Monthly Archives: September 2012

Questions for Candidates



On October 2nd we invited all the candidates for Albany City Council to our Potluck with a Purpose and asked them to address the questions below. Nick Pilch, Todd Abbott, Peter Maass, Sheri Spellwoman and Ulan McKnight accepted our invitation and you can hear the entire evening’s discussion recorded here. (We apologize that you might have to guess at times who is speaking!)

The TRANSITION MOVEMENT began as a community response to climate change, resource depletion and increasing economic instability. We believe in reducing consumption to levels that create an even playing field worldwide and drastically reduce individual and community-wide carbon footprints. It is said humans have at most two years to turn around our production of greenhouse gases and avoid a vicious cycle of increased global warming.

  • Which of your past achievements and/or actions would persuade voters that you are committed to a near-future for Albany that uses far fewer non-renewable resources and emits less greenhouse gases?
  • What plans do you have within your four-year term to strengthen and implement Albany’s Climate Action Plan? Which items do you see as most important or pressing?


The TRANSITION movement believes that it is the people who live in a community and experience its challenges firsthand that can have the insight and genius to come up with the most appropriate solutions. In contrast, previous city councils have spent thousands of dollars, when the budget was already tight, on hiring outside consultants.

  • How do you propose to tap into the genius of the community and also incorporate meaningful community input into the more important decisions you have to make on the community’s behalf?


The TRANSITION movement has the goal of creating resilient communities that produce a significant percentage of their essentials (food, energy, healthcare, housing etc.) locally. In addition, it is notable that local retailers/ suppliers return at least 52% of their revenue to the local economy, compared to just 14% for national chain retailers. (See study)

  • What is your position regarding the environmentally superior alternative for the mixed use development at Monroe and San Pablo that includes a smaller, locally owned grocery store, affordable housing for our seniors, and generates 70% less carbon emissions than the one currently proposed by UC?
  • How will you support local business owners?
  • In what ways will you encourage increased local production of essentials (food, energy, healthcare, housing etc.)?



  • How would you balance doing what the majority of the community wants with what you think is the right thing, if the two don’t coincide?
  • In many cities throughout the world, city councils partner with representatives from their Transition initiative. How would you feel about incorporating a Transition town task force to help address the challenges Albany will be facing in the coming years and create a more resilient community?


Posted in Economy, Energy, Food and Agriculture on September 28, 2012

An Edible City

This summer, a group from Transition Albany and Bay Food Shed worked with City Arborist, Tony Wolcott, to bring the Memorial Park High School Garden back to life. They weeded, cleaned up trash, built new raised beds, filled them with soil and planted beans, cooking greens, lettuces, tomatoes, herbs, carrots, cucumbers, strawberries, blackberries, native thimbleberry and ground cherries, then mulched everything. Around the shadier areas they planted native ferns, ginger and beneficial ornamentals that enrich the soil and attract useful insects.

The city provided locally milled cedar planks for the beds, the soil, and the mulch. The gardeners provided labor and plants from our own starts, plants traded and donated, and a few purchases. Three days a week, they take it in turns to water, clean up accumulated trash and weed the intrepid bermuda grass.

So far, produce has gone to the Albany Senior Center and to Bay Food Shed’s Garden to Table initiative in which local restaurants Cafeina, Tay Tah/Bua Luang, and Elevation 66 receive locally grown produce to add to their menu. As the school year gets underway, we anticipate that several teachers and their students will take on significant aspects of garden care, cultivation and harvesting. However, the gardeners stand ready to support them in whatever ways will most ensure their success.

Tony Wolcott is so pleased with the efforts of the group that he offered an additional, sunnier plot in Memorial Park for community cultivation. The small current team is not able to take on this additional plot themselves, but if there were 3 -4 additional volunteers who could participate in an initiatial intensive two or three work sessions, and then participate on a bi-weekly basis for ongoing care, we could turn another corner of Albany into verdant food production.

Another upcoming project will be to work with Tony on behalf of the Parks and Recreation Department to develop the area east of the retrofitted BART tracks on the Ohlone Greenway as an Albany Public Fruit and Nut Orchard and/or gardens.

