Category Archives: connections

52 WoLP #26: a Green Partnership

Well, glory be! another week totally got away from me. Such is life in the summer when being online gets demoted in favor of a zillion outdoor things.
Still, something came across the reader-board this week, before the bombs-bursting-in-air re-enactment took place in Lincoln Park and elsewhere: Green Seattle Partnership.

What they do is interesting, and involves a lot of our urban population that might not otherwise have an opportunity to interact with or basically give a second thought to our urban forests, such as Lincoln Park. Part of their purpose goes like this:

Now many of those big trees are nearing the end of their natural life, and the ivy – like a disease taking advantage of a frail, elderly individual – may speed the decline. The ivy is an invasive plant and over time it will kill the tree. It robs the tree of nutrients and creates the “sail” effect – high winds in the winter months can be caught by the ivy, helping to pull the tree over.

20130707-153402.jpg

To accomplish this humongous task, Green Seattle counts on lots of our help. Alas, sometimes that help is a little clumsier than nesting birds and other creatures might want, but the end goal of replacing an aging canopy with new life is pretty awesome. In LP, they’ve planted what could amount to a new generation of someday-mighty-trees. Involving our very urban population in the endeavor has many benefits down the road. All in all, Green Seattle is something to crow about.

52 WoLP is a year long contemplation of one of the loveliest city parks in the world, Lincoln Park in beautiful West Seattle.

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Take the time: Nick Werle on Free Markets and Nature

We tell ourselves stories, and sometimes we can see with frightening clarity the impact of those stories on our behavior.

A recent essay in 3 Quarks Daily by Nick Werle (Competing to Live: On Planet Earth and Being in Nature) takes a careful but wide ranging look at the many stories we tell ourselves about Nature.  He looks at David Attenborough’s Planet Earth series and the focus on the delicate balance in nature…and its requirements.  He looks at Darwin’s story in The Origin and sees similar threads regarding competition and the urge to survive. They both have a keen interest in understanding the mechanism of competition.

“In the rain forest, which we have seen has both high productivity and unceasing conflict, ‘competition for resources ensures that no one species dominates the jungle.’”

David Attenborough, Planet Earth

All of Nature is Regulated and Interconnected…and we are part of Nature

At the end he raises the obvious question of how we humans, the closest relative to the marauding gangs of chimpanzees that are depicted wrecking havoc in the jungle, care or alternately don’t seem to care about our place in the balance of nature.  Deregulationism has at its core a willful faith that the market will balance out all transgressions, that it is a marvelous–nay, Magic–self-regulating machine that is well within the bounds of Nature itself. It is a faith that ignores the obvious issue of interconnectedness.  Witness the global concern over Japan’s under-regulated, under-managed, growth focused nuclear program in the last month.  Earthquakes and tsunamis are natural disasters; nuclear meltdowns as a result of deregulation are not, and no market forces  can adjust the damage done.

As we have seen with increasing regularity, our wave of deregulation–from bubble to bust, from drilling and chemicals to “clean-ups,” implosions,  and overpopulation, we are not living in balance with the planet we call home.

We have managed to upset the balance of so many systems that it seems to me we are now living well outside of nature.  Plastic may well be the iconic metaphor for all we have become. The story we tell ourselves, and what we are actually doing, are not concordant, even as they could be.  Attenborough makes an argument that yes, we are part of Nature, and our particular playing field is uniquely human, but is nonetheless part of the large balance we would do well to have an interest in. The point Attendborough makes is more subtle than those put forth by deregulationists:

It positions humanity not as an alien force superimposed on an independently existing natural world but as a part of the same precariously balance system. The argument is so affective because it refuses to plead. Instead it suggests that we reconsider the boundaries we draw between systems we hope to keep in balance.

Instead of defining the jungle as the wild and unthinkable state of nature, this naturalist approach seeks to fuse man’s understanding of himself with the complexities of Nature in order to ensure that Planet Earth never becomes a stunning monument to irrecoverable beauty.



Days 360-365: MLwC hits the Year End Mark

 So, I thought in honor of the project that has changed the way I think about driving–this grew-up-in-Southern-California-you’ll -take-my-car-from-my-cold-dead-hands girl–I thought I’d review some of the high points along the way.

bianchi bike

First, recollection of the project’s goal as I’ve stated it on the blog:

MLwC stands for My Life w Car, a year long project to think differently about alternate transportation options and related issues…like, jeez, I never knew how angry driving made me until I stopped. Nowdays, I mix it up: bike, bus, ped, and yes, I still drive…though nowhere near as much as I used to. I may ditch my car at the end of the year–I like to think it’s possible. But I’m spending the year figuring that question out. For now, it’s enough that I’ve changed my habits in a big way.

