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Bringing neighbors together to build a more sustainable, resilient
future for 
Berkeley. We envision a strong, diverse local economy,
with a greatly reduced 
dependence on fossil fuels, 
and a cooperative, rewarding, community life.

Articles

Tiny Houses Hit The Spot by Carole Bennett-Simmons

A record setting crowd of one hundred and fifty people turned out for Transition Berkeley's March 3rd Screening the Green showing of the film Tiny. I knew it was going to be a great evening when I arrived and spotted Rick Auerbach's tiny house perched atop his vintage yellow pickup in front of Fellowship Hall. It became even more evident when Ian Bolliger, Cal’s Project Manager for THIMBY (Tiny House in my Backyard) arrived with six Cal graduate students. They were ready to describe their entry in a statewide competition for the most sustainable tiny house, and they were carrying a miniature pure dark chocolate tiny house.

Things got sweeter as a nice neighbor named Victor stopped by to play piano for us and his two friends helped serve the snacks and do the dishes! For refreshments people brought veggies, good bread, homemade polenta, guacamole, and lemonade, and someone brought a half salmon baked with Teriyaki sauce. It was an enchanted evening.

Strangers met each other as members of the audience shared ideas about what makes tiny houses a beautiful thing. The enthusiasm in the room was stunning. 

Everyone enjoyed the film about an inexperienced but determined couple building a tiny home together and the growing movement they are part of. After the film Carrie Bennett from the Ecology Center welcomed a panel of experts to share what they know about the subject. Four panelists were Cal graduate students working with Ian on building a tiny house as part of a competition sponsored by SMUD (Sacramento Municipal Utilities District). One was a City of Berkeley official (Immanuel (Manny) Bereket), there to explain the City's regulations and policies regarding tiny homes. Two were residents of tiny houses -- one a builder of tiny homes (Moksha Osgood) and the other an Ecology Center staff member (Tatille Jackson). Another panelist (Betsy Morris) was an expert on public policy regarding urban housing and an advocate for affordable and intentional communities. A local architect (Michael Robbins) provided his perspective as well. Rick Auerbach was also on the panel as a long-time tiny home (on wheels!) owner.

Ian led the panelists in responding to questions from the audience like:

What is the difference between a community of tiny homes and a trailer park?

Are trailer parks permissible in Berkeley? (Yes)

If Berkeley had a lot of tiny houses where would they get water, hook up to sewage and gas? Are there tiny house communities happening in this area? (Yes)

How does such a small limited space impact the relationships of the people living in the tiny homes? After the panel adjourned many people stayed on to plan strategies for using tiny houses as part of the solution for homelessness and lack of affordable housing.

We haven't heard the last of this subject and it will continue to be raised in the days ahead as the City of Berkeley attempts to cope with the affordable housing emergency that is gripping our city and so many others.  And the appeal of a home you can design and build yourself for very little money will continue to excite the imagination of those who think outside of the box and are searching for a more sustainable way to live.

Carole Bennett-Simmons, Transition Berkeley Community Outreach Chair

Leave It For the Birds! by Alisa Rose Seidlitz

Now that autumn's here, it seems to be 'clean-up' time in the garden. But did you know that leaving some 'mess', at least for awhile, greatly helps the birds?

Birds feed on bugs they find on plants, in healthy soil and mulch, on berries and other fruit, and on the seeds which form after flowers finish blooming. What we consider messy areas needing clean-up are actually great foraging places for birds. In fact, birds depend on finding these sources of nourishment more than ever right now. Due to the prolonged drought and  continued urban expansion, less is available for them in the wild.

So instead of raking or sweeping away spent leaves, let them stay on the ground. Instead of deadheading (removing) spent flowers, keep at least some of them place for birds to dine upon!

