Saturday, November 14, 2015

We can.

Picture, if you will, a body of water on a roof, fed by the rain but allowing the addition of tap water when needed, with a diversity of plant and animal life - algae, anacharis and other submerged type plants, snails, fish, clams, oysters, insect nymphs, tiny life forms barely able to be seen without a microscope feeding the larger life forms, floating water plants such as water hyacinth and water lettuce and water lilies, humans from time to time, turtles and frogs on a little island, a floating wooden raft with oyster mushrooms growing on it,...honeybees and other insects from the neighborhood pollinating those water plants that flower above the surface of the water. On the margins of the water people read, enjoying the sun and seeing woodsy areas from atop the building, take water samples, wiggle their toes, converse,...

Outlets of water flowing from the roof pond (made of transparent material to let in sunlight to nurture plant and other small life forms within them) winding circuitously (in spirals, say) at varying inclines, to the ground where they contact and flow through first larger rocks and then smaller rocks and then larger gravel and then smaller gravel and then larger sand and then smaller sand and then, finally clay (all planted and inoculated with life forms appropriate to each of the microecosystems - earthworms, fish, watercress, iris, mint, clams, oysters, snails, assorted small water life,...).

Imagine the water flow through this "living machine", cleaned now by the combination of mechanical filtration (of the rocks, gravel, sand, and clay) and biological filtration accomplished by all the life forms. This water is cleaner than the rain and/or city water input to the pond on the roof.

This is a picture of the ecosystem services that used to be accomplished on Earth in every pond and stream before we destroyed so much biodiversity. This is what humans used to swim, fish, and boat in.

Imagine, if you will, this now cleaner water coming from the roof feeding an interpretive trail in the woods which is planted with all manner of edible plants and mushrooms, meandering through this food forest in various flows in different directions, with little footbridges over which employees, neighbors, visitors, and other wildlife may cross the streams.

Imagine inside the building (which has transparent walls because it is a greenhouse) a giant aquarium (a "photobioreactor" or "fermentation tank", if you will) exposed to both sunlight and artificial light a single algal species or microecosystem of species including algae. From this fermentation is produced, say, hydrogen (and/or other product(s)) which is able to feed fuel cells (which give off oxygen and water, and produce electricity and heat).

We're so used to our combustion technology it's hard to imagine making electricity without either burning something or running water through turbines like in a nuclear power plant or hydroelectric plant, but that is what fuel cells do. Years ago, when the J&L/LTV coke mill was still depositing dust in our lungs, a retired scientist living in Hazelwood who had done research with Westinghouse, at a meeting of CHOC (Citizens Helping Our Community) said, in discussion about polluting technology, "I would like to see a fuel cell plant here [at what is now called the ALMONO site]." He had participated in research using "waste biomass" (organic waste) to make electricity via fuel cells.

There has been opinion that we need to convert our transportation fleet from combustion to electric vehicles supplied in part by fuel cells (not necessarily fuel cells placed in the cars). With the destabilization of our climate and the acidification of our waters caused by carbon dioxide from combustion, we don't have the choice of staying with combustion technology. It's a massive technological transformation we have to take on, but we shouldn't allow ourselves to become discouraged.

As individuals we can do little. Working as one community, we can accomplish great things. Si, se puede! Yes, we can!

Jim McCue
composter and biotech researcher 412-421-6496

Thursday, October 15, 2015


Our children are being sold down the river. Not by evil foreigners or criminals or extraterrestrials or religious zealots. We ourselves are destroying their future, and ours - by putting money foremost in our decision-making.

Money is important, but we have become addicted to an idea. Can you eat it? Can you burn it to keep warm in the winter? Can you use it to keep cool in a summer disrupted by rapid climate change? Buying personal comfort and safety will be impossible in a society which has had its whole fabric torn by the problems connected to the environmental crisis we are all now facing.

Money was never, is not, and never will be something intrinsic to life. Look at the birds; do they eat money? Do they burn it to keep warm? Do they drink it? Do they breathe it? How about the flowers - do they need money? How about the honeybees?

