Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Snow Drought of 2011, And Other Matters

Riffing off of my most recent post, I wanted to point out something that is being covered only tangentally by the American mainstream media, namely, the snow drought that has gripped large portions of the Northern Hemisphere over the last few months. I am now in Southern California, after driving down from Portland yesterday. From Portland through the Siskiyous, and on down through the San Gabriels into Southern California, I saw snow only once – a pathetic scattering of a few light patches maybe an inch thick in shadowed places near Ashland and Medford. (Of course, there was also a bit of snow - but not much - on some mountain peaks higher than 4000 feet.)

CBS News reports that much of the United States is experiencing a lack of snow and unusually warm temperatures. And the snow drought has affected Europe, according to stories from Finland and Austria. Meanwhile, the Global South is suffering from record rainfall and heat waves. Climate change is in the air. That's anthropogenicman-made – climate change. Let's stop kidding ourselves. Yet climate change is not yet part of the adult conversation of many Americans and other inhabitants of the Global North, addicted as they are to their consumerist lifestyles.

Speaking of consumerism, it seems that the Nike Corporation, in concert with marketing experts, have created a very potent combination of basketball shoes and advertising capable of turning millions of Americans into raving idiots. The psychopharmacology of this shoe/advertising combination hasn't been fully documented, but Nike has been able to induce rioting in several American cities over the release of their doofus shoes. Nike officials issued nuanced statements of public regret concerning the riots, yet privately, they were probably quite pleased – as the executives of Wal-Mart must have been pleased by the effectiveness of advertising powerful enough to induce crowds to trample one of their employees to death a couple of years ago.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Yuletide Rumination

It's that time of year again, isn't it? (For some retail store chains it's been that time of year since before Halloween.) And along with this time of year there are many people who are torn between celebrating, ignoring or denouncing the Christmas season.

As for me, being a Christian, and someone who has for several years had a love affair with ritual and ceremony, I enjoy the thought of having a special season, culminating in a special day, to celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. Note, however, that I did not say that I enjoy the thought of shoving that particular celebration down the throats of any who disagree with me. To those outside the orbit of Christianity, I can only hope that my life may persuade you to think about things you would not ordinarily consider. On the other hand, there are those who claim to be solidly inside the orbit of the Faith who oppose Christmas because it's supposed to have evolved from pagan holidays, and because we don't see Christmas celebrated by the apostles in the book of Acts, yadda yadda. To such people, whether they be Plymouth brethren, Jehovah's Witnesses, subbotniks (субботники), or others, I have a deal to offer you. If you promise not to rain on my parade, I promise that I won't insult you by wishing you Merry Christmas (or Happy Birthday, for that matter).

I have to admit, however, that lately I can't really get into Christmas. Partly it's because for the last few years, I haven't been able to attend church on Christmas due to visits to relatives. But increasingly it's because in this country, the Christmas season has been so thoroughly corrupted to serve the interests of capitalism. Every aspect of the season – even those aspects that were once baldly religious – has been converted into a Pavlovian goad to make people buy stuff. (Just this week I was at Trader Joe's and on the way into the store, I heard a non-stop stream of pop-soft rock arrangements of religious carols and other seasonal music being broadcast into the parking lot, thanks to the outdoor intercom system.)

Christmas has become the complement of the 4th of July in a certain way. Independence Day is supposed to be a celebration of freedom, yet “freedom” in this country has been redefined by corporate interests into a justification of addictive behavior. Christmas on the other hand is a commercially broadcast appeal to go out and act like an addict. For those who don't choose to live like addicts, Christmas has become a dangerous time of year. Just try bicycle commuting on a daily basis any time between Thanksgiving and New Years and you will see just how dangerous, as you find your life being threatened by tantrum-throwing consumatron beasts in big SUV's. (How many people will be trampled to death or pepper-sprayed at stores betweeen now and New Year's?)

The pushers who run our society have succeeded in turning Christmas into a rather strange season. And this particular Christmas promises to be very strange indeed, as the consequences of our addictive behavior increasingly catch up to us. One of those consequences is the weather. Around here in the Portland metro area, it has been very unsettling – not in a violently demonstrative way, but in a quietly creepy, unsettling way.

For one thing, there has been almost no precipitation this month. According to the Weather Underground site, average precipitation for December should be 4.32 inches. We have received less than two tenths of an inch so far. Not one flake of snow has fallen in the Portland metro area since October. Daytime high temperatures have been exceeding historical averages – not drastically, but by enough to cause concern for those who should be paying attention. I can't predict the future, but I suspect that this may turn out to be a very dry winter. A dry winter may mean a hot summer, and an extreme fire danger, which is not typical for this area. There is a lot to burn here. We may also be introduced to something else that is not typical to this area, namely, drought.

Even with this year's La Niña weather, global average temperatures are beginning to move into dangerous, potentially irreversible territory. Atmospheric CO2 levels are now at 390.31 parts per million. Our addiction is destroying our climate, yet like many dysfunctional families whose members are addicts, our society is unwilling to talk frankly about the consequences of our addiction. This week, as I walked through my neighborhood, I was treated to a sight that I haven't seen since I lived in Southern California – houses decorated with Yuletide lights, Santa Clauses, and fake icicles – and not a speck of snow on the ground. It would be most ironic to find that some of the residents in those homes were listening to Bing Crosby singing about his dreams. This year I think I'll buy myself a weather thermometer for Christmas.

I must bring this short meditation to a close. I will shortly be driving down to So. Cal., and I have a few things to do yet. My MP3 player is loaded full of interesting stuff that I haven't yet heard. One thing I have is a LibriVox recording of The Slavery Of Our Times by Leo Tolstoy. It promises to be good listening for those who don't want to be addicts. Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Capitalists and Cheapskates on Craigslist

In these days of economic turmoil, in which large employers are abandoning any sort of commitment to the well-being of their employees, it is not surprising that many people are considering self-employment. Self-employment is attractive for a couple of reasons. First, a savvy entrepreneur can become independent of fickle, unreliable employers. A successful small businessman or businesswoman can therefore earn a living while being free from the fear of “downsizing.” Second, self-employment is “controllable,” at least on paper. That is, there need not be some external agent such as as boss forcing the self-employed person to work like a dog for sixty or seventy hours a week, while barely earning a living wage. In principle, the self-employed person should be able to set his or her own hours in order to live a manageable life.

