EViation Alice Makes Electric Flight A Reality

“Aviation is proof that, given the will, we have the capacity to achieve the impossible.”  – Eddie Rickenbacker

EViation Aircraft made a splash this week at the 52nd Paris Airshow where they unveiled the Alice, an all-electric plane that can carry 9 passengers and 2 crew up to 800 miles. With a stated goal to “pioneer accessible, sustainable air travel that can power the future of regional transit”, EViation is poised to stage a major market disruption.

At just over 39 feet in length with a 44 foot wing span, the Alice is 300 times more efficient than comparable conventional aircraft thanks in part to it’s ultra light weight fully composite construction and optimally efficient aerodynamic design. A Li-lon 980 kWh power pack provides juice for the main pusher prop at the tail and a pusher prop at each of the wingtips that propel the plane along at a 240 knot cruising speed. This translates to a 33 minute flight from Martha’s Vineyard to Boston, a 2 hour flight time from Silicon Valley to San Diego, and a 2.5 hour flight from Nashville to Orlando.

Not only do these stats mean good things for passengers and the environment, the operators will benefit from the lower energy and reduced maintenance costs, while low noise and zero emissions enable such electrically powered planes to operate from landing strips close to urban areas. “With this aircraft, air taxi operators will be able to serve customers on-demand travel [to] the nearest landing strip for the price of a train ticket,” said CEO Bar-Yohai.

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Save the Pollinators! How to Build a Pollinator Habitat.

Pollinators are what ecologists call keystone species. You know how an arch has a keystone. It’s the one stone that keeps the two halves of the arch together. […] If you remove the keystone, the whole arch collapses.
May Berenbaum, PhD, Entomologist. From Silence of the Bees, PBS Nature.

Pollination is one of those essential processes of nature that often isn’t given much consideration, perhaps because it happens on such a small level that we usually don’t see it. Like the old saying goes, “out of sight, out of mind”.  However, without it we would be in a lot of trouble. In order for fruit and seeds to develop, pollen has to be transferred so that fertilization can occur. This has happened for millennia without much thought on our part, but with pollinator populations plummeting around the world it is time for us to start paying attention.

Bee Graphic (Social)

Very simply put, without sufficient numbers of pollinators we can’t grow the foods we need to survive. Everything from apples to avocados, coffee to cucumbers, and papaya to potatoes require help from our little friends. More than 1/3 of our food crops and 3/4 of our staple crops require the aid of insects, bats, and birds. Perhaps the most well-known pollinators are honeybees, which are responsible $19 billion in food crop pollination labor each year with bats, birds, ants, beetles, flies, butterflies, moths, wasps, and even small mammals contributing another $71 billion. That is a lot of work! Unfortunately, habitat loss, irresponsible pesticide use, and disease are all taking their toll on pollinator populations.

monarchs

The good news is that whether you have just a patio planter, a suburban yard, or a sprawling rural property you can help!

How to create a pollinator-friendly habitat on any scale!

  • Give them food – Plant a variety of flowering plants, particularly native and wild flowers. Try to choose varieties that have overlapping flowering periods so that they provide a continuous food source throughout the year.  If you are not sure what would be best in your area, check out this app.
  • Give them water – You need water and so do they. By providing a convenient source of water our little friends don’t have to travel as far, thus decreasing stress and giving them more time to do their work. A bird bath or simply a bowl of water will work just fine. Be sure to float a few corks or sticks in it so they have a secure place to land. Oh, and freshen it up regularly so you don’t end up supporting the local mosquito population too.
  • Give them shelter – Leave your door open and let them make themselves comfortable. Just kidding! Try to keep some areas of your yard wild if possible. If not, bushes and nearby tree lines will do the job. If you are crafty, you can even build them a pollinator hotel like the one below. If you are ambitious, start beekeeping!

hotel

  • Give them a chance –  Skip the pesticides and herbicides. Over use of these poisons, particularly in yards, has been a major contributor to pollinator population decline. If they must be used, please do so sparingly and try to use products that are the least harmful to our little friends.
  • Give them a hand – Educate your friends and neighbors and encourage them to join you. This will make your efforts easier and increase the impact exponentially.

