Monday, November 17, 2014

Celebrate peace on earth, good will to all living things on Dec 7 at our home!

Welcome to our Earth-Friendly, Neighborly Home!

Nuestra casa es su casa!

We are inviting our neighbors and friends to a get together at our home on December 7th from 3-6 pm to celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace. He lived a simple life so others could simply live. He showed us that there is a better way than the way of empire and exploitation of resources and people. We hope to share with our friends and neighbors our commitment to living green--one of the best ways we know to insure "peace on earth, good will to all living things."

Peace begins at home. As the 18th century Quaker prophet John Woolman noted in his "Plea for the Poor," the seeds of war are sown in our lifestyles:

"Oh! that we who declare against wars, and acknowledge our trust to be in God only, may walk in the light, and therein examine our foundation and motives in holding great estates! May we look upon our treasures, and the furniture of our houses, and the garments in which we array ourselves, and try whether the seeds of war have nourishment in these our possessions, or not. Holding treasures in the self-pleasing spirit is a strong plant, the fruit whereof ripens fast.
"A day of outward distress is coming, and Divine love calls to prepare against it. Hearken then, O ye children who have known the light, and come forth. Leave every thing which Jesus Christ does not own. Think not his pattern too plain, too coarse for you. Think not a small portion in this life too little. But let us live in his spirit, and walk as he walked: so shall we be preserved in the greatest troubles."

Woolman was calling on his fellow Quakers, and fellow Christians, to simplify their lifestyles and not use products created by slave labor. He foresaw the bloody consequences of slavery. Today we live in a society dependent on cheap oil and cheap, underpaid labor. Our over-consumption of fossil fuels degrades the planet and heightens the risk of war. Our dependence on cheap labor creates misery for millions of workers both here in the US and around the world. We need to live more sustainably, in harmony with Divine Love. Otherwise, there will be dire consequences for life on this planet.

Welcome to our Earth-Friendly, Neighborly Home!

Nuestra casa es su casa!

We love our neighborhood—Northwest Pasadena is one of the most diverse, vibrant and friendly places in our city—and we love our neighbors! We are seeking to express our love by making our home a place of welcome for everyone—including birds, bees and butterflies! We also love our planet and want to make sure it’s healthy for future generations. So we are seeking to reduce our carbon footprint. Here’s some of the ways we are putting our love and faith into action:

1.       We want all to feel welcome so we don’t have a fence in front of our home. Instead, we have turned our front yard into “Faith Park,” which includes a water fountain (which diverts water to our plants), park benches. hammock and a little free library—with a sign that says, “Reflect and Relax.”  Please feel free anytime to bring or borrow books, and to linger a while and enjoy our little park.

2.       Our raised bed organic garden has an underground self-cleaning drip system called Netaphim that saves water: no evaporation and few weeds! We also have numerous fruit trees and vine—citrus, avocado, apple, kumquats, loquats, peaches, plums, persimmons, figs, passion fruit and concord grapes. The motto of our home is “Everyone ‘neath their vine and fig tree / shall live in peace and unafraid. /And into ploughshares turn their swords/ Nations shall learn war no more” (a song based on the prophet Micah, which we love to sing together).

3.       A peace pole was installed on Anthony’s birthday because we are both committed to peacemaking and believe that peace starts in our home and neighborhood. As a Quaker, Anthony volunteers for various organizations committed to promoting peace and justice. War is one of the biggest polluters on the planet and isn’t healthy for children and other living things, so let’s do what we can to prevent it!

4.       Due to our concern for the drought we have taken advantage of the city’s turf removal program and replaced our grass with mulch, decomposed granite, and some drought-tolerant native and some Mediterranean plants.

5.       Our gray water system recycles around 10,000 gallons of water per year from our bath tub and sinks to water our fruit trees. We make our own environmentally and plant-friendly cleaning products using recipes with ingredients our grandparents would have used: baking soda, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, and Dr. Bonner’s soap. (Our decomposed granite also allows more water to percolate into the water table.)

6.       Our bird bath fountain recycles water and welcomes birds, and our milk weed attracts monarch butterflies.

7.       We compost and practice vermiculture (African red wrigglies produce excellent fertilizer on the par with Miracle Gro). We use our chicken droppings to add a rich dose of nitrogen to the compost. And we celebrate Easter all year, with pale pink, green and blue eggs, natural colors of Arucana/Amerucana breed.