The ability to form and use networks is a key for the self-employed. Not very long ago, such networks were built out of relationships – between service providers and satisfied customers, between service providers and trusted suppliers, between friendly fellow practitioners. Such networks were, in a sense, “owned” by all the users thereof. Now, such networks have largely become electronic. Everyone advertises and talks to each other on line these days.

It is instructive to trace the migration of relationship-building from the physical world to the cyber-world. There are several good examples of this from recent history. One such example is Craigslist, which started out simply as one means out of many by which a collection of friends with similar interests networked with each other. (See Craigslist from Wikipedia.) Craig Newmark's e-mailed list of things of interest to him expanded beyond his circle of friends as friends talked with other friends, and soon his list was a big, popular thing with the potential to make a lot of money for its owner.

For things that have no monetary value, or for the sort of “garage sale” things that people sell or trade, Craigslist still has value in connecting ordinary people with ordinary people. But while in its earlier days, Craigslist was a good way for small-scale entrepreneurs to connect with each other, it no longer seems very useful to the self-employed.

The problem is the capture of Craigslist and other on-line venues originally created for ordinary people to connect with each other. Nowadays, most of the people who advertise for jobs or offer services on Craigslist seem to be large corporations, or are start-ups backed by lots of venture capital from heavyweight “investors” looking to corner the market for some service. Thus many of the things that could at one time be done by ordinary people in order to get by without a regular job have now become commodities meted out to the public via growth capitalists. Those who are trying to escape from being turned into commodities are discovering that even self-employment is now being commodified.

There are many signs of this commodification. Are you smart? Did your education give you a solid background in mathematics? Now that your office job has dried up, you may be thinking, “Hey, I could tutor high school kids in math!” But beware of trying to drum up business via Craigslist. Tutor Doctor, Complete College Prep, and a host of other big, multi-state services will eat you for lunch if you try to set up as an independent tutor. Of course, you could always surrender and go to work for one of these outfits. They typically charge around $45 an hour for tutoring – but they will pay you around $20.

Let's say that tutoring isn't your thing, but you have a strong back, work hard and like cleaning houses. I know people who put themselves through college by cleaning houses, and they worked as independent small businesspersons. They couldn't do it today – not with people like The Cleaning Authority, who have massive advertising budgets and massive budgets for placating the legal system. Do you like kids? Want to be a nanny? Beware, because there are venture capitalists trying to capture the nanny market as well. In fact, at least one firm which has advertised on Craigslist offers to meet all your domestic needs – housecleaning, tutoring and nanny services – all from one provider. How convenient.

The commodification of things which used to fall under the category of self-employment has led to other harmful outcomes. Those who do domestic work or tutoring for these firms must increasingly submit to onerous and invasive background checks and must provide extensive references, often for jobs that don't pay more than $12 an hour. (A lot can be said about the burgeoning “background check” industry, by the way. More on that in another post.) This has emboldened private parties looking for services to ask for the most outrageous things while offering the most outrageously cheapskate compensation. Just this past week I read an ad posted by someone in Lake Oswego (a rapidly evaporating enclave of people who once thought they were rich) asking for a tutor to provide after school instruction and supervision to a couple of kids. The prospective tutor was to provide an extensive list of references for this most important job – in exchange for $5 an hour plus gas money!

The commodification of self-employment has emboldened some people who are as yet untouched by our ongoing economic collapse to try to use their fellow men and women as slave labor. These people are wanna-be capitalists who think they can get something for nothing from their fellows just because times are hard. So they post ads on Craigslist for “nannies” and “tutors” who must provide multiple references and submit to a background check and fingerprinting in exchange for chump change, or for nothing more than “free room and board.”

Self-employment is a valuable and viable means of coping with hard times. But I think that those who want to make a successful go at it will need to re-learn the art of building networks of relationship outside of the Internet. Networks of personal relationships cannot be easily co-opted by capitalists and cheapskates.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Survey Of Solar Thermal Power Systems - An Interview

A few weeks ago I promised you an interview. Today I'm pleased to be able to deliver on that promise. I present to you an interview with Dr. Luther Clements, a member of the faculty of the Renewable Energy Engineering Program at the Oregon Institute of Technology. Dr. Clements teaches a course in solar thermal power systems, and my interest in this subject was aroused several months ago by an article I read in No Tech Magazine titled, “The Bright Future of Solar-Powered Factories,” written by Kris de Decker.

The premise of that article was that most of the interest in solar energy was biased heavily toward the generation of electricity, and that the huge potential for direct use of solar heating in manufacturing processes was being overlooked in the United States. The article included a number of references which described the high level of interest in direct use of solar thermal energy in Europe and other parts of the world, along with descriptions of some unexplored avenues for direct use of solar heat in metallurgy.

During my interview, Dr. Clements and I discussed the article and the possibilities which it described, as well as possible reasons for lack of interest in direct use of solar heating for American industries. He touched on the need for sound engineering and design standards for manufacturers of solar thermal systems. Lastly, we discussed the future of engineering in an energy-constrained world characterized by economic contraction. You can listen to the interview directly on this blog, or you can download the audio by clicking here.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Dreaming That We're Poor

This past week, the New York Times ran a front page piece titled, “Bleak Portrait of Poverty is Off the Mark, Experts Say.” It was basically a packaging of “expert” criticisms of a U.S. Census Bureau study titled, “Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010.” The study stated that, among other things, the number of Americans living officially below the poverty line grew by 9.7 million between 2006 and 2010. (That figure is found in Table B-1, on page 62 of the report.) The report states that the number of Americans living in poverty has grown to 46.2 million, over four consecutive years of increasing poverty, and that the official poverty rate in 2010 was 15.1 percent. There are also now 49.9 million Americans without health insurance coverage.

The experts quoted by the Times (as well as the writers and editors at the Times) object to such a stark depiction of American poverty, saying that it does not take into account the availability of safety net programs for the poor as well as earned income tax credits. According to these talking heads, such things would cause “as much as half of the reported rise in poverty since 2006” to “disappear.” These talking heads grudgingly acknowledge a rise in the numbers of “near poor” people (what does that mean?!), who make too little to live comfortably and make too much to qualify for aid or tax breaks or reduced-cost medical care.

I find such talk to be very far from reality. It seems to me that the nation has become poorer. Social safety nets have been and are being gutted in every state in the Union while the rich continue to concentrate wealth. Access to social safety net programs is dwindling for most Americans. It's easy for so-called experts and their media mouthpieces to redefine “poverty” by fudging numbers. They have no idea what it is to experience life on $18,000 a year. But maybe I'm asleep, dreaming that most of us are poorer. If I just pinched myself hard enough, I'd wake up to find that most of us are rich.

