Archive for August, 2007

I noticed this new blog on WordPress’s list of its most popular blogs. Looked like a woman’s blog. Might she be a new green girl blogging away, I wondered? Turns out, the girl is just a porn star, who’s also good with coding. If only green was so sexy . . .

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I just picked up the daily mail. A Loehmann’s flyer tempts me with its lure of,

‘tuesday, august 28th ghrough labor day, monday, september 3rd
end-of-season savings . . . extra 25% off
the lowest price on all read sticker items throughout the store!

Just when I placed ‘no more shopping’ on the top of green priorities list.

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The 11th Hour movie is out. Lots of buzz in the press, including a great article in yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle. That’s good, and I also wonder how much more can be accomplished from more great people sharing more great stories, and more images of doom being shown. The article ends on a quote from Leila Conners Peterson, one of the two filmmakers: ‘We live in this kind of bubble of denial, and the consequences are kept from us. I believe when you see the consequences of your behavior, then you adjust your behavior. It’ not about climate change. It’s a human story. It’s about all of us.

While I agree with Conners Peterson, that we live in a bubble of denial, I disagree on her interpretation. Seeing is not believing, and even less so changing behavior. What we are seeing is too removed from our every day experience to make an impression, that is powerful enough to scare us into changing the way we live. That is the biggest part of the problem, in my mind. And I am the first one to attest to it. The link chain between the evidence, and me is just too long. The Arctic is a great metaphor in that respect. What is happening in the Arctic is so far removed from me geographically, that it touches me big time intellectually, but only faintly in my physical core

What I need is a way to experience the problem in a very real way, in my physical surroundings. My hunch is technology may have a role to play there. We are a plugged in society, increasingly relying on the power of the networks. The Web 2.0 revolution may well hold some of the keys to our current predicament, in the same way the industrial revolution got us into it. I am a big believer in the power of technology, bad and good.

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Revisited raw numbers on US greenhouse gases emissions, on the Environmental Protection Agency website. Not an easy task, as the numbers are not aggregated with the average reader in mind. All numbers in million metric tons of CO2 equivalents.

Industrial processes: 2,039 (from producing all the stuff we consume)

Transportation: 2,014, of which 60% is from personal cars, 40% diesel fuels heavy duty vehicles and aircrafts

Commercial: 1,238 (from selling all he stuff we buy)

Residential: 1,248, mostly in heating/cooling, lighting, and cooking

Agriculture: 659, about half from fertilizing crops, the rest in electricity

That’s a hell of a lot of CO2 and other nasty gases we release each year in the air! In the end, nothing I did not know already, but it was important for me to come to my own conclusions and priorities. Also, I figured if I am going to make a few changes, I might as well focus on the biggest villains.

#1. All these things I buy, BAD. I need to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

#2. Got to turn off the electricity around the house whenever possible, and be easy on the thermostat for the heater

#3. Start biking, walk, take the train, and stay away from the car or carpool as much as possible

#4. Buy organic, buy local

I like that it is a short list. Four items, that many I can remember, and it does not feel as overwhelming as some of the other lists I have seen. The most difficult thing for me will be #1, as I love to shop!

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From my friend Christian Forthomme, a gift of lightness, in response to previous post: Swami Beyondananda‘s 2007 State of the Universe Address
Christian’s note: In an emergency we have to remember to emerge-and-see…:-)

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We are all doomed
‘Dont’ bother with trying to save the world, we are all doomed’. Prad called from Honolulu. He had just been talking to his friend Stefan. Stefan Moisyadi, a gene therapy researcher and molecular biologist at University of Hawaii is one of those awesome minds, who truly understand the world of microbs. According to him, ‘the ball has already started rolling down the hill, and cannot be stopped’. I missed half of Prad’s explanation, as I was trying to navigate my cart through the busy aisles at Whole Foods. Still, it sounded alarmist enough, that I started imagining the worst.

What is the tipping point?
Next, I went into crisis resolution mode. Suppose Stefan was right, and we were in a state of immediate world emergency, would I do anything different? A more interesting scenario is, to imagine if we only had a year left to reverse the catastrophic trend. Or two years, three years? The fear would be so great that I would have no choice but act, really do it. I wonder what is the tipping point, the window, at which point, we start forgetting, and living as if we still have the luxury of time? Clearly, that tipping point needs to be brought closer, for global change to truly take place.

