Category Archives: politics

Wise words from Thomas Friedman

Thomas Friedman, with whom I have an ongoing love/hate relationship–I unsubscribed from the NYTimes back in 2003 largely because of his seeming lock-step approval of war and the Bush admin–has in the last year gained my deep appreciation for his clarity of thought and insight.  I’m sure he’ll be relieved to know I’m back on board.

Anyhoo, I’ve been telling everyone I can to read and consider this Sunday’s editorial, entitled Vote for ( ).  Individual NYT contributors aren’t allowed to make endorsements for public office, so he sidesteps that…but his preference in this election is transparent and heartening.

More significant to me, though, was this: he makes clear that whoever wins will inherit an economy in shambles, a world deeply divided, and a country that is basically demoralized.  No one person will be able to change the exceptionally difficult times we’re facing–and neither candidate is facing or discussing this reality in the election or debates.

We are all going to have to pay, because this meltdown comes in the context of what has been “perhaps the greatest wealth transfer since the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917,” says Michael Mandelbaum, author of “Democracy’s Good Name.” “It is not a wealth transfer from rich to poor that the Bush administration will be remembered for. It is a wealth transfer from the future to the present.”

Never has one generation spent so much of its children’s wealth in such a short period of time with so little to show for it as in the Bush years.”

He concludes, then, by suggesting we vote based on the leadership and character of the candidate, because the new president will be facing a set of challenges that will require a united country, focused on solutions. What a concept.

First, we need a president who can speak English and deconstruct and navigate complex issues so Americans can make informed choices. We have paid an enormous price for having a president who could not explain and reassure us during this financial meltdown….

Second, we need a president who can energize, inspire and hold the country together during what will be a very stressful recovery. We have to climb out of this financial crisis at a time when the baby boomers are about to retire and going to need their Social Security and eventually Medicare.

Third, we need a president who can rally the world to our side. We cannot get out of this crisis unless China starts consuming more and unless Europe keeps lowering interest rates. Everyone is interconnected, and everyone is still looking to America to lead.

Vote for the candidate you think has the smarts, temperament and inspirational capacity to unify the country and steer our ship through what could be the rockiest shoals our generation has ever known. Your kids will thank you.

Thanks, Mr. Friedman–your clarity is much appreciated.

For Sarah and others

Take a few minutes and watch this short narrated slideshow documenting climate change.  Fortunately it ends on an upnote…if we choose the right paths now.

Days 339-345: MLwC, a Can-Do Attitude and Hope

We democrats are lucky this time around: we’ve got two awesome candidates and I’ll be happy when either one of them wins in November–as I’m certain one of them will. Whoever gets the nod in the run-up, I just hope they have the good sense to step back and let the Repugnicans tear each other apart–I’m also pretty sure that will happen. What goes around comes around.

I’m disappointed that Edwards dropped out. I had my enviro and anti-big-corpo-madness hopes pinned on him, but I wasn’t heart sick to see him leave the race…we have such an excellent choice with Hillary and Barack. Except for one thing…that environment issue. Oh, and the big-corpo-madness issue. I don’t think either of the candidates raises my pulse on those issues and for that, I’m truly hoping for a miracle once they get in office. I’m hoping for some enlightenment, as neither one has a strong track record or seems a strong champion for issues that are big for me. Still and all, as a country, we can only do better, and we have only to put the past eight years where they belong–behind us–and move on in a better direction.

Rosie the Riveter and Hillary Clinton

I’m rooting for Hillary because I think she’s a woman with a can-do attitude. She’s an incredibly hard worker–and like so many women who have had to fight hard to get half the respect they deserve, she’s got some rough edges. I understand that, and I even appreciate that. I understand her demeanor, which at times can be brusk–it doesn’t sway my sense that she has the experience, knowledge and passion to lead us in a direction I wholeheartedly support. I would love Hillary to be a resoundingly successful first woman president of the United States.

But this morning I was thinking about something. I was thinking about how hopeful I was when Bill Clinton was first running for office back in ’92. 15 freaking years ago–I can hardly believe it. Bill Clinton was incredibly hopeful and inspiring and he came from virtually nowhere to win the nomination, and he played music I could relate to, and he was simply the voice of the same section of my generation that wanted a progressive force in the white house after so many dismal years of Bush 1 and Reagan (no, I don’t think Reagan walked on water–I’m from California and witnessed his cold-hearted elitist governing style first hand).

