Category Archives: personal action

WoLP #30-32: everywhere but here

So, the summer schedule continues in high gear, and I feel as though I’ve been everywhere but here–not complaining, it’s been a most lovely summer, but I do miss my Lincoln Park.

This past weekend they had runs and events that either started or finished in the park, leading me to wonder if last year’s genius idea of spray painting arrows and such on trees would be repeated this year. I’m so so so happy to report: as far as I can see after one walk through, it has not.

In fact, a run along the waterfront was bolstered with lots of arrows and encouraging words in CHALK on the asphalt–well done! That’ll wash off easily, no harm, and lots of enthusiasm shared.

A few new permanent signs in the park include arrows and the universal swim-unit giving info on how to get to the Colman pool, easy path, harder path. I had mixed feelings about them cuz I sorta like the pool’s uneasy access, but hey, people do get lost looking for it now and then.

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It was a lovely walk through the park, we are so lucky to live near such a beautiful place–the madrones, the huge maples and towering pines and cedars, gorgeous sunsets and salt scented air.

52 Weeks of Lincoln Park is a year long romance with the Gem of West Seattle. PS, I think I have the weeks off and we’re actually at week 32 or 33 but hey, what’s a week or two amongst good friends. Enjoy!

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.

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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.

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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!

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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:

Days 332-338: MLwC and The Story of Stuff

When I started this year long project to examine and change my transportation habits, I had a sneaking suspicion that no matter what I did–ride a bike, take a bus, walk, drive my car–one fundamental thing had to change: driving less means using less. Driving is about Consuming, pure and simple, and what I’ve learned is that as I’ve driven less, I’ve consumed less in all kinds of ways. And using less is good. It’s  anathema to our culture, but it’s good…and I keep coming back to it, again and again.

The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonardson

Writer, researcher and activist Annie Leonard has been spending the last 10 years thinking about and researching our material-based culture. She’s been talking about it too, but has not been able to gain traction…until she put together a truly brilliant 20 minute film that’s easy on the eyes and brain, but still packs a punch. She also changed the name of her focus from material usage to Stuff.

Watch The Story of Stuff–watch it now! it’s so right on, and encouraging too–we can change the way our obsolescent-dependent culture drives us crazy!

Take some time to watch her film, The Story of Stuff. What it’s about: like the title suggests, it’s the story of stuff. And she manages to take a systems approach to our whole way of life, our entire culture to explain just how stuff works…and how we participate in the creation, consumption, and disposal of stuff. It’s an untenable cycle of life, pure and simple.

And the only way out is: use less, consume less, need less. Do less, buy less, create less. Whatever happened to Less is More? We’ve completely lost touch with the concept–and now we are mindlessly buying, using, consuming, trashing more stuff than ever in the history of the world.

I suspect that once my year of transportation evaluation is over I may be turning my personal attention to this issue. And it is incredibly thorny–everything in me wants what it wants and wants it now. I’m as culpable as the next person, sometimes more, in terms of consuming–but I know, I KNOW, this cannot continue and the only thing I can do is change my own habits. I know I can systematically look at how I buy and consume and begin to deconstruct it, bit by bit–and begin to Stop Doing What I’m Doing.

And I also suspect that I will be zeroing in on one area of massive consumption that nearly epitomizes all that’s wrong with corporate supply-and-demand: processed food.

Now that I’ve said that, do watch this film and consider the role of Corporations in her explanation. And again, I point to John Edwards as the only candidate in the field who has strongly addressed dual issues regarding Corporations, the environment, and the cycle of greed that drives the growth of corporations.

Not endorsing, I’m just sayin’….

On my transportation front: I’ve been so busy lately, I haven’t been able to post on a regular basis. On the other hand, I’m starting to think about weekly transportation caps–I haven’t gotten my route to Poulsbo figured out yet, ie, bus use. I’ve got too much to juggle right now and things haven’t calmed down. So I’m still successfully keeping my car usage down, but have also targeted a 75 mile a week cap. I’m well under that this week with 51 miles, so that’s all good. Is 75 miles a week too much? Does that seem reasonable? Any thoughts out there?