The need for clarity
A big issue is our lack of knowledge. We know we are in for trouble, but we do not know yet for sure how soon, and to what extent. There has been a lot of discussions lately about the mathematic models that are being used to predict the outcome. My main take away is all of them fail to take into account factors yet unknown to us. The scientists are constantly discovering new parameters, new catalysts, and new interactions with the potential of altering predictions dramatically. Global warming is still too vague of a threat, both in terms of distance, and time. I need more clarity and definite answers.

The power of No Impact Man
If I we were wiser, we would all behave according to the worst case scenario, just in case. Instead we have chosen to hang on to the tiny thread of possibility that our collective doom is still far away. And we want to believe that small steps, if at all, are all that’s needed at the moment. Intellectually, I know this to be the wrong path. From looking at me, and how I live my life, you would not know that I know. I still take airplanes, I still drive my car, I still shop, I still consume quite a bit of electricity, I still generate more garbage than I really need, . . . There lies the power of No Impact Man.

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Every five minutes I click on Technorati and the stats page on my blog to check on my progress. All my work is starting to pay off, and I love looking at the steady upward climb on my starts chart. I am also getting caught in the trap of wanting even more. More hits, higher ranking. No Impact Man and Marc Andreessen both admitted to similar behaviors in some of their earlier posts. That I am in such respectable company does not make it any better. I am struggling with wanting more, again. This time, it is not material things, but success instead. Deep down, at the bottom, is greed. For now, I will just notice, and let it sit.

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The opening sentence in this week’s Economist article on Drawing lines in melting ice caught my attention. It confirmed something I kind of already knew, ‘the Arctic has been a fashionable destination this summer’. Some members in my extended family went, and so did my friend Luc. Traveling to the Arctic has become the ultimate green chic, more than buying the latest Hybrid, more than building a totally green house. It is something to talk about at parties, and an experience only the very privileged can afford. If I had the money, I would probably consider it, never mind all the emissions from all the flying and buying the polar accoutrements for the trip. It is just so cool!

The same is at work when I go crazy for Target’s latest designer. Everyday, I go to the mailbox, looking for my Dominique Cohen jewelry shipment. It’s called fashion, and it is very, very powerful. Fashion has the amazing ability to change people’s perceptions and behaviors overnight. I remember as a child growing up, being so embarrassed by my parents’ lifestyle choices for our family. In the small town where we lived, we were the only vegetarians. How much I resented not being like the other meat eating kids in my school! I thought my father was a freak for having such unorthodox ideas. Years later, in California where I live, being a vegetarian is a statement of ultimate green coolness, and one of the ways that teenagers choose to affirm their independence.

I think about the lifestyle choices I need to make to become a truly green girl, the three R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – , the small acts in the privacy of my home, the not shopping bit, the driving less, the changing the light bulbs to CFB’s, . . . I think of all those things, and what strikes me is how unglamorous, how invisible they all are. Not to minimize No Impact Man‘s feat, my sense is it would probably be a lot harder, if not impossible, for him and his family to deliver on their promise, if they did not benefit from all the attention from the blogosphere, the movie in the making, and the book to come. For the commoner that I am, there are none of these immediate external rewards, only the satisfaction of a guilt-free green conscience. And that is not enough.

The challenge I see, is how to turn fashion on its head, and use it to our advantage? There can only be one No Impact Man. How can we each capture a bit of that same green glory, and claim it as our own?

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In search of other blogs to comment on, I browsed through Technorati’s list of most recent posts in the Al Gore Global Warming category. Interesting, how many of the posts with the highest authority are messages from the conservative right, in support of the ‘global warming is a hoax’ theory. These guys really know how to get their message across . . . Scary!!!

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Comment I made on David Sirota’s post today in the Huffington Post, on What Is Hypocrisy & What Kind of “Hypocrisy” Should We Worry About?

‘I have two things to say about hypocrisy and people in the public light:

1) From a purely practical standpoint, isn’t the net impact of the person the most important factor ? Going back to the Al Gore example, the amount of collective good generated by Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth campaign is so tremendous, that even if the inconsistencies in his personal life were true, it would not really matter in the big picture.

2) From a morality and ethical standpoint, one could argue the importance of walking the talk, as it makes the talk even stronger. That is true. It also does not take into account the complexity of human nature. This is one of the reason I started my blog. To explore the inconsistencies and hypocrisies in my life as a Green Girl Wannabe. These do not make me a bad person. They only highlight my imperfection as a human being, and the difficulties of translating thoughts into personal action.’

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