Bill Clinton offered hope that things could be different, and I was swept along with it. All in all I think it was a good presidency, though there are some things I still wish he’d done differently (that’s an understatement). Clinton, both Hillary and Bill, wear the scars of that time.

If Barack gets the nomination, I know he’ll win the presidency, and I’ll help. He’s not my first choice, not even my second choice–but I get the draw. I get the pull of hope, the resonance of a generation chomping at the bit to do things differently, and I hope he’s able to change things, if that’s how the nomination shakes out. More than anything, I’m looking forward to a healing, forward looking president. I remember the allure of hope–it can move mountains.

Daily Stats: Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun
Car: 88 miles (a lot of biz and 14 tasks)
Bike: 0
Ped: 5
Bus: 0

Days 278-281: MLwC and can we stop eating ourselves out of house and home?

Jared Diamond, of Guns, Germs and Steel fame, wrote another book that got its share of acclaim but not nearly the read GSG did, for some reason. The other book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive basically chronicles our species’ historical tendency to consume itself out of house and home, with some notable exceptions which he also chronicles.

Diamond identifies 5 key features that can contribute to a society’s collapse and discusses each in its turn:

  • natural climate changes
  • manmade environmental damage
  • reduced support from neighbors or trading partners
  • hostile neighbors
  • how societies identify and respond to environmental problems

Of real interest to me today, in light of Jakarta’s government sponsored and orchestrated project to plant 79 million (Million!) trees to counteract the deforestation of their small island. Jakarta has the highest rate of deforestation in the world, and may well be–at least for its size–a record breaking carbon producer as it slashes and burns its way to “monetization” and simultaneously drains and harvests some of the largest peat wetlands in the world. The country is possibly in the running for real-time environmental collapse and is–credit where credit is due–trying to do something about it.

That brings me to the title of the blog and point 2 and 5 above. Diamond chronicles how many societies from ancient to modern use the resources around them to survive and reproduce. Inevitably, certain resources cannot be regrown or resupplied as quickly as we can reproduce and therefore the resource drain increases incrementally until the foundation upon which a society is built–based on resource usage–literally collapses. He uses a number of well known examples from long ago, the Anasazi, Easter Island, the Greenland Norse and others. In its simplest terms, the dependence on wood for heating and cooking was a critical mistake: the wood in these areas was slow growth and dependent on a fragile environment. In these cases, it is quite likely that the populations literally ate themselves out of house and home.

Point 5 above is all about situations wherein a population recognizes the danger signs and responds. He has fewer examples of this than he does of the other point which makes for a gloomy read all around, but there are examples: Tikopia in the South Pacific, New Guinea and a forest region in Japan. There are arguably others that are actively trying to stave off the effects of resource depletion all over the world, places like Costa Rica with some successes and still plenty to do, and Kenya (see the awesome Wangari Maathi), and now perhaps…perhaps add Jakarta. Some are calling this tree project a sort of window-dressing on the real problem: the black market for the exotic woods that grow there. Until the market declines or more viable options assert themselves, the slash-and-cash economy will continue to flourish. But let’s take an optimistic view for now…you never know. One small act leads to another and another and another.

Daily Stats (Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu)
Car: 3 miles
Bike: 11 miles
Ped: 3
Bus: 0

A video of Diamond lecturing on this topic can be found here.

Day 260: MLwC, a new group of voters and a bus riders’ union!

Yesterday I posted a comment that lamented our collective and general inability to put large concepts into practice in our daily lives, a large generality that is mostly true, but startlingly untrue sometimes. I read today in the Seattle PI about how the mass transit part of the transportation bill that was voted down Tuesday (Prop 1) would have passed if it hadn’t been bundled with the new roads plan. Very interesting indeed.

It appears there is a new and growing group of voters who do indeed vote based on the large concepts:

But Riehle said he saw a new concern that could have changed Prop 1′s outcome.