Then again, maybe pinching myself wouldn't work. Maybe those of us who are tired of pinching ourselves should tell our stories to each other, lest the experts convince us that we're all crazy or dreaming. What if we bloggers mounted a campaign to contradict the Times and its talking heads by citing the Census Bureau study and posting our own stories of the poverty we're seeing?

By the way, if you want a copy of that Census Bureau study, you'd better download it fast. According to the Times, on Monday the 7th of this month, the Census Bureau will publish a “long-promised alternate measure meant to do a better job of fudging the numbers counting the resources the needy have and the bills they have to pay.”

Friday, November 4, 2011

Renewables for Rich People - A Geothermal Hole

(This week, I'd like to give a big welcome to LindaM. She writes the blog hello it's me.)

As part of my present job, I am getting to mingle with people who have relatively deep backgrounds in the various facets of what is commonly called “renewable energy” in the United States nowadays. I am always eager to have my horizons expanded and my thinking challenged, so from time to time I talk with some of these people about their work.

A couple of Fridays ago I got to have coffee (for me it was actually herbal tea) with a geothermal engineer who holds advanced degrees. I was curious about geothermal energy, and was wondering as well about whether pursuing a post-baccalaureate education would actually be worth my time and effort. I learned a number of interesting things about geothermal energy.

First, the word “geothermal” has two common uses in the field of energy engineering. The first use, which more accurately reflects the classical definition, has to do with the energy, generated within the earth via radioactive decay, which is accessible via voids and discontinuities in the earth's crust that allow high-temperature matter to reach the earth's surface. Typically the high-temperature matter consists of steam, hot water, and high-temperature rock. The second use of the word has to do with the use of ground-source heat pumps to exchange heat between the earth (at shallow depths, typically less than 100') and a building which has spaces that must be conditioned (heated or cooled). (My geothermal engineer friend considers the reference of the word “geothermal” to ground-source heat exchange to be somewhat inaccurate.)

High-temperature geothermal energy resources are used for electricity generation and to supply heat for direct heating of spaces and for some industrial processes. My friend told me that in the United States, there is a strong bias toward using geothermal energy for electricity generation, and not nearly as much interest in using geothermal energy for direct heating applications, although there is a growing interest here in direct heat applications. I mentioned an article by Kris de Decker that I had recently read in Low Tech Magazine, in which Mr. de Decker stated that “Most of the talk about renewable energy is aimed at electricity production. However, most of the energy we need is heat...”

We discussed the bias toward electricity generation in the renewable industry in the U.S. and concluded that it must be due to the prejudices of the big economic players here who have sunk large amounts of capital in electric power plants and centralized schemes of electricity distribution. These players are only interested in a renewable source of energy to the extent that it can help them maintain and increase their profits via their current infrastructure and business model. Using a renewable resource for primary delivery of energy in a form other than electricity would undercut previous investments in electricity generation and distribution. (As an aside, my friend pointed out to me that non-electric uses of geothermal energy are very popular in Europe and elsewhere. China, for instance, has no geothermal electric plants, but has many applications of direct geothermal heating.)

We moved on to discuss how geothermal “resources” are discovered and exploited. I was interested in knowing whether the same methodology used for identifying potential oil and gas resources is used for identifying geothermal resources. My friend told me that historically geologists have used somewhat different methods for identifying geothermal resources, and that the oil and gas methodology is not altogether a good fit for identifying geothermal resources, due to the dynamic nature of heat flows within the earth's crust. A good (as in ethical, honest, accurate) geothermal geologist is therefore likely to include a much larger margin of error in his or her assessment of a potential geothermal resource than a petroleum geologist is in assessing a potential petroleum resource.

This puts a geothermal engineer in a bit of a bind, because the only true way to assess a potential geothermal resource is to drill a well, and wells require a lot of money up front. Therefore, venture capitalists and other lenders often demand that a geologist provide an unreasonable degree of certainty in identifying a resource prior to drilling. Of course, any geologist who identifies a resource with such certainty prior to drilling makes himself or herself professionally and financially liable if such an identification proves false. Typically, it is a petroleum industry service firm that drills a geothermal well, since such wells must be deep (at least 300 feet, and typically thousands of feet deep), and such firms normally collect hefty profits.

Although readily accessible geothermal resources in the U.S. are limited in availability, there are some good examples here of geothermal energy use. My friend told me of villages and towns in Alaska that are supplied with geothermal district heating. Also, there is the city of Klamath Falls in Oregon, which provides geothermal district heating to its populace, along with a geothermal heat and electricity plant at a state university campus in Klamath Falls.

One “take-away” point from our conversation is that geothermal energy is expensive due to high up-front capital and infrastructure costs. In a shrinking economy, this means a shrinking likelihood of expanding geothermal energy use. The American bias toward viewing renewable resources solely in terms of electricity generation is likely to have unpleasant consequences because of the age and increasing disrepair of our grid, along with the very high costs of an extensive grid overhaul and the rapidly appearing shortages of capital caused by our economic collapse.

What about ground-source heat exchange, then? We both agreed that it is a useful way to save energy. But here again, the up-front capital and infrastructure costs are high. Landlords and owners of large buildings would be far more likely to be able to afford the micro-tunneling needed to install a large heat exchanger in the ground next to a new building whose interior spaces were to be conditioned via ground-source heat pumps. Small landlords and homeowners would find the installation of ground source heat exchange to be quite “spendy,” to use an Oregonian term. Retrofitting an existing home – especially a home with a conventional joist floor – would be really spendy. (Think $30,000 or thereabouts.) This would be due to having to replace the floor with a concrete slab containing embedded heat exchanger pipes.

My conclusion at the end of our conversation was that exploiting geothermal energy or ground-source heat exchange is probably out of the reach of the vast majority of people in this country because of the high cost involved, and geothermal energy will therefore probably not be part of the toolkit of people looking to create resilient neighborhoods in this present time of energy and economic decline. Most of us will have to adopt low-tech strategies for getting our energy needs met. Geothermal energy has its place, but that place is limited.

