Transition members pen visionary book, host discussion October 28

Burt Liebert Two events marked the lives of a Palo Alto couple, Burt and Marjorie Liebert, who are familar faces at Transition meetings and film series. First, the Lieberts just celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. Secondly, they published a novel, Out of the Cage, which reflects their long-time interest in sustainability and social justice. Not by chance, it also expresses the values of the Transition Movement.

On Thursday, October 28, Burt and Marjorie hosted a discussion based on the book. The free event, sponsored by World Centric, The Humanist Community, and Transition Palo Alto, took place at World Centric in Palo Alto.

Burt dramatically presented the case for a new society, after explaining how our thinking can trap us in old ideas (using the metaphor of a “cage”).  A little bit of awareness, and we can suddenly see new possibilities.

He described the current situation, in which, for example, we still rely on fossil fuels even though many understand the consequences.  Energy use is still rising in the US and especially in developing countries.

Green technologies are touted by many but hold limited promise.  They require a lot of materials and energy, and the big alternative sources of electricity are weather-dependent (varying with sun and wind).  They are not a magic solution.

Burt argued that human culture no longer sustains us.  Seemingly beyond our collective control, prosperity is depleting resources and changing the climate. 

He presented four scenarios for our future:

  • “Saved!” by a miraculous scientific breakthrough
  • “Out with a whimper”:  we continue to use up the earth’s resources, eventually dieing off from starvation or disease until the global population is much smaller
  • “Out with a bang”:  we suffer continual catastrophes, mass migrations, and wars over the remaining resources
  • “Out of the cage”:  we transform our society for sustainability, living lightly and requiring much less energy

In Out of the Cage, the population of the fictional nation of Civitas chose the fourth scenario.  The novel describes in some detail how they remade their culture, and their political and economic system, for a sustainable (and definitely modern) existence.  Their level of consumption is certainly different than ours; Civitans know that beyond a certain level of comfort, greater happiness does not come from more possessions.  The solution involves changing the way we think, not sacrifice and suffering.

A key is to realize that we don’t own the earth, we only lease it from our children.  Burt appealed to his audience, Let us put our human energies into the most constructive activities possible, not let the economy decide for us.

(For Transition, Burt compiled a list of a few interesting books.)

Out of the Cage: Cooling a Warming Planet
by Burt and Marjorie Liebert

Out of the Cage is a creative story of modern pioneers who set out to build a new society called Civitas, dedicated to establishing a more viable political, economic, and social system. Their goals are to eliminate global warming, relegate war to “a curious footnote in the history books,” and establish a new concept of human fellowship.

Through narrative, Out of the Cage suggests a pathway for you and me to build a more cooperative, ecologically sustainable world.

The book can be purchased from the Lieberts or from online bookstores. Contact Burt at burtmargie AT att DOT net

More about the Lieberts

Excerpts from Out of the Cage

Green Activities for Kids

Sunday, October 10, was a hot, sunny day, just ripe for a day of action and learning. We started off by setting up tables and signs at El Carmelo School, and then David Coale (left) assembled his work of art, The Oil Memorial, with assistance from Paul Heft (right).

At 1pm, the volunteers had arrived and the families started coming in.

Photos and highlights: Continue reading

October 10 – Time for an Oil Change – Green Activities for Parents and Kids

Time for an Oil Change flyer


Download the Time for an Oil Change Flyer for 10/10/10 (PDF)
Post it! – Give it to your friends!

See the Facebook Page for the event!


Time for an Oil Change:
Green Activities for Parents and Kids
October 10

Sunday, 10/10/10 (October 10, 2010) 1-4pm

Where: El Carmelo School, 3024 Bryant St at Loma Verde Ave, Palo Alto

Come out for an afternoon of fun, carbon-cutting activities for kids young and old. We’ll have lots of fun things to do, plus games, arts and crafts, and prizes and more.

Come learn:

1pm – Knitting, make Felt bags, Family yoga, Worm composting, games, Plant veggies, Art and drawing
2pm – Gather around the Oil Memorial to attach things we’ll have to give up when the oil is gone!
2:30 – A slide show presentation on Climate Change
3pm – A reading of the Lorax, Learn massage

We’ll also have a bike you can ride to light a bulb, and games to play. Pledge to walk or bike, cut your carbon footprint at the same time!

Plus, fill out your Green Passport to win prizes!

Walking or carpooling recommended.
Sponsored by Transition Palo Alto and the El Carmelo Green Team. Partners: Blossom Birth, Stanford Knit Wits
This event is a part of the Global Work Party to reduce carbon emissions.

Coming hot issue – anaerobic composting plant

A proposal that is sure to be hotly debated in Palo Alto is the anaerobic composting facility near the Baylands.