“A new group of voters played a decisive role in determining the results,” he said. “We found that there was a group of voters who we would describe as pro-transit defectors.”

This new class was identified by cross tabbing voters who said they would have voted yes to a transit only plan with those who voted no on Proposition 1.

“Of that group that were pro-transit defectors…the single largest reason they gave (for voting no) was environmental impacts like global warming.”

That group of pro-transit defectors represented about 6 percent of all the voters who participated in the Proposition 1 election.

“In an election where the final margin might be around 12 percent, that suggests that in the absence of their concern about global warming this would have been a much closer election than it was.”

And what does that mean for the future of transportation issues in this region? I think it probably means that the Sierra Club and other groups will be invited to the Big Boys’ conversation next time. And that can only be good for everyone.

On another front, there is talk of a Bus Rider’s Union here in Seattle. I’ve seen the mention a couple of times in The Stranger and I’m curious to learn more. To quote one fed up bus rider in his Stranger article:

Rail is one solution. In every city I’ve ever been to—even cities with decent, clean, reliable bus service—riding rail is a more pleasant experience than riding the bus. But we aren’t going to get rail until 2009, and then only to the South End. So in the meantime, what could be done to make the experience of bus riding more pleasant for the 95 percent of riders who don’t stink, aren’t wasted, aren’t selling drugs, aren’t harassing other passengers, and aren’t raving loudly to themselves?

A bus riders’ union, like the ones formed by fed-up citizens in many other cities? More police on buses? A stricter hygiene and drug use policy—one that’s actually enforced, rather than the completely toothless system we have now? More frequent bus service and a kiosk at bus stops telling riders when the next bus will arrive? A faster, perhaps curbside, ticketing system?

Most of the buses I ride are okay, but downtown, the buses can be pretty terrible sometimes.  I think a whole lot could be done if there were a Union that Metro Transit listened to and worked with, you know: actual riders at the table helping to figure out how to build ridership and make bus riding a viable alternative to cars.  I want to investigate this more.  The articles in the Stranger I’ve come across indicate other cities are doing this–stay tuned.

Daily Stats: (thu)
Car: 8
Ped: 1.5
Bike: 0
Bus: 14.5

Day 255-256: MLwC and Prop 1 in Seattle

My neighbors Susan and Tom stopped me in the driveway yesterday asking if I’d read Jay Inslee’s opinion in the Seattle PI from Thursday regarding his endorsement of the hotly contested Prop 1 transportation bill. I like Jay Inslee so I was interested to hear he was supporting this thing, but indicated I’d already voted, and my vote was No.

I read the opinion and we returned to the discussion later in the evening around their always-welcoming kitchen table–good old fashioned grass roots political discussion, you don’t have much of that anymore. So, I announced up front that Inslee’s editorial not only didn’t change my mind, it actually knocked Inslee down a few pegs for me. Why? Let me quote a couple of paragraphs back to back, and we’ll go from there:

Prop. 1 also would improve bus service, create new bike lanes and add HOV lanes — additional means of getting commuters out of single-passenger cars.

Alas, there’s not much explanation of how it would improve any of those things, and those things–bus and bike–are very important to me. So far, I’ve seen “bike lanes” all over the city that amount to a white line separating the main street from the street parking area. If there are no cars parked there, you can use that space as a bike lane. And buses–don’t get me started. Now the corresponding quote:

Second, efforts to move to a carbon-free economy may be advanced as much by revolutionizing automobiles as eliminating all lane building. By the time we fix the U.S. 2 bypass in Monroe, we’ll be able to drive plug-in hybrids that charge in our garage at night, drive 40 miles off that charge, and then run off environmentally friendly biofuel produced in the Evergreen State. We can’t rely on a strategy of doing away with all passenger vehicles, all the time. But it is a realistic strategy to get next generation green cars mass produced and supplemented with mass-transit projects, such as those in Prop. 1.

Excuse me? Prop 1 has nothing to do with revolutionizing automobiles. What’s interesting to me is that this part of his article is very articulate about something that doesn’t exist, while the very real need of improved mass transit barely gets two lines. So Inslee’s article was, well, not convincing. We’ll leave it at that.

