Welcome to Transition Harrisburg! We are working to create a more sustainable, resilient and livable community... one person at a time. Join us!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

What to do with the Suburbs?

This question came up at the meeting on July 29th. The best answer I have seen so far was posted at The Oil Drum. It is in four parts and well worth the read:



Friday, July 30, 2010

Food Security in Harrisburg

We had a lively discussion last night about food. Our current system of food growing (herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers), food harvesting (diesel-powered machinery), delivery (diesel-powered trucks) and distribution (more diesel-powered trucks) relies heavily on fossil fuels and very long supply chains (grapes from Chile, oranges from South Africa, etc.). What happens when (not IF) those fuels become expensive and scarce?

Below are the notes showing the basic issues and possible solutions to help Harrisburg become more food secure.
(text formatting didn't hold, so indents are only imaginary. sorry.)


Transition Harrisburg
July 29, 2010

Question asked of the group: What will a sustainable Harrisburg look like?

Food Security (Open Space discussion at Ngozi Studio, Harrisburg)

Issues with current food situation

1. Production dependent on cheap fuel
2. Distribution dependent on cheap fuel
3. Inequality (no equal access & no equal cost)
4. Loss of family farms
5. Soil quality and safety degraded
6. Water quality and safety degraded
a. Riparian (water edge) destruction
b. Chesapeake Bay impact
7. Food quality and safety degraded

Possible remedies for a more food-secure Harrisburg

1. Restore six neighborhood farmers' markets
a. Horse-drawn wagons with local fruit & veggies for sale existed up to 1960; trucked local food continued until 1963
2. Define "local" sources
a. Bike/walk 30 miles per day + meeting food producer from same distance away = 60 mile radius
(local defined by no access to cheap fossil fuels)
b. 48,000 people in Greater Harrisburg area
c. 1.2 million people in 10-county area
3. Recapture lost farmland within city limits
a. Deed searches for Sherriff Sale in September, to make sure land/house is free & clear of liens, etc.
b. Plant fruit trees to clean soil of toxic metals; compost leaves (where metals accumulate) with mushrooms (which remove
toxins), and compost cleaned leaves under trees (to close nutrient cycle)
4. Reinhabit city center to free up suburbia for farming
a. Avoid over-burdening support systems (water, sewer) with too many people
5. Eat seasonally and use energy-efficient greenhouses and grow cold-tolerant foods
6. Intensive city farming, including vertical farming
7. City and farms interlinked, like fingers of two hands, keeping food sources within walking distance from all areas
8. Neighborhood farms (i.e., Hall Manor) for very local production
a. Italian Lake as greywater treatment area?
(1) Resources: PSU, King's Gap Master Gardeners, local experts
9. Suburbs turned into eco-villages or single-house (McMansion) community
10. Appropriate zoning laws
a. Small animal husbandry (chickens, rabbits)
b. Experimental structures (shipping containers, straw bale, cob, others)
c. Mixed-use zoning (neighborhood stores, non-polluting businesses, etc.)
d. Rooftop gardens and white/relective paint on roofs
11. Extended families in one house
a. Help handicapped access food/grow food
b. Resources: Meals on Wheels, retirees
c. Storytelling to connect neighbors/neighborhoods
12. Miscellaneous resources
a. Green For All (Van Jones)
b. Boys & Girls Club in Harrisburg
c. Green Party
d. Green Drinks

Next meetings: Thursday, August 12, 7 ro 8 pm at picnic pavilion (and greenhouses) in Reservoir Park
Thursday, August 26, 7 to 8 pm at The Midtown Scholar(?), with Charles Eisenstein (Gift Circle participation)


Thursday, July 29, 2010

How one town is Transitioning

Bowen Island, part of Vancouver, BC, is exploring Transition. Visit their web site to see what their two day Visioning process produced!

Bowen in Transition

Local Transition Training events

Freeland, Maryland
Saturday, August 21, 2010 (All day) – Sunday, August 22, 2010 (All day)
Washington, DC
Saturday, August 28, 2010 (All day) – Sunday, August 29, 2010 (All day)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How can we do better?

Thomas Friedman and Paul Krugman tell it like it is, why we didn't get a climate bill passed: greed and laziness. We have to do better and start calling and writing and emailing our local, state and federal representatives!


Susan and about 10 others went with The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) to meet with the aides to Senator Casey and Senator Specter. Casey is on board with climate legislation, but Specter's aide basically said that there wasn't anything Specter could (would?) do before he leaves office in five months, even if it means leaving a powerful message and legacy!

