Met with KoAnn, from Sustainable Life Media for lunch, at local deli. I asked lady at the checkout counter, “Do you have compostable spoons?”. I was met with same blank stare I have encountered before in similar situations. Mainstream America does not know about compostable plastics, and even less so, sustainability. Not that the lady was not open to learning. She seemed fascinated when I explained compostable plastics, and why it mattered. She would ask, she said.
Back home, in preparation for this post, I did some more research on the topic. Googled, compostable plastics, Fake Plastic Fish. And found post from my friend Beth Terry, ‘Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should‘. Of course, I can always count on Beth to set me straight. No easy way out here. The way to go, really, is good old fashioned metal spoons. Only energy required is from dish washing. Most likely the lesser of all evils.
Next time, I go to the deli, I will ask the lady about metal spoons instead.
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Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, has just launched Wikia Green, a project to build a community generated online resource that is home to the best information about green topics and issues. Based on the wiki platform, Wikia Green is an ever-evolving, community-focused repository of content that can be instantly molded or changed by anyone to reflect the most current topics of interest and latest information in the green arena.
“Today we are formally inviting anyone who is interested and knowledgeable about ecological issues to join us in creating something that we hope will become a valuable resource for society,” said Jimmy Wales, Co-founder and Chairman of the board, Wikia, Inc. “As the whole notion of ‘going green’ has exploded, so too has the volume of related information floating around out there on the Internet. It has come to a point where, for the average person looking for tips on how to lead a more sustainable lifestyle, it can be somewhat difficult to know where to start and Wikia Green is looking to be just that place.”
I invite you all to contribute. This is an important collective effort, that should help citizens, with finding the practical green information they need to make informed decisions.
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by Steve Crandall
A decade ago I wrote a letter to the editor for our local paper describing our family approach to holiday giving. It inspired a deluge of mostly negative responses – the most humorous labeling it “unchristian”.
What we do is try to give time rather than money as that levels the playing field for all. We choose 5 others via lottery and have a maximum budget of $100 for the lot. Children under 10 are treated separately like normal kids. It is considered a very “grown up” thing to do this by kids in my family. The drawing is on the 4th of July and I usually start working on projects in August so as to not get too swamped. I aim for 10 hours on each and have finished 3 as of last Sunday. I have a slightly different concept of family than the rest of my family, and have a total of 7 projects this year.
My father is brilliant at this and writes special poetry. He thinks about it all year and violates the rules by choosing some of the people he gives to (by doing more than his 5) .. so my mother is always on his list. My skills are not great, but I make little sketches and build things. The variety of gifts I have received over the years and the thought and love that went into them has been amazing, but that doesn’t match the excitement and joy that comes with giving something that has come from my own hands. And there is an additional bonus: nothing to return the day after Christmas.
What is striking is that this extreme customization of feeling and love is considered out of the mainstream and “crackpot”. We aren’t doing it to save money and probably give more to charities than we would have spent on gifts.
If something this simple is considered radical and “hippy”, I fear that changing consumer patterns is extremely difficult.
Steve Crandall is a gifted scientist with a big heart. We are very fortunate to have him enrich La Marguerite with his frequent comments. You can follow him on his blog.
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From Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.‘s speech at the Democratic National Convention, in Denver, last night:
“The well being of the “We” depends on the well being of the “He” and the “She”.”
How about the other way around also? The well being of the “I” depends on the well being of the “We”. This is especially true for the global environmental crisis facing us.
Lately, I have been giving lots of thoughts to this:
The “I” triangle is inspired from Maslow‘s. I just added a ‘want’ layer on top. This is to account for the fact that much of our Western behaviors are not so much influenced by needs, as by wants.
The “We” circle covers the world’s needs we need to address collectively.
The conventional wisdom states that individual interests are at odds with those global needs. While that may be true to a large extent, let us not forget the space where the “I” and the “We” overlap. This is where I think we should focus our attention. Translating global needs into desired individual behaviors, and see which ones amongst those, can be immediately matched with existing individual wants and needs.
In my next post I will explore what that common space looks like, and what it means for behavioral solutions to climate change and other global sustainability crisis.