Now for Prop 1 itself. Interestingly, Inslee’s article title is “Take Bold Action by Passing Prop 1,” and that where I have to laugh. Bold? Isn’t Bold a code word for lots and lots of money? Bold in this case certainly cannot be referring to more of the same–the bottom line on this Prop. More of the same: more north/south light rail, more HOV lanes to Redmond, more and wider roads….where is the breakout thinking? Where is the vast new plan that suggests proprietary lanes for bikes and buses, for example? Or that closes most roads into downtown like London did? Give me a truly bold plan and I’ll give you my vote, but don’t give me more of the same and ask me to believe it’s going to change anything.

Susan riffed for a while on how myth makes us suffer, and it seems applicable with regard to transportation. The myth is we can buy our way out of our current single-occupancy-car-addiction without having to change or do anything different. That’s the myth. We hold onto it, we invest in it, and the more we invest, the harder it is to change our thinking. The truth is we have to change the way we think and the way we do things. We have to make more room for bikes, buses, rapid transit. We have to actually give up something to get something new. No one wants to propose truly Bold action because the public doesn’t want to have to do anything.

To quote Carless in Seattle once again:

Excess demand for roadways during peak hours is the real problem, to which congestion is the most feasible solution.

And for that reason alone, I’m sticking with my vote for Prop 1. It’s simply not Bold enough.

Daily stats (Fri, Sat)
Car: 0
Bike: 0
Ped: 5
Bus: 16

Days 222-224: MLwC, Thomas Friedman and Vegetarian Cuisine

I’m not a huge fan of Thomas Friedman (by any stretch), but I do think he’s thoughtful and articulate so I read his articles when I have the chance. Last week he had an article entitled Lead, Follow or Move Aside which struck a true note regarding global climate change.

He’s basically bemoaning our current standing in the world with regard to effective action around climate change, a standing he lays squarely at the feet of our dear leader, GWB. To illustrate the possibilities available to us as a nation, he points to WalMart, the current poster child for evolving thought with regard to sustainable energy and practices:

The “Wal-Mart environmental moment” starts with the C.E.O. adopting a green branding strategy as a purely defensive, public relations, marketing move. Then an accident happens — someone in the shipping department takes it seriously and comes up with a new way to package the latest product and saves $100,000. This gets the attention of the C.E.O., who turns to his P.R. adviser and says, “Well, isn’t that interesting? Get me a sustainability expert. Let’s do this some more.”

The company then hires a sustainability officer, and he starts showing how green design, manufacturing and materials can save money in other areas. Then the really smart C.E.O.’s realize they have to become their own C.E.O. — chief energy officer — and they start demanding that energy efficiency become core to everything the company does, from how its employees travel to how its products are manufactured.

Given the same opportunity to wake up and smell the change-in-the-air apparently sails right by the Bush administration about every 15 minutes, the latest example being Bush’s speech before the UN on global climate change last week in which he said, sorry, profits first, future last.

Bush scratching his head confused

Friedman decries the very thing that is so upsetting about Bush’s entire reign:

Too bad. “It was America which put environmentalism on the world’s agenda in the 1970s and ’80s,” recalled Glenn Prickett, a senior vice president for Conservation International. “But since then, somehow, the wealthiest and most powerful country on the planet has gone to the back of the line.”

Leadership is about “follow me” not “after you.” Getting our national climate regulations in order is necessary, but it will not be sufficient to move China. We have to show them what Wal-Mart is showing its competitors — that green is not just right for the world, it is better, more profitable, more healthy, more innovative, more efficient, more successful. If Wal-Mart can lead, and California can lead, why can’t America?

The only thing we’re leading in anymore is hostility and thuggish foreign policy and I would really, really like to see this country do better, wouldn’t you?

And now for something completely different…I was making dinner last night, a medley of runner beans, broccoli, spinach, butter potatoes and brussel sprouts, sauteed in sweet coconut oil, a splash of chili oil and sesame oil, with carmalized sweet onions and garlic and thinking: why can’t restaurants make veggie meals like this? Why do they always have to come up with some dull combination of zucchini and broccoli, heavy on the zucchini, and call it their vegetarian offering, as if we have no taste for really good vegetables and as if we all eat zucchini at home. What’s with the zucchini, anyway? I really resent paying $15 for a dinner that includes zucchini as its main vegetable.

