Ken Ward

Ken Ward is a climate campaigner and carpenter whose work can be see here.

Heating the JP Green House with a hairdryer

The amazing promise and many challenges of passivhaus construction

I’m in decent shape for 52, but it took everything I had to carry a hefty piece of welded steel plate out of the backyard — and I didn’t place it any too gently on the curb when I got it there. So I was impressed when John from Blue Scrap & Recycling casually flipped the hunk of metal into his truck without apparent effort. John suggested we ought to give him a call when we have more demo work. “We’re used to moving heavy stuff around,” he said. “Plaster and wood, that’s kid’s stuff.” Even so, it took John …

More climate strategy innovation from outside the envelope

MoveOn’s Masterful Move

Most every major advance in civic climate action has originated outside the envelope of U.S. climate politics as practiced by major environmental organizations and funders. The problem was first identified by Jim Hansen and other climate scientists, first brought to wide attention by journalists Bill McKibben and Ross Gelbspan, and popularized by New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert, who relied on their work. When identification of a menacingly global threat failed to prompt a vigorous US response, it was Gelbspan who put a finger on the political and cognitive roadblocks and sketched a global solution of appropriate scale. McKibben and the …

Is there no organization proud to be environmentalist?

Sotomayor endorsement is an embarrassment

If there was ever a time when the U.S. Supreme Court requires a passionate, articulate and unabashed voice for the environment — another William O. Douglas — that time is now. Should Waxman-Markey die in the Senate and the EPA be forced to regulate carbon emissions, the matter will likely land before the Justices and there are any number of other eco-catastrophes being handled as matters of law on which we desperately require the very best advocate the President can appoint. If in the history of the environmental movement there was ever a call for bold, unequivocal and urgent leadership, …

Hippies Cast a Long Shadow

Treasure hunting during building demo

Hippies on the Boston CommonPhoto: Nick DeWolfeOne of the joys of demolition (in addition to anger management) is the hunt for treasure. When pulling apart old walls and closets you just can’t help dreaming about unearthing a cache of old coins or silverware (I’ve found both). Mostly pickings have been slim at the JP Green House — a few fragments of broken china, some old bottles, and a rusty pair of pliers — but under floorboards in the basement we uncovered a trove of newspapers from 1968, the Summer of Love. My favorite is the May 26, 1968, Boston Globe …

problems with assuming a ladder

The Carbon Logic Problem Statement

An acclaimed mountaineer, a Baptist minister and a distinguished economist were stuck in a pit. The mountain climber said, “Stand back boys, I’ll have us out in a jiffy,” but the walls of the pit were loose shale and she couldn’t gain purchase. Then the minster raised his arms high and in a deep sonorous voice called for deliverance but after an hour of prayer he too admitted defeat. Finally, the economist stood, brushed dirt of a shabby Harris tweed jacket and said, “This is easy. First, assume a ladder.” Environmentalists are trying to get out of a deep pit …

Showing the Flag

Fourth of July musings on symbols, patriotism, and identity

Sketches of ideas for the JP Green House exterior all include banners, signs, and flags at our request. This reflects our plan to unearth the former corner store that used to be housed in the “flatiron” triangular building. It’s also a means of advertising our demonstration project and a good fit with our civic purpose, to serve as a community center and climate campaigning “hub” for 350.org. The kids will enjoy making their own banners as well — indeed, their after-camp project today is to design a poster for the JP Green House Kids’ $5 Lemonade Stand & Mini-Toboggan Run/Water …

(even though it’s the best we can hope for from Congress)

9 damned good reasons why some U.S. environmentalists should heartily oppose Waxman-Markey

Too bad we live in interesting times, it requires much more work. I just read a comment from Randy Cunningham, who said he was torn between supporting Waxman-Markey, based on appeals to his brain, and opposing it, based on what he feels in his heart. I empathize with the feeling of being torn between two less-the-ideal choices, but I think that Randy’s got his organs mixed up. Reflexive anti-corporatist/leftists aside, it seems to me that the only basis on which Waxman-Markey ought to be opposed is sharply reasoned, while a hefty part of supporting Waxman-Markey — the best we can …

Behind the numbers

350 vs. 450: The heart of the matter

There has never been a civic dispute as precisely quantified as climate. Most U.S. environmental organizations endorse the Waxman-Markey climate bill with the stated goal of keeping atmospheric greenhouse gases below 450 parts per million. The conservative position enunciated by Jim Hansen, advanced by Bill McKibben and 350.org, and endorsed by a handful of climate advocates (none of them mainstream environmental organizations) is defined as an immediate return below 300-350 ppm. The two numbers are not staging points on a gradual curve of escalating climate impacts, a fact that does not seem to be acknowledged in the present debate. Each …

Love in a time of cataclysm

Fighting climate chaos with a hammer and a heart

The intro question for the first gathering of 350.org activists in Massachusetts early this month was, “How do you feel, personally, about climate change?” Having worked on the agenda, I should have been prepared — but it still stumped me. When I spoke, it was a distillation of five years of hard thinking and writing; truthful, but packaged. We are offered, I said, but two choices: blind optimism of the sort that Waxman-Markey cheerleaders purvey, or deep despair, the feeling one gets from most climate scientists. I prefer, I said, a resolute hope that comes only in accepting reality — …

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