For the big question, will I ditch my car? No, it became clear about midway that it made no sense to ditch a perfectly good, fully paid for car that works fine and is not sooo old that it’s a polluting disaster. Flexcar is good if you don’t have a car. But I’ve managed to completely change my transportation habits to include bike, bus, walking, ride sharing in my normal activities, and drastically reduce my car use period. Good enough.

sr520.jpg

And now for some of the high points along the year where I had some clear and habit changing insights. Here are the posts I would send the interested reader to:

Day 95: Walking! The subject of walking instead of driving brought up a lot of feelings for readers and myself. Walking takes longer, but the calm and enjoyment one gets from it really resonated with people. I started walking more and found I loved the parenthetical space it created–when you’re walking, you’re just walking. Looking around, hearing birds, being part of your town–and slowing things down a lot. Maybe some can’t imagine slowing things down and to them I just say: too bad, your loss. You should try it, you might like it.

Day 99: I really started to understand how things would change if I changed my habitual approach to transportation. Also, I found that discussing the project with others opened up a lot of questions and interest with my circle of friends. I didn’t expect the kind of interest the MLwC project engendered.

Day 116-118: In the process of removing habitual driving from my life, I became aware of the connection between driving and CONSUMING! You get in the car and you go…to get stuff. The two–the need for stuff and the trek to get the stuff–are so intertwined it takes a real effort to untangle them. This realization led me to discover the San Francisco Compact–a group that is dedicated to not buying anything for a year. Amazing.

seattle071.jpg

Day 160: Continuing on the issue of consuming, I truly get it! Moving quickly, hopping in the car, is the quickest route to impulse buying possible. Making things easy is truly making things a lot worse in the whole big picture. Fast food, fast cars, fast this and fast that–I’m just not sure we’ve got the right goals in mind. I know this perspective makes me a bad capitalist, but hey.

Day 191-194: I’m starting to really understand how things have changed from the 50’s to now. Unbridled populations growth as a machine for consuming and using every resource that’s not nailed down. No wait, we’ll use the ones that are nailed down, too.

station wagon promo pic

Days 213-214: Considerations about the older car, the urge to have something new, new, new! And plus, I just love the title of the post: The discreet charm of the older car.

Days 218-221: this is an important post, one of those posts where I really get an insight into my mind. Bill McKibbon hits the nail on the head when he points out that more has not made us happier, it’s just made us anxious for More. And that mirrors my experience with driving precisely. And my driving is inextricably linked to my consuming.

Day 233-237: The Puget Sound region rejects a proposal to build more roads! This is a watershed moment in more than one way!

urbanforest.jpg

Days 273-277: I took my car on a road trip, a rare experience. How rare? Well, I was completely unaware how expensive gas was, and I had a rude awakening that cars actually need oil now and then.

Days 241-243: One of my most favorite posts of all. This chronicles a trip I made to a day long meditation…and how crazy I made myself trying to get there on time in a traffic jam. I learned well the concept of “No Escape.” And I’ve thought of it often since this day. There a follow-up of this post here. This period was a real turning point in understanding the habit of driving, the real deep down problem of it.

Days 287-290: a plea to change your life and change the world. We can all make a difference. We must all make a difference.

Days 332-338: a video about the Story of Stuff. I just want to call this out because it’s excellent and Annie Leonard deserves traffic!

So this year comes to a close. I know not many folks will want to read all the stuff I’ve chronicled over the course of this year, but the upshot is: I’ve learned how to live differently. I’ve learned that I can learn to live differently.

The crowd roars

And because of this, my next target has already been selected: plastic bags and plastic containers. I’ll begin this project soon and have a killer kick-off post planned. Of course, the new post series title? MLwP.

Daily Stats: (Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri)
Car: 63 miles
Bike:5.0
Ped: 5.5 miles
Bus:

Day 353-359: MLwC and Just Days Away From My One Year End Date!

I’ve been racing around so much lately that I haven’t been able to post much, but I’ve got a lot on my mind–lack of posts doesn’t equal lack of thoughts.

First, this project over in Poulsbo is still keeping me tied to my car in a way I thought I’d gotten away from. But I do understand that the use of my car to get to work doesn’t really mean I should change any of the other rules and parameters I set in place over the course of a year:

  1. Combine as many tasks into a trip as possible; keep task oriented trips to a minimum
  2. Use bike, bus or ped as much as possible to do tasks or meet people
  3. Plan time accordingly (that’s where I’m running into problems now)
  4. Keep car usage limited to must-use or special use whenever possible
  5. Enjoy a calmer state of mind by avoiding traffic and the need-for-speed automatic thinking that happens “behind the wheel.”

