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Posts Tagged ‘conservation’

Yesterday came my monthly credit card bill, in the mail. I know I should switch to online billing, but the power of habits has been stronger than my green conscience. That’s besides the point anyway. No, instead I want to share my surprise when I opened the dreaded envelope. If you are like most Americans, you will know what I mean. What was the four digit number in the ‘Amount to be paid‘ box? Was it a one, or a two, or a three, . . . I knew I had been good, had not been out to shop like I used to. Still the old fear was there, and with it the prospect of maybe having to transfer funds from my savings account into checking. Don’t you hate that feeling? Makes you wonder who is in charge?

The good news is, I got rewarded for my good behavior. With a bill, half of the usual amount. And the satisfaction of feeling in control, again.

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First was this picture in the San Francisco Chronicle, of a ‘Pray-in at San Francisco gas station asks God to lower prices’. I almost choked!

Then came Hillary Clinton and John McCain‘s joint request for a “gas tax holiday“:

Hillary will impose a windfall profits tax on oil companies and use the money to temporarily suspend the 18.4 cent per gallon federal gas tax and the 24.4 cent per gallon diesel tax during the upcoming peak summer driving months.

I understand Hillary is trying really hard to get elected, but still . . .

I have to join Thomas Friedman in his ‘Dumb as we wanna be‘ lament:

The McCain-Clinton proposal is a reminder to me that the biggest energy crisis we have in our country today is the energy to be serious – the energy to do big things in a sustained, focused and intelligent way. We are in the midst of a national political brownout.

At the roots of this environmental policy fiasco is a lack of understanding of some basic economics principles, and malicious efforts on the part of politicians to appeal to the crowds’ dumbness. Maybe someone should take the time to explain, in plain English, why artificially lowering gas prices is not such a good idea. Robert Reich summarized it best:

McCain and HRC are proposing a tax holiday on gas – so this summer you wouldn’t pay the 18 cents a gallon that would otherwise go to Uncle Sam. Talk about dumb ideas. This will only encourage Americans to drive more, thereby increasing demand and causing gas prices to rise even higher. Driving more will also put more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which fuels global warming. And this will cost taxpayers some $10 billion. It’s a cheap political gimmick that does nothing to stem the rising price of oil.

Someone needs to sit down with Americans, and treat them as intelligent people, and explain how things really work. The answer is not in lowering gas prices. The real solution is in conservation, and learning new ways to deal with gas, as in carpooling, driving less, biking, walking, taking public transportation, shopping less, better planning, living more locally, buying more fuel efficient cars, etc.

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Larry Page, Tony Blair, Jimmy Wales, Vinod Khosla, Shai Agassi, Elon Musk, Runt Ramsbottom, William McDonough, and a bunch of other very, very rich, and powerful men recently congregated for a weekend on Richard Branson‘s island. The event was organized in part by the the Climate Group, and aimed to discuss ‘the war against carbon‘. Lots of talks on new technologies, policy, and finances. And none about the human factor and conservation strategies. Have these high-powered folks so pessimistic about themselves and their fellow human beings that they have given up on the idea altogether? After all, Larry Page jet-pooled to the event . . .

I have said it before. Technologies, policy, financing do have an enormous role to play in our war against climate change. No question. However, they should work in tandem with some well thought out conservation strategies, including the financial support of local conservation efforts, and global communication campaigns about desired behavioral changes.

It strikes me that the whole climate change narrative is heavily skewed with patriarchal language. Listen to the words: policy, technology, power, war, . . . The threatened warriors are taking out their big guns.

Maybe the outcome would be different, if women in high places got involved?

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Day 14 of Daily Footprint Project. I was in a hurry, and needed to get some more apples for our fruit basket.

What Happened to the Apples?

I could have gone to the farmers’ market earlier, but did not get a chance. There is this local apple grower who sells all kinds of unusual apples, each week. Too much to do. How come I am always rushing? Instead, I went to Whole Foods, and circled the produce section, in search of the perfect apple. I counted nine kinds of apples. Jonagold. Granny Smith. Honeycrisp. Gala. Braeburn. Pink Lady. Golden Delicious. Red Delicious. Fuji. I knew all of them, and none enthused me. Today, I wanted a real apple, like the ones from my childhood, all weird looking with spots on them, bugs inside sometimes even, not too crunchy, not too soft, and a full bodied sweetness I can’t bear to remember, so good it was. I seriously considered going home without my apples? Again I went around, trying to decide which ones I could settle for. Out of desperation, I picked some boring Golden Delicious, still too green in my opinion. At least, the kids would have apples to munch on.