Do the deer care about money? No, they're worried about the people that make and use arrows and guns and bullets. My, aren't we humans intelligent, though. We're all the time figuring out how to take down Nature for our enjoyment.

So we have as a species painted ourselves into an historic corner. It's anybody's guess who all will survive. Think I'm exaggerating? Think I'm a little hysterical? Think I'm only thinking about your great great grandchildren or your great grandchildren or your grandchildren or your children? No, the destabilization of our climate and overfishing and the acidification of our waters and pollution and the loss of Earth's biological diversity and the increasing number of earthquakes due to side effects of human activity and our (seeming) inability to stop fighting (and with ever more advanced weaponry) - are all making for environmental change so immediate that it is OUR generation that is in trouble. It is WE that are in a fix, NOW. Not in the future. It's time to wake up.

I know we all need money to survive. But there was a time when people didn't. So let's talk about REAL progress, about growing a REALLY sustainable economy, not one that throws people all over the world away because they can't fit in to the system. We need an economy that pays people to grow and feed people REAL food, not industrial processed fake food that kills slowly. An economy that pays people to plant food forests rather than to cut forests down to make paper for junk mail advertisements. An economy that pays people to learn how to use our technology to solve our problems rather than exacerbate them.

We have forgotten how to get along with and help each other and live in harmony with nature.

So, let's grow up. The only thing that gets me up in the morning in the face of all these problems is that I'm thoroughly convinced that the core nature of reality is miraculous. We are only now on Earth growing mature enough to see that we have always been part of a living universe, which is infinitely more intelligent and knowledgeable than us and has been helping us all along. There are civilizations out there far more technologically and spiritually advanced than we. We have to put down all our tribalism and nationalism and speciesism and racism and survivalism and moneyism and materialism. The only way to survive, paradoxically, is to stop fighting to survive and surrender to the love that is our basic nature. Only then will we survive and be part of a great growth rather than an extinction event.

Jim McCue 412-421-6496

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Earth birth

Earth birth

This particular time on this planet is no better or worse than any other time, but it IS a time of great change. Like the birth of a human child. There's no stopping the creation of a new age that's coming. Everybody's trying to predict the future, but all bets are off - the future is sure to be none of the above. Some think the economy's gonna crash, some think it'll soar, and some are trying to get loose of it. And some think things are going to go on the same...Not.

Many now think our ecosystem is dying, and in some ways it IS collapsing. But there is absolutely nothing that makes it a certainty that the planetary extinction event we are in cannot be slowed or even reversed. Humanity is at its highest point of evolution. We have the technology to quickly re-green damaged land, for instance. And our communications technology makes it possible now for all humanity to get on the same page.

In our planet's memory (though few think about it) is the fact that what is now the United States was once abundant from coast to coast with an incredible diversity of life. A species capable of going to the Moon is surely able to end war and work as one to get off the suicidal destruction of the living environment we as a species are engaged in at the moment. High-tech cooperation - using new applications of technologies already existing but kept secret and proprietary by militaries and businesses - can transition us away from ever again having to go under ground or water to get coal or oil or gas. We can get off combustion entirely.

As a result of global average warming, methane (natural gas) is now leaking from formerly frozen areas under ocean and land. We don't have to frack any more because we're literally now awash in natural gas which is going up into the atmosphere where it is adding to the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide. This runaway greenhouse positive feedback effect is one of the reasons some scientists think it's too late for us. But there are technological ways to get rid of methane already in the atmosphere and decrease the amount going into the atmosphere in the first place. One thing we can do is harvest natural gas from areas it's already being emitted into the atmosphere and use it in fuel cells to make electricity. The natural gas boom will soon turn into an all-out effort to slow its emission and harvest some to make electricity without having to burn it (which makes carbon dioxide).

Carbon dioxide and methane are only bad when they are thrown into the atmosphere as waste, where they increase the global average temperature. So let's stop wasting them. Every third grader can learn to help plants (from one-celled algae to giant trees) grow to use the co2 we have too much of. We're surrounded by opportunity!

