The Search for Sustainability : the Straw Bale Revolution

In 1985 I did some consulting work on energy efficiency in housing for pigs (they are as sensitive as we are and get irritable if they are hot or cold). I ran across a couple of articles on straw bale buildings, which my former boss Jon Hammond had been advocating in the 1970s. I had recently learned about the problem of rice straw disposal and this time around it made sense. I wrote the first of many articles on straw bale buildings in 1985 and it was published in 1986 in the international journal Agriculture, Ecosystems, Environment. I also began talking about straw bale buildings and writing articles at every opportunity. I thought it might take 25 years to jump-start the straw bale revolution, but it took less than 10. The permaculture movement played a critical role in the early years as integrated ecological design was just common sense to these film porno pioneers.

In 1989 we held the first straw bale building workshop in Oracle, AZ (not far from the multi-hundred million dollar folly Biosphere II). I wrote the first crude book in 1991 with the help of Bill and Athena Steen and an improved version in 1992 all on newsprint to keep the cost low. Steve MacDonald, Matts Myhrman and Judy Knox were also on the straw bale trail in Arizona and New Mexico and after Matts visited the historic straw bale buildings of Nebraska we all were energized. In 1992 Matts and Judy launched The Last Straw – the journal of straw bale construction, which was their labor of love for many years and has played a pivotal role in the revolution. They also began teaching outstanding workshops around the country. By 1994 when Chelsea Green published our book “The Straw Bale House”, with the added insight of David Eisenberg, the worldwide movement was increasing. This book has now sold almost 100,000 copies and helped people around the world discover the beauty and elegance of straw bale building. David Eisenberg has almost single-handedly taken on the Herculean task of bringing sustainability and alternative building materials into the international building codes. Today there are building codes for straw bale buildings in many cities, states and countries; and there are now 8 major books or publications on straw bale building and a number of good videos. A 1500 xxx square meter straw bale building was recently completed in Australia, and a 1600 square meter winery is under construction near Healdsburg, California. High-rises will follow.

By 1995 I was partly burned out from work on straw bale and had assumed a new position teaching at United States International University (now Alliant International University) where developing a curriculum and program in environmental studies based on problem solving required 70-90 hours week after week. My role in straw bale diminished, but I remain active as time allows. Students at USIU (now AIU) built a straw bale amphitheater and several have worked on straw bale projects.

An history of bad faith perpetuated by the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority

Friday, 11/9/01, my legitimate request for transfer was refused by a bus driver who called dispatch to have an officer end my trip before a roaming Supervisor following up on a dispatch call determined my request was improperly denied and completed my trip in a TARTA patrol unit. A letter to TARTA was necessary because my phone calls were refused. I also chose to carbon and memo the Mayor’s office. Though Mayor Finkbeiner was leaving office he did answer my memo with a November 21, 2001 xxx postmark. As my legitimate transfer requests were denied and TARTA continually refused to address complaints, I called ODOT in Columbus eventually reaching a Mr. David Seech who requested details. Following up on the details and recognizing I had no personal phone, Mr. Seech asked that TARTA’s responses to me be emailed and that Mr. Seech be copied. TARTA refused to email me directly, but Mr. Seech copied their response. Four days later (three months after my complaint) TARTA Superintendent of Transportation John M. Stewart, claimed my correspondence was lost and proceeded to charge me with abusing the transfer policy. After an increasingly apparent coordinated effort to possibly gaslight me (frustrate to distraction by denying service at every opportunity in the absence of witnesses) including passed stops, ignored emails and denied counter service by contact designate Mr. Douglas A. Schubert, I again emailed David Seech 2/19/02. Mr. Seech followed up on TARTA’s complaint line and recommended I call Mr. Schubert directly to discuss concerns. After another service refusal March 6, 2002, I called for Douglas A Schubert March 8, 2002. After yet another service refusal March 13, 2002 I called TARTA three times, then the Mayor’s office and was assisted by Mr. Art Jones to hopefully determine the source of TARTA’s accountability. I decided to write TARTA board president Charles Peyton April 3, 2002 after that day’s additional service refusal. The service refusal of April 25, 2002 was noted in stride. Transit Day (reduced fares) included service aggravation as noted for May 15, 2002. On Wednesday, June 12, 2002, my stop was passed up by a bus driver skipping the stop at Lady of Lourdes (LOL) forcing my hour-long wait for the next bus, followed by more harassment after transferring. I emailed Mr. Seech June 18 to advise him of TARTA’s continuing disservice regarding both bus service and complaint resolution as well as to have him advise me of any other overlooked complaint repositories. I provided a complaint letter to likewise inconvenienced LOL attendees June 19. I do not know if it has been mailed. Also on June 19, 2002 TARTA enjoined a helicopter, seven officers and a sheriff patrol to deny me service. I chose to make that noted incident a public document fully convinced that TARTA’s audacity is likely indicative of prior efforts (possibly successful) to gaslight and even incarcerate its public. I advised Mr. Seech June 20th of this June 19th incident. Mr. Seech’s June 21st response was to my June 18th mailing. To avoid tarnishing Police and Sheriff departments with TARTA’s bad faith charge, I requested incident reports June 24, 2002. My desire was to ascertain the nature and individual origin of the law enforcement request which so distracted our national surveillance at this critical time. The Toledo Police Department legal department informs me no formal incident report was made for my June 19 ordeal, though units were dispatched. I have received no response from Sheriff Telb. Deacon Bob’s letter to Mayor Ford appears here. I provided the letter to Deacon Bob. I do not know if it has been mailed, but I hold a signed copy. An email from Tanya Schmidt (misrepresenting my more recent incidents of TARTA disservice to the point of referencing an inexistent bus stop and worse) appears here as emailed complete with promises for continued disservice. One day after the helicopter was sent, General Manager R.L. Ruddell referenced my detailed and ignored account of TARTA abuse mailed Board Chairman Charles Peyton nine weeks earlier to apparently conclude “with a clear picture of what occurred and how these incidents were handled” that in refusing and misrepresenting every complaint TARTA had “…responded to each of your complaints in an appropriate manner and has adequately answered your concerns.” My July 3, 2002 email to David Seech appears here as copied to Lucas County Administrator Ed Ciecka, Mayor Ford, Toledo Police, and TARTA GM xxx Richard Ruddell among others. The same offending bus driver of June 19th attempted to ostracize me a second time July 4th, 2002.

To date TARTA has timely answered neither letters or email in kind, nor by the person to whom they were originally sent.

I have no personal phone. Author Claude E. Rabb is available through email to fniest@hotmail.com with ‘TARTA’ in the subject line to bypass filter.