And as far as me going back to school? I'll tell you all about that some other time...;)

P.S. Although I am an engineer, I am not a geologist. If any geologists read this, feel free to chip in your educated two cents...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

No One For President, Or, Election-Proofing Your Life

(Before I start, I'd like to welcome Meg O'Halloran to my blog. Thanks for your readership! Also, a belated welcome to those who joined last year, including Neil and Naomi Montacre. If you live in the Portland metro area, feel free to check out their store some time.)

I've been thinking about my visit to the #Occupy Portland protests, especially in light of the mainstream media's continued lame coverage of the #Occupy movement in general. While the MSM have not been exactly enthusiastic or even diligent in their coverage of the protests, they have been very enthusiastic in providing coverage of the Republican presidential campaign. This is interesting in that it shows the rapidly widening rift between the MSM and the ordinary people of the United States.

One message that came through loud and clear in my interviews with the #Occupy Portland protesters is that increasingly, most Americans do not believe that either main political party serves the interests of the common people. Increasingly, people are coming to believe that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are actually interested in providing solutions or adaptive responses to the problems and predicaments facing ordinary Americans in this time of economic decline and contraction. An increasing number of Americans is waking up to the realization that the entire electoral and political process has been bought by the rich in order to serve the rich at the expense of all the rest of us. And more and more Americans are realizing that the story they are being fed by the mainstream media bears no resemblance to reality – especially the reality lived daily by ordinary people of small means.

Meanwhile, the New York Times is pushing stories about Texas Governor Rick Perry's proposed policies for America while Herman Cain chews up the airwaves with controversial and schizophrenic statements. (If ever there was a man suffering from a massive case of Stockholm syndrome, Herman Cain fits the bill. He's at least as bad as Clarence Thomas.) And AOL News recently ran a piece advising its readers which Republican presidential candidate would be best for their wallets. At least Sarah Palin has experienced a rare moment of decency and has decided not to run for president.

Increasingly, the Republicans remind me of a line from a Warren Zevon song, Werewolves of London: “You better stay away from him. He'll rip your lungs out, Jim...” And the Democrats? They are being paid by the werewolves to do nothing while the rest of us get eaten. In fact, I can see a few well-developed canine teeth in the mouths of many Democrat politicians. As for third parties in the United States, most of them also seem to be insane and more than a little bit feral.

Maybe we ordinary people should send an election year message of our own to whoever might be listening. I propose a campaign consisting of homemade bumper stickers (for those who drive) or bicycle helmet stickers (for those who pedal). Let the stickers read, NO ONE FOR PRESIDENT. I also propose that ordinary working-class people devise means for election-proofing their lives. This means finding strategies that will enable you to live in some measure of dignity without danger to your lungs or any other body parts, no matter which werewolf gets elected in 2012.

P.S. I will have a couple of more technical posts in the next few weeks, including (hopefully) an interview.

Friday, October 7, 2011

#Occupy Portland - A View From The Street

I dropped in on the #Occupy Portland protest yesterday, as one member of a small army of citizen journalists and bloggers covering the event. I'd been hearing about the #Occupy protests in New York and elsewhere over the last several days.

Some thoughts on the protests are in order. At first I wondered a bit about whether the protests were arranged as a media campaign in order to channel the outrage of common people into harmless and ineffectual action, or whether they were an actual, genuine expression of unscripted citizen outrage over the robbery of the poor majority by the rich minority in this country. It seems to me now that the protests are the real deal.

I think especially of the conversations and interviews I had with many ordinary people who took part in yesterday's protest. They ranged widely in age, from high school to retirement. There were also many working people who are now under economic stress. Their comments had common themes, namely that large numbers of people now believe that both political parties have become the servants and property of the rich. Many people now realize that neither political party represents common people. Many people no longer trust the mainstream media in this country to give us an accurate picture of the world. Many young people realize that they are in for a very hard life under our present economic arrangement. There were also many people who had been personally and tangibly victimized by one or more large corporations, including one woman with a sign that proclaimed that she had been “wait-listed for chemotherapy.”

Most MSM talking heads meanwhile continue to complain that the #Occupy protests lack a coherent message or coherent demands. From yesterday's experience I think I can help out. The message is very simple. Most of us ordinary people of small means would like the holders of concentrated wealth in this country to stop treating us as resources to be exploited. We are not here to make you rich. You need to wake up and realize that. Stop making it hard for us to live without you. Release your chokehold on American economic and political life so that we all can begin to learn to live graciously in a world with fewer resources. That means things like dropping your opposition to public mass transit and single payer health care, among the many elements of the commons that must be built up if most of us are to survive the next few decades. That means stopping your relentless attacks on what's left of the commons, including things like public parks, libraries and other elements of common, public American life. End your stupid wars – foreign resource wars and domestic wars against poor people and people who don't look like you. Stop trying to monopolize everything and become decent people. As things stand now, you are on your way to hell. Have I made things plain enough for you?

Common people in America are waking up to the illegitimacy of our present political processes and are moving outside of the channels so carefully laid down for them. Therefore, the #Occupy protests are not about telling people to get out and vote. (KPOJ, “Portland's only progressive talk station” doesn't seem to get that. Last night I heard some idiot named Norman Goldman telling people that he suddenly is starting to like Pat Buchanan.) The danger to the present holders of power is that if they don't start listening to what common people are saying, common people may bypass them altogether, along with their media mouthpieces.

Anyway, here's a link to some video and still pictures I shot yesterday while at the protest. Or you can just click on the box below to view the video directly. I also recorded several audio clips. Not all of them are included in the Youtube video I posted, so I will post all the audio clips and provide a link to them at a later date.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Death Of The Central Valley

I will begin this post by amending my policy for comments on this blog. In the sidebar on the right, I originally wrote, “A Word On Comments: Comments are always welcome. I am flattered by those who read, and gratified by those who comment (even though we may disagree). I only ask that comments be 'family-friendly' – clean language, if you get my drift.”

That part of my comment policy still stands. However, I am now adding a new condition, namely, that anyone who wants to post a comment on this blog must do so via a valid OpenID. I will no longer be accepting anonymous comments. Why the change? Because of anonymous comments supportive of certain economic interests which were submitted for my posts, “The Chicken That Laid Leaden Eggs, And Other Horror Stories,” and “The 'Congress Created Dust Bowl'.”