Many CA natives, as well as other plants, provide seeds which birds need and enjoy.
The plant and bird photos shown here were taken at Ashby Community Garden in Berkeley -  a delightful, free-flowing, rustic, bountiful place, where food for humans grows, along with a smorgasbord of yummies for our fellow creatures. (With soft and permeable sheet-mulched pathways and deep, healthy soil, this garden thrives despite the drought.) Birds, butterflies and CA native bees abound among various yarrows, salvias, scabiosa, yellow dock, echinacea, buddleia, feverfew, CA sunflower, CA asclepias, tithonia and lavender, to name just a few plants which have free and 'messy' range. 

At one point recently, about 20 little birds (Bush tits, perhaps?) sat on a dry fennel stalk, eating well and loudly singing out their gratitude!
 Tall stalks of various sorts serve a vital purpose in and of themselves, giving birds places to land, safely out of reach of predators. 

Please remember to put out a bit of water for them somewhere in the garden, and of course do feel free to lighten your garden-chores load by leaving it for the birds!

Creating Sanctuary for Birds, Bees, Butterflies & People": Alisa Rose Seidlitz, BFQDP, CGBP, GreenAP, Designer, Educator & DIY Coach helps happy clients make their garden dreams come true. Her expertise in Western Feng Shui brings an additional deeply nourishing, client-supportive level to her work throughout the Bay Area.

Alisa Rose is the owner of Loving Garden Designs and Ambience Eco 

 

Photo taken at Ashby Community Garden- Ashby Community Garden is a project of We Bee Gardener (501c3), which is dedicated to garden arts and education, saving land, and nourishing heart, soul and body in an urban context.  

The Many Joys of Growing Herbs by Bonnie Borucki

People who love eating organic fresh food and enjoy being in gardens, but have no experience growing plants successfully, sometimes approach me with claims of being genetically inept at horticulture. Often they have not chosen plants that are appropriate for their climate, soil, or watering schedule, or they have not found the plant to "give back" in the manner expected. They give a plant, say a bell pepper, months of attention, watering, weeding, and protection from neighborhood animals, and after 5 months one  tiny pepper appears right before the plant dies. This has happened to me. That is why I suggest starting with easy to grow herbs that are useful in so many ways, and will "give back" in plentitude.

If you start with common familiar herbs, such as mint, parsley, oregano, and chives, and plant them in containers or directly in the ground, you can have a low maintenance, year-round, freshly picked herbal bouquet of culinary enhancements readily available. Many herbs are drought tolerant and pest resistant, and make excellent companions for your fussier annual plants, like tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce. A classic companion plant combination is tomato and basil. The scent of basil keeps insects away from the tomato plants, and you have the bonus of a delicious combination of tastes.

Besides detracting the insects that will devour your leafy and fruiting plants, many herbs will attract beneficial insects, like bees, butterflies and hoverflies, which are necessary to pollinate your fruiting plants. Top pollinator attracting herbs include lemon balm, hyssop, lavender, thyme, rosemary, and mint. As a note of caution, if you are buying herb plants, purchase plants from an organic supplier to insure the plants have not been cultivated with pesticides that are toxic to pollinating insects. Ironically many commercially grown herbs and flowers for pollinators have been grown using pesticides with neonicotinoids, which have been linked to colony collapse disorder in bee populations.

It is also no surprise that herbs that attract pollinators affect our olfactory senses as well, and make fragrant herbal teas and herbal pillows. Chamomile, spearmint, sage, and fennel are a few herbs that come to mind as aromatic and tasty, with added medicinal affects. The medicinal use of herbs is especially attractive to gardeners interested in finding multiple uses for the plants they lovingly care for. Feverfew, lemon balm, chamomile and skullcap have long been used to in infusions to give relief from anxiety,  headaches, and insomnia. Calendula, comfrey and borage are excellent ingredients for skin care. With a little guidance, you can go from growing herbs to making your own lotions and lip balms.

So, with a minimal investment of time and energy, you can grow a versatile herb garden that will provide culinary, aromatic, and visual enjoyment. In addition, you can help provide habitat for pollinators, and maintain an inventory of medicinally useful plants and companion plants to annuals in your garden. Check the Transition Berkeley website to learn more about growing herbs, for updates on places to purchase pesticide-free herb plants, for event listings, and for resources to help you succeed in growing a beautiful and useful garden.

