Caring Economics, people power movement, rebuilding community, Sustainable Shelters

Disaster debris becomes giant Lego blocks to build new homes –

These engineers put there heads together and came up with an excellent solution to the most common long term disaster recovery challenges: debris removal and affordable replacement housing.   This 2 container factory, chews up debris and spits out concrete lego blocks to build with.    win win win.

Support them, they are crowdfunding for a demo town in Haiti……


Disaster debris becomes giant Lego blocks to build new homes –

21st Century Building, Caring Economics, Education for Life, Energy for Life, Farming for Life, For Love of ..............., Healing our Mama, Highest Good Economics, Inspirational culture!!!, methow valley fires 2014, people power movement, Sustainable Shelters, Welcome

Evacuated in the middle of a Firestorm: Carlton Complex Fire Ravages Central Washington

Carlton Complex Fire Ravages Central Washington –

Hello friends,

For the last 10 days?, the communities of the central and lower Methow Valley have been struggling to save their land and homes in the middle of a firestorm of epic proportions.   Last monday two lightening strikes started fires within 2 miles of our home on Libby Creek in north central Washington.   I drove down to see what was going on when I saw the smoke from our patio and saw one small fire in the timber just north of Gold Creek, and another fire across the river and in the hills above the old Judd Ranch.   The firefighters went in right away to put them out with hand crews, but within a short period of time the fires were raging and moving fast, gobbling up all the dry fuels and spreading as the wind blew embers into new areas.   I can not even put into words the devastation and shock which has gripped our community in the last 10 days.   This fire has become the biggest fire in known Washington state fire history, I believe the current size of the fire is over 300,000 acres.   Hundreds of homes and businesses have been destroyed, beautiful creek drainages blackened to moonscapes, and who knows how many animals domestic and wild have fallen victim to the flames.

Our entire community here in the Methow Valley has been without power or most communications for most of this time, I can’t remember exactly when the power lines were shut down due to burning transmission and distribution lines but since then it has been a challenge to have access to water, refrigeration and contact with the outside world.   Thankfully yesterday power was restored to the main towns of Twisp and Winthrop and some of the unincorporated less impacted communities, which will help normalize our shared situation.   It has been interesting to hear the roar of generators EVERYWHERE day and night, but wonderful to have night skys so dark and dramatic with the evening show of the Milky Way and hot spots glowing in the hills around us.

Currently the weather has changed and we are not in immediate danger, but remain on high alert for changing conditions.   Our community members are pulling together and with the assistance of national relief organizations we are finally getting some help from the outside world to help take care of our displaced and un or under insured fire victims.   It will be many years of pulling together with mutual assistance to fully recover from the fire destruction, but I believe this community, with the help of national and local involvement and resources will rise like a Phoenix out of the ashes with more resiliency and deeper human connections as a result.

This is the letter I am sending out to my personal network asking for support for our rural community to have a full recovery and rebuilding of our human and ecosystem community:


Carlton Complex Fire 2014, the meeting of the south and north fires into one fire of historical and epic proportions...

Carlton Complex Fire 2014, the meeting of the south and north fires into one fire of historical and epic proportions…

To all friends of the Methow Valley and it’s communities:


We have been, as a community, operating in extreme fire danger conditions.   At one point I looked around me from our friends place on the river south of Twisp (evacuation place), in the early evening, with the winds roaring and fires raging to the north, northeast, east, southeast, south and southwest.   Plumes of fire cumulonimbus clouds spiking up 30 to 50 thousand feet, homes and gardens, barns, and livestock burning as the fire moved through the creek drainages.


There have been so many losses, even with the heroic efforts of some fire personnel, Shout out to the ‘Libby Creek Protectors” who held the northwest fire line at our road, for 5 0r 6 days in the worst of the extreme fire conditions (and they did not lose one permanent home).   Many homeowners stayed at their properties and protected, or tried to save their homes and outbuildings, homesteads from burning, many of those homes did survive and would not have if the owners had left.   Some homes were saved the first, and second time the fire went through a drainage, but lost on the third time through…..(Robin and Yogi’s on Texas Creek for example)   Can you imagine how that was??   They seem to be okay now though even with losing everything except animals and vehicles, but thank goodness they had insurance and are planning on rebuilding and staying in the community.   Our dear friends up Cow Creek, alone and with no help in the middle of one of the really intense drainage burns, fought the fire with shovels and minimal water for 2+ days and nights, and saved most of their homestead.   If they had not stayed I am sure they would of lost everything, 30+ years of time, energy, love and investment up in smoke.   Thankfully they survived with their lives and only lost a few out buildings and half the orchard.   But they have a big job ahead, like everyone else in these burned unincorporated communities.   Cleaning up the mess, starting from scratch in some cases, restoring the land as well as the improvements, in the middle of a moonscape with blackened skeleton trees.   I can not even imagine how that must feel.