To learn more about pollinators and what you can do to help, visit pollinator.org.

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Gretchen, stop trying to make “Climate Change” happen. It’s not going to happen.

I’m sorry, I am fluent in movie quotes and just couldn’t help myself with the title. But, if you are honest with yourself after reading this post, I think you will find that the emotion or curiosity you felt when you read it perfectly illustrates the point I am about to make. Chase here to talk about why I think we should all stop using phrases like “global warming” and “climate change” if we ever want to accomplish anything.

Over the past few decades our culture has become obsessed with labeling very complex issues with catchy, easy to digest buzzwords. This is no doubt due to the influence of media, particularly online media, and the marketing industry. The downside is that when we take such large and complex issues and try to wrap them up in a buzzword, we force people to either be 100% in support or 100% in opposition to all facets of it with no room for nuance and compromise (that is not a bad word). These buzzwords become incendiary language and cause people to instantly dig in their heels and reject your cause outright. In my opinion, this has a lot to do with why our society and government have become so polarized and gridlocked on many issues.

climatecartoon

So what do I suggest? I suggest we stop being lazy! Understand that these issues are enormously complex and stop trying to solve them in broad generalities. Speak directly to what resonates with the audience. Instead of telling people we need to leave fossil fuel energy production behind to fight climate change, we should try to explain that renewable energy has the potential to create a huge number of jobs and be a major economic growth sector. Instead of telling them that we need to transition to electrically powered transportation to fight global warming, we should try framing our dependence on oil as a national security issue that we have the technology to solve. And oh, by the way, these things are all much more sustainable and better for our environment too!

We should also seek out unlikely allies and work with them where our issues intersect. For example, Ducks Unlimited is a 501c nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of wetlands and upland habitats for waterfowl. Their objective is to do those things to ensure that waterfowl hunting remains sustainable, but guess which habitats are best at carbon sequestration? Wetlands and forests!

These are just a few examples of subtle changes we can make that may help reach people and perhaps make progress, even if we don’t use the same lingo and our stated goals are different. Give it a try, see what happens. Whatever you do though, don’t screw it up by saying “climate change”!

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There and Back Again: Our Trip to Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

Helen Keller

 

This past week our family embarked on quite the adventure. We attended the Sustainable Living Visitor Program at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, a sustainability demonstration community in Missouri. Not sure what that means? Perhaps it would be best to let them explain it in their own word.

Pretty cool stuff, huh? Besides just getting away for the week, our goals while at Dancing Rabbit were to learn as much as we could about all things sustainable living and see if living in a close knit intentional community seemed right for us. We definitely learned A LOT that we will be carrying forward with us and we are still digesting the community experience. Perhaps more on that in the future. But back to last week!

After a 6.5 hour drive from Kentucky to the prairies of northern Missouri, we arrived during the afternoon on Sunday, May 21. Kendal and Sloan were quite eager to get out of the car and take this picture for you all.

drsign

After a meet and greet with the other visitor program attendees we settled into our accommodations in the two story, 6 bedroom, straw bale structure known as Skyhouse. The days that followed featured educational sessions of everything from Communication and Conflict Resolution to Alternative Energy and Construction, the later being of far more interest to me personally. We were given tours of most every structure at Dancing Rabbit along with detailed information of their construction methods. For me, it was fascinating to be able to see all of these examples in one place. Below are just a few of them.

We were also able to get some hands on education and stimulation. One afternoon we had a garden work party where we weeded the strawberry patch (compensated with tasty little berries as we worked) and built some new beds. Surprisingly, it turns out Kendal loves tenderizing manure with a pitch fork. Who would have guessed?

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Another day we were taken on a property walk and learned about Dancing Rabbit’s prairie restoration and conservation work. They own close to 300 acres of depleted agricultural land that they are working to bring back to it’s native glory. Part of that program includes prescribed burns to replenish the soil and eliminate non-native plant life. The area below was burned this past winter and is bursting back to life.

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And then there was the social element. Our days were filled with amazing conversation……

……impromptu ukulele lessons from one of the other attendees…..

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….and lots of great food and drink!