I felt last week a familiar sensation that I’ve associated with quitting any addictive habit. It goes like this: I’m driving more than I want to and because of that, I should just give up and drive all the time.

I know that sounds inane. I know. But tell the truth: have you not told yourself the same thing about habits you’re trying to change before? For example, say you’re trying to quit eating so many sweets. And so you set a rule–no more sweets. The next day you go to work and it’s someone’s birthday or it’s a holiday or something special, and there are sweets. You don’t want to be rude so you have some…

let them eat cake

Ughh. And then later, you just go, oh hell, now that I’ve had a small piece of cake, I should just forget about trying to not eat sweets and Bam! you’re back in the habit.

But it doesn’t have to work like that. You can flex, you can begin again, you can stay on course for the longer haul. And that’s what I’m trying to do now. Not giving up on the usual things like tasks and such, and in that way, I create space around the issue of my current commute. Without space, I can’t think creatively.

Next week: a review of turning point moments in my year long project.

Daily Stats:
Car: 82 miles (about 10 tasks, thank goodness)
Bike: 5.5 miles
Ped: approx 3 miles
Bus: zero: I’m missing the bus!!

Days 308-313: MLwC and random New Year Thoughts

It’s going to be a very good year. I got a new squirrel feeder for Christmas from my nephew’s kids who are smitten with our resident squirrels, all of whom are named (of course) Sandy. The new feeder is the one they use in some state parks, and is pretty cool, looks like this:

Squirrel Feeder

Ours is rougher than this, but the same idea. So far, the stellar jays have made it their own because Sandy is accustomed to coming to the door for direct hand-outs, but they’ll find it soon enough.

A friend of mine in Sandpoint, ID, where we spent some lovely days this week snowshoeing, eating well and playing, was wondering what kind of bird feeder she could get that would keep squirrels and other varmints out, and after years of experimentation, I suggested the one we’ve currently got which is the only one that not only feeds our target audience of finches, chickadees, juncos, and others, but keeps the local ring tail doves from chowing down every last shred of food, and the jays and the flickers and others. They get the scattered seed on the ground as well as other treats, but will clean out your store of small bird feed quick as you can say Yipes. This feeder is called a Squirrel Buster and you can

It looks like this:

Squirrel buster bird feeder

So why should anyone care about this, other than because having song birds around is a pleasant thing? Especially in urban settings, habitat loss is a real threat and food sources become key–not just to resident bird populations but to migratory birds as well. Most of us don’t consider that our homes may be part of a larger migratory pattern and some species may actually come to rely on food we supply to get where they’re going. I know the Wilson’s Warblers and Varied Thrushes come through our yard at specific times every year, on their way somewhere…who knows where, but they show up like clock work. At our house, we’ve participated in a number of backyard and neighborhood bird counts that help larger organizations like Cornell Ornithology Labs and Nature Conservancy track movements of populations through urban areas.

“The greatest threat to songbird populations is habitat loss and fragmentation in their wintering and breeding grounds, and along their migratory routes. Birds must find rest areas with an adequate food and water supply to enable them to continue their journey. Conservationists are placing greater importance on these stopover points hoping to reverse the trend of songbird decline. “

So, making a sweet spot in your own backyard could have untold positive benefits for bird populations that you might not even realize! It all counts, and anyway, the heralding sound of song birds in late February is a treat not to be missed.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Daily Stats: (Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon, Tue)
Car: 8.5 (three tasks)
Bike: 0
Ped: approx 10 miles
Bus: 0

Days 267 & 268: MLwC and Good Carma

Pal Brian sent me a a link to a new site that’s getting some buzz. It’s Carma–Carbon Monitoring for Action, and it maps and rates carbon footprints of power plants and power companies by region and country, all over the world. It’s a deep site, with lots of drill down options so when you poke around, be sure to toy with the many options for viewing stats and facts.

Carma–Carbon Monitoring Map of the World

A world view shows Asia as producing the biggest carbon footprint in the world, in terms of power production, which isn’t surprising I guess when you consider the population density.

Closer to home, the midwest and east coast of the United States has the biggest carbon footprint. And even closer to home, the Seattle area has a tidy little zero for carbon footprint. However, if you dig even deeper into the stats, you’ll find very specific information on power plants within the zone. For example, if you look below, you’ll see that most of the plants in the Seattle area are green or at least yellow, but interestingly, our own University of Washington is red, meaning they have a significant carbon footprint:

Carma–Carbon Monitoring Map of the World

Another really great aspect of the site is its social network–it automatically picks up conversations and news stories through RSS and posts them on the site, but it also has engaged a LOT of conversation on the site itself, with everything from scholarly inquiry and feedback, to more pedestrian interest.