Unfortunately, I am saddened to say, many people lost their homes and more lost their land improvement and the beauty of their Place, for the short term.   Many people will probably give up and not rebuild in the burn zones, but more will choose to stay and rebuild their homesteads and lives, helping to care for the lands healing as well as their own and their neighbors.


I believe, as do many here, that is our duty, our dharma, to assist in the process of rebuilding these communities as much as we can, as caring individuals, private and public organizations.   Taking help from everywhere we can to fund and actualize a full recovery of our beautiful and LOVED communities.


Currently the emergency relief agencies are still in town attempting to be useful and supportive and have been effective in caring for the immediate needs of some of our people, in the towns. ( Regarding the Red Cross:   mostly I have found them to be really nice people but totally unorganized and besides offering questionable food ( mystery white substances) and a few shelter beds, ineffective.   I believe if you are financially giving to support our recovery as a community, it is best to give to a local organization, the Red Cross will take the money for here and spend it at some other place.)   Please give to our local Caring for People and Community organizations, so the money stays here and rebuilds our wracked economy as well as homes and fences.   I have found that our local service organizations and individuals have been much more effective at actually getting the stuff and support we need to the people.   The CBC group, with Pam Floyd in a leadership position has been incredible at tracking down everything we need from diapers, to pasture, to housing, to generators, showers, food, water, etc.   Shout out to all you fine folks who worked out of the CBC relief center, supporting others like The Local Church in Carlton who served an underserved population in the middle of the danger zones, day after day with love and caring.   And our women’s leadership group out of Carlton, Carlton Complex Assistance Network,, has been working to assess the immediate needs of our people in the unincorporated areas and fill them pronto.   We are also thinking about our common future and setting up a structure to help everyone who wants to stay and rebuild have access to the resources they need to make that happen.


With the weather change for a couple of days, wet and cool, we seem to be out of immanent danger for the time being.   Unfortunately, it seems we in the western shrub steppe and forest communities are going to be facing a heightened risk of devastating fires.   Hea,t and the lightening that that brings in in the summer months, increases as the oceans warm and evaporation rises, putting our communities more at risk then ever.


******   Many fire victims have no insurance and will need and accept help from our local and extended Methow family.   Even people with insurance will have much to do to fully recover beyond what is covered.  


******   This is a request for financial support for our long term community recovery to our extended Methow family/community.   Together we can rebuild our devastated drainages and valley floor affected areas, stronger and more resilient and fire safe then ever.  


C-CAN, based in Carlton is thinking long term and assessing and partnering with all agencies and services to get our neighbors what they need for full recovery.   Your contributions will support the short, mid and long term recovery of our community.   Visit our web page to donate funds or contact us with any questions or services or materials you have to offer for the benefit of others.   (Locals, we could sure use some help getting better organized and effective with all the data and needs we are gathering, if you can help with that or want to participate in this local activist recovery project in other ways, please call us.   This will take ALL of us who love our Place, working together to accomplish.


Thank you for caring and partnering in this huge project of recovery and resilience.   ( The ‘big gun’ relief agencies, who work big disasters say the thing that makes a difference in the effectiveness of recovery efforts is the strength of community action and activists, so let’s do this thing together.   All hands on deck!!!!



If you do not feel comfortable giving to a new local women’s activist group like ours, then please give to Room One or The Cove to help the folks who are their clients and been adversely affected by this firestorm.


We are grateful for all of our extended family and friends of the Methow, who have and will continue to support our recovery efforts……….


With love, and the power back on for some, let’s get to work!


Mich on Libby Creek





If you believe in and want to support a local Phoenix rising, people powered movement, please do.   And we are so grateful for everyone who has given of themselves so far.

