WIP: Catching Up

Hi all! It’s been a bit since we’ve had a WIP, but that’s not because I haven’t been knitting!

I had a few setbacks, mostly related to flying too high to the sky and changes gauges, foolishly thinking there would be no consequences.  However, after that things went more smoothly.  

My Mellon Headband

I made the Mellon headband by Sari Nordlund in Viola yarn I bought at the Toronto pop up last year.  It’s a beautiful beautiful pattern in beautiful beautiful yarn and I’m so excited to have it.

A peek at my Soldotna!

I’m working on a few things right now, namely the Soldotna crop by Caitlin Hunter and the Loki hat by Hilary Grant.  More pics coming soon when I’ve made a little more progress!

Until then, love, Valentine

Ravelry project for the Mellon headband

Ravelry project for the Soldotna crop

Climate Strike Toronto 2019

It’s been a week since the Climate Strike here in Toronto and it’s taken me about that long to process my emotions.

When I first stepped out of the subway station at Queen’s Park and saw the thousands of people gathered there to protest climate change, I began to tear up.  For most of my life, environmentalism has been something of a fringe movement that people support in the abstract but not concretely.  I have seen countless examples of green changes pushed aside in the name of economy and time-savings.  I had, in some small part of me, just given up hope.  

Seeing the tens of thousands of people gathered there – and hearing about the millions of others who striked around the world – I began to hope again.  The people are demanding change.  For too long, our governments have either ignored, denied, or simply not prioritized climate action in favor of policies with more tangible and quick results.  In some ways I cannot blame them for that; a politician considers that his or her main function is to be re-elected, not to govern wisely and well.  However, largely I very much blame them.  With great power comes great responsibility, not only for the current electorate but also for the ones hereafter.  With the level of inaction we have seen, this argument too is becoming moot.  Many people consider that climate action is important for the sake of their children.  While I agree wholeheartedly, it is a mistake to consider climate change as a future problem.  Climate change is a very current and very real problem.  There are currently millions of refugees fleeing drought and climate created violence.  People are starving because their homelands are no longer fertile.  Existing inequalities of water and land are widening.  The time for action is not later, it is now.

In a little over two weeks, Canada will have a federal election.  In a little over a year, so will the United States.  You have been given the power to vote and now is your time to use it.  We cannot afford to waste more time with impotent politicians and cowardly inaction.

Book Club: How to Sew a Button & How to Build a Fire

Anyone who has ever met me knows that I love to talk about — and around — self-sufficiency.  I bake my own bread, I sew my own clothes, I garden: I love it!  And I don’t just talk about about it a lot because I am an annoying person, but also because I truly believe self-sufficiency is an important and valuable lesson for someone at any age to learn.

How to Build a Fire & How to Sew a Button, both by Erin Bried

Erin Bried of SELF Magazine agrees!  In 2009 she released How to Sew a Button: and Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew full of all sorts of how-tos that help you to live cheaply, comfortably, and independently.  The grandmothers in the book mostly lived through the Great Depression, a time when learning to make do was paramount.  The Depression was a difficult and often traumatizing time for most of America and the world.  My own great-grandmother (who was by no means the worst off) was so impacted that she hoarded rubber bands and jars for the next seventy years — just in case.  

While no one is suggesting that you hoard a roomful of jars and rubber bands, the book covers important lessons such as:

  • How to Naturally Protect Your Garden from Insects
  • How to Can Your own Fruits and Veggies
  • How to Properly Fold a Fitted Sheet
  • How to Make a Budget

Along with about a hundred more, including the best bread recipe I’ve ever tried.

In 2010, she released How to Build a Fire: and Other Handy Things Your Grandfather Knew.  This volume includes even more helpful tips to make your life easier.

After last week’s climate strikes across the globe, it is impossible to ignore the fact that time is running out for our current Western lifestyle.  In order to survive climate change, there will need to be systematic change to our economy, society, and entire way of life.  This means that many of the creature comforts we have become accustomed to will no longer be available.  Therefore, it behooves us to prepare for a world where we cannot expect others to perform services for us.  The Great Depression was terrible, but it taught us lessons in self-sufficiency that we would be wise to apply to the coming — and present — climate crisis.  

Love, Valentine

News: Lakeshore Mittens

Hi all!

My second pattern was released yesterday, the Lakeshore Mittens! These mittens are sooo cozy and I had a lot of fun making them — I hope you do too!

Follow this link to find them on Ravelry.

At the threshold of autumn and winter, when the first snow falls into the cradle of the cold earth, the woods at the water’s edge blend into the lake. These mittens are inspired by the cold stillness of snowfall and vibrant leaves and the deep, dark, ever-changing waters of the lake. From above, the myriad habitats of woodland and lakeshore are transformed into colours bleeding into dark waters.

Designed in Icelandic wool to keep you warm in winter when the fullness of the night beckons you out to look over the water and see the world beyond — and within.