The site is very new and will undoubtedly be changing constantly as it has the resources to grow and evolve, in response to demands and questions. A cool thing about the project is its focus on actionable information. It’s a resource for change (nudge to the University of Washington Enviro-watchers…)

Daily Stats (Thu, Fri)
Car: 5.5
Bike: 0
Ped: 4
Bus: 15

Days 258-259: MLwC and Roads, Revisited, Rejected, Reviled

Thanks to Carless in Seattle for surfacing the above vid, a commercial which actually made the hair on my neck tingle with anxiety.

I’ve posted a couple of times about Prop 1/RTID referendum here in Washington; of course we had the election yesterday and it looks like the proposal is going down in defeat, if not flames.

I’ve been watching the comments on the news articles in the local papers and thought several of them were worthy of repeating here, as I think sometimes we underestimate our citizenry and they’re ability to rationally think through an issue. Of course there are lots of posts that do not represent the most rational approach, but hey. You can’t please everyone.

Posted by lowerwallfrd at 11/7/07 12:28 a.m.

I really wanted to vote for Prop 1, it just did too little for too much money, I had to vote no. I hope we have a similar and better planned bill next year. Light rail to Tacoma is stupid. I think Sound Transit is a nightmare waiting to happen. There are no additional funds that should be given to those pretenders.

Posted by cj in seattle at 11/7/07 3:53 a.m.

Perhaps it would help if we had smaller $$ for more specific spending goals. I think the size of this and the fact that it was a multiple project package scared people off.

Both my self and my husband ended up voting for it even though it size of it made me think on it a while. I recognize the importance of the responsibility of one generation to those who come after.

I think though that if we could get a package for just mass transit that it would take off nicely with voter support. There has been so much corruption in government that the public has become jaded by it. They don’t trust it anymore. Its important to public servants to recognize this.

Posted by jungleal at 11/7/07 5:51 a.m.

Prop 1’s flame out is worth getting up out of bed early to celebrate. Let’s have the media bring to light every penny of gas tax hike spending. Bring back those “Your Nickel at Work” project signs, and how about some “Your Another 9.5 Cents at Work” signs and some “Your Original 23 Cents at Work” signs and a breakdown of where the 18.4 cents per gallon of federal gas tax is going. If the Alaskan Way Viaduct and 520 bridge are so fragile and dangerous, why are they not receiving more immediate gas tax money??

Posted by rwb77 at 11/7/07 6:33 a.m.

For affordable light rail: build it like many other cities are at much less cost, at-grade, not elevated or tunneled. Build it on existing rights of way, like highways and abandoned railroads. The gold-plated Sound Transit version is great for contractors but bad for taxpayers. And for a route, how about a simple loop around the lake? Start at Southcenter, branching off from the current elevated line, go to Renton, follow the old railroad right of way north to Bothell, around the upper end of the lake to Northgate, then past Husky Stadium into downtown. Don’t try a potential engineering nightmare with tracks across the lake; dedicate both floating bridges to Bus Rapid Transit; those are the two corridors where it would probably be most feasible.

For highways, spend dollars first on safety and maintenance (remember a certain bridge in Minneapolis this past summer …..). It is not WSDOT’s responsiblity to enable people to commute 40 miles one way at 60 mph on the same road at the same time as 100,000 other people. That’s what happens whenever new lanes are approved: developers come in with new housing and new strip malls and by the time the lane opens, it’s as gridlocked as the older lanes.

Posted by SleeplessInSeattle at 11/7/07 7:31 a.m.

Proposition 1 is NOT a comprehensive package. It is mainly an Eastside improvement project, with a small fragment thrown in for the rest of the area in an effort to gloss over what it really is. Is there anyone out there who is really dense enough to believe that light rail to Mercer Island and Bellevue addresses this area’s major transportation problems and environmental concerns, much less does anything to repair the roads and bridges in most need of improvement?!

We already voted in and pay an exhorbitant gas tax in this state for what was supposed to fund road/brige repair and improvement projects. At the time, 520 and the Alaskan Way Viaduct were specifically mentioned as projects that would be completed with that gas tax money. Senators Murray and Cantwell also got federal disaster money to help repair 520 and the Viaduct. Almost immediately after those two money sources came into fruition, our new governor began looking for ways to legally divert the Viaduct portion of those funds to 520. So, mark my words, 520 will be rebuilt whether Proposition 1 passes or not. Proposition 1 was just the boondoggle they were looking for to build the new 520. Now they’ll just have to use the money that was already budgeted for it, plus impose tolls. Gee, what a concept. And, yes, I certainly was thinking of my children, and their children. . .when I voted no. They would be the next generation paying for this mess, and they too would have no money left to devote to projects which would actually improve the quality of life in this area.