I hope to be returning to regular posting of Highest Good News, now that the internet and power are returning.   Thank you for your patience during my summer of extremes………









21st Century Building, Sustainable Shelters, urban planning

Innovation!!! Multi-use Solution…..Tiny-home-in-a-box will turn 200 sq. ft. into a sophisticated dining room AND trashy club | “Global Possibilities”

Designing sustainable solutions, with modular ‘smart’ multi-function tools for home, office, work and any combination of needs.   MIT, always thinking!!!

Many thanks to Global Possibilities and Casey Coates Danson for sharing this info………..

Tiny-home-in-a-box will turn 200 sq. ft. into a sophisticated dining room AND trashy club | “Global Possibilities”.


21st Century Building, 21st Century Urban Possibilities, Energy for Life, Highest Good Economics, Sustainable Shelters

Off-Grid Living Growing on Both Sides of The Pond

Found this article on The Guardians page today, it is a really good look at off-grid growing acceptability and actualization in the UK and in the States.   The author, Nick Rosen, also discusses the impact that he sees when Tesla’s improved and affordable battery storage is on the market.   Cost effective and energy efficient household battery storage will give an economic competitive edge and increased incentive for householders and small businesses to become independent energy energy producers.   Good read.    If you can though, don’t wait, start generating electricity for your household and/or community now.   Every step forward adds up to reaching the summit, a sustainable renewable energy society.   Take good care!!!

Off-grid living: it’s time to take back the power from the energy companies

The bankers are saying that off-grid living is now so viable that it threatens the whole utilities model. Nick Rosen, editor of, argues that it can’t happen a minute too soon
Nick Rosen has written a book about living 'off grid'

In light of the banking crash and the UK’s housing shortage, Nick Rosen discusses why living off-grid is becoming so appealing for many. Photograph: Amit Lennon

It’s official. Off-grid energy is moving from the eco-fringe to mainstream. Last month US investment bank Morgan Stanley announced that the off-grid era had arrived: falling prices for renewable energy equipment and rising prices for energy supplied by power companies are fundamentally altering the business model of the trillion-dollar electricity industry.

A key piece of the jigsaw came in another statement last month: Tesla Motors are now committing to a huge increase in battery production, bringing down the cost of energy storage capacity by over 50%. The power grid is like a giant battery and up to £500 per year of our energy bills is paying for the maintenance of that battery. Morgan Stanley calculates that Tesla’s batteries will only cost an off-grid household £350 per year, rendering the Utility company business model obsolete. “Our analysis suggests utility customers may be positioned to eliminate their use of the power grid,” says the Morgan Stanley report, Clean Tech, Utilities and Autos. “We expect Tesla’s batteries to be cost competitive with the grid in many states, and think investors generally do not appreciate the potential size of the market.”

Off-grid house in the UK An off-grid house with its own wind and solar power. Photograph: Phil Rogers/Flickr Creative Commons It’s a moment that the off-grid movement has been waiting for. Back in 2007 I set off around Britain in a camper van to meet the people who were living this way, and wrote a book about it called How to Live Off-Grid. I visited deep green protesters in Devon and inner-city unemployed near Sheffield – but the most interesting communities were in Scotland and Wales where slightly different laws and a greater tolerance of social experiments has spawned a handful of a success stories.

Then the main motivations for living off grid were ideological: either ecological, taking personal responsibility for reducing carbon and water; or alternatively a weariness with consumerism, a desire to spend less and consequently a need to earn less.

But the following year came the banking crash, and interest in off-grid living grew sharply, although the motivations had shifted. Then, and still now, there was a feeling that one might have to look after oneself, that the State and politicians could no longer be trusted with our welfare in the event of social or economic or environmental collapse. Separately, the numbers who were going off-grid because there was simply no other affordable option also increased. In 2010 I repeated the same exercise in America where conditions are far more favourable for off-grid living.

My books inspired thousands to try the off-grid life for themselves. Because of the planning obstacles already mentioned, the fastest growing segment of the British off-grid community are living on urban canals and rivers. In London, where I once wrote about a couple of dozen narrow boats moored in Springfield Park Hackney, there are now hundreds, perhaps thousands along the Lea Valley and all the way into Broadway Market in South Hackney, where the live-aboard owners run bookshops and cafes to cater to the landlubbers who flock to the area. Many are attracted to the low-cost way of living in one of the world’s most expensive cities.