Love, Valentine

Book Club: Braiding Sweetgrass

I could hand you a braid of sweetgrass as thick and shining as the plait that hung down my grandmother’s back.  But it is not mine to give, nor is it yours to take.  Wiingaashk belongs to herself.  So I offer, in its place, a braid of stories meant to heal our relationship with the world.

Robin Wall Kimmerer

One of the first things a child learns when learning to speak the English language is that men are he, women are she, and everything else is it.  Passing for now over the complex and debated issues of gender identity, the English language excludes and depersonalizes the entirety of life on Earth that is not of the Homo sapiens species.

There is little difficult in extrapolating this seemingly small quirk of language to the prevailing worldview which places humans on a pedestal above all other living beings.  Perhaps this worldview can rationalize the dishonourable way we have treated our mother and home planet.  

I am by no means claiming that this is the only explanation for our current state of affairs.  Certainly we cannot ignore the machinations of capitalism, WWII, and the agricultural revolution.  However, in the backdrop of these larger and more concrete criminals, there is a quiet evil.  The prevailing culture has so far removed us from nature and our place in it that our ancestors would not recognize us.  We see ourselves as apart from the natural order of the Earth, so much so that there are many who can easily consider fleeing our mother planet and all her non-human inhabitants for Mars, leaving our own fermenting destruction.

Robin Wall Kimmerer in her book, Braiding Sweetgrass, aims to change this failing of the English language.  In a quiet, sweeping treatise which reads like a love letter, she examines her own relationships to the plants, animals, and natural world around her, as well as her worldview’s basis in her own Potawatomi heritage.

It is never easy to discuss atrocities and I sincerely hope it never will be.  I am not the first and not the most eloquent to condemn and weep for the systematic erasure, oppression, and degradation of the Indigenous cultures of Turtle Island.  In the more than five hundred years of colonization much has been destroyed of Indigenous cultures and even more has been ignored.  

Kimmerer’s book demonstrates a Potawatomi way of relating to the natural world that our colonial society would do well to emulate.  To her, all plants and animals are not it, but ki — kin.  We are as equal a member of the world as the maple or the bee, not rulers but friends.  

Going forward, we as a species must walk more carefully upon the Earth.  We have made mistakes and while it is too late to fix some of them, it is not too late for everything.  We must be stewards of the Earth and care for all of our kin, not just the ones who walk on two legs.

Love, Valentine

In-Depth: Peak Oil

It is no secret that our world is built on the shoulders of oil.  However, like Atlas, those shoulders have grown tired of their burden.  The supply of oil and its fossil fuel friends has a history of volatility, however in the near future that volatility may shift to a steep and permanent decline.  This decline has been prophesied for decades and is better known by the dramatic title of Peak Oil Theory.

Peak oil theory was first introduced in the 1950s, when industry was really picking up after the destruction of World War II.  Needless to say, a theory about the eventual collapse of the oil supply was not popular in the post-war boom.  However, since the oil crises of the 1970s, the theory has gained more and more traction.

Peak oil theory predicts that oil production will soon start a terminal decline.  Most authors imply, further, that no adequate alternative resource and technology will be able to replace oil as the backbone resource of industrial society.

Jörg Friedrichs, University of Oxford

Peak oil refers to the point where production and consumption of oil reaches its maximum.  After that, production, and therefore consumption, will decline.  It makes a lot of sense when you remember that oil — and all other fossil fuels — are a finite resource.  They are a large finite resource, as evidenced by the two trillion barrels of oil that are estimated to have existed in Earth’s history, but still definitively finite.  At some point, we will run out of oil either because we can’t access what is left or because there is simply none to be accessed.

Peak oil: “near-term peak and subsequent terminal decline in the global production of conventional oil”

Richard G. Miller & Steven R. Sorrell, University of Sussex

Much of the remaining oil is currently inaccessible.  For example, our current oil wells can only retrieve around 35% of the total oil in the well before the pressure falls too much and the well is contaminated with water.  Other oil is inaccessible due to it being under very deep water or ice.  While the ice may no longer be an issue after a few decades of warming, the water is only going to get deeper.  Offshore drilling is incredibly expensive and often a guaranteed money loss, setting aside the issues of how dangerous it is for the workers and surrounding wildlife.

If all this weren’t enough, oil is also in trouble financially.  It is a seldom discussed fact that fracking and tar sands are only profitable at oil prices of over $100/barrel, something we haven’t seen in several years.  New projects have been losing money since their inception and do not have the money to pay off the twenty or thirty year loans form their investors.  In part because of the huge upfront costs for building these projects but mostly because of the impotent returns, investors are loathe to finance new drilling.  Therefore, there is significantly less money to subsidize new projects and fewer being built.