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The amount of social interaction was both rewarding and at times overwhelming. In modern society we have really lost the close connections with our community that for millennia were not just the norm but necessary for survival. These moments where what really made the experience. Well, that and the occasional miracle….

YES, that is a wild bird. It just hung out for about 15 minutes. Where else does something like that happen except an ecovillage or Disney movie? It was crazy and the kids loved it.

As you can see, we had a great time and learned so much. If you get the opportunity to attend their visitor program or even just visit Dancing Rabbit I highly recommend it. They are doing great work and passionately want to share it with everyone they can.

Have you visited an ecovillage or other intentional community? Comment below and let us know.

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Death of the Internal Combustion Engine

Less than a month after Tesla became the United State’s most valuable automakerFinancial Post is reporting on a newly published study by Stanford University economist Tony Seba that is sending shock waves through the automotive and oil industries. After careful analysis of current market and economic trends along with technology investments and advancements, Seba’s forecast titled Rethinking Transportation 2020-2030 suggests that by the late-2020s the internal combustion engine will be all but extinct on the dealer showroom.

According to Seba, this revolution is being driven by technology and simple economics rather than government policies. Electric cars are currently the fastest growing segment in the global automotive industry. March 2017 saw a 134% increase in electric automobile sales over March 2016 and a 87% increase Q1 2017 versus Q1 2016. With this kind of growth, two things are occurring: 1) the economies of scale are making electric cars and their components cheaper to produce and 2) the automotive industry worldwide is pouring billions of dollars into battery and electric systems research and development.

Over the next 2-3 years battery ranges are predicted to meet and exceed to 350-400 mile range petrol powered vehicles typically reach and entry level electric vehicle prices are projected to break below $30,000. By 2022-2023 entry level EVs will be approaching $20,000. That is when, according to Seba, the avalanche will occur. “What the cost curve says is that by 2025 all new vehicles will be electric, all new buses, all new cars, all new tractors, all new vans, anything that moves on wheels will be electric, globally,” Professor Seba projects. With EV life expectancy in excess of 1 million miles, almost zero maintenance, and less than 7 cents per mile to operate, internal combustion will simple become obsolete.

teslalineup.jpg

This shift is not without its challenges. The US government stands to lose up to $50 billion in fuel tax revenue, funds that are used for road construction and other surface transportation projects. “Certain high-cost countries, companies, and fields will see their oil production entirely wiped out. Exxon-Mobil, Shell and BP could see 40 percent to 50 percent of their assets become stranded,” the report states. Additionally, the traditional automakers with their large bureaucracies are at risk of being leapfrogged by nimble cash flush tech companies that are already making moves in the industry. That is a lot of economic and geo-political instability added to an already complex world stage.

While I feel like Seba’s projections are a little optimistic, the trends are clearly pointing in one direction. And with renewable energy constituting the majority of new energy production coming on line the news is all the sweeter. What are your thoughts on this? Comment below and let us know.

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Baby Steps Towards Sustainable Living

“Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”

Whether you just want to take small steps in your current lifestyle to live more lightly and sustainably or you are planning to radically change the way you live, you have to start somewhere. Chase here and in this post I will go over some baby steps anyone can and, in my humble opinion, should take. Keep in mind these are just a few examples and is far from an exhaustive list. Feel free to contribute more ideas in the comment section below.

Finances

Wonder how many of you were expecting me to lead off with that. Getting your personal finances in order is a critical element of overall sustainability. There is no economic theory out there that can argue that the US economy, which is currently carrying $60+ trillion in public and private debt (by the way, that is approaching $175,000 in debt for every man, woman and child), can continue on indefinitely. You can not sustain infinite growth on finite resources so, at some point, simple math is going to force us to reevaluate how we live and spend in Western culture. In 2008-2009 we got a sneak peek and our solution was to delay the inevitable with…………..more public and private debt.

I could write a book on this topic but the book I would write has already been written. The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey is that book. It was immensely helpful to Victoria and I and helped put us in a financial position to be able to make more significant lifestyle changes.