Here’s what I’d like: I’d like restaurants to recognize that vegetarians are as knowledgeable and well traveled in their vegetable preferences as meat eaters. So if you’re going to offer something for vegetarians, make it as exotic, creative, thoughtful, and worthwhile as your carnivore dishes, okay? Otherwise, just bring me a house salad.

In the International District in Seattle, you’ll find the Tamarind Tree, a restaurant with an outstanding vegetarian flair, as well as delights to please the carnies among us. What are your veggie-creative choices for dining out–we could start a revolution by raising the veggie bar at least as high as that steak bar is set at Morton’s.

 

Daily Stats: (Mon, Tue, Wed)
Car: 29 miles
Bike: 0
Ped: approx 3.5
Bus: 0

Day 198 and 199: MLwC and WTF?

Under the heading of WTF? we find this story from Forks, Washington, a fishing town near the Makah Indian Reservation on the Olympic Peninsula. Apparently five guys from the Makah tribe decided it was time to kill a Gray Whale–weather was fine, water was calm, and they were armed to the teeth with the largest rifle on the market. The odds of successfully killing the creature simply could not be better, so who could resist?

My nephew is a resident out there and stood on the shore with a lot of other people watching this scene. He said there were grown men crying to see how the whale suffered the inept and senseless attack. The Coast Guard was slow to respond and ultimately took action seemingly only after the television networks picked up the story.

What’s the matter with us as a species, anyway ? We wait for a migrating population, arm ourselves in order to galvanize the odds in our favor and then call it, what? Shooting fish in a barrel? No. Tribal rights. Part of a cultural prerogative. Call me callous, but I have a feeling the previous generations didn’t use .460 Weatherby Magnums and didn’t let the poor creature struggle and suffer for 10 hours before it drowned and sank to the bottom of the ocean. Subsistance and cultural needs, my ass.

So, that’s it for today. The perpetrators have been handed over to the tribal council for punishment–perhaps jail time and 20K in fines. Whew. Can’t quite rid myself of this event.

Daily Stats (Saturday and Sunday)
Car: 0
Bike: 12 miles
Ped: approx 5 miles
Bus: 0

Day 180-182: MLwC, the Half-Way Point Data Extravahhh-ganza!

It’s the mid-point mark in my year long project to change how I think about getting around! So far, the project is a massive success. But first, a few items:

Neighbor Susan noted yesterday re the amount of waste created on a daily basis while traveling. This being The Travel Month for a lot of people, that observation seems particularly apt:

I had similar feelings on our two-week road trip where the combination of eating on-the-road, the absence of the usual recycling bins and the need to stay contained in a small vehicle meant that we were throwing things into the garbage that at home we would have recycled.

It would be nice if Recycling were a national program, rather than a very uneven local option. I’ve been lots of places where recycling isn’t even available, much less an option. And traveling, where you pretty much don’t have reusable-anything, really surfaces the issue of waste in a palpable way.

Bike considerations.

My pal B2 has put approx 1500 miles on his bike since May. Whoa–nice job, my slim and good lookin friend! I’ve been reading Sightline Institute’s many great articles regarding the environment and the Northwest, and following Alan Durning’s blog Bicycle Neglect–excellent posts. Here’s one entitled Bicycle Shame, a lament and study of the many patently ridiculous stereotypes about bicyclists. To whit: bicyclists are wimps (let me see, I know I’ve been hit on a bike and sent flying through the air, only to get back on my bike as soon as I could…yeah, that’s pretty wimpy) and bicyclists are elitist (Alan suggests cyclists also probably speak French but anyway, that’s so weird, like a BMW is not elitist but a mountain bike is?). Here’s a clip from this excellent blog:

Biking is the least exclusive form of vehicular transportation there is. It’s not restricted to people with money, or people with drivers’ licenses and insurance.

Biking isn’t just cheap for bikers, it’s cheap for the communities in which people bike. Bikeways and bike racks are inexpensive to build and maintain.

