– Thistle-perched & Squirrel Resistant Bird Feeders
– Weather-proofed, Motion-activated, digitized BirdCams
– Swarovski High-End Birding Binoculars
– Birdwatching DVD’s and Video Field Guides
– Birdsighting CD-ROM’s & Birdsinging Books
– Himalayan and Mexican Bird Counting Trips at Christmas
– Bird Banding Vacations in Colorado
– Exotic Bird Watching Tours in Thailand, Costa Rica and Ecuador

And with over 10,000 species of birds in the world, it’s no wonder that these “mini-dinosaurs” are now the main attraction at Birding Festivals everywhere. But for me, these feathered dinosaurs will always remain the secret domain of my older brother – the red-headed, double-crested, booby-footed nether world of a child’s backyard imagination.

Tsunamis: How An Eco-Phenomenon Has Invaded the American Lexicon and Psyche

Early this morning, whilst news came of gigantic Tsunami waves striking the northeastern coast of Japan from an 8.9-magnitude earthquake and making their way to the islands of Hawaii and the U.S. western coastline – I – sitting comfortably in my home on the U.S. eastern seaboard, now began shuddering at the images of this extreme and unpredictable eco-phenomenon. Automatically, my mood became tense and fearful despite the fact that I was far removed from the oncoming dangerous situation. Indeed, something deep within me triggered a “High-Alert” response. Was it the Tsunami Warnings themselves that were prompting my reaction? Or was it something else entirely?

The Japanese-derived word, “Tsunami” or “Harbor Wave” as defined on the web by ‘TheFreeDictionary’ is a “series of catastrophic ocean waves generated by submarine movements, which may be caused by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides beneath the ocean, or an asteroid striking the earth.” While there have not been many mega tsunamis recorded in modern times, geological evidence indicates that a tsunami was instrumental in the destruction of the Minoan civilization on Crete in the second millennium B.C. But what of the role tsunamis have had on the American experience – the American imagination?

On the surface, the word “Tsunamis” apply only to cataclysmic environmental phenomenon – but in today’s American vernacular – “Tsunamis” are used to describe a range of topics from ‘Tsunami Politics’ to ‘Tsunami Marketing’ – from “Emotional Tsunamis” to “Financial Tsunamis” to “Spiritual Tsunamis” – and from “Regulatory Tsunamis” to “Sociological Tsunamis”.

Hence, Americans have not only imbibed the whole science of Tsunami warning signs and its cosmic origins – but they have uniquely reinvented the word to include the intangible aftershocks on the psyche and areas of human endeavor – myself included.

Finding America’s Best Organic Apples – Washington State?

You may have heard that there are over 7,500 varieties of apples grown in the world but did you know that Washington State is the finest place on earth to grow organic apples? The ideal temperatures, the nutrient-rich lava-ash soil, the bountiful crystal clear water of the Cascade mountains, and the stringent processing practices and grading standards all help to reduce the number of fruit diseases and potentially harmful insects and pests.

But it wasn’t always that way. The first apple seeds were carried over from England to Washington State in 1826 not by John Chapman, aka the legendary itinerant pioneer, Johnny Appleseed, who planted apple nurseries all over the states of Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, and Indiana during the early 1800’s – but by Lieutenant Emilius Simpson, first cousin of Hudson Bay’s Governor, Sir George Simpson, a British officer stationed at Fort Vancouver, a major fur-trapping trade center.

Over the next century and a half, these first few apple seeds would evolve into the nine most popular varieties of organic apples grown in Washington state: Gala, Fuji, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Cripps Pink, Braeburn, Honeycrisp, and Cameo. Since then, numerous medical studies have shown that organic apples are not only a delicious, nutritional snack but they are a good source of dietary fiber and Vitamin C and other nutrients such as Vitamin K & B6, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, and Potassium – potent antioxidants with the ability to lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of heart disease, and prevent the reproduction of prostate, colon, and lung cancer cells.

Ten Tell-Tale Signs of a Sustainability Princess

We are quite familiar by now with the impending royal wedding next month of Prince William of England to Kate Middleton. But there is a new breed of princesses appearing on the jet scene. Some are real and others are pretenders to today’s eco-fashion throne. Here are ten tell-tale signs of a cool sustainability princess:

1-Drives a ROLLS ROYCE 102EX Phantom Electric Car –
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2-Wears a Sexy Hypo-allergic 100% WEWOOD Watch from Italy –
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3-Applies Pure Organic Makeup by Australian NVEY ECO –
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4-Carries Designer Inner Tube Handbags by PASSCHAL –
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5-Dresses in hip conscious Earthwear by CIEL Ltd. –
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6-Walks in STELLA MCCARTNEY Satin Cork Sandals
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7-Sports MODO ‘Eco Conscious Optics’ Chrome Hearts Sunglasses –
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8-Dons Recycled Necklaces by LITLLE GLASS CLEMENTINE –
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9-Sleeps on ANNA SOVA ECO DUPIONI Silk Bedding –
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10-Sips on Lemon-Flavored TRU ORGANIC VODKA from California! –
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Eco-Archaeology Meets Disaster Archaeology – The New Frontier!