What Specter and his assistant don't seem to realize is that there is no other issue--just climate change! Without a functional planetary life support system, all bets are off! If we don't have clean air, then what does it matter if we have health care? If we can't grow food because we don't know when it will rain, and the aquifers are depleted, what does it matter if our educational system is producing scientists? If the honey bees are all dead, if the trees are all dying, if the ground, air and water are toxic, how will we live? How will we survive? A healthy planet is everything.

Senator Casey
Senator Specter

Senator Specter's ratings from The League of Conservation Voters:
111th, 1st Session (2009) 64%
110th Congress (2007-2008) 46%
109th Congress (2005-2006) 33%
108th Congress (2003-2004) 28%
107th Congress (2001-2002) 52%
106th Congress (1999-2000) 38%

Senator Casey's ratings:
111th, 1st Session (2009) 100%
110th Congress (2007-2008) 100%
109th Congress (2005-2006) %

Write a letter to the editor:
The Patriot News

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Our next meeting....

Transition Harrisburg will be gathering at Ngozi Studio, next Thursday, July 29, from 7 to 8 pm.

Because of the number of people interested in moving Harrisburg towards sustainability, we are now meeting every two weeks instead of once a month. As we keep meeting and forming actions, groups and ideas, we will create a local movement away from "business as usual" to a more healthy and interdependent community.

With Transition Harrisburg acting as a "hub" for the greater Harrisburg area, we work together, forming coalitions with other groups and individuals who are also working to bring their lives more in tune with the planet's natural systems.

Ngozi Studio is located at 933 Rose Street, Harrisburg, PA 17102. Phone 717-343-6881. Ngozi is located behind Messiah Lutheran Church. It is a small warehouse with green trim. Come in the door and follow the signs.

Green Film Fest this fall in Harrisburg!

The Ever Green Film Fest is being held October 23-24, 2010 in Harrisburg!

The Ever Green Sustainable Film Fest is a multi-faceted event that brings together educational, quality environmental films; moderator-led discussions based on feature films; an opportunity for local filmmakers to share their talent and learn about key environmental issues through a short film contest; and the integration and promotion of local foods.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Skill Share Volunteers Needed!

Do you bake a great loaf of bread, repair bikes in your spare time, brew your own beer, experiment with solar power, or have some other interesting skill you think others should know so we can build a more resilient future? Then we are interested in you and you are invited to take part in our skill share series.

Post a comment below, or email me, and let us know what you would like to teach. Someone will be in touch to coordinate with you as we set dates for these events.



Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Story of How We Got Through This

(This was written by Tony, of Transition Lancaster)

In the beginning, there was an oil spill. The worst spill in the history of spills. The worst spill imaginable. Unlike past spills, this one came from a bottomless cup: the Earth. During the worst of it – and every day seemed the worst – the people of the world sometimes felt the Earth was bleeding out every last drop of oil. A wound, that’s what it was. Not a spill, but a wound – an arterial cut so deep we sometimes felt the Earth itself would die. Or that we would die. We wished for death – of ourselves, of the other, of the person responsible–

–But this isn’t that story. This is not a story of death, nor murder, but of redemption. This is a story of healing. It begins with anger, rage, pain, despair, it is true, but that is only the beginning.

So we have a wound, a deep wound. It was – and is – a terrible thing. No one would wish for this wound, for any reason. But it woke us up to the fact that it was and is but one wound among many. It stood up alongside the raping of the forests, the poisoning of the atmosphere, the destruction of the top soil and the desertification of our souls as but one of the great crimes of Man. This wound was simply so large it finally could not be ignored, as much as we would have liked to.

It woke us up; and, like dreamers rudely awakened, we sat as in a daze, gazing at our works – and a terrible fear grew. We had destroyed the Gulf, bled it dry. Nothing could be done, we thought. In our despair, we imagined an endless welling up of oil. We were not far wrong. Oh, these were bad times.

–Yet, I spoke of redemption earlier, and healing. Can you see it? It is germinating – right there, in the fear and despair. Some might tell you that nothing good can come of such things, but they have this to say for them: they begin the process, the necessary process, of stripping away illusions. At first, in our fear, we tried many things. Anything we could think of to staunch the flow of oil. ‘Top hats’, ‘top kills’, ‘junk shots’, giant hoses and centrifuges to vacuum it up. Meaningless to you, I know, but to us, briefly, they were everything: we placed all our hopes in these strange techniques, these magics. They all failed. When they failed, as they must have, we tried blame. We blamed the corporatists

most involved in the catastrophe. We blamed the bureaucrats who let it happen and the politicians who failed in their sworn duties. All this was right, and just – partly. In the end, we couldn’t help ourselves, we continued to point fingers, pointing on and on till none were left to be singled out but we ourselves. Who purchased the oil so drilled? In plastics, pesticides, pseudo-foods, dish detergents, children’s toys, gasoline for our mammoth cars and heating oil for our gargantuan, far-away homes, our make-believe castles. We purchased the oil, bought with blood and destroyed livelihoods and crippled ecologies. We burned it and poisoned the air and acidified the waters. We came to understand that, even without the endless spill, the oceans were under such aggressive assault they had mere decades left, anyway. We came to realize that we, that we were the ones. We caused the spill.