Daily Stats: (Sun, Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun)
Car: 51 miles
Bike: 7.0
Ped: 5
Bus: 2 miles

Days 314-317: MLwC and How I Became Stupid

Great title, eh? How I Became Stupid is a wee novel I came across recently by French author Martin Page. His first novel, it’s billed as a “humorous & surprising mixture of optimism and nihilism.” Oh those French! It’s a quick, entertaining and thought provoking read which brought up a lot of the same questions and issues that have come up in my year long MLwC project.

How I Became Stupid by Martin Page

Basically the protagonist, at 28 years of age, becomes tired of his life of introspection, self-awareness, and intelligence in an increasingly fast-paced consumerist society that values quick money and fast cars over all else. He tries three ways to become stupid, finally landing on a solution: take the anti-depressant HappyZac and become a stock broker. The HappyZac changes his life completely; he no longer feels compelled to think through anything. He even finds himself one day achieving benchmark status as a non-thinking person by ordering a Big Mac at a McDonald’s…and liking it. The world takes on a rosy glow.

In his new life as a stock broker, much like the monkeys in the famed stock picking experiments, he picks winning stocks through whimsy and error, resulting in million dollar wins, gi-normous bonuses, moves to a glitzy ultra-modern apartment, gets the fancy he car he doesn’t drive, dumps his quirky, creative and loving friends, and basically adopts a stupid life. I won’t spoil the end

Here’s a quote from his Before state:

Before, he hadn’t been able to live his life because of all the questions and principles tangled in his mind. For example, when he bought clothes he would always check where they came from so that he wouldn’t be participating in the exploitation of children in Asian sweatshops owned by multinational corporations. As advertising is an assault on freedom, a coup d’etat every company that investing in morally questionable activities, pollutants, or nondemocratic countries, or who laid off people when their profits were increasing. He didn’t eat food full of chemicals, either, or anything containing preservatives, coloring, or antioxidants and–financial circumstances permitting–he bought organic.

It wasn’t so much that he was an ecologist, a pacifist, or even and internationalist–just that he did what his conscious told him was right; his behavior derived more from moral principles than from political convictions. In that, Antoine was not unlike a martyr of this consumer society, and he was perfectly well aware that his intransigent attitude begged comparison with Christian mortification. This was an embarrassment to him because he was an atheist, but he couldn’t act any other way, he couldn’t help being this sort of renegade, secular Christ….

Now, basking in the chemical sunlight of Happyzac, Antoine discovered the World….Since he’d been taking his little red pills, salvation had come in the form of an absolutely watertight dam between the wold and its long-term consequences.

On his McDonald’s experience:

Only a few days earlier Antoine wouldn’t have been able to make that simple gesture of eating a French fry without thinking about the bloodstained history of the potato, the human sacrifices that the Aztec civilization made in it name, and the appalling suffering it visited on the Irish….He took a rather awkward mouthful of his burger…he had to admit he liked it. It was clearly not very good for your health, the packaging probably wasn’t biodegradable, but it was simple, cheap, very caloric, and it had a satisfyingly reassuring taste. In fact the taste of it made him feel as if he had found a family that knew no frontier, as if he had joined millions of people biting into an identical burger at that precise moment….He had a subtle feeling of pleasure, of confidence, a new strength derived from the fact that he was as others, with others.

As a novella with an “International Cult Following,” How I Became Stupid is a quick, fun read for those of us who do not always follow the road laid out for us by the Market, nor even use a car when we’re off the beaten track.

Daily Stats (Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat)

Car: 34 miles (Bellevue and back)
Bike: 5
Ped: approx 4
Bus: 0

 

 

 

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 301-307: MLwC and an idea about consumption

That’s consumption in the modern sense of the disease: think SUVs crammed with stuff. Come on, most of us did it to one degree or another this season, even if we didn’t use an SUV to haul the stuff around. So, let’s try to take our consuming habits apart one piece at a time. For example, did you buy a lot of stuff that will inevitably end up in land-fill, not only because the target user outgrew it, out-used it, or never really wanted it in the first place?

