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Therapy on the Titanic

A recent Facebook exchange was striking. Someone posted a Washington Post article on the latest climate science. It predicted a temperature rise of 8 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century if no systemic changes are made to reduce our carbon output. The better case scenario -- in which world governments implement their current promises to cut emissions -- would keep the warming to only 6 degrees. Another person responded, "This is so heartbreaking I don't know how I can hold it." An increasing number of people note with horror the destruction caused by the current level of carbon …

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The fight to save childhood

Boys will be boys ... online or off.School started this week. We have two fourth-graders and a second-grader. Ken has the misfortune to be driving a carpool that involves four boys and two schools and takes about an hour round-trip. I am biking to work every day now, because we’re cutting back to just the one beat-up station wagon for transportation. Today I was almost hit by a Hummer. New school year, new shoes, old lunchboxes, and a new household rule that we're all wrestling with: No internet access except Saturday mornings. One of our children -- and I think …

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Blood, sweat, and vision: The JP Green House in its ugly duckling phase

Innovation in progress. Excuse our dust. For more images from the JP Green House, visit Leise Jones Photography.I was bringing two new friends down the street for a tour of the JP Green House last week. "Now prepare yourselves," I warned, as I always do, "it's not bright shiny green yet. You'll need to use your imagination." We rounded the corner and there it was: A hulking, gray house with a strange triangular shape on a prominent streetcorner.  Gray shingles were falling off the exterior. Plastic tarps covered the gaping window-openings. In the garden, the grass grew tall around the …

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Puppies and bunnies and carnivorous eco-curmudgeons

Carl M via flickrThose of you following our last post (Should Kuba Have a Puppy?) can see that both votes and comments on this question are running 9 to 1 in favor of the gratification of pet ownership. This is even though eco-curmudgeon Ken has made the point, with hard statistics, that keeping domestic animals essentially ensures the death of wild creatures that we would all heartily agree to preserve (indirectly, through habitat loss and overuse of resources). So what? Well, the JP Green House is meant to be a demonstration project. We aim to build a zero-carbon house on …

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Love in a time of cataclysm

Wanted: Experienced couples therapist, preferably also with degrees in theology and law, for fractious, passionate pair riddled with apocalyptic anxiety, burdened with love for their children (all of them), acutely conscious of the finitude of time and resources, and fearful that the world has gone mad. Must take insurance. Everyone told us that building a house could wreck a relationship. And we knew it was true. The rehab of a beautiful old house in Hull had been one of the final blows to Ken's marriage. I spent part of my childhood living in one room with my family of five, …

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You and me and a billion tiny spores

The older man with the Coke-bottle lenses at the Boston GreenFest had a simple table -- just a poster with a few pictures taped to it, and a sprig of something green. He looked grim and earnest, and although all the other booths were more alluring, full of enticing pamphlets about new green nonprofits, I went over to talk to him. "Hey, I know that plant!" I said, picking up the sprig. Lush looks can be deceiving.It's a dark green vine, with pods that look like small reddish peppers. A variety of Swallow-wort (Vincetoxicum), brought in as an ornamental plant …

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Getting to know the neighborhood — through its trash

Left behind.coldcolours via flickrIt's Sunday on Bourne Street. I am weeding at the JP Green House, furious at the reappearance of the Dog Strangling Vine that we battled hard last summer. A pernicious creeping vine, it takes over any neglected area around here: East Coast kudzu. An abandoned house is not really vacant, but inhabited by slow destructive forces like rot and weeds. I tackle a few shoots and then, discouraged, turn to watering the melon and pumpkin patch, newly planted two weeks ago. Ken zips by, testing the bikes that he's tuning up after the winter. The young African …

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How we found 133 Bourne St., and how we almost lost it

In May of 2008, the property at 133 Bourne St., Boston, Massachusetts was purchased from HBHC Bank by myself and Ken Ward. Ninety-nine years old at the time, it had long served the neighborhoods of Jamaica Plain and Roslindale as both a corner store and a family dwelling. At the time of purchase, the house had been abandoned, foreclosed, and uninhabited for four years. It would require an almost total rehab, but seemed to hold immense potential, with space aplenty for a blended family of three young boys, a large central area at the front of the house that called …

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