8.       Our solar panels produce nearly 5500 KW hour per year, more than enough electricity for our home. And it’s more cost effective than you may think! We use the surplus watts to run our our used Chevy Volt, which we bought at nearly half price. It’s a plug-in hybrid that goes 40 miles on a charge and therefore averages 100 miles per gallon. It drives beautifully. Its state-of-the-art technology is made in Detroit, a struggling US city, which is another reason we love it. It reduces our gas consumption by 75%. Instead of fracking and the Keystone Pipeline, we feel renewable energy is the best way to reduce dependence on foreign oil—one of the root causes of war today.

9.       To be light on the earth, and get exercise, we often use our “zero emission” bikes.

10.    We want our home to be permanently affordable so Jill is seeking to place our home into a community land trust. (Gentrification is raising housing costs in our neighborhood and we don’t want to displace current residents.) Just as Anthony is committed to ending war, Jill is committed to ending homelessness. About half of the homeless work, but don’t make enough to live indoors because of the cost. So Jill has written a book on how to make housing affordable and seeks to create more affordable housing in our city. An added bonus about most affordable housing: if it’s funded with tax credits (and most units are), winning these credits requires the use of state-of-the-art energy efficiency.

11.    We find strength and encouragement in the Bible, but find a top down approach to teaching it problematic, so we hold “Quaker style” Bible studies, where no one is a leader—all participate equally as they wish, sharing insights, questions and doubts they may have.  This gathering is for neighbors of all faiths. We meet on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month from 7:30 to 8:45pm. (Because our Bible study is neighborhood-based, everyone can walk to it, thereby saving energy!) We also often have get-togethers for community leaders and neighbors. Spanish as well as English is spoken here!

If you want to learn more about how to make your home earth-friendly, please feel free to ask us questions. We are also eager to learn how you are making your home and garden more earth- and people-friendly.  Together we can make our neighborhood a safe and friendly place for all!


Other Green Aspects of our Home

  • Solar attic fans to reduce need for use of AC
  • A “cool” roof
  • An AC system that is highly efficient
  • A Energy Star front-loading highly efficient washing machine (was $645 but over $400 in rebates refunded by the city)
  • Dual flush toilet (push one for #1 and the other for #2) was also purchased with city rebates
  • Efficient water emitters on all the faucets and shower that minimize water use
  • Tankless water heater
  • A Visco Mattress (like Tempur-pedic) made of corn and soy-100% bio degradable.
  • A Five Star energy efficient refrigerator that costs only $35 a year to run with significant city rebates.
Recycle of all kitchen and yard waste in the following ways:
  • To feed the chickens
  • To feed the worm farm
  • To make compost in a homemade rolling composter for use in the garden to prevent use of chemicals for growing vegetables
Recycle and minimize use of paper in the following ways:
  • Reuse of the back side of paper
  •  Comics (aka “funny papers”) are used to wrap gifts
  • We add some newspaper to the composters
  • Use cloth napkins and reduce use of paper goods
Reuse of building materials and fixtures in the following ways:
  • Insulation for the back shed is made of recycled Levis
  • Walkways created from cement from prior walkway and from bricks from the earthquake-damaged fire place
  • Reuse of the sink from the main home for the outdoor bathroom
  • The medicine cabinet from Habitat for Humanity Restore ($5)
Passive solar water heater located on the roof of our back house
·         Built mostly from reused material, some of which was purchased from Habitat for Humanity, It heats water for outside shower—in the summer it can get so hot you have to add cold water. This “non-photovoltaic” solar water heater could be heating home water throughout our nation.
  • Copper pipes ($8 for two ten foot pipes!)
  • Free used  water heater stripped to use as the tank
  • Jill’s grandmother’s old claw foot tub was used for the outdoor bathroom
  • Tempered glass, double paned patio door ($25)
  • Advantage of back house: good use of land for home office space, with no commute time
In the garden:
  • Use of hay from the chicken coop to mulch and minimize water use
  • Use of water wise spaghetti tubing on timers
  • Water from outside tub diverted to water trees

Resource list:

Solar panels: Sustainable Solutions Partners
Altadena Solar:
Turf Terminators. Remove turf for free. : 323-647-2532
Our landscaper: Sal Salis, 310-595-0617
City of Pasadena Turf Removal Program:
Gray water installer: Ziggy Zigmantis Pudzemis  626-354-7610
Facts about plug-in hybrids:
The Shed is Pasadena's emerging space for urban agriculture, sustainable development, planning, permaculture, land use, watershed and foodshed. contact  them at 626) 421-6185/  1355 Lincoln Ave, Pasadena, CA 91103. Also check out Path to Freedom, Pasadena’s urban homestead:

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Let's give diplomacy a chance and negotiate with Iran: the message of Quaker lobby day this year

Next week I am traveling to DC to take part in Quaker Lobby Day. Over 200 Quakers will descend on DC like a flock of doves and meet with as many elected officials as we can. So far, I am part of a delegation that will meet with Rep Judy Chu, and with aides at the office of Senators Feinstein and Boxer.