Despite oil’s fraught and tenuous future, we are still very much dependent on its power.  In 2016, oil and other fossil fuels accounted for 80% of our primary energy usage.  The average American uses 25 barrels a year and the average person in the rest of the Global North uses 14 barrels a year.  Oil supports 95% of our transport needs.  While there has been a lot of talk about electric cars, electric trucks, and magnet trains there are still ships and airplanes.  These are less easily moved over to renewable energy, especially if we want to retain the fast, global market to which we have been accustomed.

In conclusion, the current oil dependence is economically, ethically, and practically unsustainable.  Questions, therefore, about the validity of its demise are both ill-timed and unimportant.  The important questions are when it will come and what we will do next.

Peak oil has been expected many times since the theory was introduced in the fifties.  Recently, however, evidence has been growing that the time is close at hand.  The International Energy Agency predicts that oil demand will reach its maximum in the 2040s.  That may seem futuristic, but it’s only 21 years away.  Someone born in 2000 would only be 40 years old.  Dutch Shell and many other analysts suspect that oil is more likely to peak within the next decade.  As yet, it is difficult to say how steep the decline in oil production will be.  If there is a gradual decline, it is more likely that renewable resources and technologies will step into the gap left by fossil fuels.  However, if there is a steep decline we could be left with no alternatives and the transition period necessary could lead to chaos.

There is precedent for situations where oil and fossil fuels are scare.  Jörg Friedrich, a researcher at the University of Oxford, has analyzed the responses in three historical countries which faced a shortage of oil.  In the 1930s, Japan resented having to import its oil from the United States (not helped by the atmosphere of war).  Their solution was to go to conquer oil producing regions in the Pacific.  In the 1990s, both North Korea and Cuba were left without oil after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  The two countries pursued very different options.  The North Korean government chose to preserve the comfort and status of their elite by denying resources to the general population.  This led to mass starvation and the death of between 240,000 to 3.5 million people.  Cuba, on the other hand, leaned into the social networks present in the country and promoted organic, urban agriculture without the use of fossil fuels for tractors and tools.  The economy also was transitioned away from fossil fuels to more pre-industrial methods.

Countries prone to military solutions may follow a Japanese-style strategy of predatory militarism. Countries with a strong authoritarian tradition may follow a North Korean path of totalitarian retrenchment. Countries with a strong community ethos may embark on Cuban-style socioeconomic adaptation, relying on their people to mitigate the effects of peak oil.

Jörg Friedrichs, University of Oxford

It is also possible that governments will turn to other fossil fuels as a substitute for oil.  Environmentally, this would be a disaster.  Coal and other fossil fuels are more polluting that oil (which, as you may recall, is already very polluting) and would exacerbate the planet’s warming.  In time, these resources would also dwindle.  We would be left with a resource shortage with no other fossil fuels on which to fall back.  Resource shortages are the perfect breeding ground for war, extreme inequality, exploitation, and starvation.  Throughout history, oil has been a vector of suffering and it seems that it might not be done its dirty work.

There is, however, a vision of hope.  In Cuba, fuel shortages led to an outbreak of organic and non-industrial agriculture on abandoned, urban plots.  If we begin now, we can wean ourselves off of fossil fuels and onto renewable sources of energy before disaster strikes.  As any doctor will tell you, prevention is easier and better than curing the disease.  We have a choice between a green, healthy, and safe future or one that is dark, dangerous, and uncomfortably hot.  If we care about ourselves and our children, it’s not actually a choice.  The only thing left is to act.

What can you do?

  • Use less fossil fuels!  Drive less if you can & conserve electricity.
  • Support local agriculture!
  • Look into the energy available in your area.  Where does it come from? Speak to your government representatives about making renewable energy a priority.

Sources:

  1. Friedrichs, J. (2010) “Global energy crunch: How different parts of the world would react to a peak oil scenario”. Energy Policy, 38, 4562-4569.
  2. Miller, R.G. & Sorrell, S.R. (2014) “The future of oil supply”. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, 372, 1-27.
  3. Pargman et al. (2017) “What if there had only been half the oil? Rewriting history to envision the consequences of peak oil”. Energy Research & Social Science, 31, 170-178.
  4. “With oil peak now in view, question is the steepness of the descent” (2017). The Electricity Journal, 30, 65-68.
  5. Keiser, M. (2019, July 13) “And Forgive Them Their Debts”. Keiser Report, RT, KR1409.

News!

Hi friends! Instead of a Book Club this week you are getting some exciting news!

I’ve released my first knitting pattern!

The Boudicca Scarf

Need to be at work at 5 but defend the Celts at 7? Look no further for the perfect accessory. The Boudicca Scarf is a meditative symphony of cables representing the long line of strong women stretching back to time immemorial. When you wear this scarf, you will feel like a warrior queen — even more so knowing that 50% of the proceeds from the sale of this pattern will be donated to the Global Fund for Women!

Celebrate the strength, beauty, and resilience of women with the Boudicca scarf!

I’m also super excited about this because this is the first pattern I’ve ever written and (hopefully) the first of many!

Love, Valentine