Trillions of Dead Bees and Bayer

By Nora Shourd

An online search for the most current info on Colony Collapse Disorder brings you straight to the
perpetrator, Bayer Corporation, right in our own backyard here in Berkeley. The headlines are alarming.. “Wikileaks Reveals to the World that EPA allowed the killing of Honeybees”; “Entire Food Chain Contaminated”; “New Research Should Nail the Coffin Lid Shut on a Toxic Bee-Killing Pesticide”; “Have Bees Become Canaries in the Coal Mine?” ...and rightfully so.

The world honeybee population has plunged in recent years, worrying farmers and beekeepers who know how critical bee pollination is for many crops. It is often said we have bees to thank for one out of every three bites we take of food. In addition to producing honey, honey bees literally crisscross the US pollinating almonds, oranges, melons, blueberries, pumpkins, and more. Other species of bees, both social and solitary, pollinate other crops. All species are in decline.

A leaked EPA document reveals that the agency allowed the widespread use of a bee toxic pesticide despite warnings from EPA scientists. The wikileaks document which was leaked to a Colorado beekeeper, shows that the EPA has ignored warning about the use of clothiandin, the pesticide produced by Bayer that is used mainly to treat corn seeds.. The pesticide scooped up $262 million in sales in 2009 by farmers who use it on canola, soy, sugar beets, sunflowers,and wheat. The leaked doc was put out
in response to Bayer’ request to approve use of the pesticide on cotton and mustard. The doc validates a prior Bayer study that justified the registration of clothinidin on the basis of its safety to honeybees: “Clotinidin’s major risk concern is to non-target insects [honeybees]. Clotinidin is a neonicotinoid insectide that is both persistent and systemic. Acute toxicity studies to honeybees show that it is highly toxic on both a contact and oral basis.”

The entire 101 page memo is damning. But the opinion of EPA scientists apparently isn’t enough for the agency which is allowing Clotinidin to keep its registration. Suspicions about Clotinidin aren’t new, the EPA’s Environmental Fate and Effects Division first expressed concern when the pesticide was introduced in 2003, “the possibility of toxic exposure to non-target pollinators thru the translocation of Clotinidin
residue that result from seed treatment.” It was still allowed on the market while Bayer worked on a botched toxicity study.

Clotinidin has already been banned by Germany, Italy, France, Slovenia for its toxic effects.. So, why won’t the EPA follow? Let’s recall the dark side of Bayer’s history: During World War II, Bayer became part of IG Farben, a German chemical conglomerate. IG Farben used slave labor in factories, notably the sub-camps of Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp. IG Farben owned 42.5% of the company that manufactured Zyklon B, a chemical used in the gas chambers of Auscwitz. After World War II, the Allies broke up IG Farben and Bayer reappeared as an individual business. The Bayer executve Fritz ter Meer, sentenced to 7 years in prison by the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, was made head of the supervisory board in 1956 after his release.

HIV infected Blood Products: After 1978, there were four major companies engaged in the manufacture, production and sale of Factor VIII and IX. Bayer’s biological division, Cuter was one... It is believed that these companies recruited and paid donors from high risk population, including prisoners and IV drug users to obtain blood plasma for the production of Factor VIII and IX.. Companies failed to exclude donors, as mandated by Federal Law, with a history of viral hepatitis. These products were likely to be contaminated with HV or HCV and resulted in mass infection and deaths of thousands worldwide. Baycol: After 52 deaths were blamed on a side effect of Bayer’s anti-cholesterol drug Baycol, its manufacture and sales were discontinued in 2001.

What actions have been taken to ban this toxic chemical?