As we learn to stop telling Nature what to do, and rather learn to nurture and harmonize with the infinite diversity of life, we'll be on the way to restoring our home, Earth.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Sacred Life

If I were running the planet, here's what I'd do:

I'd make everybody throw away their lawn mowers and let their lawns grow wild. We need all the plants we can get, to soak up carbon dioxide for one thing.

I'd make it illegal to make or sell junk food. All that processed crap is ruining our health and making us addicted to stuff like sugar.

I would decree that from now on every neighborhood has a bakery which makes only whole grain bread fresh daily. No more white bread, and no more adding preservatives.

I'd stop anybody from cutting down trees, and put people to work planting them.

I'd shut down all casinos and tell The Donald to stop getting haircuts.

I'd welcome all travel from one country to another regardless of the income status or money-making capacity of the traveler. There would be no such a thing as a "foreigner", since the whole Earth is one country and all life is one family.

I'd declare all water the common property of all life forms. Nobody owns it; the Great Spirit (of which we are a part) owns all water and all land.

I'd put every able-bodied person alive to work, at a living wage, reclaiming our doomed future by regenerating Earth's ecosystem. All life is One. We need to restore both the quantity and the diversity of life.

I'd make it illegal to put any biodegradable material in the municipal trash stream.

I'd mandate the composting or otherwise recycling of all biodegradable waste, from cardboard to manure. If we ever grow out of our childish defensive habit of blaming others we'll see we all - each and every one of us - have been unconsciously committing crimes against the Nature of which we are a part.

I'd make it illegal to kill any bug other than those that bite people, unless you're going to eat them. Insects are part of the web of life; their ecosystem services include feeding birds and pollinating flowers and (in most other countries) feeding people.

Radical times call for radical solutions. Rather than the many short-sighted but ultimately self-destructive solutions many of us engage in - such as pesticides and war with other countries and protective walls - I propose we keep constantly expanding our circles of loved ones. Until we see that the whole world is alive and miraculous, we humans will continue making a pest species of ourselves and the Earth will eventually kick us out of the community of life.

Jim McCue 412-421-6496

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


There's a new word going around - "thrival". It's the opposite of "survival". So, if you're a thrivalist, you're not a survivalist. Thrival is about a cooperative response to the financial and environmental difficulties of our time. Those with survivalist mentalities think themselves realistic and practical because they are cynical about human nature and, therefore, pessimistic about our ability to work together to solve the world's problems. The survivalists go to war and compete over what they believe are limited resources. A thrivalist might be more likely have a friendly response, seeking solutions to their common problems. If you think and act out of the assumption that war, disease, poverty, pollution and scarcity will always be with us, you're a survivalist.
A thrivalist looks at all the tremendous waste of conflict and says a better world is possible.

I have faith gained from logic that our problems are solvable. But that doesn't mean I think we don't have many problems; in fact, just the opposite. Because I am hopeful, I have been able to look at many problems others consciously or unconsciously sweep under the rug. I've been called a doomer because I'm of the opinion that the human species may go extinct soon. But, in fact, I'm profoundly optimistic because I'm convinced that the Universe has always been miraculous, so - no matter how bad things look - what some call spiritual beings and some call extraterrestrials (far advanced of us) have been and will continue to help us - to the extent that we become more loving in our hearts and actions.

Yes, we may go extinct just as are many other species in this catastrophic time. But our civilization also just may blossom into a new age. It's up to us.

The world is becoming less predictable. There are amazing things happening, such as with new inventions. If you can imagine something, it's probably happening somewhere. We don't know whether our society is going to Hell in a handbasket or entering a fascinating new age. People argue about everything, from the ownership of a specific piece of land to the nature of reality. We can't even agree on what is actually happening, such as with climate change. Amazing, wonderful and terrifying things are happening on Earth, leaving us unsure whether we should feel wonder or fear or both. How do we survive in a world that is increasingly about change? Maybe our attitude should be that we should expect to thrive. For at least the last century, science has been mystified by some of the results of its own experiments. Quantum physics is pointing towards the conclusion that the physical world is more flexible than we realized, that matter is changed according to the minds and hearts of people.