On the plus side, the plant would handle organic waste such as yard waste, sewage sludge and food scraps, turning them into compost suitable as a soil amendment. Electricity would also be generated. Proponents point to cost savings in waste disposal, as well as a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions since waste would not have to be transported elsewhere.

Opponents object to the use of 8 acres of what was to have been parkland.

Visualization of the proposed anaerobic composting facility

Visualization of the proposed anaerobic composting facility

This proposal involves issues dear to the heart of the Transition Movement: recycling, green house gas emissions, energy self-reliance and composting. 

One positive role for Transition would be to encourage informed and respectful debate. Other communities are watching us, so we have an opportunity to set a good example

Explaining the technical aspects of the process is also important. For example, how many people know what anaerobic composting is? What are the impacts on greenhouse gas emissions of the proposal? Why might energy self-reliance be important in the coming years?

More information

UPDATE (Sept 27, 2010). Post Carbon Institute just posted a chapter on Waste from their Post Carbon Reader. The complete PDF and a short video are available online:
Climate Change, Peak Oil, and the End of Waste
by Bill Sheehan

UPDATE (Oct 5). Volunteers are now gathering signatures to put the proposal on the ballot.

Related news article from the BBC: Oxfordshire town sees human waste used to heat homes

Garden Swaps – Sept 25 and 11

Garden Swap
September 25 (Saturday) 11 am
Common Ground Garden Supply
559 College Avenue, Palo Alto, off of El Camino Real

[A Slow Food Event will be held at the same time – see below]

September 25 – Dig In! Breaking Ground, Breaking Bread

Join Slow Food South Bay and partners Acterra, Barron Park Green Team, Barron Park Garden Network, Barron Park Association and Transition Palo Alto in the parking lot of our host Common Ground for a Garden and Food Swap as part of Slow Food USA’s National Work Day – Dig In! Breaking Ground, Breaking Bread.

Backyard gardeners, home canners and other people who enjoy the Slowest of food, here is your opportunity to meet like-minded people in your community to exchange the excess produce of your garden, seeds, home-made products, recipes, ideas and more.

We intend this to be a regular event, to be scheduled according to the desires of the members and the produce of the season. As such, we are in the process of creating a database of people and their produce which will help us connect with each other on a regular basis.

Recognizing that a Garden and Food Swap is the most local of events – you neither should nor want to drive half way across the county to swap your excess apples for someone else’s excess tomatoes – we intend to replicate this event at a number of other locations throughout our region as we can.

Come help us kick-off what should be a great project. Bring your tomatoes. Bring your grandmother’s secret tomato sauce recipe. Bring your ideas. If you live in or near Palo Alto, you’ll want to check this out, so that you can help organize it and plan to attend regularly. If you live elsewhere in the area, you’ll want to check it out, so that you can help set up a swap in your neighborhood.

[Text from Slow Flood South Bay Newsletter]

Garden Swap
September 11 (Saturday) 11am to noon
Main Community Garden, located by the Palo Alto Main Library parking area
1213 Newell Road off of Embarcadero.

Continue reading

Local Garden Swap: Neighbors sharing the fruits of their labors

What a great idea! Many of us have extra fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs in our gardens—so Jan Butts figured, why not swap them for produce that we could use?

Jan organized what might be this century’s first free exchange of Palo Alto’s garden bounty. Judging from the positive response, there just have to be future swaps.

This free backyard farmers’ market was held 11 AM ‘til noon on Saturday, August 21, in the parking lot at Common Ground Organic Garden Supply & Education Center.

We saw the “gift economy” at work! About 25 people brought items to share and sampled the wide variety of beautiful produce available. Folks were glad for the chance to chat with one another, marvel at interesting varieties, share gardening experiences, and offer ideas of how to use the food. There was even more conversation than we see at farmers’ markets.

The swap is supported by a coalition of community groups including: Acterra, Barron Park Green Team, Barron Park Garden Network, Barron Park Assn., Common Ground, Palo Alto Community Gardens, Slow Food South Bay, and Transition Palo Alto.

Drop by next time, even if you don’t have a harvest to share yet!

Next swap event: 
Saturday, September 11, 11 AM – Noon

at Palo Alto Main Community Garden
located behind the Palo Alto Main Library at 1213 Newell Rd.

(Check for announcements of more garden swap events on this website.)

10/10/10 Work Day: Sunday, October 10, 2010

It’s Time for an Oil Change:

Green Activities for Parents and Kids10/10/10 global work party

Get ready for 10/10/10! Transition Palo Alto has partnered with for this worldwide day of action to spread the word about peak oil and climate change, and all the ways you can cut your carbon emissions. We’re planning a big day of activities for kids, parents and all adults, including skills you may have forgotten or never learned, but which your grandparents likely knew.