It’s interesting that when push comes to shove, the vote was anger directed at the government, and bewilderment over taxes already set aside for projects that are not being done. Very few of the comments really take on the larger issue of Transportation Alternatives or the issue of global climate change. Those issues are likely too big for most people to actually apply to a vote on roads. Nevertheless, and for whatever combination of reasons, we have wisely elected to not get sidetracked building roads to Redmond as a weird panacea for the rest or our many, many transportation problems.

Daily Stats: (Tue, Wed)
Car: 0
Bike: 0
Ped: 3.5
Bus: 0
Many remote conferences, email, vid conferences and other alternative connectivity.

Day 257: MLwC and a new green site that’s not what you would expect…

Think green sites are lacking a certain je ne sais quois? Humor, edge, sex? Well, you would be wrong….check out GreenThing, a new non-profit social networking site started by a group of certifiables, including a friend of mine James Alexander of many start-ups-fame. The first vid on the home page is fabulous! Predictably, the humor on the site is completely off-color good fun, slightly scandalous for our protestant-american sensibilities. Gotta love that.

The vids are unexpected and subtle enough to actually be pushing green thinking to a new level–thank god. There’s no pamphleting, per se; a green consciousness is built in and present a new way to learn about being green. Take a look at the vid for October--very clever. I’m sending you to their site instead of posting the vid here because the site is well worth taking a few minutes out to explore. Enjoy! And best of luck to GreenThing!

Daily Stats: (Sun, Mon)
Car: 0
Bike: 0
Ped: 3
Bus: 0

Days 244-245: MYLwC, Support your Local Ruminant and Blog Action Ruminations

goats-head.jpg

Meet one of the goats that is busily clearing out some ivy-infested soon-to-be gardens for kids at our nearby Gatewood Elementary. Well, actually, he’s not busy. He’s taking a break. This one is much more indicative of the ruminant activity taking place:

img_0006.jpg

 

 

As one of the ecstatic kids running around the ivy-removal site told me, “There are 60 of them! 60!” And they’re taking that ivy out like nobody’s business. Rent-a-Reminant (site under construction) is the business that is taking ivy infested hillsides throughout Seattle by storm. And boy, are those goats well-fed. They look almost uncomfortably beefy, and if you ever wondered if the rumor that goats will eat anything is true, it is. Branches, blackberry thickets, small trees, and yes, ivy, right down to its roots.

The secondary gain here is what the presence of goats on the hillsides has done for the neighborhood. I met new peoplethis morning, and ran into other friends who were out just enjoying watching the goats. It’s great to see farm animals in the middle of the city! Keep in mind that these creatures are helping to rid us of a very aggressive and invasive non-native species with lots of downsides, add to that the social benefit and the enjoyment the whole neighborhood is getting from the project, and the idea of ivy eating goats in the city is a no-brainer.

 

On to ruminations about Blog Action. La Marguerite is dedicating certain posts on her blog to bloggers who are doing something to become more in tune with an environmentally compromised planet (one gets so tired of “global warming,” “global climate change,” and all the rest–I’m liking environmentally compromised planet right now). I think her idea of calling out Blog Actions is really cool and would recommend taking a moment to go over and check it out.

It also got me to thinking about my own year long action and action itself. Action seems like such a…well, active thing. And I don’t quite think of my year long project as an “action.” Maybe at first I did, but I don’t now. Now it’s just part of my life, and that’s good. But I got to thinking about my project and realized, you know when you commit to change something in your life–something fundamental or maybe even not so fundamental–many other aspects of you life change as well, not to mention your consciousness about all kinds of things.

For example, you can’t start taking the bus or riding your bike for most errands or meetings downtown and not have that impact your thinking about lots of things. It’s also not possible–at least I don’t think it is–to become conscious about one part of your life without other things popping up for attention. Let me diagram this in my own case, my year long project to change my transportation habits and perhaps even ditch my car:

 

Blog Action

 

So again, I’ve discovered and re-discovered this all along the way: it’s the small steps that count. The single Blog Action I took on was to chronicle a year of learning about my transportation habits. The hundreds of offshoots from that one commitment–now that’s action.

