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The PristinePlanet.com Newsletter
10 January 2006 — Issue #15
Editor: Michael J. Ross
Editor's Message

In the April 2005 issue of this newsletter, an article entitled "Peak Oil on the Horizon" noted that the world's supply of petroleum is on a collision course with rapidly growing demand, and that we appear to have reached the peak of production. So how will the crisis play out, aside from higher gasoline prices, more SUV behemoths for sale, and bankruptcies at GM and Ford? Read on...

Environmental News

Petroleum Energy and American Suburbia

We're literally stuck up a cul-de-sac in a cement SUV without a fill-up.
-James Howard Kunstler, 2003

This warning is given in an eye-opening documentary, "The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream", which considers the uniquely American phenomenon of suburbia, and how this artificial construct is completely dependent upon a steady flow of oil and natural gas. The film was written and directed by Gregory Greene, and features a cast of top energy analysts and authors. They present a convincing case that the cheap hydrocarbon energy that we Americans take for granted — and take from other countries by threat of force — has reached the point of maximum production. Consequently, we have reached the plateau of Peak Oil, and from this point forward, oil and natural gas will become increasingly expensive to extract, refine, and distribute. At the same time, global demand for those same energy supplies is rising, partly as a result of China and India pushing towards large-scale industrialization and increased use of internal combustion technology.

The documentary outlines the development of suburbia in the United States, employing unintentionally absurd film clips, particularly from the 1950s, when the future prospects of the American Dream seemed rosiest. These video clips show smiling and materialistic couples with their children, filling their fuel-inefficient station wagons with endless supplies of furniture and other trappings needed to accessorize their new homes out in the 'burbs. It is evident that they are delighted by the promise of space, affordability, and upward mobility. Suburbia was — and for many still is — seen as a surefire antidote to a harsh life in the dirty industrial cities. So many have bought into this dream, that now one half of the U.S. population lives in the suburbs. It is embedded in the American consciousness as a birthright, a guaranteed component of our modern lifestyle.

But with typical shortsightedness, we Americans failed to consider just how sustainable these far-flung "bedroom communities" really are, and how long they can last when it becomes prohibitively expensive to have workers spend two hours per day sitting in traffic, burning irreplaceable fuel, just to get to their workplaces. In essence, the documentary argues that the American suburbs are the greatest misallocation of resources in human history, and completely dependent upon cheap oil that is clearly finite, and now in decline, as one country after another announces that they have reached or passed their own production peaks. Only Saudi Arabia has not yet declared a production plateau. But their desperate attempts during 2005 to rent offshore jack-up rigs at triple the normal rates, reveals far more than their inflated reserve statistics.

Today's American suburban families may be assuming that the consumption party will last forever, but it clearly cannot. With an astonishing negative savings rate, and credit cards maxed out, the majority of middle and lower class Americans nowadays are in no position to pay higher gasoline and heating oil bills year after year — especially as these people compete more directly with their counterparts in China and India, which now have our manufacturing jobs. What will happen to this gluttonous American lifestyle as we slide down the painful slope of irreversible petroleum depletion?

From a psychological standpoint, are we ready to accept that suburbia will end in our lifetimes? What will this do to the social fabric of America? How far will Americans go to try to maintain this way of life? Even more worrisome to foreign countries with significant remaining oil, how far will American politicians go to promise and ensure that we the voters will never feel the pain of a post-hydrocarbon world? Just ask the former leaders of Afghanistan or Iraq.

There is huge resistance to tell voters that we will have to change. The American media is largely quiet, apparently because there is no upside for them to report that the commercial excesses will end. We must confront the fact that our society is addicted to oil, and that we are already fighting over smaller oil sites worldwide. Afghanistan and Iraq were only the first in a series of wars by the U.S. empire. Experts are now warning of "infinite war" over dwindling resources, and the return of the U.S. military draft. In fact, current leaders in the White House have predicted war for the rest of our lifetimes. We can only hope that those same leaders will have the courage and foresight to get America off the petroleum life-support system, and onto a diverse and more sustainable mix of alternative energy sources. But this will require a national energy policy far wiser than our present one of maintaining military bases in over 100 foreign countries.

Member Profiles

Frontier Natural Products Co-op

As a new year begins, health-conscious individuals everywhere will be renewing their vows to eat better — not just less sugar, unhealthy fats, and processed foods, but fewer pesticides, herbicides, and other toxins in the foods that they eat. The most popular way to achieve all of these worthy goals, is to switch from conventionally grown foods to organic, as much as possible. Such individuals should thus get to know Frontier Natural Products Co-op, which bills itself as the world's largest global supplier of organic herbs and spices. In addition, the company is cognizant of its role as a leader in organic foods, as evidenced by its efforts to help the producers with which they work, to transition to sustainable farming and production practices.

Yet Frontier Natural Products Co-op was not always so sizable nor influential in the world of organic produce. It all began with Iowa resident Rick Stewart, who worked for a local co-op distributor. Customers often requested that the co-op's large bags of herbs be divided into smaller, more manageable packages. Rick and his wife did this work in a small cabin near Cedar Rapids. But by March of 1976, they were overwhelmed by the demand, and consequently formed Frontier as a separate co-op, and moved to a larger location, where they continued providing one-pound bags of herbs and spices to natural food co-ops in the Midwest. Three decades later, they are now the leader in their field, having grown annual sales from $9,000 to over $43 million.

Visitors to their Web site will see the wide range of ecologically friendly products that Frontier offers. The company sells only non-irradiated spices, as well as the largest selection of organic foods available anywhere. These include dried fruits and vegetables, baking ingredients, loose-leaf teas, holistic and craft herbs, other health foods, and supplements. Moreover, they offer essential oils, aromatherapy bath and body products, and other natural personal care supplies.

When Frontier's customers remark on the outstanding service that they receive, they are reminded that, as a cooperative owned by its customers, Frontier treats every caller as if they owned the business... because they do! In addition, Judith McElhinney of Frontier stated that their "work is driven by the belief that fostering environmental responsibility is crucial to our world's future". This laudable principle is at the core of PristinePlanet.com as well. We are delighted to have Frontier Natural Products Co-op as a member of our online community!

PristinePlanet.com News

New Salesperson

PristinePlanet.com is delighted to have a new member of the sales team, Sandy Eden, who hails from Chesterfield, Missouri, and has over 20 years of experience helping customers find what they're looking for. Welcome aboard, Sandy!


Environmental Poetry Contest Results

In an earlier newsletter, we mentioned that Kate's Caring Gifts ran an environmental poetry competition last year. Well, the results are in, and your faithful editor somehow managed to win the limerick category. A big "thank you" goes out to any newsletter readers who voted in support of your editor's humble entry!

Archived Newsletters

All material copyright © 2004 PristinePlanet.com™, except for Environmental News articles copyright © 2004 Michael J. Ross. All rights reserved. No portion of this newsletter can be copied without express written permission from its copyright holder.

Letters and guest articles posted in the Newsletter section of the Forum or sent to the publisher become the property of PristinePlanet.com, and may be edited for brevity or clarity prior to publication.

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