But here's a paradox: today I am violating my own comment policy – just a little bit, and only this once. This past April, an anonymous commenter submitted two very hostile comments on the “Congress Created Dust Bowl” post. (I am just now getting around to addressing this person's comments. In April I was up to my neck in teaching and my office job.) Despite the hostility, I found the comments highly entertaining. (In another setting, they would have been downright funny, although the commenter was not trying to be humorous.) In many ways these comments are typical of the mindset of the “conservative,” jingoistic, materialist, supremacist, anti-intellectual element in modern-day America, even to the emotive name-calling, bad grammar and misspelling of simple words. The commenter also accuses me of allowing only comments with which I agree. Today, I have proven him wrong. If you want to read what he wrote, check out “The 'Congress Created Dust Bowl'” post. (And yes, Mr. Anonymous, whoever you are, I no longer live in California.)

Now I'd like to give a response to this person's comments, a response which will shed a rather different light on the challenges facing Central Valley agriculture. Hopefully this response will also shed further light on the fallacy of promoting unrestrained resource use of any kind in pursuit of economic growth. The truth is that in so many ways, our society has hit the wall.

My anonymous reader starts by saying, “The Central Valley produces 8% of the Nations (sic) ag on 1% of the total ag land in the country. Reservoirs made it possible to farm and feed you, yes feed you...When the state regulates your water use, and doesnt (sic) let you WATER YOUR CROPS its called, its a top down regulation. THUS CONGRESS CREATED...” He drives home his point by concluding, “IF THE STATE REGULATES YOUR WATER AND DOESNT (sic) LET YOU USE (sic) TO THE POINT THAT YOUR CROPS DIE AND YOU CANT (sic) FEED YOUR FAMILY! ITS CONGRESS CREATED!!!” (Emphasis in original.)

To provide some background to this man's rant, over the last few years the United States Federal government and certain California state agencies have imposed water use restrictions on Central Valley farmers in order to protect Central Valley groundwater supplies and to prevent ecological damage resulting from the over-exploitation of the Sacramento River. In response to these restrictions, a number of wealthy agribusinesses mounted a protest campaign whose most visible manifestation was the installation along Interstate 5 of hundreds of yellow signs with red letters reading “Congress Created Dust Bowl,” “Stop the Congress Created Dust Bowl,” and the names, Boxer, Costa and Pelosi (politicians who were being targeted by farmers for removal from office for helping to “create” the supposed “dust bowl”).

Here we have a very typical fight between a group of people who want to pursue economic growth at all costs, regardless of the collateral damage, and a group of people who acknowledge the very real limits to economic growth caused by limits on resources and the magnitude of the damage resulting from over-exploitation of those resources. Those who worship growth above all else demonize those who acknowledge limits and warn against trying to breach those limits. Those who see limits to growth in the Central Valley are branded as “Socialists!!!” and “LA liberals!!!” as my anonymous commenter called me.

But what if the pro-growth agribusinessmen got their way? I'd like to suggest that they would soon hit the wall anyway. In the Central Valley, that would mean the demise of large-scale agriculture, sooner rather than later – even if farmers were allowed to take as much water as they possibly could from available supplies. For intensive irrigated agriculture on a large scale carries the seeds of its own destruction.

The problem is the salting up of irrigated soils. This is a contributing factor to desertification – the result of farming too intensively, extracting resources too rapidly from the soils in a region, especially an arid or semiarid region, so that the land is not allowed time for natural processes to recharge and replenish it. (Desertification resulting from improper agriculture has caused a few ancient civilizations to fail, by the way.)

I will try to summarize the process by which soils become salted. Salts of various kinds are present in all soils, as well as in most naturally occurring bodies of water. However, salt accumulation in soils is usually the result of human activity. When water from lakes or rivers is used to irrigate lands used for agriculture, the salt in the irrigation water mingles with the salt in the naturally occurring groundwater. This is not a problem if the land has good drainage and if the amount of irrigation is relatively small. However, if the amount of irrigation is large or the land has poor drainage, there are a number of negative effects:

  • Plants used as crops take up the irrigation water through transpiration, leaving dissolved salts behind in the soil.

  • As large volumes of crops are grown in the same plot of irrigated land, the concentration of salt remaining in the soil increases.

  • As land with poor drainage is intensively irrigated, a second mechanism increases the concentration of salts in the soil, namely, evaporation of water from flooded ground, leaving dissolved salts behind. This causes the naturally occurring groundwater to become increasingly saline as well.

The result of these effects is the buildup of soil salt concentrations to a level that prevents plants from growing. Then the field becomes unusable for agriculture. In extreme cases, the field can become barren.

This process is happening to the California Central Valley. It is happening because of the expansion of intensive irrigated agriculture. Many recent studies have been published which document this process. A study published by the University of California, Davis, in 2009 predicts that “...if salinity increases at the current rate until 2030, the direct annual costs will range from $1 billion to $1.5 billion...The production of goods and services in California could be reduced from $5 billion to $8.7 billion a year...the increase in salinity by 2030 could cost the Central Valley economy 27,000 to 53,000 jobs...” In short, Central Valley intensive irrigated agriculture, done intensively in order to maximize profit growth, is on the verge of serious trouble – even if Central Valley farmers get all the water they can get their hands on. The more water they get, the sooner they will all be in intractable trouble.

The problem of soil salinization and desertification is by no means limited to the California Central Valley. It is a worldwide symptom of modern industrial agriculture. In many places, man-made climate change will only make the problem worse. Smart people should begin thinking of alternative ways of getting their food.


  1. Excessive Irrigation Promotes Desertification,” Willem Van Cotthem, 23 June 2008.

  2. The Economic Impacts of Central Valley Salinity,” University of California Davis, 16 March 2009.

  3. More With Less: Agricultural Conservation and Efficiency in California,” Pacific Institute, 2008.

  4. Dryland Agriculture, Irrigation, And Salinity,” University of Florida.

  5. Sustainability of Irrigated Agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley, California,” University of California, Davis; Los Alamos National Laboratory; Hydrogeologic, Inc, 25 October 2005.

  6. Irrigation Salinity – Causes and Impacts,” Cynthia Podmore, Advisory Officer, Natural Resource Advisory Services, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, Australia, 2009.

  7. Salinity In The Landscape,” Geotimes, Pichu Rengasamy, March 2008.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Antibiotics Versus Natural Immunity - A Metaphor

I apologize for my lack of posting lately. Summer school ended five weeks ago and I spent most of the ensuing break catching up on things around my house. Not only did I not give much thought to blogging, but I also did not pay much attention to news from the larger world.

