Category: Home Front


There are currently 104 commercial nuclear power reactors operating in the US at 65 separate locations.

That puts One in Three citizens with 50 miles of a nuclear power plant. Which means, you should probably take the time to find out A) whether that means you and then B) what it means to you.

Given what the world is witnessing with the still unfolding disaster at Fukushima Daiichi in Japan, it would be prudent for all of us to understand just a little bit more about the risks and rewards of the energy source that provides about 20% of our power in the US. Whether or not you live in proximity to a plant seems like as good a place to start as any. MSNBC has a fantastic roll over map which should help you answer question number one pretty easily.

Here’s where it gets a little tricky. What are you going to do about it?

I personally live in The Zone. Vermont Yankee, a virtual replica of Fukushima, is my neighbor to the north. One of the more vulnerable designs and aging rapidly to boot, this is a potentially risky situation. I already know I won’t be moving anytime soon. So where does that leave me?

Step One: Education. I start by going through the information I’ve encountered previously, searching for sources and individuals that can tell me more about Yankee or just point me in the right direction. This takes little more than a few rounds on Google. My goals were to learn about this plant in particular, general history of the industry (a la Wikipedia or the like), and the work already in progress among activists about Yankee itself.

At this point, I draw (at least) one conclusion which is that I personally would be much happier if the world did not generate power from nuclear reactions. To me, the risks far outweigh the benefits, not to mention the many other less dangerous ways of generating power available. So I decide that I would feel more secure knowing the Vermont Yankee had a plan to shut down at some point. After all, none of these plants can operate indefinitely, especially not when they insist on adding output from time to time effectively wearing out the mechanics faster.  It’s really only a matter of whether they shut themselves down or melt down.

Step Two: Action. Even trickier than the education phase for me personally. I never relish coming between an industry and their profits. Safely behind my computer, yelling into the abyss of the internet is one thing, linking arms to barricade a power plant is quite another! Besides which, my personal belief in the Net Positive philosophy leads me to believe that resistance is more effective when it’s not made of the same stuff as that against which it struggles.

So no grand gestures or angry mobs for me. At least not for now.

I resolve to find a way to be part of the solution. Increasing awareness among my neighbors, supporting the awareness raising efforts of others, calling for the plant to adopt a safe plan for decommissioning, and avoiding complacency by continually seeking new ways to contribute. My hope is that all of this will one day lead to:

Step Three: Resolution. Which might look something like this: An educated and aware citizenry marshaling their demands into a strength-in-numbers campaign to safely bring the age of nuclear power to an end through a three-fold approach. Demanding a moratorium on new permits and construction, Creating a workable and fair protocol for decommissioning the plants already in existence and Advocating at the Community and State level for the adoption of renewable power incentives which will both work to displace the lost power generation and create jobs to absorb the displaced workforce.

Maybe that’s an overly optimistic, pie-in-the-sky scenario, but we’ve revolutionized the way we do things before and I’m pretty sure we’ll do it again at some point. In fact I was witness to one such revolution two nights ago at my local town meeting. A special meeting was called to vote on a “Green Town” initiative put forth by our state. Towns agreeing to certain levels of energy efficiency in new constructions would be awarded a lump sum of cash (funded by corporate carbon payments and not tax dollars) to be used for updating efficiency throughout public town property. It’s a fledgling win-win policy being tested in a handful of states.

I was filled with pride listening to the honest and thoughtful discourse among my neighbors. There were so many bright and informed people around me empathetically assuaging the concerns of the folks who feared the initiative would cost them financially. In the end we got a majority and passed the measure! We’re a rural, small town full of quintessential Americans, hard-working people with very little free time to spend on “luxuries” like being an environmentalist. Yet, like several of our neighboring towns, clear heads prevailed, democracy worked, and we got one step closer to a healthy and just world.

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Wow, finally an exponential chart that doesn’t terrify me!

Thanks Think Progress!

And did I mention that it’s all free and available to download immediately! The one caveat is the usual, give us your email address and we’ll give you the world. In this case it would appear to be worth it. This is an absolute treasure trove of information on all things self-sufficient and anyone with even a whiff of an interest in creating a homestead capable of providing something more than a yard needs to check this out.

It’s both the overview and the specific. There are one to five page briefs and checklists on a range of subjects from animal husbandry, gardening, and alternative power to blacksmithing, home brewing (complete with a few tempting recipes) and beekeeping. There are immense encyclopedic reference on disciplines like herbal healing and home wine-making. And then there’s the dozens of other reference books.

With these texts alone (and their extensive accompanying diagrams and plans) you could just about have a complete homestead up and running and absolutely off the grid. I haven’t explored too much farther into the site yet, but it looks like there’s also a forum and store. They are based in Australia though, so shipping stateside might be prohibitive.