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New post on biodiversity, at The Huffington Post: “What the Heck is Biodiversity? And Why Should We Care?”
There is one typo. Can you find it? :)
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Had a good laugh last night, listening to NPR host and his guest, a farmer, having very serious discussion about animal powered farming. It’s not a bad idea, actually, but the choice of words just got to me! I wonder what my grandfather would say:
My grandfather with his horse Topain, at his farm in France
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This morning, ClimateBiz reports on a recent survey by a Seattle P-I journalist on carbon calculators. The reporter tried out ten different calculators, and here are the results:
Not surprising. Last year, I did my own exploration of carbon calculators, and came out equally confused. TerraPass had made it into my list of Top 3 Calculators, along with ZeroFootprint and Nature. Now comes Cool Climate, the new calculator from UC Berkeley, that promises to be better than all its predecessors.
Not only is it hard to figure out which calculator to use, but there is also the accountability problem of carbon offsets, carbon calculators’ close cousins. When I am sitting at home in California, how can I know for sure, that the money I am giving will indeed result in carbon credits? The alleged 20% rate of doubtful credits, as reported by the U.N. Clean Development Mechanism organization, spells out caution.
Last, I have my own reservations about the behavioral consequences of relying too much on carbon offsets. I have said it before, we cannot buy our way out of our predicament. Conservation, efficiency, smarter technology solutions, should always come first, with carbon offsets as the absolute last resort. Recognizing that there are indeed circumstances when one has to fly, as an example, and carbon offsets do have a very legitimate role.
I wonder, what is your experience with carbon calculators? Do you buy carbon offsets? If so, when? How would you improve the current system?
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Posted in Communication Strategies, Solutions, tagged "Code Green", "Fuels from Heaven", "Fuels from Hell", "Green Revolution", "Hot, "Smart Black Box", "subprime nation", "The World is Flat", alternative energy, and Crowded", biodiversity, climate change, Conservation International, Flat, geo-greenism, Heidi Cullen, outgreen, petropolitics, Thomas Friedman, Tom Friedman, Wal-Mart on August 1, 2008 |
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Thomas Friedman‘s upcoming book, ‘Hot, Flat, and Crowded - Why We Need a Green Revolution – And How it Can Renew America‘, ends with a 20 question discussion guide. You need not wait for the book to come out, to start thinking. Here is a summary of Tom’s questions – slightly modified to accommodate for your lack of familiarity with the book:
- How has America’s bunker mentality affected its role as an agent for positive change in the global arena?
- How do you understand the history of energy crisis and high fuel prices, from Carter-era progressivism through the Reagan era and beyond?
- Friedman oulines three trends that capture diverse American attitudes toward energy consumption, climate change, and biodiversity: the “dumb as we wanna be“ approach, found even among the political elite; the “subprime nation“ mentality of borrowing our way to prosperity; and the optimism of innovators who want to do what’s right. Which attitudes prevails in your community?
- Discuss the factors that have shaped the Energy-Climate Era: overcrowding due to population growth and longevity, the flattening of the world due to the rise of personal computers and the Internet, the fall of the Soviet Union, and other developments. How have these factors affected America economically, politically, and otherwise?
- The book makes the distinction between “fuels from hell” and “fuels from heaven”. How is your life fueled by both categories? What would it take to transition completely to “fuels from heaven”?
- In your community, who has the most obvious case of affluenza? How would these groups fare under Chinese capitalism? Do you agree with Friedman‘s prediction that Chinese capitalism will signal the death of the European welfare state? What other repercussions will rising affluence within the Chinese middle class be likely to have?
- Friedman describes his visit to an ultra-green Wal-Mart in McKinney, Texas, and the highly unecological urban sprawl he had to ride through to get there. In what way is this a microcosm of America’s current approach to Code Green?
- Friedman‘s first law of petropolitics states that as the price of oil goes up, the pace of freedom goes down. Why is this so often true? Did this principle apply to prosperity for American oil companies in the early twentieth century? What are the ramifications of Friedman‘s second law of petropolitics, “You cannot be either an effective foreign policy realist or an effective democracy-promoting idealist without also being an effective energy-saving environmentalist”?