Our goal? To persuade our elected officials that we need to pursue robust negotiations with Iran. The hawks would like to see negotiations fail so the US will have to bully or bomb Iran into giving up its alleged nuclear aspirations. The more we bluster and bully, however, the less likely it is that Iran will let us have our way. A better way is to use diplomacy, as we did in Syria.

In order for there to be peace and stability in the Middle East, we need good relations with Iran, and vice versa. I am glad that FCNL has taken on this issue and provided talking points:

For Congress: Prevent a Nuclear-Armed Iran

For the first time in 30 years, the U.S. and Iran are engaged in robust, sustained, high-level diplomacy. U.S. diplomacy with Iran is advancing a multi-year agreement to guard against a nuclear-armed Iran and another war. Find out how Congress can support diplomacy.

Members of Congress Favor Iran Talks

The U.S.-Iran made history by taking the first concrete step to peacefully resolve the decade-long dispute over Iran's nuclear program. Congratulations to the many Members of Congress who have come out in support of this historic moment.

What Israeli, U.S. Experts Say on Iran Talks

Check out the military leaders and other U.S. and Israeli security experts from across the political spectrum who have come out in support of the historic first-step nuclear deal with Iran.

I also recommend the following articles to help clarify what is happening with Iran today.

"Iranian Attitudes on Nuclear Negotiations," Ebrahim Mohseni, Nancy Gallagher, and Clay Ramsay, University of Maryland, Center for International & Security Studies,delet September 2014; “Seven in ten (Iranians) say that the Iranian government’s purpose in expanding its nuclear capabilities is for peaceful nuclear energy, while one in five say it is also for developing nuclear weapons. … An overwhelming majority supports creating a Middle East nuclear free zone that includes Islamic countries and Israel, and three quarters support the goal of the NPT to eliminate all nuclear weapons. … Views of the United States, especially the U.S. government, continue to be quite negative. … President Rouhani receives very positive ratings. His foreign minister Zarif also gets positive ratings(.)”
Iran & the U.S. Are Allies Against ISIS but Aren’t Ready to Admit It Yet, J. Keating, 9/1614, 
Slate;   “Last week there were media reports that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had approved cooperation with the United States in the name of fighting ISIS. … Iran (and to a less clear extent Syria) is already a de facto ally of the U.S. and Europe in this mission. The efforts of Iran and the U.S. have been complementary, even if they weren’t coordinated. … Washington and Tehran are on the same team in Iraq—things are a bit more complicated in Syria—but neither government seems ready to admit it yet. At a certain point, the military forces battling the same enemy in the field might start to wonder how long it will take the politicians giving them orders to get on the same page.” 
Iran's Rouhani, UK's Cameron have historic, 'constructive' meeting, Greg Botelho & Dana Ford, CNN, Sept. 25, 2014;   Iran President tweets on "1 hour of constructive & pragmatic dialogue" He criticizes U.S.-led strikes in Syria, yet opens door to "a new atmosphere" with U.S. Cameron: Despite "severe disagreements," Iranians could help defeat ISIS Prime Minister: If they can help, "we should welcome their engagement" 
President Rouhani’s speech to UN General Assembly, 25 Sept. 2014;          “I’m coming from a region of the world whose many parts are currently burning in fire of extremism and excess. … (The extremists) have a single goal: “the destruction of civilization, giving rise to Islamophobia and creating a fertile ground for further intervention of foreign forces in our region”. I deeply regret to say that terrorism has become globalized: “Today’s anti-Westernism is a reaction to yesterday’s racism. … To uproot extremism, we must spread justice and development and disallow the distortion of divine teachings to justify brutality and cruelty. ... I warn that if we do not muster all our strengths against extremism and violence today, and fail to entrust the job to the people in the region who can deliver, tomorrow the world will be safe for no one. … A final accord regarding Iran’s peaceful nuclear program can serve as the beginning of multilateral collaboration aimed at promoting security, peace and development in our region and beyond. … While some of the countries around Iran have fallen prey to war and turmoil, Iran remains secure, stable and calm.” 
Big powers aim to tackle any Iran bomb 'sneak-out' risk in nuclear talks, Fredrik Dahl, Reuters, Sept. 26, 2014; “Under a "sneak-out" scenario, Western officials and experts say, Iran could build a uranium enrichment plant in secret to make bomb material unbeknownst to the U.N. nuclear watchdog, now empowered to visit only Tehran's declared nuclear sites. To counter this risk, they say, any breakthrough diplomatic settlement with Iran must grant the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) broader surveillance powers in this vast country crisscrossed by remote, often inaccessible mountains and desert.”
Iran nuclear talks: why Tehran must be brought in from the cold A deal with Iran is vital for the stability of the wider Middle East. The opportunity must be grasped, Christopher de BellaigueThe Guardian, 2 October 2014;   “Iran could have a vital role in restoring stability throughout Mesopotamia and the Levant. … The new president has since scored notable successes – while keeping Khamenei on (the) side, despite the latter’s scepticism over nuclear talks. Rouhani has used the momentum generated by the interim deal – in addition to the modest sanctions relief that accompanied it – to cut inflation from 45% to 20% and stabilise the rial currency after it lost more than 80% of its value.   Human rights in Iran remain wretched(.) … A deal … would inaugurate a new relationship between the Islamic Republic and the west that could keep together a region that is, in every other particular, coming apart.” 