Many shook their heads, they denied, they fought, they justified. . . but eventually all that fell away. When the visible poison swept through the Florida Keys and on to the Atlantic, nothing sufficed. Justifications could not stand before that endless spill. It stopped mouths and quelled hearts. There was silence, but for the tide; silence, but for the weeping.

* * *

From that silence sprang a new resolve. We came to know that our only path forward must begin with a realization – an acknowledgment – of failure, the utter and absolute failure of modern industrial civilization to protect and preserve the foundation of all things – the land, sea and air. That path continued with the deep determination to restore and repair. We had lost all possibilities for happiness, for happiness depends on happenstance, on chance, on good fortune, and those were nowhere more to be found. But we did find joy, the unfathomable, ineffable joy that comes from good work righteously pursued. Our work to restore the Earth – and our proper places in it – required almost all the energies of humankind. We began with the Gulf. As you know, children, that work continues, two and more generations removed from the final cut that woke us up. Many more it will continue – but it progresses. We believe that one day it will be restored, and work tirelessly for that day.

Though that work took (and is taking) longer than we had initially hoped, we no longer sought the counsel of despair, and instead put our hands and minds and spirits to work elsewhere, everywhere – repairing, restoring. What else was there to do? Nothing. But there was nothing else we wanted to do. We rebuilt the soil, planted trees, cleaned the streams, the rivers, the estuaries – all water became sacred to us again. . . .We left. That was the most important thing, in many ways. We left places we never should have been in the first place, and shrunk our right places that had grown too large. The cities became comprehensible again and the countryside had stewards again, and in between – wilderness.

The work goes on, and will continue forever. What is to be done with the toxic waste, the radioactive poisons? Nothing but to guard forever. Sufficient cause to continue to exist. What is to be done about the upended mountains? Nothing, but to wait for the Earth to shrug her great shoulders. More than sufficient cause to continue to watch and protect. The cleared forests? We plant trees wherever we can, always with great consideration for their placement in relation to others. . . but we know it will be many generations – hundreds if not thousands of years – before they can truly restore themselves. We certainly cannot do that, yet we can help, we can speed the process.

This, as you know, is our joy. It is our reason. Our Great Purpose: the Restoration. What else is there? Nothing. What else could we want? Nothing.

Go now, children, play; an old man needs his rest.

This story is protected by an anti-copyright. You are free to do whatever you like with it, bound only by your conscience and the spirit of the story itself. Do only good with it. Modify the form as you please, but please don’t modify the substance. The author makes no profit from this story, and neither should you. If you choose not to follow these modest guidelines, nothing will happen to you, unless you believe in hell, in which case you’re going there. I’ve written this anti-copyright as a positive statement that all art should be freely shared. Please let me know all the interesting ways you’ve used my story. You may reach me at teyesahr@riseup.net.

Anthony Silvestri

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Monday, July 5, 2010

Skill Share Volunteers Needed!

Do you bake a great loaf of bread, repair bikes in your spare time, brew your own beer, experiment with solar power, or have some other interesting skill you think others should know so we can build a more resilient future? Then we are interested in you and you are invited to take part in our skill share series.

Post a comment below, or email me, and let us know what you would like to teach. Someone will be in touch to coordinate with you as we set dates for these events.



Friday, July 2, 2010

Our next meeting

Transition Harrisburg will be meeting on July 15th, from 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm, at The Green Center, in Room 106, across from HACC and The Midtown Cinema on Reily Street. Everyone who is interested in creating a more sustainable Harrisburg is wecome!

1426 North Third Street
Campus Square Building
Midtown Harrisburg
717-221-1300 Ext. 1477

Sustainability Month

September is Sustainability Month in Harrisburg. One suggestion is to have an informational table at the Broad Street Market. Each Saturday we could feature a different aspect of sustainability: composting, gardening, grey-water collection & usage, recycling, etc. This could be part of our "skill-share" events.

With rainfall being very scarce this month, we could also share information on water conservation and biodegradable soaps. What else could we share?