So how to think about that….I didn’t really do so much less this year, but what was different was this: I focused on making sure what I did buy or make was recyclable or immediately consumable (food, eg). I made calendars for all my near and dear ones…perhaps to their chagrin, who knows. But at the end of the year, they can toss those puppies in the recycling bin and the paper will be mashed up and turned into something else. We offered a feast of special delectables to our friends–pricey, fancy, certainly impressive. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves and we had a blast. We gave beeswax candles which burn clean. We bought and downloaded music–no muss, no fuss. We gave gifts to kids that are recyclable or immediately usable or edible. We also endeavored to simply buy and give less, but make it mean more.

Wall Street is bemoaning the fact that even though spending on the holidays was robust, it was less than they hoped for and so they’re calling the season a disaster. Go figure. I ran across a blog this morning that helped me think about the prayed for endless upward trend on spending–something virtually unheard of in the natural world:

….I didn’t consume this season because of that as much as for the sake of the earth and equality and a chance for my kid to come of age in a world where a person’s worth is not measured by the limit on their plastic or the cubic footage of their SUV.

As any medical professional will tell you, untrammeled growth at the cellular level is known as cancer. But lots of economists and financial reporters don’t see the point in that: they say we need uncontrolled, rabid, nuclear growth at all times and especially at Christmas. I mean, look at all the good it’s done us, how sweet and warm and fuzzy is the cult of metastatic consumption, what blessings it has poured upon our nation and our planet.

I have had this same conversation with a lot of people before, usually those somewhere right of me who believe–literally believe—that endless growth and consumption is not only good, but what the Lord had in mind. I think they do a disservice to the Lord. Nothing, absolutely nothing in nature–outside of cancer–grows endlessly without dire results. It’s simply not possible, divine intervention or not. So, maybe it’s a good thing to see us slow down a little on the holidays. I know we focused more on sharing ourselves and making room for more good times together…and the results have been a real holiday, one full of friends and family and quiet and raucous times together.

Another note, on the MLwC project. I mentioned previously that on Thanksgiving, we took my car for a trip up to the San Juan Islands–a fabulous Thanksgiving of bike rides and hikes with sweeping views of the Straights. I had some car trouble, it was diagnosed as okay, but needing attention back in town. I got the attention and got the car fixed last week–for free. It seems the very expensive part that had worn out (catalytic converter) is covered on my car as long as I’ve put less than 90K miles on it. Not only was I less than 90K, I was less than 50K! So, another reward of less driving: you actually get a chance to use that methodically planned warranty they attach to the car when you buy it. Now my car is running smooth and happy, when I use it. Which it seems is quite a lot over this rainy, cold holiday season…..

Daily stats:
Car: 324 miles (out to the coast to visit family and back, plus several errands)
Bike: 0
Ped: approx 8
Bus: 40 miles

Days 294-297: MLwC, looking past the current president and the Seattle ride metro campaign

There’s an article in the NYTimes today about how the global climate summit in Bali that’s been taking place for the last two weeks, came to the conclusion that they would need to plan beyond the current US administration if they were going to deal with the future of the environment at all. And ain’t that just the way with all things George Bush: people, countries, governments all over try to work with him, try to include him, but he’s such a my-way-or-the-highway kinda guy that ultimately, those same groups do what they do in all systems: they learn to move around the unmovable object.

“The next presidential election takes place at the halfway point in these treaty talks,” David D. Doniger, who directs climate policy for the Natural Resources Defense Council and served in the Clinton administration, said on his Web log on Saturday. “So the U.S. will field a new team in the second half. And there are good odds that the next president will get serious on global warming.”

….

Some environmental groups criticized Europe for not sticking to its guns. But it appeared that, in the end, the Europeans followed a path recommended in a speech last Monday by former Vice President Al Gore, fresh from receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo.

He advised Bali negotiators to look beyond the Bush administration, whose tenure ends in one year.

If George Bush were just some yahoo from Texas (and soon he will be), I wouldn’t mind. Big whoop. But he has had his way with our global reputation and standing for nearly 8 years, much to our continued and growing chagrin, and I’m sick of it. A lot of people are sick of it. I don’t even take any pleasure in knowing he will be remembered as our worse president ever. What he’s dragged this country into isn’t worth any comeuppance, I just want him to go away.