Biking is also cheap for nations: they don’t have to import as much oil or defend their access to that oil with billions of dollars and divisions of soldiers. It’s cheap for health-care institutions: they don’t have to treat as many car-crash injuries, as much lung disease, or as many cases of diabetes and others maladies of obesity. It’s cheap for our grandchildren who won’t have to endure as much climate disruption; cheap for polar bears who won’t have to go extinct; cheap for our consciences, our karma, our souls.

Biking, walking or sharing transportation even one day a week does a world of good.

The MLwC project half-way point

And speaking of One Day a Week: when I first started this project, I remember setting small goals of just one day a week without using my car. Then two days, and then after that, walking-biking-bussing-sharing was just more and more part of my thinking. And now? Well, right now, I’m in the midst of this small remodel which requires picking up things like carpet cleaners and finish molding and schlepping around. It’s a drag but there you have it: sometimes you need a car.

Here’s the great thing: it seems weird and irritating to drive. I would never have expected that when I started this project. Back then, driving was the norm. Now it’s not. And I find the whole traffic-parking-gotta-get-somewhere tension pretty aggravating and weird. It’s true: I find biking/bussing/walking to be a preferable method of transport, call me elitist. ;-)

So, without further ado, here are the stats.

The crowd roars

Review round-up from Day 90 :

Car: 535 miles, approx 85% multi-task, multi-occupant
Bike: 176.30 miles, increasing daily mileage from Day 1 to Day 90 (by a lot!)
Hybrid-electro Bus: 60 miles (didn’t utilize the bus until around day 60)

From Day 90 to present:

Car: 301.4 miles, approx 95% shared, with average 3 tasks per outing
Bike: 154.3 miles, a little less than the first round-up
Hybrid-electro Bus: 136 miles–more than double
By foot: 156.5. I didn’t track this previously.

seattle071.jpg

Big changes:

  • Significant reduction in use of my car, which is interesting since during the first 90 days, I was out of the country a lot and couldn’t use my car. So reducing my usage while still being in Seattle is a big improvement.
  • significant increase in bus usage–which I attribute to “learning to love downtown Seattle again.” Meaning: if you don’t have to deal w parking and traffic, Seattle’s a great place to visit!
  • Much more conscious use of walking, jogging, or other foot powered transportation.
  • Weird little decrease in bike usage. Not sure what’s up there.

I believe, for now, I have seriously and successfully changed my habitual transportation thinking.

Daily Stats: (Mon- Wed)
Car: 7 miles (2 tasks)
Bike: 10 miles
Bus: 15 miles
Ped:0

Day 166 & 167: MLwC and NoImpactMan Rules!

NoImpactMan rules. His latest post is purely political, less about personal action and more about our presidential candidates. This post is the first interview with the candidates that asks plain old questions about the environment and where they stand.

The first interview is with John Edwards. I was surprised by how clear Edwards’ answers are, if only because I never hear those answers in the press. I only hear about the stupid war, terrorism, in-fighting, his expensive hair-cuts. It’s refreshing indeed to learn some facts straight from the source:

  • Edwards calls for increasing fuel economy standards to 40 miles per gallon by 2016. That would single-handedly reduce oil demand by 4 million barrels per day. He would invest one billion dollars into making sure that we make the most fuel efficient cars on the planet here in the United States, with union workers. He would invest in new technologies like hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars, ultra-light materials, and hydrogen fuel cells.
  • He flat-out supports a national ban on the construction of all new coal-fired power plants that cannot capture their emissions.
  • And as for what kind of car he drives: “My family drives two cars—a Ford Escape Hybrid that gets a combined 30 miles per gallon, and, for times when we need to transport more people, a Chrysler Pacifica, that gets 19 miles per gallon combined.”

There’s a lot more in the article–go check it out, it’s encouraging. I kind of like Edwards; hope his perspective on the environment doesn’t doom him to oblivion. I look forward to future interviews with other candidates from whom I’ve heard little regarding the environment and global climate change.