 

Daily Stats: Mon, Tue

Car: 0
Bike: 4.5
Ped: 4
Bus: 14

Day 200 – 202: MLwC and the New Continent of Synthetics

 

Over at Strange Maps, there’s a new map for the Continent of Synthetics. It’s quite intriguing, a geography of artificially created materials with poetic, if not sort of nightmarish descriptions:

• “Petrolia is the land of the new synthetic rubbers.”
• “Cellulose is a great state, something like Texas, with many counties, all of which grew out of old Nitrocellulose (Celluloid).”
• “Rayon is a plastic island off the Cellulose coast, with a glittering night life.”
• “Vinyl-land, a fast-growing new country of safety-glass (…) and rubbery plastics, will probably subdivide soon.”

All of which makes me think of farm fresh food. As our local Tomato Wars continue (turns out Neighbor Susan isn’t all that much ahead of our harvest of tomatoes), we find ourselves swamped with a vertible cornucopia of fresh tomatoes which we are busy turning into fresh sauce for this winter. We lightly bake them with fresh basil and oregano and then freeze the resulting gumbo in dinner size plastic bags for a deep January taste bud extravaganza reminding us that spring and summer are around the corner. You don’t find tomatoes like this in Petrolia!

But how I got on this topic…I read an article in The Grist about local vs. long distance food resources. This article was based on an article in the NY Times by James McWilliams debunking the idea that local food is better for all concerned and easier on the environment in general. He slices and dices the data and presents some interesting ways of looking at the issue…but I come down squarely on the side of The Grist:

Purchasing locally grown food, as Maiser observes, “is fodder for a wonderful story. Whether it’s the farmer who brings local apples to market or the baker who makes local bread, knowing part of the story about your food is such a powerful part of enjoying a meal.” Buying local builds relationships, almost organically forcing the consumer to become aware of the plight of the producer and the producer to become familiar with the needs of the consumer.

Author David Morris then explores issues of equity to small farmers who depend on foreign buyers of their goods, etc. All good points. There’s undoubtedly a middle ground here where local is the best path for many reasons including community, relationships, importance of story and connectedness–those might seem like “soft” arguments but they’re important to me. And then there are other markets globally that depend on foreign participation to stay afloat. What I’m not thrilled about participating in is the global agri-business that puts local-everything out of business and has little to no accountability, not to mention “story” or community.

Cherry tree

That said, neighbor Susan and I had a discussion the other day about buying local and here’s the rub: I’m such a fruit freak. I mean, if there were such a thing as a fruit gourmet, I might qualify. AND I live in Seattle, Washington. I mean, in the winter, there’s not a lot of fruit. Apples, apples, apples. And then Apples. Come Spring and Summer, things open up a bit, but I would do back-flips to get some of the fruit I grew up with in Southern California, and baby, that stuff ain’t local. So, if push came to shove, I guess I’d move. I’d move to a place that grows good (I mean Good) watermelons, for example, and Santa Rosa plums.

So, anyway. It’s the harvest time of the year. I hope you’re enjoying the fruits of the season!

Daily Stats: (Monday, Tues, Wed)
Car: 0
Bike: 8
Ped: 4 or 5 miles
Bus: 0

Day 175: MLwC and the upside of Evangelical Environmentalism

Thanks goes out to Anne Shudy Palmer for directing me to an interesting article in The Grist regarding Christian Environmentalism about which I complained wrote a while back.

Anne directed me to an interview with Cal DeWitt, an evangelical environmentalist who has been working hard at building networks and communities that work to create a healthier, sustainable environment. He currently teaches environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin.

DeWitt has seen a major upsurge in evangelical participation in the environmental movement as the disconnect between individual rights and collective good comes under greater scrutiny. Regarding the potential rift between standard Republican industry bias and green sensibilities:

It is happening, and it’s going to increasingly happen. Maybe the best illustration of that, from a specific case, is Boise Vineyard Church — one of these megachurches in Boise, Idaho. The pastor there, Tri Robinson, is an interesting example of a present-day evangelical. He is, No. 1, strongly Republican. He has said, “The last election was the last in which I will be forced to chose between individual rights and the rights of creation. From now on, both of them have to be together, and the politicians should be listening.” His church’s recycling center is the only one in all of Boise. His people go up high in the mountains and restore trails.

And most encouraging is the growing lines of communication and mutual understanding between environmental groups and evangelicals:

There are meetings being held between Friends of the Earth and evangelical leaders. It’s a bit uneasy, but there’s a welcoming discussion. E.O. Wilson, for example, is interested in talking with evangelicals. There are a lot of these conversations starting now….