Food

For most people it is not feasible to produce 100% of your food. That is a HUGE undertaking but even a simple herb and veggie garden is a step in the right direction. If you have a little bit of room like we do, a raised bed garden is a great option. If you are a limited on space something like a counter top AeroGarden or an AquaSprouts Garden might work for you.

You can also take steps towards reducing the impact of the food you consume. Rather than going to the national chain grocery store and buying commercial food that is often produce hundreds and even thousands of miles away, buy local. Do more of your grocery shopping at local farmers markets and look into a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Check out localharvest.org to find our what is available in your area. The food will be fresher, healthier and you will be supporting your local economy rather than stock market prices.

Energy 

Spend $20,000 on a solar power system for your home. Just kidding! There are so many simple low-to-no cost things you can do to reduce your energy consumption and save money in the long run. A few examples are:

  • Reduce the temperature you set your heater on by 2 degrees.
  • Increase the temperature you set you AC on by 2 degrees.
  • Add insulation to your home.
  • Seal any cracks and gaps around doors and windows.
  • Turn off the light switch when you leave a room like your momma taught you.
  • Turn off and unplug appliances and electronics when not in use.
  • Install high-efficiency LED light bulbs.
  • Install thermal curtains on your windows to keep heat in or out depending on the season.
  • Install a tankless water heater.
  • Carpool, ride your bike, or take public transportation.
  • Keep your vehicle well maintained and running well.

Water

Water usage is becoming a pretty serious issue in some places. Just like energy consumption, there are a not of low-to-no cost steps you can take.

And there is so much more you can do, these are just baby steps. If you have any other recommendations, drop a comment and let us know.

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EJECT! Why we chose to leave “normal” behind.

“There’s no law of physics that says we have to be an unsustainable society – in fact, quite the opposite. The planet’s ready to work with us if we’re ready to think differently, but we do have to make that jump and start to do things in new ways.”

Alex Steffen 

 

Chase here, back to talk a little bit about what motivated Victoria and I to make the radical changes we are about to embark on. I feel like I should apologize in advance, this may end up being a little bit depressing but surely no more so than taking in the evening “news”. On second thought, maybe it needs to be. Maybe a cold shot of truth will shock someone out of apathy and into action.

Having children reorganizes your priorities in a literal heart beat. One example of this, shortly after the birth of our first child, Kendal, we moved away from the urban neighborhood we were living in and loved and bought a nice little house in a nice little suburb. Why? Because the school district was better and a kid needs to have a yard, right? But that is just the tip of the iceberg. You suddenly become much more concerned about things like where your food comes from and what is in it, the potential developmental impact from the media your child views, the direction society and government are heading in, etc, etc.. You really just want to make sure you set your children up for success so they can be better off than you are. And that is the rub. As a member of the first generations in 100 years that are demonstrably worse off than their parents, everything around us seems to be approaching a cliff.

kendal

Sadly, Victoria and I have a really hard time identifying any facet of modern life that is sustainable and we feel good about. Much of our “food” is poison and producing it is as bad for the environment as it is for us to consume, massive public and private spending and debt, ever-increasing political polarization and conflict, cronyism and corruption at all levels of government, the slow but stead erosion of privacy and civil liberties: for the sake of our children, things can’t go on like this!

Humans, by our very nature, hate change. We avoid it all cost until a crisis forces us to accept it. Despite warnings from their doctor, many don’t change their diet until they have a heart attack. Warnings are everywhere right now and all anyone talks about is what Kim K was wearing in some photo and who won the war of words in Washington DC today. That is what brought us to where we are. As parents, we couldn’t continue to live with our heads in the sand and hope for the best. We had to take action.

We started looking at what others were doing and that is when we first came across things like minimalism, intentional communities, sustainable living, and ecovillages. Admittedly, at first glance we thought some of it was a bit extreme. Then we realized that much of this stuff was just simply the way people lived up until a few decades ago. People built their own homes, produced their own food, lived within their means, shared and worked with their neighbors. Ever since that epiphany we have been working towards making changes before all of us are forced to.

There have been many baby steps in getting ready for the upcoming BIG jump and I will discuss some of those in future posts. Whether you decide to make a massive lifestyle change like we have or you just want to integrate more sustainablity in your existing lifestyle, baby steps are a great place to start.

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