Do it for security or do it for fun, but get outside and greet the spring armed with one (or ten) of these plans and give yourself the gift of a resilient garden, a productive beehive, a new chicken coop, a hydro-electric power generator, a windmill, a composting toilet, a goat fence, a new shed……….

photo from eartheasy.com

This is an article about how to actually clean your home. For the purposes of clarity, let’s all get on the same page about what a clean house really is, and what it is not.

Coating a surface in a layer of chemicals and calling it clean won’t suffice in a Net Positive home. You may succeed in killing every microbe in sight, both helpful and harmful ones, but you’ll probably also damage yourself in the process. We too are made of organic matter, and it may surprise you to know that the majority of the mass in our bodies is not in fact human cells but the same types of microbes (bacteria, fungi etc) killed by the harmful chemicals in most of the formulas you find at the store. You do the math.
As you innocently clean your home with the best of intentions, you may actually be creating unsafe levels of indoor air pollution, a problem that some estimates indicate is responsible for $6 billion in costs to society ranging from medical bills to sick days. This indoor pollution can compromise your immune system, lead to allergic reactions and over time even birth defects, cancers and a host of other illnesses. And not just in us modern, industrialized, western folks, we’re now finding levels of synthetic chemicals in the breast milk of Inuit women so high that the FDA would categorize it as hazardous waste unfit for human consumption.
Dupont assured us that we could expect “better living through chemistry”, and we jumped at the promise of longer lives, free from the illnesses brought on by pathogens in our environment who were no match for our potent chemical brews. As time has passed, evidence has mounted that these chemical are likely doing more harm than good. It just takes a cursory glance at the paragraphs of bold warning labels and fine print covering the containers to see that something might be amiss.

Even more important that cleanliness in a home environment is safety. We want to believe that our home, if nowhere else, is a place of security where no harm can come to us. In reality, our greatest exposure to toxic chemicals happens in our own homes, from products we ourselves willing purchase and use.

There are somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000 different synthetic chemicals in use across the   e globe. We would probably like to believe that there is someone in a lab somewhere verifying that these substances are at the very least not harmful to humans. According to the Government Accountability Office in 2005 “EPA does not routinely asses existing chemicals, has limited information on their health and environmental risks, and has issued few regulations controlling such chemicals.” The EPA actually does not conduct safety tests, but instead relies on the manufacturers to provide this information. About 15% of chemicals used ever have reports filed on their safety.

Yet, even with the inadequate testing that we currently have, there is still conclusive evidence that many, if not most, of these chemicals lead to serious illness in humans. This is all to say nothing of the effects these chemicals have on the environments outside our homes. We can’t ignore the fact that anything applied to the inside of our homes eventually finds its way out into the water and air that we share with all the other living things on the planet.

So how many of these chemicals might be lurking in your home. If you want to get down to the nitty-gritty and peel the layers of this rotting onion, the book “The Hundred Year Lie” by Randall Fitzgerald is your best friend. This treasure trove of information is so meticulously researched and detailed you’ll be an expert yourself when you’ve finished it. Don’t be scared off by this painstakingly comprehensive book, at 257 it’s amazingly readable for something so informative.

Now if it’s solutions you’re looking for, I recently picked up a diminutive little tome called “The Naturally Clean Home” by Karyn Siegel-Maier. It was smiling up at me from the rack at my local market and I couldn’t help but flip through. Do not be fooled by it’s size, this book is loaded with 150 recipes/ formulas and how-to instructions for every kind of cleaning job you can imagine and some you couldn’t.


My favorites so far are the Lemon Blast surface cleaner (great in the kitchen,) the Herbal Disinfectant with borax (keeps the bathroom fresh as a spring breeze), and the Herbal Scouring Formula (actually makes cleaning the tub less awful). There are formulas for everything from automatic dishwasher detergent to laundry detergent and stain solutions for every mess. There are about ten inexpensive and easily accessible ingredients and a handful of helpful essential oils that combine in various ways to make these 150 priceless (but purse friendly) formulas. For less than the cost of some of the store-bought cleaning products out there, the book itself is a bargain too!

No discussion of the safety issues associated with cleaning our homes is complete without mentioning the original bible on the subject, “Home Safe Home” by Debra Lynn Dadd. Originally published in the mid ‘80’s and thoroughly expanded and updated over time, this classic is well worth the shelf space.

As with any recommendations, be sure to follow your instincts and research your options. You are the ultimate guardian of your environment, we are just here to help bring critical information to your attention. Where you go from here is entirely up to you!

Photos courtesy of organicconsumers.org, cathysparkle.com, blissfullycomestic.com