Daily Stats: (Tue, Wed)
Car: 4.5 miles (2 tasks, 1 person)
Ped: 3.5 miles
Bike: 0
Bus: approx 14 miles

Day 126: MLwC, more on The Biggest Movement

For those who are interested, Mytechvision sent me a link to another Paul Hawken discussion, the MP3 file of which you can find here. Much longer than the previously mentioned video, and more complete in terms of his entire working theory that he writes about in Blessed Unrest. Some good clarification of the global immunity theory, and clarification on why he calls this a Movement–even though it doesn’t have (as he puts it) a white male charismatic leader in charge of it. It’s a mass movement because large swaths of the global population are experiencing climate change, corporate activity, disease, social change and saying collectively, no, this isn’t right. We are agreeing on that single thing: this isn’t right. And that is what unites us.

One cool thing about this seminar is how you really get a hit of how funny Hawken is, and how huge his thinking is. An amazing fact: he has compiled a list of grass roots organizations around the world that are actively involved in making changes. The list scrolls across the screen and scrolls and scrolls…and he calculates that you would in fact have to watch this list scroll for an entire month, 24 hours a day before you would reach the end. That is a lot of grass roots.

It’s a good seminar where he covers most of the stuff he covers in his book in a very conversational way–but it’s long. I hope you have the chance to listen.

Daily Stats: Wednesday
Car: 0
Bike: 0
Ped: approx 5.5 miles
Bus: approx 15 miles
air: 0

Day 125: MLwC and what some people are doing….

People are truly amazing. I mean, forget the Supreme Court tax-abuse nonsense or its flippant response to endangered species...all of it a real downer, but then I turn my focus back to people who are doing small things to make a difference.

Some examples:

GreenBlog, where business people can find quick, easy and smart ways to aim their companies down a greener path.

The SF Compact, have I mentioned the compact? Yeah, thought so.

CompanyEarth, a blog that covers all kinds of green tips, tricks and news, from travel to politics.

The Green Patrol, in Montreal, is a group of about 80 students that cover the city in the summer months in search of “infractions”–opportunities to change habits: don’t let the car idle, turn out lights during the day, transportation options. They hand out “warning” tickets which are in reality tips for more environmentally conscious choices.

The GreenLifeStyle, in which a girl and her boyfriend journey to a more eco-friendly life.

worldchanging.com, works from a simple premise: that the tools, models and ideas for building a better future lie all around us. These folks cover it all and have input from lots of sources around the world.

NoImpactMan, a superhero, changing his life one day at a time.

Green Technology covers green investing, corporate green initiatives.

enn.com–all kinds of green news and homestyle tips for gardening, homecare, etc.

LiveGreenBlog, full of real, practical knowledge about how to live a greener life–from lawn to leisure and everything in between. This is a great resource.

So, you know, I can’t do much about the Supremes, or the War, or my dumb government–all of which threatened to get me down yesterday–but I chose instead to focus on what I and a lot of other people are doing that’s healthy and good for the planet.

Plant a butterfly or hummingbird attracting flower in your garden your wild garden today.

Daily stats (Tuesday)
Car: 5.2 miles (7 tasks)
Bike: 0
Ped: 2 miles
Bus: 0
Air: 0

Day 124: MLwC, the hundredth monkey and a global immune system

I’m into the second half of Hawken’s book in which he discusses the varied organizations that in hundredth-monkey ways are tackling the many issues of our day: poverty, corporate abuse, pollution, disease, and dozens of other concerns. Through the interconnectedness of the wired world today, these organizations can share best practices, learnings, energy, inspiration and sweat equity to move en masse towards a more equitable, safe, healthy future.

He suggests that these organizations can be seen as the antibody response of our planet to the threatening disease of pollution and environmental degradation. It’s really a cool idea, and it makes sense too: a growing number of us sense the threat we face, understand the very personal toll that pollution and diminishing resources are taking on us, and we are making choices that correspond to the way the body wards off infection and viruses. It’s the Gaia philosophy expanded out even further…and it makes sense to me. We are an organic part of an organic system–as much as we often like to think the real world really is composed of the shiny new products we create. I welcome the idea that a growing majority might be compelled to respond to the potential crisis we face in a naturally evolving fashion–albeit with urgency.

Some examples of the localized antibodies that are collecting at the margins of our global culture (Hawken’s names names in his book, a list that is too lengthy for me to go in to here but I suggest you watch the video for more, if you can’t get the book):

the list goes on and on, and includes very powerful, very well known billionaires , ex-presidents, and celebrities, as well. It is a coalition of every level–from the margins of our society, working like antibodies to fight the many threats to our environment. There are more of us all the time.