Avaaz.org launched an online petition in 2011 to ban neonicotinoid pesticides. On March 27th, 2012, Beyond Pesticides joined beekeepers and environmental groups, Center for Food Safety, and Pesticide Action Network of North America in filing an emergency petition that calls on EPA to suspend registration of Bayer’s controversial bee-killing pesticide Clothodin. Because Congress has the authority to exercise authority over federal agencies like the EPA, the organizations are calling on the public to ask Congress to protect and wild pollinators from this chemical and other chemicals known to be toxic to bees. Bees and other pollinators are still dying off at catastrophic rates, commercial beekeepers lost an average of 36% of their hives last year. As the public debate over CCD, a syndrome in which bees seemingly abandon their hives, carries on in the media, more and more new science has shown that neonicotinoid
pesticides are indeed a critical piece of the puzzle. We must pressure EPA to take action and ban this pesticide. We must urge Congress to step up to this task. 12.5 million people have signed the petition already.

Meanwhile, spring is here and what does that mean for the bees and the beekeepers? The entire ecological system depends on pollinators. The fact that Bayer continuously disregards all studies and reports that show the danger and harmful effects of neonicotinoids proves deliberate and cynical blindness. Neonicotinoids have been banned in several countries and yet Bayer continues to market their products globally. Although Bayer has been informed about the causes of bee deaths for many years and protests have increased from year to year, the company refuses to take action for purely profit related reasons, and attempts time and time again to distract attention from its irresponsibility.

Bees are dying. Ask Congress to step up: http://bit.ly/GJMC92
Pesticide Action Network Site: http://www.panna.org/
One million Americans Petition EPA to ban Clothianidin as 'highly toxic' to honeybees: http://bit.l/HsQjPd
Wikileaks reveals to world that EPA allowed the killing of honeybees: http://bit.ly/IcmKH2
Beyond Pesticides website: http://www.beyondpesticides.org/

Become a Mentor with Ashoka's Youth Ventures!

Are you or someone you know interested in becoming a mentor to support entrepeneur youth? Become a mentor with Ashoka's Youth Ventues! Youth Venture is a global movement of young change-makers. Youth Ventures inspires and invests in teams of young people as they start their own sustainable social ventures, connecting them into a powerful global network. Collectively, these young change-makers are redefining the youth years as a time of initiative and positive change.

The theme of this year's youth development effort is JUST HEALTH. JUST HEALTH will support teams of young teams in designing and leading their own community health-themed social ventures, or community-building ventures. As a mentor, you will work closely with a group of youth as they design their own social venture. This can be entirely flexible, either by meeting in person, by phone calls or via emails. Berkeley High School students have applied for social ventures, so some of these projects will likely to be Berkeley-based. Continued here...

Mentorship offers a vital component to our program. Mentors are adults in any sector who have a strong commitment to supporting the professional and personal development of young people. They are culturally aware and may have had experience working with youth.  Experience in the area of entrepreneurship and/or Community Health is beneficial but not necessary.  

Youth Ventures, which is driven and developed by youth, is in its second year running. It  supports teams of young people to lead their own social ventures where they undergo 10 rigorous sessions to develop strong social venture models before presenting to a panel of community stakeholders for feedback and access to seed funding. The Youth teams represent some of the most dynamic East Bay community based organizations and schools such as the Ecology Center’s Farm Fresh Choice, Youth Noise, Alameda Point Collaborative, Berkeley Youth Alternatives, and Planting Justice.

Youth Venture recognizes the ability of youth to transform and steer their communities in a new direction. Youth Venture aims to provide a space where youth can identify health-related issues and create grassroots solutions to address these problems.  In this program, youth ARE the driving force behind the development and implementation of projects committed to the physical, mental, economic and spiritual health of East Bay communities that are most impacted by health disparities.  In their relationship with their mentors, youth gain access to a deeply supportive ally and a greatly expanded network.  Mentors acquire a fresh perspective and have the privilege of being a part of a progressive movement led by todays young people. 

Last years's initiative, a partnership between Ashoka’s Youth Venture and Earth island Institute’s New Leaders Initiative, the JUST FOOD campaign was created to support East Bay youth to dream and design their own social ventures, or community benefiting projects, related to the critical theme of food justice.
 It is unfolding in the direction of the younger generation, the youth, who are driven by the vision to create their own solutions to issues that they current face in the community: food. Their vision goes beyond the current food crisis, to one that encompasses nutrition, food education, sustainability and food justice.“I knew that if we could support the development of a local youth-led movement, this local movement would fit into a larger context, and a growing national awareness of the need to address this issue.” – Amy Wilson, Ashoka Youth venture and one of the visionaries of the JUST FOOD campaign.

