How to unplug from the grid

“I HAVEN’T paid an electricity bill since 1970,” says Richard Perez with noticeable glee. He can afford to be smug. While most of us fretted over soaring utility bills this year, he barely noticed. Nor is he particularly concerned about forecast price hikes of 30 to 50 per cent in 2009.

Perez, a renewable-energy researcher at the University at Albany, State University of New York, lives “off-grid” – unconnected to the power grid and the water, gas and sewerage supplies that most of us rely on. He generates his own electricity, sources his own water and manages his own waste disposal – and prefers it that way. “There are times when the grid blacks out,” he says. “I like the security of having my own electricity company.” Continue reading

Financial crisis hits world’s largest seed bank

The Millennium Seed Bank in Britain – a sort of Noah’s Ark for plants – is under threat due to a lack of funding caused by the credit crunch.

The world’s largest plant conservation project opened in 2000 and was meant to gather seeds from every flowering plant on the planet and keep them stored for future generations. Continue reading

The Global Economic Crisis: Bad and Worsening

In a new article, economics professor Richard Wolff explains the current crisis in Marxian terms. It “emerged from the workings of the capitalist class structure. Capitalism’s history displays repeated boom-bust cycles punctuated by bubbles. They range unpredictably from local, shallow and short to global, deep and long.” Clearly we’re now in one of the latter and potentially the worst ever.

Wolff states that recurring crises and chronic instability come with capitalism, and only “social change to a non-capitalist class structure” will bring relief and stability. He explains how we got here: Continue reading

Economic Crisis and the Poor: Probable Impacts, Prospects for Resistance

Now that the crisis of the financial markets has become a crisis of the ‘real’ economy, it is obvious that those who already face poverty (or live on the edge of it) will be hit extraordinarily hard in the days ahead. Over the last three decades, social programs that served to partially redistribute wealth or limit the disciplinary power of unemployment on the working class were massively reduced. With this ‘social safety net’ seriously compromised, we can expect a rapid and deep process of impoverishment to take effect as the downturn unfolds. The scale and severity of this will pose major challenges but open up huge possibilities in terms of mobilizing poor communities. Continue reading

America Has No Means to Recover from a Depression

Speaking in front of members of Congress on Tuesday, economist Peter Morici, a professor at the University of Maryland, said the job loss experienced in November “was much worse than was expected … The threat of a widespread depression is now real and present.” Continue reading