Daily Stats (Monday)
Car: 0
Bike: 0
Ped: 3 miles
Bus: 0
internet: all over the place

Ahnold.

Arnold talks like a president

got this vid from livegreen blog and thought: wow, sort of encouraging–to see a politician actually understand that the world expects and wants leadership from the US, not war. Leadership based on positive action.  I haven’t liked Arnold this much since the first Terminator movie.

Day 116 thru 118: MLwC and the way things are interconnected

I’m old enough to remember when the term built-in obsolescence began to gain currency. Apparently, the movement on the part of manufacturers to create goods that would have a shorter, definitive life-span started in the 30′s (I wasn’t around then :-) ) and really became part of our culture in the 60′s (I was around then) and is now so common we rarely think twice before trashing something we bought a week ago, year ago, two years ago, whatever.

There was a time, really, when you bought things and expected them to last. And last a long time.

This built-in obsolescence or planned obsolescence is, in many ways, at the root of our collective carbon footprint now and I find myself thinking about it with relation to My 30 Days of consumer celibacy and how The Compact works, that was mentioned here the other day. The author, Wendee Holtcamp spent 30 days not buying anything new and chronicled the adventure. According to the Compact, the goal is to wean oneself from our consumer addicted society….

What happens in an experiment like this, I imagine, is similar to what has happened in my own experiment with urban transportation: once you break a pattern of behavior, you begin to view everything in relation to that pattern differently.

So, now I’m starting to wonder about this buy-nothing-new project that started in San Francisco by Rachel and others. It’s not some anti-corporation, self-punishing hard-core movement–it’s smart people who understand that the more new stuff we buy, the more landfill we create and the more we put into motion this global supply chain that is at the heart of an unsustainable consumer culture.

When we first bought the house we’re living in now, we had to do a lot of very necessary repairs right off the bat. Some of them involved new wood siding on the house to repair dry-rot, etc., and I remember thinking, “what would it be like to follow the production of this lumber from the forest all the way to our house?” Because it’s not just the lumber yard where you purchase it, it’s the trucks, trains, ships that get the wood from the forest (sustainable or otherwise); it’s the rubber in the tires, the steel in the chassis, the hardhats, the gloves, the dock with its hauling equipment and cranes; it’s the computerized programs that track inventory, the reports, the finance and banking; it’s the plastic ties, the labeling, the marketing and the packaging…it goes on and on.

Marley’s ghost

For some reason, it makes me think of the Marley’s ghost in A Christmas Carol who shows up to haunt Scrooge dragging a long line of chains and money boxes rattling behind him.

Basically, that’s what buy-nothing-new is getting at: recognizing that the mass of stuff we buy new involves a greater participation in this completely unsustainable pitch of manufacturing, marketing, distribution, and sales–unsustainable because it takes resources to create and distribute stuff, but the model doesn’t put stuff back in.

So, the Compact is focused on not introducing more new stuff into the world, borrowing or buying used, and thereby perhaps driving a market demand that items be built better to last longer. That then got me to thinking about Seth Godin’s post commented on here a while ago that he will know we’re actually gaining ground in the environmental movement when cars have LED readers on their bumpers that advertise the mileage–encouraging longevity over new, new, new.

I’m not ready to do the compact quite yet, and when I do, I’ll definitely do a 30 day trial first; but I’m really captured by the thought of reducing the massive global supply chain that goes into our consumerism–making things last longer, repairing, recycling, borrowing, lending. There’s also a wonderful network and community aspect to the Compact that is attractive.

Daily Stats (Friday, Saturday, Sunday)
Car: 8 (2 tasks)
Bike:7 miles
Ped: 3.5 miles
Bus:0
air: 0

PS. I have a confession to make. I’ve gone back and forth and back and forth on whether or not to include other people’s cars in my daily stats. I’ve been incredibly ambivalent about it but have this last week decided: No. This project is about My Car, not all cars. So, I’m really only looking at ways I use my car…and the possibility of living without a “my car” in the future. Thoughts?