- Friedman describes the controversy that ensued when meteorologist Heidi Cullen tried to educate her audience about global warming. What is the best way to inform those who tune out such messages, which they believe are tantamount to “politicizing the wheather”?
- Friedman discusses the importance of biodiversity. Why do the efforts of groups such as Conservation International receive less attention than climate-change studies, though Friedman asserts that they are equally crucial?
- What do you think of the proposal, that “ending poverty” is a key to healing third-world populations, particularly in Africa. What is the best way to balance the need for energy in these regions with the destructive effects of power-supply emissions? What is the best way to overcome the political instability that has stymied the growth of power grids in these locales?
- At the heart of Friedman‘s argument is the notion that market demands drive innovation. What would it take to transform America’s perception so that the Code Green message is seen as a key to prosperity? How has the image of environmentalism changed during your lifetime?
- Friedman decries halfhearted attempts at environmental challenge, comparing them to a party rather than a revolution. At your workplace, in your neighborhood, and within your circle of friends, is it fashionable to go green? Is it taken seriously enough to become a bona fide movement, and then a revolution, where you live?
- What should the role of government be in the face of a looming ecological crisis? How much government control is too much? Could a politician get elected in America by proposing higher fuel taxes and other disincentives for energy consumption?
- Do you agree with Friedman‘s economic principle that, REEFIGDCPEERPC (Renewable Energy Ecosystem for Innovating, Generating, and Deploying Clean Power, Energy Efficiency, Resource Productivity, and Conservation), is less than TTCOBCOG (True Cost of Burning Coal, Oil, and Gas)? How does this apply to your world? Why has America been slow to believe that REEFIGD-CPEERPC is affordable?
- Are any of the ideas described in Friedman‘s “futuristic” scenario (such as the Smart Black Box, smart grids, RESUs instead of cars, and energy costs that vary according to time of day) already in the works in your state?
- Friedman believes that the alternative-energy movement needs an economic bubble, similar to the one that poured staggering amounts of venture capital into the dot-com industry. In your opinion, why hasn’t this happened yet?
- Friedman describes a number of innovators and persuaders who have made significant inroads in improving conservation efforts, including an Indonesian imam, who was persuaded to acknowledge river pollution, New York taxi drivers who now praise hybrid vehicles, and the U.S. military’s determination to “outgreen” the enemy. What do these agents of change have in common? What should green revolutionaries learn from these experiences?
- One of Friedman‘s conclusions is that “it is much more important to change your leaders than your lightbulbs.” How will this play out in upcoming elections at all levels, local, state, and federal? What will the legacy of those elected officials be? How can you help to lead the Code Green revolution?
- How is the world changing? What human impulses (such as materialism, benevolence, ec) are shaping these changes?
That’s a lot to chew on.
Most useful to me, is Friedman‘s imagery. “Fuels from Hell”, “Fuels from Heaven”, is a concept worth propagating. So are “Code Green”, and “Green Revolution”. These are words that can stick in the collective imagination. Let us start weaving them into our conversations.
I also appreciate his view that, “it is much more important to change your leaders than your lightbulbs.” His segmentation of leaders into three groups is particularly helpful and can be used to guide persuasion efforts with the powers in charge.
Last, I need to thank Friedman for reminding us to not forget biodiversity in our conversations. I am taking note.
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Posted in Solutions, tagged Al Gore, Al Gore vs. Pickens, climate change, conservation, electric vehicles, energy dependence, Global warming, natural gas vehicles, Pickens, Pickens' plan, sustainability, wind power on July 28, 2008 |
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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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I was quite surprised after I returned from vacation, and found my vegetable patch, all replenished with new heads of lettuce. Could it be, I asked Prad? Yes, it’s true, you can keep on tearing off leaves and they grow back.
Nature is truly Mother to us. No need to waste our paychecks on industrially grown salads, at the grocery store. Instead, better splurge on a few seeds and help with a bit of water every day. I’ve got my own salad factory in the backyard.
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