This week, I have had the privilege to meet with two conservation specialists. Both told me similar stories, about the loss of diversity for some of our most common fruit and vegetables. Apples are at the forefront of a biodiversity war apparently, and a race to keep alive the thousands of varieties still existing. In the introduction to his 2005 report, Kanin Routson, from Northern Arizona University, provides a useful perspective on the magnitude of the problem:

‘The industrialization of agriculture has replaced the subsistence farms and their associated diversity with huge monocultural fields planted in a handful of high yielding crop varieties. Horticultural crops are no exception. In his book, ‘The Nomenclature of the Apple’, W. H. Ragan lists over 14,000 named apple varieties referenced in US literature between 1804 and 1904. Today the apple has been reduced to around 90 commercial varieties, with a handful of varieties, namely Granny Smith, Red Delicious, Gala and Fuji making up about 90% of commercial apple production. In the modern version of Ragan’s work, ‘The Fruit Berry and Nut Inventory’, Kent Whealy lists about 1500 apple varieties that are currently available through US nurseries, many of which have been developed through modern fruit breeding. That suggests as much as a 93% loss in apple variety availability in the U. S. over one to two centuries.’

I am mourning the loss of the apples. Even more so, I grieve the attitude from the general population. Most of my fellow Americans are perfectly happy with two, three at the most, varieties of apples. The red one, the green one, and the yellow one. Preferably well calibrated and shiny, to emulate the newness of industrial objects, straight out of an assembly line. Show them a real apple, and they will not touch it. The newer generations have been conditioned to eat with their eyes, according to an artificial aesthetic, that has nothing to do with the goodness of nature.

Daily Footprint Project
Daily Log
Day #14

Water

personal:
flush toilet 3
wash face 2
brush teeth 2
wash hands 4
showers at pool 2
mom:
rinse dishes
communal:
run full dishwasher

Electricity/gas

personal:
electric toothbrush 2
microwave tea 2’
microwave oatmeal 4’
laptop on half day
mom:
communal:
lights
run full dishwasher

Food

personal:
oatmeal with organic milk
organic persimmons
tea
organic milk
dinner restaurant salad, fish, seafood, coffee, wine
mom:
take out sushi and chicken salad from Whole Foods
organic apples
communal:

Waste

personal:
toilet paper
mom:
communal:
3 newspaper plastic wrappers

Recycling

personal:
mom:
communal:
2 papers
2 milk cartons
plastic bottle sparkling water

Transportation

personal:
drive to pool 6 miles
mom:
communal:
drive to restaurant 5 miles

Non food shopping

personal:
mom:
communal:

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I ran across an interesting article in last Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle. The article, by Arthur Max and Toby Sterling discusses the ways in which happiness differs amongst citizens of different nations, and steps that can be taken towards increasing the overall happiness level on a national level: ‘The tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan long ago dispensed with the notion of Gross National Product as a gauge of well-being. The king decreed that his people would aspire to Gross National Happiness instead.’

This is no joke, and the fact that Bhutan, ranked way higher on the happiness scale than the US – #8 versus #15, deserves further examination. In Bhutan, ‘less than half of the people can read or write, and 90 percent are subsistence farmers. . . Its notion of GNH is based on equitable development, environmental conservation, cultural heritage, and good governance.’ I feel this very much. Some things are amiss in our modern culture, and I am yearning for a change, a new life built on a different value system, that promotes connecting with nature, and others, and reverses the state of alienation I am (we are) increasingly feeling as a result of so called progress and industrialization. Not that I trying to get off the hook. I know I still need to do my share. Good governance, the glue that can solidify and multiply of all our individual actions, is what I am after.

The authors quote Martin Seligman, the University of Pennsylvania psychologist: “Although economic output has risen steeply over the past decades, there has been no rise in life satisfaction during this period, and there has been a substantial increase in depression and distrust”. Not only is our steadily increasing consumption slowly killing the planet, it is also not helping us become any happier. Something is wrong with this picture.

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