View of Beudy Banc, an off-grid holiday cottage in Wales Beudy Banc, an old barn which has been converted into an off-grid holiday cottage in Wales. Photograph: Kate/Flickr Creative Commons “You’d be surprised how many people are living well in London with no money,” said George, who kindly let the Guardian photograph me on his well-maintained narrow boat. George looked about 23, clean-cut and studious. He made his money, he said, repairing bicycles. His main expense was diesel fuel which he buys from passing tender boats. He has a couple of dozen moorings he uses as he shifts about the waterways on his “continuous cruiser” license.

Another long-time resident of the moorings around Springfield Park, Jim Lynch, said “I didn’t want to pay my rent money to property developers. “I’ve got a solar panel and I charge the batteries through the engine once very three days. I make my own diesel from vegetable oil.”

In America over the last few years. there has been a sharp rise in the number living off the grid – from under a million five years ago to over two million today, according to my own estimates. In the UK, growth is slower – land prices and our planning permission system inhibit progress – but there are encouraging signs. I am involved with a plan to turn a defunct coal mine into an off-grid village, and a new factory in south Wales has launched to produce solar powered gadgets of all sorts.

Think about it for a moment – a sharp increase in the numbers living off-grid (currently between 75,000 – 100,000 in the UK and over a million in America) would fulfil a whole raft of policy objectives. With housing facing multiple crises of affordability and supply and, in the case of social housing, of funding and allocation, off-grid settlements offer an important new alternative. They can help solve three problems: cheap housing – how to enable it; energy security – how to improve it; and rural regeneration – how to kickstart it.

Policymakers see it as too weird or fringe to support off-grid initiatives. But they are being timid. The Morgan Stanley analysts are not voicing their opinion of the merits of off-grid living in their forecasts, they are simply pointing to the facts of the matter.

Off-grid living: a dome home in the US An off-grid ‘dome home’ in Arizona. Photograph: Martyn Overy/Flickr Creative Commons If the government’s housing czars and energy strategists want a quick win, they need look no further than supporting two or three experimental off-grid communities. At a relatively low cost they could quickly create thousands of homes in rural areas plagued by unemployment and depopulation. These communities would have a lower carbon footprint than the average, and I believe that the houses would be cheaper to produce partly because they would not need the grid brought to their door. Also the rooms would be significantly smaller than in the typical home, since off-grid designs incorporate the understanding that heating and maintenance costs are lower in smaller buildings.

Living off-grid is labour intensive and that in itself would generate some jobs. Food production and the turning of waste into energy would create some more. And I think that many off-grid communities in future will be filled with teleworkers since wireless 4G internet will be available at relatively low cost, without the need for any infrastructure other than a phone mast. Wireless routers consume no more power than a lightbulb. We need lawyers, architects, local authorities and house builders to help make this vision into a self-sufficient reality.

Nick Rosen is editor of the website, a social hub for households that generate their own energy, harvest their own water, and manage their own waste. Nick is also the author of How to Live Off Grid – Journeys Outside the System (Bantam); Off the Grid – Inside the Movement for More Space, Less Government and True Independence in Modern America (Penguin). He can be reached at

Interested in finding out more about how you can live better? Take a look at this month’s Live Better Challenge here.

The Live Better Challenge is funded by Unilever; its focus is sustainable living. All content is editorially independent except for pieces labelled advertisement feature. Find out more here.



21st Century Building, 21st Century Transportation, 21st Century Urban Possibilities, Energy for Life, Highest Good Economics, Resources for Positive Change Agents, Sustainable Shelters

Oxford M & E (monitoring and evaluating) Guide for Community Projects

I found this excellent guide for monitoring and evaluating community benefit projects sourced by Oxfords School of Geography and the Environment in partnership with Transition Network and Low Carbon Communities Network today on the WWW.   Through workshops and collaboration they have compiled a step by step guide to design and implement monitoring and evaluating protocols for community projects.   It was designed for energy and carbon footprint projects but after reading the guide found that the methodology they shared would be beneficial for almost any community project, from public health, forest recovery, water recovery, to education programs or new social business opportunities.    If you have a project you are designing or in the middle of, this may be a very useful tool for you and your project partners.    Check it out here:


School of Geography and the Environment