So, okay. On to other things. Here in Seattle, there’s a plan in the works to try to wean some drivers off their car addiction in the coming two years. It’s part of a larger initiative to remove 2,688 cars from the daily commute in a number of ways. The one that caught my eye is called the Green Bike initiative and it works like this:

The “Green Bike Pilot” project provides drive-alone commuters with new commuter bicycles, training and gear in exchange for a pledge to reduce their drive-alone trips by 60 percent. Bike mentors will provide social support to new participants with route planning, tune-ups and bicycle safety training. Participants who fulfill their pledge will get to keep their bikes and will gain a healthy and sustainable commute habit. This unique project will help improve environmental and personal health, mobility and livable communities by providing a low-cost, carbon-free commute choice for commuters throughout King County. This project proposes to reduce 510 vehicle commute trips.

Some will likely get hot under the collar about the cost of providing bikes to people who could probably afford to buy one…but that’s not the point here. The point is very clearly to create a community support system to help people change behaviors around driving. And on the surface, that seems like a good idea. I’ll be interested to follow this.

Tomorrow I’m trying a new route to my job over on the peninsula in P-bo–bus downtown, ferry over, friend picks me up and we drive together to the office. It’s a start.

Daily Stats (Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun)
Car: 46 miles (peninsula, three tasks)
Bike: 0
Ped: approx 3 miles
Bus: 16 miles

Day 291: MLwC and green holidays

We have a house nearby our West Seattle home that is a veritable beacon of light every holiday season. Literally, you can see it for miles, if not smell it. There’s something about that many lights burning bright in the night that smells like…well, like electricity or something. People drive from miles around to see this house; the family has a big crane come out to drape the evergreens with the longest strings of light I’ve ever seen–and these aren’t LED lights, they’re the real deal.

I can’t imagine how much energy they burn, and I’m not sure what all this has to do with the holidays or the birth of Jesus. If I were a believer, I would be confused, if not offended, to have Jesus and the whole entourage within 4 inches of a rockin’ rendition of Santa and his merry reindeers. Every motif in the world is going on in that yard, with grostesque results. But I will admit: the kids love it. And it IS a neighborhood tradition.

So, in this season of good cheer and energy consumption, is it a total faux pax to consider the environmental impact of all these lights?

LED lights are all the craze, and that’s great because they use soooo much less energy than the big honkers. And you might want to put your lights on a timer, the christmas tree too–so you don’t forget and leave ’em on.

Everybody seems to be in the mood for one reason or another to simply buy less this year. I know we’re looking forward to spending at least some of our budget traveling to spend real time with those near and dear–a better gift for all of us, or at least we hope so. We’re thinking: share more time, meals, tea, coffee, whatever with your friends and family, and focus less on the mountain of gifts we’ve all come to dread. You dread getting stuff you don’t want, they dread buying it. Why do we persist in this madness?

Whatever you do buy, make sure it’s as recycleable, reusable, renewable as possible. Avoid the stuff with lots of packaging material. Maybe the companies that do that will get a hint.

And if you’re hosting dinner, etc, remember: Cloth napkins, real dishes and flatware. Just think how happy the earth will be to not get more plastic “presents” in landfills all because you did it differently this year. You go, you!

Daily Stats:

Car: 0
Bike: 0
Ped: 3
Bus: 0

Days 287-290: MLwC and the difference a single person can make

Recently CNN has been running a show about Heroes. My cynical self sees this as riffing off the popular TV show by the same name, and then, maybe a little more critical than I need to be, I wonder what the bottom-line impact on the average viewer is seeing what these real-life heroes have done in their lives to earn such accolade.

Here are some of the Heroes profiled:

  • An Ecuadoran lawyer leading a landmark environmental lawsuit
  • A U.S. expatriate who encourages attendance at rural African schools
  • A Ugandan missionary who runs a boarding school for girls abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army
  • A man who founded a clinic in his native Kenya A Cuban woman who transformed a toxic dump in Cuba into an urban garden
  • A teenager who developed a music system to help people with autism by linking language to sounds.