 

Time Banking Offers a Friendly Give and Take


by Rachel Trachten

Earlier this week I cooked a tasty spinach quiche, a feat I owe in large part to the Bay Area time bank. More specifically, I whipped up the quiche thanks to all I learned during a cooking lesson with Christina Oatfield, who I met through the time bank website.

The concept of a time bank is simple: all time has equal value. An hour of cooking help, an hour of massage, an hour of computer wisdom—all are considered an hour of work. No dollars are exchanged. Now that I’ve received two hours of cooking expertise, I owe two hours to the time bank (not to Chef Christina). I can repay my two hours to anyone who’s a part of the time bank.  Likewise, Christina has earned two hours and can request her payback in gardening, plumbing, or whatever she needs.

Christina and I connected on the time bank website because her skills matched my needs. We then arranged a menu by email, and I did the shopping and some prep work. On the appointed evening, Christina biked over to my house, we chatted a bit and then got to work. Beets and sweet potatoes were roasted, broccoli chopped, cheese grated. Best of all, Christina taught me to make a no-fuss, no-rolling-pin-needed pie crust. We ended up with two dishes: a scrumptious root vegetable casserole and a lovely quiche based on the Moosewood Cookbook’s recipe. The spinach quiche I recently concocted on my own is the result of my newfound recipes, skills, and confidence.

Officially called the Bay Area Community Exchange, the time bank is a great way to get things you want or need without spending money. The experience is equally about giving and provides a venue for sharing your skills or items you’ve made. In addition, the time bank offers the chance to be part of an alternative, local economy.  As a member of the time bank, you can explore some of the ideas and values behind the Transition Movement—people building relationships and sharing skills within a community. http://timebank.sfbace.org/

Plant Your Winter Garden now!

by Barbara Edwards

It's late October and not too late to plant a winter garden. 

Don't break out the corn or tomato seeds but many vegetables, especially the healthful leafy green ones, will be very happy to grow with the cool weather and moist soil that our mild winters provide.

You can plant seeds of arugula, fava beans, lettuce, kale, mustard greens, spinach, beets, collards, green onions, chard and cilantro, directly into your garden throughout November.  The seeds may take a little longer to germinate than if you were planting in the warm months, but just give them a little time.

Bok choy, Chinese cabbage, mizuna, peas - green and sugar snap - mint, oregano, sage, tarragon and thyme can all be started inside in pots and planted outside when they have a few leaves or you can buy plant starts at a nursery.  If you do this, look for smaller plants that aren't rootbound in their pots or sixpacks.  Broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower are happiest planted by the end of September, but some gardeners with sunny plots report success from early November plantings. Many seedlings, often the cole crops, will develop a crook in their stems. When it comes time to plant your seedlings into the garden, a little attention will pay off later.  Those curvy stems will result in bent over or lopsided cabbages or cauliflowers later. To grow strong, straight plants, cover crooked stems up to the first set of leaves as you transplant, so that they will grow up straight.   If you are somewhat experimental, you could also put out leek, celery or Brussel Sprout starts or try some carrot seeds right in the garden.  November is a good time to put in garlic and onions sets. Artichoke can be planted until December. <!--more-->

There are numerous benefits of winter gardening.  You'll rarely have to water. The sun is low enough that the soil seldom dries out.  Many weeds will emerge immediately after the first rains, but they are usually annuals and are easily scraped away from your new seedlings unless you are unlucky enough, as many of us are, to have a healthy population of sourgrass bulbs underground just waiting for the first rains.  It does take some time to pull and re-pull the sourgrass out of your garden beds, but the more vigilant you are the fewer you will have as time goes on.  The pest issue is mixed for winter vegetables.  The snails and slugs love the winter moisture so be on the lookout for them especially just after you plant or transplant, but your chard and beet leaves will not be bothered by leafminers. 