Thus I didn't hear about this week's big financial sell-off until Saturday, during a conversation with a friend. I guess several key global stock markets lost a significant portion of their notional value over the last several days. This friend brought up the subject as part of his discussion on the topic of collapse – a topic that I had first introduced to him over two years ago. This past Saturday, he related to me the strategies he considered to be important in preparing for collapse, including such things as stocking up on bicycles and bicycle parts, owning a gun and converting one's cash to gold.

I say “Amen” to the bicycles and bicycle parts. When we got to guns, I started to choke a little. He told me about how useful guns would be for self-defense and how ammunition was in short supply for a while after Obama was elected, and all I could think of in response was a mental picture of a nation of antisocial red necks each one of whom is convinced that all their neighbors are zombies. (I'm not knocking on my friend here, but rather the deluded doofuses who went out and bought all that ammo.)

I was also reminded of something Dimitry Orlov has said a few times over the last year or so, namely, that in much of the United States, social and cultural collapse have already happened. (If you want to know what that means, look up his “Five Stages of Collapse.”) Social collapse removes those volunteer associations and groups which provide mutual aid to people outside the immediate nuclear family unit. Cultural collapse goes further and reduces even members of the same family to people at war with each other.

Don't trust in a neighbor. Don't put confidence in a friend. With the woman lying in your embrace, be careful of the words of your mouth!

For the son dishonors the father, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man's enemies are the men of his own house.

(Micah 7:5-6, World English Bible)

It's easy to see how, in such a scenario, people would be tempted to rely on guns and other instruments of mayhem as sources of security. But this to me is like people whose friendly intestinal bacteria and other flora have been wiped out because of living in our toxic industrial society, and who consequently get sick quite often, with the result that they rely on doctors and medicine as sources of security. Wouldn't it be better to rebuild natural immunity by re-establishing a healthy ecosystem in your body?

P.S. School break is almost over. I will try to post a bit more regularly. We'll see how it works.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Kick In Kipling's Teeth

You know, I have to admit that I've been a bit in the dark regarding world news lately. I've been backed up with a mountain of papers to grade, although that will shortly end. So I might be forgiven for not knowing until today that there have been riots in “Great” Britain.

The riots were caused by the same sort of thing that often causes riots in the U.S.: London police thugs shot an unarmed black man and tried to say that it was because he was carrying a weapon that he fired at them. Their case looks like it's unraveling (the bullet that the man allegedly fired was proven to be from a police gun). People – disaffected, oppressed, persecuted, marginalized black people got angry. Now parts of England are on fire.

A few observations are in order. First, the British police have a long history of racist treatment of ethnic minorities. They're also building an impressive history of oppressing their own people, as the death of Ian Tomlinson shows. The British police are the servants of the British elite class in their subjugation and exploitation of the entire country.

Secondly, in the case of the present riots, the British press has uniformly supported this subjugation and exploitation. This has been somewhat true even of the Guardian and the Independent, which earlier helped blow the whistle on the police brutality surrounding Ian Tomlinson's death and the police harassment of nonviolent protest groups. Seems that maybe these newspapers aren't so “progressive” after all. The British press has almost without exception portrayed the riots as the acts of crazed, criminal youth disconnected from “civilization.” Very little effort has been expended in trying to explain why youth from certain ethnic backgrounds might be angry at constant discrimination and harassment while living in a society which has the lowest level of social mobility in the “developed” world.

However, the causes underlying the riots have somehow managed to leak out to the larger world. With just a few mouse clicks I learned today that in the weeks preceding the riots, there had been a very large peaceful protest march by London's black community to protest the death of a British reggae singer under suspicious circumstances during a search of the singer's home by police. That march was not reported by British media. But people are finding out about it now. Also, England has experienced more than a few riots over the last two decades.

Third, the entrenched holders of concentrated wealth and power in Britain have not been willing to admit the role their policies played in the eruption of the riots. Instead, they have mixed stern-faced “law and order” threats with appeals to British “civility.” The tactic is not working, because the people on whom it is supposed to work are people whose future has been taken away and who thus have nothing left to lose. This is an illustration of a point I made in my blog post, “The (Worldwide?) Peak Of Human Resources”: “ stands to reason that there is a limit to the maximal sustainable rate of exploitation of human beings...Breaching this limit would cause the breakdown of an industrial society even if that society was well-supplied with all other production inputs. Moreover, there would be increasingly severe symptoms of breakdown as the society was driven further and further beyond sustainable rates of exploitation of its members. Finally, it would not be surprising to see the elites at the head of such a society rationalize and refuse to acknowledge the true meaning of these signs and symptoms.”

Maybe we're beginning to see the breakdown of England. The funny thing is that although the breakdown may well be starting with the black community, there are plenty of other places where it could have started just as well. It is true that much of the history of England has been a history of thuggish exploitation of other peoples, other lands, other cultures, in order to secure an elevated standard of living for Anglo people. (Indeed, there is so much blood on the hands of the British nation that one wonders how they can call themselves “civilized.”)

But now the exponential growth of the appetites of the British elite has resulted in the transformation of almost all the rest of the nation into an underclass – including many, many Anglos, and many youth from every background. Income inequality in Britain is at an all-time high. The Tories have only made it worse. It's not just black youth rioting in England now.

This brings up something else. Some Britons, and some U.S. citizens observing the British riots, might be tempted to retreat into the imagined safety of racism, saying that the people who are being oppressed somehow “deserve” to be oppressed. But it's important to note that societies which create underclasses always need an underclass in order to function. There will always be an underclass in such societies, even if the members of the original underclass are wiped out. Once again, the history of England bears this out. A survey of writings from authors such as Charles Darwin, G.K. Chesterton and Rudyard Kipling shows how, even in the absence of ethnic minorities from outside Europe, the British ruling classes sought to define themselves as the only truly human and “civilized” people. They despised anyone who was outside their circle, including the Welsh, the Irish, the Scots, the French, the Germans, the Poles, the Jews, the Italians, the Greeks, and the Russians. Even within England, they had their gradations of British “whiteness,” with disparagement and discrimination against Cockneys, Midland English, and others whose blood was not sufficiently blue. Amazing to think that these people all looked more or less like each other, yet they found the smallest of excuses for choosing off and fighting each other.