These are flat out amazing people, and it’s great to see a TV news show dedicated to highlighting their actions in a world that is overwhelming in its crises and problems. It was also great to see something positive on a national news tv show–it’s uplifting, to be sure.

But I also wonder: for those of us who lead quiet, normal lives and don’t hear the call to big heroic action, what does a show like this do? Is it just a cathartic fix, an opportunity to be moved by story and pictures? Does it actually move the individual to do anything differently or does it perhaps, worst of all, allow for a comparison between self and Ideal, where self (that’s you sitting on your sofa) comes up very short indeed. So short you actually don’t even try to change anything–not even the smallest thing.

This is one of those heaven or hell moments, where the viewer is sort of forced–unconsciously–to identify with the lofty ideal or feel less than and therefore not accountable. Maybe I’m wrong about this, and I’d love to hear opinions on it.

So what heroic thing can one person do? Since I’m focused on the environment and finding ways to live differently, I think it’s heroic when someone takes the time and money to do a biodiesel conversion on their car. No one’s asking them to do it, they’re only doing it because they feel it’s important. Will that ever make it to CNN? I don’t think so–it’s not that interesting on a large screen. But I find the whole process, thought and action, very interesting.

I find it interesting when someone decides to sit down and figure out how many tons of paper would be saved if people simply used one less napkin per day. One less napkin! And then manages to get the word out and change the behavior of countless people–that network just amazes and inspires me.

There are lots and lots of people out there who notice one small thing and decide to focus on it to make it better. Like bus rider unions–they take the issue on and create something for the good of so many others. Here in Seattle, we’re discussing the possibility of starting a rider’s union–who knows where it will go, but it’s better than going numb and not even thinking about it.

There are garden growers and bike riders and organic farmers and so many others who are deciding for themselves to take a different path from the one laid out for them. Refusing chemically enhanced flowers and vegetables, taking back the streets and making them safe for more bikes–demanding space and recognition, going through the several year long process of becoming a certified organic farm….These are all leaps of faith and individual decisions to be part of a larger movement. This is what Paul Hawken’s talks about in his book Blessed Unrest and his work in building social networks of individuals making changes locally that impact all of us.

So, maybe I just get a little nervous when we hold up a handful of people as Heroes when there are heroes all around us, deciding to not do the simple thing, the expedient thing, but instead are changing their lives one action at a time. I admire all those people who decide to change their lives–simply because they have become aware it is the right thing to do. Collectively we are changing the world.

Daily Stats (Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun–whew–been busy with the recent rain damage and stuff!)
Car: 11 miles
Bike: 7.5 miles
Ped: 3 miles
Bus: 0

Days 261-263: MLwC and the Blog of the Day

I’m just getting so much enjoyment out of La Marguerite’s blog and her blog actions. Two different things: her own writings that she is posting on her blog chronicle her daily actions–like ALL of her action and how they impact the environment. She calls it her Daily Footprint Project and she uses it to track usage of the car, walking, eating, flushing the toilet–all of it. I could no more do that than jump over the moon, I don’t have the attention span to do it, but I’m so enjoying her journey, and learning a lot.

Her posts make me think about things differently. And that’s not surprising: Marguerite has a strong background in psychology and comes at this project and blogging in general from a very behavior oriented perspective, as well as vivid systems thinking. Systems thinking can drive a person crazy after awhile but I’m convinced that without it, we become numb with various denial techniques such as frenzied lifestyles and useless anxiety. Marguerite seems to have a helpful approach to systems thinking that asks the right questions and offers some good answers.

The other thing she’s doing is inviting certain bloggers to share their BlogAct--what they’re doing via their own blogs to encourage consciousness around the environment. In my own case, I’ve radically changed my relationship to my car. That in turn has changed my relationship to the dominant culture in a lot of ways that I chronicle here in my blog. There are many others on La Marguerite’s site and because of this collection she’s started, I’ve been introduced to some really great bloggers and encouraged once more by the vast conversation happening online about the environment.

So head on over to La Marguerite’s site and enjoy!

Daily Stats (Fri, Sat, Sun)

Car: 0
Bike: 17.5
Ped: approx 1.5
Bus: 15

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

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

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 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