Among the highlights:

  • We’ll be building an end-to-cheap-oil tower.
  • Activities include building a solar oven, knitting, creating arts and crafts, and many more (additional info here).
  • See a slide show on reducing your carbon footprint by one of Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Thirty”, Axel Clavier.
  • Pledge to reduce your carbon and get your passport to a greener Palo Alto!

To sign up or to help out, go to and click on “RSVP”.

Follow-up activities for Film Series

Dear Film Series attendees,

Thanks for participating in our fabulous Films of Hope and Vision Film Series! At our potluck on June 18, we talked about ways to learn more and take action. Please read on for information and group contacts. If you’d like to be on the list for a group, just drop the group leader a email message.

We hope to see you at our next Film Series (tentatively scheduled for September). And we’ll let you know about any other activities of interest!

Gardening/Foot Production/Slow Food
The group shared interests, including lawn conversion, fruit trees, apartment gardening, agroecology, tinkering, and information sharing. We are considering an intergenerational gardening project in San Jose that would give us a chance to be involved with gardening and local community members. If you’re interested in keeping in touch on this project or other related activities that come up, please write to William Mutch at permifree AT yahoo DOT com.

Learning More About Transition
Motivated by the film series, about 10 of us will start reading the “The Transition Handbook” as a book group in July. An email message will soon go out to those who have signed up. The group will be co-chaired by Bart Anderson, Paul Heft and William Mutch of Transition Palo Alto. If you are interested (and haven’t signed up already), please write to Bart Anderson at bart AT cwo DOT com.

If your summer is already full, don’t worry. Another group will be starting later in the fall. Also, the “Transition Handbook” can be ordered through local book stores. We’ll probably put in a group order through one of them, to get a discount. Other ways to learn about Transition:

Transition Handbook:
Transition Palo Alto:

Film Series and Community Building
We talked about starting a new film series on Energy/Transportation in September. To do so, we’ll need to identify and preview films. Our first group assignment is to work on ideas. Then we’ll get together starting in July to preview and select films. Also, group members expressed an interest in activities over the summer to continue community building. If you have ideas or would like to help with film series planning or other activities, please write to Barbara Weinstein ( barbara AT ontrk DOT com ).

All the best,
The Films of Hope and Vision Planning Team

movieattendees mailing list
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Friday Night Film Series: Food Issues

Free   Friday Night Film Series

at World Centric, 7:30 – 9:30 P.M.
2121 Staunton Ct., Palo Alto    (behind JJ&F Market)

  • May 14Power of Community   When the Soviet Union collapsed, Cuba couldn’t export its sugar or import oil . This film shows how Cuba weathered the crisis.  Powerful, insightful, and uplifting.  Don’t miss this one!  (Check out the post-film discussion “map” from Feb. 19, PDF)
  • May 21King Corn  – A feature documentary about two friends, one acre of corn, and the subsidized crop that drives our fast-food nation. 
  • May 28 – Two Angry Moms  What’s wrong with school lunches? Strategies for overcoming roadblocks and getting healthy, good tasting, real food into school cafeterias.
  • June 4  – Establishing a Food Forest  – How to establish and maintain a food forest, one of the main sustainable systems that will allow us to inhabit this planet indefinitely.
  • June 11In Transition – How local communities, like ours, can respond to peak oil and global warming while building community and enjoying life.  (Check out the post-film discussion “map” from Mar. 12, PDF)
  • June 18 Potluck (Let’s share food that’s been grown within 100 miles !)

Lively discussions will follow each film.

Sponsored by Acterra, Silicon Valley Action Network, Slow Food South Bay, Transition Palo Alto, Transition Silicon Valley, and World Centric

Anaerobic digesters in Palo Alto?

Transition Palo Alto member David Coale writes:

I’d like to invite you to a presentation on the potential for anaerobic digestion to convert Palo Alto’s 60,000 tons/year of organic waste into green energy and high quality compost.

The presentation will be on Wednesday, March 24 at 7pm at World Centric, 2121 Staunton Court in Palo Alto.
World Centric is located behind JJ&F Market on the opposite corner.

Anaerobic digestion has the potential to save the City more than $1 million per year while reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 20,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year. It could generate $1.4 million worth of green energy, enough to power 1,400 homes. Retiring our sewage sludge incinerator would save $800,000 worth of energy and $200,000 in waste ash disposal. The compost would be worth $200,000 per year.

The only feasible location for an anaerobic digestion facility is at the entrance to the City landfill next to the Wastewater Treatment Plant, not far from where we currently compost. The challenge is that the landfill is scheduled to become part of the 126-acre Byxbee Park, and rezoning about eight acres (7%) for composting would require a vote of the people.

Come learn more about anaerobic digestion and how you can help make it a reality.

For more information, see the Anaerobic Digestion Factsheet (PDF) that David also sent.