There’s Going To Be A Gold Rush If Sanctions On Iran Are Lifted, But America Could Miss Out, Ben, Oct. 2, 2014; “With US-Iranian nuclear negotiations reaching their deadline this November, businesses around the world are waiting in nervous anticipation to re-engage with one of the world’s largest economies. Even with heavy sanctions, Iran was the world's 21st largest economy two years ago. The country is rich in high-demand natural resources, has an educated workforce, and increasingly well-developed processing and manufacturing capabilities.”  
Explosion at Key Military Base in Iran Raises Questions About SabotageDAVID E. SANGER, New York Times, OCT. 9, 2014;   “A spectacular explosion on Sunday (Oct. 5) night outside Tehran took place deep inside the Parchin military base, where Iran produces crucial elements of its missiles and other munitions, raising new questions about whether the blast was an accident or sabotage. … Even if the blast was an accident, the Iranians will almost certainly suspect foul play. The history of sabotage of Iranian nuclear and missile facilities, and assassinations of its leading scientists, is a long one. The United States played a central role in shipping faulty parts into Iran’s nuclear centrifuge facilities, and together the United States and Israel carried out a highly classified program(.) 
Iran: nuclear talks might be extended if November deadline missed, by Paris Hafezi, Reuters, Oct. 10, 2014; “Talks over Iran's nuclear program might be extended if disagreement over remaining issues cannot be resolved by a November deadline, Iran's top negotiator was quoted as saying on Friday, in the first hint an extension was being contemplated. … Israel has repeatedly threatened to use military force against Iranian atomic sites if diplomacy fails to defuse the standoff.” 
In Vienna, U.S. and Iran Working to Beat the Clock, Reza Marashi, Huffington Post, Oct. 15, 2014, "[Russian foreign minister] Lavrov was telling the truth. The deal is 95 percent done, but the remaining 5 percent is the most difficult details(.) … As the negotiations reconvene, all eyes are on three unresolved issues. … The size and contours of Iran's enrichment program under a comprehensive deal remains the most challenging point of contention. … Centrifuge numbers are a dead end because they are largely arbitrary. …The U.S. and Iran also disagree over the duration of any comprehensive nuclear deal. …There are spoilers in the U.S. and Iran who will try to torpedo a deal, no matter the details.” 
The Last Step to an Iran Nuclear Deal, Greg Thielmann, Defense One, October 16, 2014, “As Iran and the “P5+1” countries resume talks in Vienna this week, the primary hurdle before their self-imposed Nov. 24 deadline for completing a final deal now is the wide gap between positions on the size and scope of Iran’s uranium enrichment capabilities. But the enrichment question should not detract from the importance of another important goal: verification in the comprehensive agreement." 
THERE'S ONLY ONE WAY TO BEAT ISIS: WORK WITH ASSAD AND IRAN, Leslie H. Gelb, Daily Beast, Oct. 18, 2014;   “** The Obama administration has pulled together a coalition as ineffectual as it is unwilling. It's time to join up with the forces, however unsavory, that can do the job. ** … In the short term the only way to check ISIS … is for the United States to work with Bashar Assad’s Syria, and with Iran. … Only Assad’s Syria and Iran can and would provide plausible ground forces (to fight ISIS) in short order. … Mr. Assad … hasn’t made the defeat of ISIS his top priority. … Russia, brimming with unhappy, armed Muslims, is even more threatened by the existence of ISIS than the United States.  Moscow could help facilitate cooperation between Syria, Iran and the U.S. … The Iranians have the military means and good reason to be effective partners(.)” 
Obama Sees an Iran Deal That Could Avoid Congress, David E. Sanger, New York Times, October 19, 2014; “If agreement is reached, President Obama will do everything in his power to avoid letting Congress vote on it. … Even while negotiators argue over the number of centrifuges Iran would be allowed to spin and where inspectors could roam(.) … (T)he Iranians have signaled that they would accept, at least temporarily, a “suspension” of the stringent sanctions that have drastically cut their oil revenues and terminated their banking relationships with the West, according to American and Iranian officials. The Treasury Department, in a detailed study it declined to make public, has concluded Mr. Obama has the authority to suspend the vast majority of those sanctions without seeking a vote by Congress, officials say.” 
Iran offers 'compromises' in nuclear talks, West unmoved, Parisa Hafezi & Louis Charbonneau, Reuters, Oct. 21, 2014; Iran is pushing what it portrays as a new compromise proposal in nuclear talks, but Western negotiators say it offers no viable concessions, underscoring how far apart the two sides are as they enter crunch time before a Nov. 24 deadline. In the negotiations with six major powers, the Iranians say they are no longer demanding a total end to economic sanctions in return for curbing their nuclear program and would accept initially lifting just the latest, most damaging, sanctions. Western officials dismiss the proposal as nothing new and say the Iranians have always known that the sanctions could only end gradually - with each measure being suspended and later terminated only after Iranian compliance had been proven.”