Some don't realize we are at a crucial moment in history, similar to that referred to in the story of Noah's Ark. Species of life are disappearing at an increasingly rapid rate now. Many are stubbornly blind to the effects of their own actions, having no moral compass to guide them. Some of us humans are so fully engaged in the assumption that the material world is all that there is they can't see the writing on the wall. Too busy with our own affairs to notice the elephant in the room, we're often like children playing in the street - going to get hurt.

So often we argue about what is going to happen with the climate, for instance - as if the future is totally predictable and has no relationship whatever to what we each think, feel, or do. That's the way it is, they'll say; you can't do anything about it, why beat your head against the wall? That's nice that you're so idealistic, they'll say, but let's be realistic. This is profoundly wrong-headed, and is partly responsible for why humanity is in such malaise at this moment in history. The cynics are the ones who are not realistic. They don't realize their pessimism is adding to the suffering.

It's OBVIOUS we 7 billion human beings are causing climate change, just as it's obvious we're: depleting the ocean of fish; acidifying the oceans; causing whole groups of species like birds and insects to go extinct; poisoning our water and air with fossil fuels and nuclear power; causing the increase of diseases worldwide with our type of industrial agriculture and disruptions of ecosystems; and, in the now near future, causing our own population collapse. Some scientists are of the opinion that the "methane clathrate gun" tipping point is already going off right now and that therefor we have very little time with which to transform our technology. Thousands of technological breakthroughs - many of which have been suppressed by the defenders of the status quo - are capable of taking us beyond this destructive age of monopoly of the fossil fuel and nuclear industries.

An eye-opening documentary called "Thrive: What On Earth Will It Take?" is available free online at .

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Nature's recycling

We humans keep claiming to have invented stuff the rest of the living world has already pioneered. "When was the first needle manufactured?", a teacher asks, for instance, not noticing that's the mosquito's ancient feeding technology. Were we honest and humble enough to see that we're but part of this planet's incredibly complex and intelligent ecosystem, we'd be far less destructive, far more sustainable. We've gotten ourselves into a fine mess trying to control and use the planet's other life forms when in fact we can as yet only estimate even their number. No wonder, for instance, that - for all our technology - disease is on the increase rather than being mastered by us.

So we've come to ignore the growing climate change, assuming someone will invent something to fix it, or someone already has - solar, wind, geothermal, planting trees, energy-efficient light bulbs, recycling cans, etc. - and we don't have to think too much or change too much. I've come to see the problem is deeper and wider than all these, although we do need to do all these things.

Yes, we do need to recycle our waste, for instance. Big time. The contribution of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere from landfills alone is enormous. And we need to stop making waste in the first place. We've so radically changed basic natural processes that ever more advanced technology is needed just to survive the feedback effects of what we've done. The treadmill keeps going faster the faster we run. Industrial society has become a nightmare from which we must awake. And in life's creative processes lies much of the solution. Our most advanced science application is needed to restore the ecosystem services which used to be provided free by Ecosystem Earth.

Before we humans went to burning everything we could get our hands on, Nature's oxidation processes were much slower. When a plant or animal died, other living things large and small ate them - that's how they got recycled. Now - intelligent idiots that we are - we send our waste biomass off to the landfill or sewage plant to make problems elsewhere. Never mind that we're all connected, so that downwind or downstream of all of us is, eventually, all of us. So we run around in circles treating our problems like hot potatoes handed off to burn someone else, till they spiral back to burn us.

We need to get back to returning our organic wastes to the soil, the way the ecosystem's been functioning for millions of years. Whether high or low tech is required depends on the circumstances, as each situation is unique. Materials like cardboard, leaves, orange peels, coffee grounds, egg shells, and grass clippings can be easily rotted to make soil, but meats and manures require more expertise and technology.

We are discussing establishing in Hazelwood an environmental technology startup incubator and showplace - called The Soil Center - to demonstrate proven and new, high- and low-tech, small- and medium-scale methods of mending our wounded ecosystem at ground level. Earthworm composting, hot composting, and biochar production at the center would be yielding natural soil inputs to deal with such human-caused effects as loss of topsoil. We have no choice at this point in history but to grow MANY MANY MANY MANY MANY more plants to soak up the increasing amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, and plants need plant food to grow.