Plant an extra row or two! The Berkeley Crop Swaps are moving from every Monday evening to once a month on Saturdays mornings.


 Bring your excess mustard greens or beet tops to exchange for another gardener's snow peas and collard greens or, maybe even mandarin oranges or Buddah's Hand lemons.  Our summer and Fall Crop Swaps brought surprising and diverse types of fruits and vegetables that are being grown int backyards and community gardens all over Berkeley and we are all curious to see what the winter swaps will bring. 

We will be swapping more than vegetables this winter and spring, so keep an eye on the calendar on this site for more information.

The first one will be on November 5th from 10 to 11 and every first Saturday after that through Spring.

 

ar Sands Pipeline Debate Heats Up

It's been called the "dirtiest project on the planet", while NASA Scientist and climate activist called its approval "game over for the planet." A mere few months ago, very few people had heard about the Tar Sands XL Pipeline, which which TransCanada is hoping to construct from Alberta, Canada to Texas. If built, this pipeline would carry a fuel three times dirtier than conventional oil, while potentially devastating ecosystems and polluting water sources along its route.

Oakland-based 350.org and Tar Sands Action have led the way in mobilizing communities from across the country, uniting more environmental groups than in recent memory to fight this tragic project. Because President Obama can directly oppose the project, organizers have taken this fight directly to him. They have interrupted him at campaign stops, stood outside enmasse at fundraisers. Transition Berkeley, recognizing the importance of joining in global campaigns which will have local effects, has become an enthusiastic supporter of local Tar Sands activist events. We helped to co-sponsor a discussion about the project at the Ecology Center with Rainforest Action Network and the Ecology Center, stood with other Transition community members outside of Obama's San Francisco fundraiser with a thousand other activists and have written countless letters to Obama. 

Last weekend the 350.org Bay Area group, including Transition Berkeley, helped to organize a rally outside of Obama headquarters in Oakland. Though the event was organized in just a few days, we attracted more than 100 activists from around the Bay. Shouting "Yes we can, stop the pipeline" and other slogans we encircled his Oakland campaign headquarters and spoke with members of the local press about the implications of of this project.

This was in no way a culminating rally; just the opposite. At a pre-rally
event Saturday evening attended by many hundreds, and in what McKibben
talked about throughout from the stage, the warmly-received message was that
people need to go back home and, over the next few weeks, organize actions
at and visits to Obama for America reelection campaign offices. A major
demonstration is already being organized at the national Obama reelection
office in Chicago on November 16th at noon.

Bill McKibben was clearly impressed by what took place yesterday. For the
first time that I have heard since he and others publicly initiated this
movement over four months ago, he said, as he closed the post-encirclement
second rally, “we can win this fight.” Yes, si se puede, yes we can stop the
Keystone XL pipeline. Yes we can transform U.S. energy policy and create a
new world.

Nov. 6th at the White House is the latest sign that a new beginning, a
powerful, loving and hopeful new beginning, is here and sinking deeper and
deeper roots among the people of the USA.

Ted Glick is the National Policy Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action
Network. Past writings and more information can be found at
http://tedglick.com, and he is on twitter @jtglick.

Upcoming Events

Saturday, Aug 5 at 10:30 AM - 11:30 AM
Monday, Aug 14 at 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Saturday, Sep 2 at 10:30 AM - 11:30 AM
Monday, Sep 11 at 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM

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WINTER CROP SWAP

Winter Swaps will be held monthly at Ohlone Park:

Swaps will take place the first Saturday of the month, starting;

Saturday, November 5th, 10:30am-11:30am at Ohlone Park in North Berkeley

Bring your crops, homemade yummies, clothing, books, ideas. Be part of this wonderful sharing economy! Could you lend a hand to keep the Swaps going? Contact Linda at the link below. Clothing, books, prepared food and other items to swap are welcome. Music and neighborhood free fun for all!

Info: contact i[email protected]

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