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Greening Our Home as a Way to Put Our Faith (and Love) into Action

The President made headlines today by offering  to cut US carbon emissions by 28% over the next decade. This sounds like a huge sacrifice, but it amounts to only 2.8% per year. If we meet this modest goal, we'd still be consuming twice as much energy per capita than most Europeans, and nearly ten as much as the Chinese! See

I know from personal experience that we Americans can do a whole lot better without sacrificing our middle class life style, if we are willing to make the initial investment.

According to this chart, Jill and I were consuming around half as much electricity as the typical American home (5500 kwh), but we decided to do a lot better. During the past year, we invested in greening our home by purchasing solar panels, a gray water system, a Chevy Volt, and water-wise landscaping. It hasn't been cheap, but it hasn't been prohibitively expensive either. We'll pay off most of our investment in less than ten years and then start generating income from our green initiatives.

Our solar panels generate 5500 kw hours of electricity per year, which covers  90-100% of our need. It cost us $11,000 with rebates but will pay for itself in around 8 years if electricity rates continue to rise at 4% per year. We expect that the system will generate $2000+ year in "profits" after the pay-off period--which is a good return on investment. (The system is guaranteed for 20 years and will probably continue to function for 30 years or more.) With this system, our home energy use will be that of a typical person living in India or China.

Our Chevy Volt is a plug-in hybrid that will reduce our gas consumption by around 75%. It cost about the same as a comparable used car--around $22,000 with 24 k. It drives beautifully and we don't feel we have sacrificed comfort for fuel efficiency.

We hired a landscaper to remove our turf (and received $2 per sq ft from the city). We also installed gray water system recycles 10,000 gallons of water per year. We are hoping this system will reduce our water use by 40%. Turf removal and landscaping cost us around $4500, but nearly half of that cost will be reimbursed by the city and  we'll save $1000 per year in gardening and water bills. Our new water-wise yard looks beautiful and supports fruit trees as well as vegetables. This shows you don't have to sacrifice beauty or comfort or homegrown food  in order to be kind to our planet!

Being vegetarian reduces our food carbon footprint from two tons to one ton per year. And we enjoy our fruit and vegetable diet. It's fun to experiment with new recipes. like grilling veggies on the barbie!

Many of these green initiatives were possible in part because of good policy--city and federal rebates that made these investments more attractive financially. If the government subsidized green energy as much as it subsidizes fossil fuel, Americans could easily reduce their energy consumption by 80% in the next decade, and set an example for the rest of the world! This isn't unrealistic. Europeans already consume half as much energy per capita as Americans, and live a lifestyle comparable to our own. We need to pressure our legislators to get serious about addressing climate change. Scientists are telling us we need to reduce our carbon footprint by 80%, and we know it can be done. We've already done it!

What motivates Jill and me to green our lives? As the statement below explains, we are doing our best to put into practice Jesus' gospel of love--love for our neighbor, love for God's creation, love for life. We hope this love is contagious. We know this kind of love is needed to save our world.