That is why I said in my post, The Polyculture of Resilient Neighborhoods, that the most resilient neighborhoods in the United States will turn out to be composed of a number of heterogeneous cultures whose members maintain certain key cultural distinctions while learning from members of differing cultures. The members of the component cultures of such neighborhoods will engage in reaching out to members of differing cultures within their neighborhoods, forming a common, somewhat weakly binding meta-culture of common courtesy and customs within which the component cultures exist as distinct entities. Within the over-arching meta-culture, there will be opportunities for cross-pollination between the members of the component cultures, with results that are hopefully beneficial to all. On the other hand, neighborhoods (and larger entities such as cities, counties and states) which are predominantly monocultural will probably tend to be less resilient.

A polycultural (or multicultural) neighborhood, region or nation that functions along these lines will tend to be a more pleasant place to live, because its members will be treated with mutual respect. It will also be more stable. (Singapore comes to mind as an example.) On the other hand, a neighborhood, region or nation that attempts to create ethnic underclasses dominated by a ruling majority will be a dangerous place to live, even for those who are in the majority. For if, over time, the members of the original underclasses are removed from such a society, the masters of that society will seek to create a new underclass from some of the remaining members of society. It will be like a game of musical chairs where the chairs keep getting taken away until almost no one has any place to sit down. The only person who wins such a game is the person who owns the chairs.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Chickens for Poor People, Part 2

Aimee, a fellow blogger who writes New To Farm Life, made another insightful and informative comment on my post, “Chickens for Poor People.” She said,

I mean, it [the tendency I spoke about to make chicken-keeping and other acts of self-reliance more complicated than necessary] might be another symptom of the same disease that causes helicopter parenting - an overwhelming anxiety that things will go to pieces if you aren't in total control of all variables at all times.

“I'd like to recommend Storey's guide to chickens (they have a whole series on farming). These guides are down to earth and relaxed, providing information but with a general attitude that even children can successfully raise animals of all types. Storey's chicken book has plenty of plans for simple chicken houses, too.

“My chickens roost in the rafters of the barn. Most breeds of chicken will do fine with a roof, a good windbreak, clean water and ample food. They need a few square feet apiece, minimum, to stretch and scratch. Chickens will be extra happy if they can also make wallows and take dirtbaths.”

That sounds like good advice. I'll have to find Storey's book when I get a chance. And it's helpful to realize that chickens, being birds after all, are quite able to survive without human intervention. (Otherwise, there'd be none on earth today!)

On another note, posting will be light over the next week (and maybe two). I've got a ton of homework to grade and I need to catch up.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Chickens for Poor People

I'm working on a research-heavy post, but it's not quite ready. The information contained therein will be bad news to some folks (maybe quite a few folks), but then again, a lot of news about the world seems very bad nowadays. Anyway, I've been a bit busy – so here is a short (and hopefully somewhat lighter) post for this week.

An urban gardening education outfit called Growing Gardens hosts an annual “Tour de Coops” as part of their program of promoting urban chicken-keeping in Portland. The Tour de Coops originally started out as a bicycle tour of various local chicken-keeping homes, but has since grown geographically to the extent that many people drive from house to house to view chicken coops. Around a year and a half ago I started building a chicken coop in my back yard, thinking I could knock out the project in a few weeks. But my life got very busy and I quickly ran out of inspiration as I remembered the warnings I had heard in the chicken-keeping classes I had attended – warnings which distilled in my head into the message that “you must do everything just right or your birds will die!!!”

“How do you build a coop just right? What does just right look like?” I wondered. So I bought a book of chicken coop plans and I thought back to the chicken coops I had observed during the Tour de Coops which I had witnessed. As I sought to implement the things I had observed, I couldn't help but notice how much money I was dropping at Home Cheapo for what seemed to be the requisite building materials. The plan I chose from the book I bought seemed to me to be very basic, yet it was still more elaborate than I would have liked. At times I fumed about the potential cost per egg over the lifetime of my coop.

That got me thinking about the various coops I had seen during the Tour de Coops I had witnessed, as well as the general tone of the chicken-keeping classes I had attended. A large number of the coops I saw on tour and in class were, shall we say, palatial, with electric lighting, ventilation (and maybe even heating in one case), and all built by yuppie or post-yuppie types who viewed their birds as cute, affectionate members of their extended family. (How is a full-grown chicken “cute”?) “Where do you find the time or energy to build all that?” I wondered.

Immigrants and people outside American upper middle-class culture tend to view these things very differently. When I told some of my immigrant friends about my chicken coop project, almost all of them asked why I didn't just pick up a coop for free from Craigslist. Only one of them has built anything that is anywhere near as elaborate as coops, American-style seem to be becoming. But that's not the best part. After I started my coop, I noticed during my travels on bicycle that several back yards had birds who were housed in very simple boxes with chicken wire on their fronts. I kept thinking, “I could have done that!

All of which brings up an uncomfortable observation. It seems that many who have been thoroughly marinated in American upper middle-class culture have a fundamental blind spot when it comes to trying to do anything simply and frugally. Some of us who look for strategies for sustainable living render those strategies unsustainable by turning those strategies into status symbols. So we have “fair trade” coffeehouses, sanctimonious hybrid vehicle owners, people who browse issues of Real Simple whenever they visit Whole Foods Market, people who try to balance stressed-out materialism with a few hours a week at a yoga studio, people who build chicken palaces with full utility hook-ups in order to make a statement about “sustainability,” people who take their cars to a Tour de Coops. And we have whole industries devoted to catering to the self-image of these people.

What's needed is chickens for poor people – along with a truckload of other survival strategies for people who have fallen (or have jumped) off the upper middle-class train. (There are more of us each day in this country.) We also need competent teachers of these strategies. Some of the coops featured in the Tour de Coops may lately have been sending the wrong message. Growing Gardens will probably never read this post of mine, but if they do, I hope they will bear with a bit of gentle constructive criticism from a friend.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Sound Foundations of Engineered Earth Construction

Earth construction has recently attracted great interest as post-Peak building method for the First World. (By post-Peak methods, I mean methods of producing useful products which are suitable for a declining or collapsing economy whose resource base is drying up.) The reasons for this interest have to do with looming resource constraints, in particular, the resources required for construction methods which have become standard over the last hundred years in the developed world. However, the principles of proper earth building design and construction must be thoroughly understood and properly implemented in order to avoid loss of life due to failure and collapse of buildings. There is a strong need for validation of techniques, practices and principles of structurally sound earth building. This validation must be accomplished via experimentation and mathematical modeling and analysis.

