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Archive for July, 2008

On our way to Honolulu. Hubby has business there, and the condo needs some TLC. Once a year, I give in and forsake my moratorium on non essential plane trips, to pay a visit. 

Amazed at the speed with which we made it through San Jose Airport. Americans really have it down, in terms of organization, and efficiency. This was especially striking during my last trip to Europe when I got to experience three airports in one day. Pisa, in Italy, was a complete disaster. Our early morning flight to Paris was canceled, and the Italians did not seem to care that we had another plane to catch. Once in Paris CDG, we witnessed a crippled man drag himself on his hands and knees, literally, for lack of a wheel chair. Finally, a passing airport official took pity on him, and tended to the matter. New York JFK was a welcomed relief. People there, seemed to know what to do, no matter what. 

Imagine if the same organizational skills  set was applied to our national resource efficiency challenge. Systems in place to shut down lights and electricity in public buildings and infrastructures, when not needed. More frequent trains, new bus routes, car sharing stations, free bikes in cities. Carbon reducing incentives for utility companies. Food waste management programs. Turning unemployed blue workers into green ones. Electric car national networks. Imagine . . . 

Of course, this presupposes leadership at the top, and the will to commit to new priorities. But one thing is clear, we can do it. 

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For several weeks, the Old Navy bag sat on the hallway table. I had promised Charlotte, I would return her shoes. The prospect of going to a store did not particularly excite me. But it had to be done. Today, I finally went, promising myself it would be quick.

Along the way, a new state of mind overtook me, that turned this simple errand into a long shopping expedition. My summer tops were becoming ragged, and I could use some new ones after all. Came out of Old Navy with a dress and a top. All revved up, I set out to drive home. Could not help but notice the Target sign on my left. In a split second, decided to make a U-turn, and check out what used to be my favorite store. There was no stopping me. Made my way fast through an impressive assortment of cheap, ugly rags, all made in China, and still stiff from various dyes, of doubtful provenance. Until I hit the Converse section. I remembered seeing an ad on TV a few months ago:

Prad called. Wanted to know where I was. I had promised a beet salad with feta cheese for lunch. That would have to wait I told him. Too busy trying out stuff from the Converse company. You can’t be disturbing a woman in the midst of a shopping spree. Three pairs of shoes, and a dress, and a pair of jeans. I had done well. I was on my way to becoming a Star, all for only $163.75. 

I thought I had left my Target addiction behind. Today’s experience proved otherwise. Once an addict, always an addict. The hardest part is giving up an addiction, that keeps being encouraged by our consumerist culture

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Once in a while, I decide to disclose some moments of weakness along my greener path. Yes, I still own a car. Yes, I still drive at times when I could otherwise bike, or take public transportation. Yes, I still buy too much food, too often. Yes, I give into the dryer for small to medium laundry items. Yes, I forget to turn off the power strip, on a regular basis. Yes, I engage into all these reprehensible behaviors, and then report on them, publicly on this blog. 

I have my reasons. I believe there is some redeeming value in being  real, and in writing out loud what others prefer to keep in the privacy of their minds. And to not apologize for it. After all, this is why I started La Marguerite blog, to provide a place for people to be human, not super green heroes. ‘Talk my language, and my struggles, and then, maybe I will listen to you, and change a bit.’ That’s been my stance up to now. 

Readers’ reactions to my environmental shortcomings tend to be on the supportive end. Some feel sorry for me, for being so hard on myself, and beg me instead to appreciate all my progress. Others start sharing stories of their own, and how we are all in this together. Those are music to my eyes, especially the ones vouching for the transformative power of my confessions. Then comes a third category. The hard core greenies, who admonish me for not getting my act together faster. ‘You would bring so much more to the world’, they write, ‘if you just turned 100% green overnight. Get rid of your car, will you?’

Could the greenies be right? I wonder. I have come across many tales of green gods and goddesses. While I find those interesting, I have a hard time relating to so much perfection. And so, I ask you the question. What kind of stories do you find most inspiring? Which ones have caused you to make real changes?

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T. Boone Pickens has generated a lot of press lately, with his plan:

After watching Grist, TreeHugger, World Changing, Huffington Post, Climate Progress, and New York Times, all weigh in, it seems that the old man’s got some things right, and others not:

RIGHT ON: going crazy with wind power.

WRONG: natural gas vehicles

As with Al Gore, my main issue with Pickens‘ plan is the flagrant omission of conservation as a necessary part of the answer. It is one thing to propose some solutions. It is another to suggest an all encompassing plan, when in fact it fails to include a measure as critical as conservation efforts. 

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Just read the following in the Washington Post:

Campaign contributions from oil industry executives to Sen. John McCain rose dramatically in the last half of June, after the senator from Arizona made a high-profile split with environmentalists and reversed his opposition to the federal ban on offshore drilling.

Oil and gas industry executives and employees donated $1.1 million to McCain last month — three-quarters of which came after his June 16 speech calling for an end to the ban — compared with $116,000 in March, $283,000 in April and $208,000 in May.

The American public needs to know. Please pass around, comment, blog, do whatever you can to publicize. 

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Yesterday I gave up on my original idea to take the train and then BART,  to my meeting with the folks from Lucid Design Group. One thing led to the next, and before you know it, I had only one hour left before my appointment. Driving was the only way I could make it on time. To be honest, I was not too keen on this elaborate public transit scheme.  I am ok with just taking the train, but ask me to transfer to another mode, and my interest drops!

Today, no such excuse. I had planned to bike to my hairdresser’s appointment. Several hours working, then swimming, and lounging around reading the paper, once again, I cut it too close. Driving the three miles became the only option, if I wanted to make my 4.15 date at La Belle salon. 

What has happened to my green resolutions? Before I left on vacations, I wrote enthusiastically about my biking escapades. Since I came back two weeks ago, I have fallen off track. Rhythm, interrupted. Old habits, not dead, got the best of me, again. 

More telling than all the green consumers’ surveys, is the reality of my tenuous commitment. Symptomatic of a much broader ill, I believe. While away in France and in Italy, I witnessed the same spectacle: never ending flows of cars covering up the freeways, just like in the US. We the people on planet Earth, have not yet reached the tipping point when our collective consciousness will dictate another way of living. 

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I was so pleased yesterday. Not only was Obama visiting France, my home country, but he also made more exciting declarations regarding his vision of American climate policy:

“The United States is a very powerful country. But, as I said before, an issue like climate change is not one we can solve by ourselves. It’s going to require an international effort.

Not only are we going to have to look at what countries like France and Germany are already doing and making some very difficult choices to deal with their carbon emissions and to make energy more efficient, but we’re also going to have to talk to countries like China and India, and it’s going to be very hard for us to ask them to take seriously these issues if they see that wealthy nations are not taking them seriously.

And that’s an example of where we have to present a common front and a common agenda in order to get all the countries in the nation — all the countries in the world involved in what is going to be an enormous undertaking.

My goal is just to make sure that, whether it’s our European allies, whether it’s Muslim countries, whether it’s our friends in Asia, that people feel as if the United States is taking their interests, their concerns into account, and that we are interested in the prosperity and peace of ordinary people, and not just seeing our foreign policy only through the lens of our own security.” 

Absolutely. It is up to the US to take the lead. No more, ‘we are not making any move, unless you – China, India – go first’. 

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