…40 percent of the Sierra Club is Christian. Larry Schweiger, president of the National Wildlife Federation, is an evangelical. A lot of environmental organizations have evangelicals in them, but they’ve been quiet about it. It’s all opening up now.

And what I like most of all in this interview is the clear appraisal of the standard agenda for most Christian groups: me and my family. As if we’re running out of humans. To paraphrase DeWitt, without a healthy planet, your family is going to be basical SOL:

The focus on the individual, the focus on the family, while it was initially attractive because it addressed regaining an evangelical voice in U.S. government and U.S. policy … if you’re only focusing on the family, to the neglect of your wider community, which is eventually the whole of the biosphere and the whole of creation, you can actually do yourself in by taking too narrow of a focus. We’re moving from a focus on ourselves, which was part of the individualistic lifestyle we had been developing in America, to incorporating the whole household of life, the whole biosphere, the whole creation, without which family and individuals really can’t function at all.

Thanks Anne, for sending this–you made my day. And thanks to connectors like Cal DeWitt who are looking for common ground across all kinds of organizations.

Daily Stats (Thur)
Car: 7 miles (2 tasks)
Bike: 0
Ped: 3 miles
Bus: 0

Day 159: MLwC plus new scientific evidence

There is a bit of news out today re the debate over whether we are the Weather Makers, as Tim Flannery suggests (meaning human activity has so impacted the environment as to cause a catastrophic upheaval), or whether global climate change is all part of a natural cycle.

The article from Science Daily is a bit thick for non-scientists but the message is clear: physicist Pablo Verdes has created a model that includes all data on recorded and projected natural climate impacts such as volcanic activity and solar radiation–known issues with predictable patterns and outcomes–and project the impact, there is still a gaping whole in terms of explaining our current situation: rapidly rising temperatures, more frequent violent storms, melting ice caps, etc.

Following Sherlock Holmes dictum (I’m sure Dr. Verdes would not approve of a fictional character’s approval of his approach), that “when you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” Dr. Verdes has stretched the known causes as far as possible, making the whole natural cycle theory impossible, leaving the human factor as the only remaining explanation.

The gaping hole left in his model, Dr. Verdes concludes, is filled by our own activity. Bummer.

Daily stats: (Tue)
Car: 0
Bike: 8 miles
Ped: 0
Bus: 0

Day 150 & 151: MLwC and green films

I love a good movie–when it’s raining in Seattle, there’s nothing better than a good movie and a bowl of popcorn. Random and Sundry Things highlighted a Grist article on Hollywood’s 15 greenest movies a couple of weeks ago, you can find it here.

Chinatown, movie–for the full article go to seacat.wordpress.org

Random and Sundry was surprised that Chinatown was included in the list which pleased me in a weird way. It pleased me because it shows that the plot was so well crafted that the issue of overdevelopment in Southern California, the rerouting of water from the more fertile valleys to the Los Angeles basin was part of the backdrop–vs. a clunk on the head type plot, a plot with an agenda. Chinatown actually has a lot in common with Cadillac Desert, a documentary and good book, though you wouldn’t know it on the surface.

I like a good story, and I hate it when a good story is sacrificed for an overbearing agenda, even though entertainment is often a good way to spread real information. So, even though the true story is hugely important and captivating all on its own, Chinatown is a movie, it’s fiction that is meant to bring the historical facts to life. The greed, the ruthlessness, the corruption.

One film that would have been interesting to include, and which any discussion of Chinatown always reminds me of in terms of period and plot is…oddly enough: Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Why? Because the murder in that animation film, and the whole plot, is based on the idea of removing the existing and beloved Red and Yellow Street Car lines from the Los Angeles basin, in order to put in thousands of miles of freeways–the current freeway system that L.A is famous for. It was a true event and was chronicled, and as the basis of a Disney animation, make for a good story as well as a commentary on choices made out of greed, corruption, and ruthlessness.  Highways mean cars, cars mean gas, gas means money, and money means business.

What other Green Films would you like to see on the list?

Daily Stats (Sat and Sun)

Car: 0
Bus: 0
bike: 0
Ped: approx 2 miles

Day 146 & 147: MLwC and the awful truth.

God, how I admire the Compacters. I really, really do. I sometimes think: maybe next year I can take on the issue of consumerism, but not right now. For me, it’s bigger in many ways than changing transportation methods. Why? Because I’m a consumer.

The awful truth: I bought the iPhone. I did. And I love it.