Move over Indiana Jones! Once upon a time archaeology was the favorite sport of empire builders like Napolean and over-achieving strongmen and treasure hunters like Belzoni and Heinrich Schliemann – but beginning in the 1960’s – the systematic study of ancient peoples and their culture took an interesting societal turn – from digging up ancient gravesites, tools, and pottery – to examining ancient floral and fauna samples and how civilizations like the Maya of Central America and the Rapa Nui of Easter Island related to their environments.

Today, a new branch of archaeology has emerged – the study of archaeodisasters – the risk assessment of past catastrophic events upon human ecosystems – the attempt to reconstruct vanished landscapes and societies from sudden and extremely violent events – – from man-made disruptions such as pollutant contamination to natural hazards such as earthquakes, typhoons, and volcanic eruptions. The cultural implications are many. But what of our new breed of disaster archaeologists? Where will they come from? What will they look like? For in order to better protect our own civilization, they will need to address the current political and technological impact on our natural environment as well.

Finding America’s Best Natural Mineral Water – Hot Springs, Arkansas?

Known by Native Americans for centuries as the ‘Valley of the Vapors’, the best mineral water in the continental USA originates from the western slope of the Hot Spring Mountain, (part of the Ouachita Mountain Range) in Hot Springs National Park located in the north end of the city of Hot Springs, Arkansas. There are two types of this natural mineral water. The first is from the Hottest well head and the second is from the Warm well head. The hottest water has the most mineral content. (This fact is verified from scientific analysis done by USDA scientists.) The great thing about these minerals is that they can be easily absorbed by the body for it is easier for the body to absorb the minerals from water than from most foods. Best of all the water is Free to the Public.

Crop Circle Sightings – Genuine or Global Graffiti Hoax?

Most researchers say that crop circles are man-made graffiti. But there is about 20% of these patterned crop anomalies that cannot be explained away easily – instances of electromagnetic distortions or Eco-Paranormal Phenomena whereby watches, mobile phones, batteries, cameras, and radio equipment suddenly fail to work within these areas.

Whatever the strange effects – why is it that crop circle sightings appear all over the world? This is not a conclusive list – but to date, I have found a history of crop circle sightings in the following countries: Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, England, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Ireland, Isle-of-Man, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Peru, Poland, Russia, Sardinia, Scotland, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tasmania, Turkey, Uruguay, USA, Wales – the most recent sighting being in the rice fields of Central Indonesia on January 23, 2011.

What’s more, there are now crop circle tours and crop circle groups for adventure-seekers throughout continental Europe and especially England – particularly as southern England in the county of Wiltshire appears to be the center of most crop circle activities. Some of the best crop circle tours are as follows:

1- Spiritual Quest Journeys

2- Journeys with Soul

3- Crop Circle Tours

4- Glastonbury Symposium

5- Megalithic Tours

6- Magical Mystery Tours

So if you are looking for some amazing eco-phenomena and exquisite formations of cosmic art this summer – YOU ARE NOT ALONE – and be sure to include a stopover at “The White Horse Inn”, a lovely family-run pub in the village of Compton Bassett as well as a research center for today’s leading crop circle investigators!

Habitat For Humanity’s Environmental Progress

It is amazing to me to experience the changes in construction policies over the last ten years! Although the houses built by our affiliate, Habitat for Humanity North Central Massachusetts, have always been well insulated and conforming to local codes, current practices now include installing gas hot water furnaces no larger than a big suitcase, and so efficient that the exhaust is simply through the nearest wall! Couple that with zoning for every room, the distribution boards look like a master work of art with many tubes radiating from the supply main. The savings are a substantial boon to the homeowner. With help from a special grant, a recent home was equipped with solar roof panels and automatic backfeed to the local utility. Foundation walls were also insulated. Combined with the use of engineered beams that permit column free basements, homeowners of today are offered a much wider choice for future development of living space in a comfortable environment.

Carleton Finch is a retired high school mathematics teacher and coordinator for the Leominster, Massachusetts School Department whose avocations include woodworking and gardening. Descended from the First Families of Boston, Massachusetts and Stamford, Connecticut, and influenced by both his father and uncle, Carleton’s abiding love of the environment and his fellow neighbors has made him a New England fixture and Founding Member of Habitat for Humanity in North Central Massachusetts.

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