To join either or both of these projects, contact Alexa Hauser at alexahhh [at]

This is is the way of the future. There is a group of residents in Todmorden, a market town in northern England, that started converting bare land to food production and now has the entire town council on board donating every available spot! The link has a video they made.


On Sunday October 7 at 2 pm, we are showing a feature-length documentary, Edible City, at Albany Library Edith Stone Room, 1247 Marin Avenue. See flyer here.

“Edible City … tells the stories of extraordinary people who are digging their hands into the dirt, working to transform their communities and doing something truly revolutionary: growing local Good Food Systems that are socially just, environmentally sound, and economically resilient.”

The film covers initiatives all over the Bay Area, including the controversial occupation of the Gill Tract on Earth Day 2012, and was directed and produced by locals Andrew Hasse and Carl Grether. We plan to have a speaker to lead discussion afterwards. You can also watch the entire documentary online here.


Finally, check out our neighbor initiative, Self Sustaining Communities, which, under the leadership of Linda Schneider, has established or helped establish at least three small urban farms in Richmond including a farm close to Albany in the Richmond Annex that sports not only chickens, rabbits, beehives, food production and rainwater harvesting, but also recently installed an entire aquaponics setup.


I’d love to see rooftop gardening taking hold, lawn-to garden initiatives, shared gardening… In fact to can register your desire to build a garden even if you don’t have land or offer your underused plot for someone who is willing to grow food on it at (that’s Yards to Gardens).




Posted in Edible Landscape Project, Food and Agriculture on September 8, 2012

GMOs – learn the truth

We’ve heard a great deal from Monsanto and other supporters of Genetic Engineering (GE) about the safety of this new technology, and how there is no substantive difference between GM (genetically modified) and conventional crops.

Our very own Agricultural Secretary, Tom Vilsack, is well-known as a supporter of Genetic Engineering. As Iowa state governor, he originated the seed pre-emption bill in 2005, effectively blocking local communities from regulating where GE crops would be grown. He was the founder and former chair of the Governor’s Biotechnology Partnership, and was named Governor of the Year by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, an industry lobbying group (Wiki).

The argument goes that we will never be able to meet the demands of the growing human population with conventional agriculture. Others say that we have more than enough food but the problem lies in its distribution.

However, 30 countries around the world, including much of the EU, have banned, or propose to ban, GMO crops. India, a major cotton exporter, recently put a nationwide ban on growing GM cotton after hundreds of thousands of cotton farmers committed suicide.

In the US, the movement to label GMOs (genetically modified organisms) on food products in California is gaining momentum as we approach the election (Proposition 37) and with it comes a spate of new and surprising information.

A brand new documentary, Genetic Roulette, which airs at Albany Library on September 16th and October 14th at 2 pm, gives testimony from health workers and farmers that GM crops are not only less vigorous and less nourishing, but harmful to our health. Meddling with nature doesn’t seem to be working.

The increase in chronic and acute conditions like heart disease, cancer, autism spectrum disorder and others has risen in the US in lockstep with the growing inclusion of products from GM corn, soy, canola and other crops in livestock feed and nearly every processed food available. See here for a list of food ingredients that are likely to be GE.

Watch the film to find out how this is happening and what can be done. Clearly we are sacrificing resilience if we are being weakened by sub-standard food or, worse, ingesting organisms harmful to our health and that of our children, who are the most vulnerable.

The documentary also offers good news – that changing your diet to Certified Organic food or products verified by the Non-GMO Project can reverse ill-health.

You may have heard about the recent Stanford study claiming that there’s not much difference between organic and non-organic food. I’m imagining that as a Transitioner, you will not be surprised to hear that there are several flaws to that study, which are elaborated in the links below. 

Common Dreams:  Frances Moore Lappe: Stanford Scientists Shockingly Reckless On Study Of Organic Food LINK:
Energy Bulletin:  The Devil In The Details LINK:
Natural News:  Scientific Hall Of Shame:  Co-Author Of Stanford Food Study Has Ties To Big Tobacco LINK:
Posted in Food and Agriculture on September 8, 2012