This validation is also of special interest in the Third World (also known as the developing world), where, according to at least one source, approximately one fifth of the world's population lives in adobe and rammed earth structures, and where, according to another source, more than 90 percent of the population in moderate to severe seismic zones is living and working in non-engineered earth buildings. A body of work now exists which documents the behavior of earth buildings when subjected to various loading events, including seismic and wind events. This development of this body of work has been spearheaded by engineering professionals, universities and governmental agencies both in the developing world and in the First World nations of the Global South.

This work reveals some surprising facts, both with regard to safe earth construction best practices and with regard to the flow of useful information in the developing world. As far as the flow of useful information, two things can be observed. First, there is a much greater proportion of public-minded engineering and technical professionals in the developing world compared to professionals in the First World. This is seen in the willingness of researchers to openly and freely disseminate their published work via the Web without charging rent on “intellectual property.” In the First World, on the other hand, rent-seeking vultures have restricted the free flow of potentially life-saving technical information in many cases. (Many of the publications from First World sources on the topic of earth construction are behind paywalls. One refreshing exception in the United States is the Getty Institute.) This is one reason why the Third World may be better poised for post-Peak adaptation than the First World. Secondly, the universities and professionals of the Third World are every bit as capable and competent as those in the First World, and in fact they may be far more creative.

In the literature which I have discovered, there are two categories of discussion regarding performance of earthen structures: the performance of non-engineered structures and the performance, experimental testing and analysis of engineered earthen structures. These discussions reveal the following observations:

  1. Almost all of the literature states that typical non-engineered earthen structures perform very poorly when subjected to severe and sudden wind loads or seismic events. This applies both to rammed earth (also known as tapia, taipal or pise de terre), cob and adobe structures. Rammed earth constructions and other earth structures can be highly susceptible to damage from earthquakes and other ground motion.

  2. The mechanism of disintegration of earth walls for various types of earth construction have been studied via shake table and compression tests. Among other things, these tests have documented the anisotropy of multi-layer rammed earth walls. A material that is anisotropic has physical properties that vary at different locations and in different directions in the material rather than being uniform throughout the material. This is important if there is a concern that a wall made of anisotropic material might have material properties that are not constant throughout the wall.

  3. Techniques for stabilization and reinforcement of earth structures have been studied. One study focused on two particular approaches: internal reinforcement via chicken wire or bamboo, and external reinforcement with bamboo or wooden members. Internal reinforcement did not work nearly as well as external reinforcement, which spread earthquake stresses over a large wall area, dissipating earthquake energy without causing major cracking.

  4. Proper reinforcement of earthen walls is key to surviving earthquakes and other environmental events. Unreinforced earthen structures suffered a number of typical failure modes. In addition, walls or wall elements that are reinforced internally with biodegradable materials like straw have been known to fail due to degrading of the reinforcement by insects and rot.

  5. As a result of laboratory tests, mathematical modeling and observations of actual earth structures in the aftermath of actual earthquakes, a number of governmental agencies and NGO's have published earth construction design guides. Many of these design guides agree on key points. In addition, there are countries in the developing world and the Global South which have formulated or are formulating earth building codes. New Zealand is one such case. Their New Zealand Earth Building Standards can serve as a repository of best practices and a starting place for model codes for earth building in other countries. Unfortunately, access to the New Zealand standards is not free.

  6. In addition to design guides for building professionals and code-enforcing officials, certain governments and NGO's have developed earth construction manuals for non-professional, unskilled builders who would be typical in rural or poor urban populations. Among the governmental agencies disseminating this design information is SENA (Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje,, a national public entity of Colombia in South America, which publishes literature for public education and vocational training throughout South America. In addition, the Indian Institute of Technology at Kanpur has published the IAEE Guidelines for Earthquake Resistant Non-Engineered Construction, which is available in PDF form free of charge at the IIT Kanpur National Information Centre of Earthquake Engineering website. A 2011 draft update of these guidelines is also available from the International Institute of Seismology and Earthquake Engineering in Japan. Such guidelines embody low-cost, effective approaches for building safe earthen structures.

  7. Researchers have studied the challenge of reinforcing and retrofitting existing earthen structures which have historical significance. Recommended retrofit practices are emerging. Many of these retrofit practices involve addition of bamboo reinforcement to the exterior surfaces of earth walls, both outside and inside an earthen structure, in order to spread forces and stresses so that they don't result in concentrated failure at one point.

Many more facts could be gleaned from the available literature, but unfortunately, I am out of time. However, a list of references and cited works is included at the end of this post. Enjoy!

Additional References And Resources:

  1. Seismic Behavior and Rehabilitation Alternatives for Adobe and Rammed Earth Buildings,” Luis. E. Yamin, Camilo A. Phillips, Juan C. Reyes, Daniel M. Ruiz, 13th World Conference on Earthquake Engineering, 2004.

  2. Modern and historic earth buildings: Observations of the 4th September 2010 Darfield Earthquake,” H.W. Morris, 9th Pacific Conference on Earthquake Engineering – Building and Earthquake-Resilient Society, April 2011.

  3. Non-Engineered Construction In Developing Countries – An Approach Toward Earthquake Risk Reduction,” Anand S. Arya, 12WCEE 2000, Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India.

  4. Review of Non-Engineered Houses in Latin America with Reference to Building Practices and Self-Construction Projects,” Aikaterini Papanikolaou, Fabio Taucer, European Commission Joint Research Centre, 2004.

  5. Seismic Performance of Mud Brick Structures,” Joseph Hardwick and Jonathan Little, University of Bristol, EWB-UK National Research Conference 2010 and Engineers Without Borders UK, 2010.

  6. Low-Cost and Low-Tech Reinforcement Systems for Improved Earthquake Resistance of Mud Brick Buildings,” Dominic M. Dowling and Bijan Samali, The Getty Institute.

  7. Assessing the Anisotropy of Rammed Earth,” Quoc-Bao Bui, Jean-Claude Morel, 11th International Conference on Non-Conventional Materials and Technologies, 2009.

  8. Planning and Engineering Guidelines for the Seismic Retrofitting of Historic Adobe Structures,” E. Leroy Tolles, Edna E. Kimbro, William S. Ginell, The Getty Institute, 2002.

  9. An Improved Means of Reinforcing Adobe Walls – External Vertical Reinforcement,” Dominic Dowling, Bijan Samali, Jianchun Li, SismoAdobe 2005, Lima, Peru.

  10. Earthquake Resistant Rammed-Earth (Taipal) Buildings,” J. Vargas, Catholic University of Peru.