This life is a learning place, and some of the lessons are hard. Maybe they don't have to be so difficult. I have become convinced that the universe is a living manifestation of God. And, since we are part of the universe, we each are part of God. I am convinced, for good scientific logical reasons, that God is Love. So we bring on miracles by getting in sync with that love. Wise gardeners and farmers know that real long-term productivity and sustainability are more about weaving relationships among living communities of species than vainly and self-destructively trying to kill off those we don't like. We're all connected in the web of life.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Future seeds

Future seeds

This most interesting moment in Earth history is full of promise and danger. Our responses to the challenges will interact to co-create the future. That we have the power, acting together, to do almost anything we can imagine gives hope but also great responsibility. If the human species is not to go down in the history of the Universe as anything better than a relatively minute, sad chapter, we must wake up and transform our society. There is SO much unsustainable in our current civilization that many thoughtful people are predicting its imminent collapse.

While there is plenty of data and logic that says that we humans ourselves should be included on the endangered species list, whether or not we fall to the extinction event Earth is experiencing right now depends on how we react to these historic changes. If we remain blind to the big picture of what's going on in the world, this does not bode well for us as a whole. All life on Earth is going through a degree of change so large that none of us can really get a grasp of what it all means.

But it IS possible to take confident action even without knowing what effects our actions have. We are going through a paradigm shift, on the other side of which is a lot saner, more harmonious, and loving world. Though it has always seemed that violence was a necessary part of nature, we are learning now ways of, for instance, feeding ourselves with less suffering caused to other species. There is no inherent necessity, for instance, to eat meat. All human nutrients are available via either eating plants or fermentation processes. Consider this: All food originally comes from inert soil - ground up rocks. Plants and microbes work together to feed animals. Why eat animals when you can eat either plants directly or microbial foods - such as yogurt, cheese, bread, kefir, sour cream - and/or supplements formulated with vitamins and other nutrients from fermentation processes.

I'm convinced the great environmental changes going on now are Nature's way (or God's way if you will) of telling us to stop fighting (either each other or the other life forms on Earth). The massive amounts of organic waste going to landfills (via municipal garbage collection) and streams (via overwhelmed sewage treatment operations) are causing atmospheric and microbiological problems, aside from wasting valuable soil-building resources. Spending on weapons and conflicts neglect the alternative of making friends with the enemies. The same what I call "enemyship rather than friendship" relations with the non-human species of our ecosystem ends up backfiring. The honeybees and other insect pollinators (including flies) are in decline, and so are the birds. Think about it. If we kill off all the bugs, what are the birds going to eat?

We humans are going to have to forge a new relationship with the rest of the living world. We are NOT going to be the masters. The extreme genetic flexibility of the smaller, faster life forms - such as microbes, some of which can reproduce and so mutate within minutes (as contrasted to humans, which have to reach adulthood to reproduce), makes microbes the final rebuttal to our vain assumptions about our species being the most powerful.

Recognizing the new friendship with nature attitude that must come, some of us in Hazelwood are working together to regenerate the tattered web of life. We want to grow food here, process it here in healthy ways, distribute it here, and return our organic waste to the soil to start the process anew next year - just like it was in the old days before our technology became enslaved to the profit motive (making things that don't make sense solely to make money). We have the Hazelwood Urban Farms micro-farm and more neighborhood gardens of all types. We have young people learning the plant business with Floriated Interpretations. We have the Hazelwood Summer Marketplace selling local healthier produce and prepared foods. We are working on an organics recycling operation to divert some organic waste from going to landfill where it produces greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane. We have Hazelwood YMCA Community Garden reaching out to the neighborhood to play it's part in this great agricultural transformation some of us know is needed. We have Center of Life gearing up gardening, environmental and nutritional awareness, and food industry training programming.

And, the nicest thing for me - many different types of people are working together. Aware of the great problems of our time, some of us are choosing to make it feel like Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood around here. I love this place.

Jim McCue