Whew. Really, here’s the deal. I switched to a Mac about 2.5 years ago in response to the last in a series of Dell computers that imploded under the weight of its own bloat. The hard drive died after only 3 months and while I had the warranty, the whole machine spiraled down from that point on, so when it finally became too much for me, I took the plunge and switched. The main driver: I had a lot of friends who claimed to have the same high functioning machine for more than 4 years.  I’d never had a desktop last longer than 3, and by the third year it was like pulling teeth to get it to do even basic stuff easily.

I am now officially hard-core on Apple; I’ve even bought stock. I’ve never relied on a computer to the degree I do my powerbook. So when the first demos on the iPhone came out, I had this thought: I wonder if Apple could do for my relationship with my phone what it did for my relationship with my laptop? I hate phones–they’re a pain in the butt and none of them work very well. I will do almost anything to avoid using my mobile and anyone who knows me knows to contact me via email unless they can’t avoid the phone.

The more I learned about the iPhone, the more intrigued-yet-skittish I became. Finally, I decided to give it a try and ordered one online. I can only tell you this: I’ve made more calls in the last 4 days than I have in the last 4 months. My dear mother is undoubtedly pleased on some level that I have an iPhone, even though she doesn’t know what it is, because I’m so much more willing to call her.

But here’s the rub: I now have two mobile phones waiting for me to recycle them properly–I will, there are better paths for recycling phones than computer equipment. I’ve also had 3 or 4 desktop computers, uncountable routers and cabling, and 2  laptops (one still works, a Toshiba, which has been relegated to my partner).  I am painfully aware of my own hill of techno-detritus.

seacat.wordpress.com.

I know–compared to someone like my friend Brian, I’m hardly scratching the surface of true gadget consumerism, but I think of the mountains (no, I’m not exaggerating) of computer and computer related crap that is being hauled to some landfill or 3rd world country for disassembly or permanent “storage” and it makes me want to scream.

I noticed that NoImpactMan  posted re his lust for an iPhone, but he has so far held out to purchase a used one because that works with the rules of his NoImpact contract. All I can say for my purchase is that I didn’t drive my car to get one.

My hope is that this device will last a very long time and that when it kicks, Apple will have a nice recycle path in place for me to use. I may be in complete denial….

So, okay. Bottom line: many of those close to me are happier now because they can reach me more easily. My business partners are happier because I’m willing to talk to them on the phone and do fancy things like attempt multi-party conversations and the like. I’m happier because I’ve got a phone that works really really well for both biz and personal–seriously, this thing is a quantum shift. It’s a beautiful thing.

I didn’t purchase it without thinking about those mountains of computing devices…but in the end, I did purchase it. The awful truth.

Daily Stats: (Tuesday, Wednesday)
Car: 5.2 miles
Bike: 6.5 miles
Ped: approx 3 miles
Bus: approx 15 miles
other: 0

Day 140-142: MLwC, trees and ivy

As my mom used to say: “mad dogs and englishman go out in the noonday sun...” I was thinking of that the other day when I was running in the middle of the hottest July 12th on record in Seattle. Here’s the breaking news: it’s a lot harder to run in the hot weather than cool. Unless you’re one of those marathoners who do Death Valley every year…I’m clearly not.

Did you get the video I posted the other day–The Wind? It was very clever and took me twice thru before I realized the dude was the wind. Great ad for green energy in Germany.

So, I was running through Lincoln Park and came to the far beach trail only to find these three college kids, all roped up in climbing gear and harnesses–they looked so buff. I asked them what they were up to–taking advantage of the opportunity to stop–and they said they were going to climb down the cliffs and remove ivy from the trees. God love them, they’re from earthcorps and partnering with the Seattle Parks Dept to organize groups and volunteers to remove ivy. You can read more about it here.

urbanforest.jpg

What’s the big deal about english ivy? English ivy is a non-native, invasive plant that literally takes down large (and small) trees, overwhelms the native understory and generally wreaks havoc if left unchecked. Worse: it’s sold in lots and lots of nurseries and hardware stores. Why? Cuz it grows so easily! It would be nice if it could be outlawed but no such luck yet.

We’ve removed most of it from our lot, but not all. Our neighbors have done a great job of getting rid of theirs. People are starting to get a clue about it, so that’s good news. Here’s what it looks like, there are different kinds of ivy, but only English Ivy is the invasive:

englishivy.jpg

It’s beefy, but easy to pull out, so if you have any, grab it by the roots before it takes over.

Anyway, kudos to the teams of volunteers out there (more global immune system in action?) and in other parks in the region for tackling the job and helping to save our urban forests.

Daily stats: (Wednesday, Thursday, Friday)

Car: 29 miles (2 tasks)
Bike: 0 miles
Ped: approx 7 miles
Bus: 0
Other: not so much as you’d notice.