Monthly Archives:November 2005

Spiritual retreat listing

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Off-grid is a state of mind as much as, or more than, a way of getting your water and energy.

The Northwest US has many destinations for spiritual retreats, and we have listed 40 of the best on the next page. We will build up a retreat directory for the whole of N America and Europe shortly, so please write to us with your recommendations.
Click for list.

Camper Van, motorhome, RV, what’s the difference?

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Camper Vans have celebrity fans — actor Matthew McConaughey convinced girlfriend Penelope Cruz to go on holiday with him in his camper van this year. He said: “I love my mobile home, I can feel my independence. I have everything I need.” The film About Schmidt, in which Jack Nicholson played a man who set out on a cross-country journey in a camper van, apparently led to a rise in sales of luxury camper vans to pensioners.

US households with RVs (i.e. motorhomes, or camper van as they are called in the UK) will reach 8 million by the end of the decade, according to the RVIA 2005 business indicators. There are just 3 million camper van owners in Europe – 500,000 of them in Italy. Last year a record 8,487 new motor homes and camper vans were registered for use on British roads. The market for camper vans grew in France by 3.7% per cent and in Germany by 6.6%.

Free Woody – Exclusive Interview

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The crew on a passenger ship recently hit the headlines when they fired a “sound cannon” to repel pirates. They were using an amazing new device invented by Elwood “Woody” Norris. But Woody may end up being remembered for his new form of personalised air transport.

“Its so cool,” chortles Woody, “I love swooping around ten feet off the ground. It makes me feel just superman.” Norris, aged 65 going on 15, is describing his latest invention and play-thing. Its a one-man microlite helicopter, costs less than a small family car, and he claims, is so simple to fly it can be mastered in a couple of hours.

He’s hoping his ‘Airscooter’, will go into mass production within the next year and revolutionise personal transport, perhaps making car transport obsolete.

White Noise

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Going off-grid is not just a matter of renewable energy or leaving a light footprint.

Its also about being able to drop yourself out of the urban melee, whether you are using meditation or disappearing from sight like John in Terminator 3.

Being able to block out annoying background noise is a way of slipping off the grid in the middle of town.

The Sleep Sound Generator (click to buy) quiets noise so you can rest….

di Caprio’s eco-ex

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Two icons of eco-hipness have ended their relationship according to media reports. Supermodel Gisele Bundchen is said to have left actor Leonardo di Caprio, who’s celebrating his 31st birthday this week .

Brazilian Gisele, recently described by the boss of her own modelling agency as completely vacuous, has a better track record on the environment than her ex. Di Caprio’s claim to fame is that he drives a Prius — not very cool and not particularly green.

Bundchen by contrast has renounced fur, at a time when models like Naomi Campbell are returning to animal skins, and she campaigns for the rainforest in her native country.

True, the accompanying photo makes them look cool and is more flattering than the usual poses at Oscar events, but it shows that in their unguarded moments the couple were about as environmentally friendly as the Governator — walking along with packaging dangling off them — and are those leather shoes?

Camping vs. Kamping

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Sandra Tsing Loh

I had often thought true camping to be a low-impact, environmentally progressive thing, writes Sandra Tsing Loh, that lean-muscled Sierra Club members do, involving tissuey materials like Gore-Tex and Thinsulate, ballerina-like climbing shoes, martial arts-style ponytails, and pitches of difficulty 5.7 and higher.

By contrast, I’d often associated car camping with Kar Kamping, as in Kampgrounds of America, where the wilderness bar is low, of difficulty or perhaps even -12.6. Kar Kamping is pulling the minivan into an oil-spotted parking place next to a rusty fire pit that cradles marshmallow droppings and discarded Bud Light cans, 50 yards away from the humming UFO-like vibrations of a fluorescent-lighted public bathroom. Kar Kamping is a camouflage-toned “fishing chair” whose seat features a built-in beer cooler, a Winnebago tent (bought at Kmart) so big you can stand up and flip hamburgers in it.

Wind Rush

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A series of reports from Reuters news agency tonight highlighted rapid growth in Renewable Energy worldwide.

Timed to coincide with the launch of the 2005 Renewable Energy conference in Beijing (, the reports covered global investment in renewable energy as well as highlighting China’s leading role in wind power and solar panel manufacturing.

Global investment in renewable energy hit a record $30 billion last year, accounting for 20-25 percent of all investment in the power industry, and with solar power the fastest-growing energy technology, a Worldwatch Institute report released on Sunday said.

Welcome to the Future

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Recent Forecasts from the World Future Society for 2006 and beyond

* Urban heat waves will get hotter and last longer. Large urban centers like Chicago and Paris will experience an average of 25% more heat waves a year in the twenty-first century compared with the twentieth, according to the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research. And those heat waves will last, on average, nine days longer.

* Designer plants will be more salt tolerant, reducing strains on freshwater supplies. Agricultural researchers in the United States are studying a range of salt-tolerant, or halophytic, flowers. Commercial species of flowers that can grow in salty environments could reduce costs for the cut-flower industry, preserve freshwater for more critical uses, and improve the efficiency of nurseries.

Biodiesel just keeps on growing

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We’ve carried many stories about biodiesel, from our Daryll Hannah interview to our Josh Tickell interview, but now something big is happening and biodiesel is moving from an obscure fringe product to a massive international movement. Consumers are demanding to run their cars on biodiesel — and their generators and their home heating units.

Over the coming weeks well have full information on how to make, store and use biodiesel in your home and your vehicle. Here’s an article by Andy Smith in Kentucky which sums up the situation in the US right now – and every where else for that matter. Towards the end of the story we have a detailed survey of international biofuel developments as far as they affect the main user of gas – the auto.