Category Archives: pollution

Video

52WoLP: #10, Animal Presence Part 2

This is a bit of a riff, but bear with me, we’ll end up at Lincoln Park. I’m still buzzing about animal presence, and wanted to share some o’ that love. After the iridescent octopus at Makena on Maui, the turtle-paloosa at every beach we visited, the shave-ice colored wrasses and graceful idols, the whales, spinner dolphins, I wanted to learn about local folks helping to protect the gift of nature that Hawaii is… and one group stood out: Hawaii Wildlife Fund.

HWF was founded in 1996 by two biologists who saw the encroachment of all kinds of not-very-wild activity on an environment that depends on wild conditions. They are, as co-founder Hannah Bernard put it: “small but mighty.” They spend most of their energy actually doing things like this and this and this (poopy!). They have an awesome education and intern program (do they take 60 year olds??), outreach, and have built an impact worth supporting.

So….Lincoln Park, here’s the link up: as soon as I learned about HWF, Seal Sitters here in West Seattle came to mind. Local with an impact that belies its size, passionate and visionary…Good stuff. Some things I love about Seal Sitters: they have educated a whole city about the little seal pup on the beach, the one people may mistake for injured or worse, others may think would be a happy playmate for their dogs, and still others who might not have noticed at all. It’s neighborly, it’s profound, it’s small but mighty.

Co-Founded by author Brenda Peterson and gaining strength as Seal Sitters in 2007, the group has helped so many–kids, adults, even dogs– understand that it is up to us to protect and share the beach as part of our wildlife habitat. You see them often on Alki, but for the last couple of years, you’ll also see them at the beach in Lincoln Park, setting up a protective zone around a seal pup resting on the shore. They have a great blog (blubberblog, best. name. ever.), our beloved West Seattle Blog is a big booster, and the volunteers are more than happy to talk about what they do. The pups are still taking long sleeps on the shores so keep an eye out for that thing that Seal Sitters does so well.

Wildly, improbably, a few people saw a need and decided to do something about it. As a result, they really have changed the world–one beach at a time. I love that.

52 Weeks of Lincoln Park: week #10

8 Reasons Why These Local Boys Do Good

Mike and Jason of Urban Build Inc.

We are in the final phase of a garage conversion which has gone unbelievably well and quick.  The biggest chore in fact was clearing out, recycling, using, giving away 10 years of stuff from the garage so it could transition to its new self.

We sort of had the insulation and demo lined up and were looking for drywallers when I had a moment of clarity.  It went like this:  couple months back we had a repair which required a full day of my presence at home.  I arranged it, canceling meetings and such, basically a day of work lost but it had to be done.  So here I am, waiting…waiting.  Finally the guy calls and says he’s coming from North Seattle, is stuck in non-moving traffic on 5 and won’t make it that day.  The whole day?  Yeah, whole day.  Too late to pick the shambles of my schedule up and too late to find a new company to work with.

So when I started to get bids for the drywall on this project, I recalled that and revised my craigslist search to <drywall west seattle>.  I found a few names, one with a website I could refer to  , Urban Build Inc–local guys, they live near Alki, so I gave them a call.  They came by that afternoon…and after talking with them, I decided to ask how they would do the whole job, not just the drywall.  Cut to the chase, their bid was fair, clear and made sense, so we gave it a shot.

Here is a list of the many reasons I’ll use Mike and Jason of Urban Build again:

  1. Fast: Since they were local, they could drop by to view the site on their way home from the project they were working on and give me a bid by the end of the day. Immediate turn-around.
  2. Conscientious:  avoid unnecessary waste, mess, or toxins.
  3. Experience: Their professionalism took me by surprise–I don’t know, sometimes I have low expectations of craigslist.  These guys take enormous pride in what they do and how they interact with the client.
  4. Communication: clear, easy, consistent. Super-value add: they listen.
  5. Can-do: There was virtually nothing I suggested that they said couldn’t be done. That sounds weird but we’ve worked with a few guys who were all “oh no, you can’t do that. you’ll have to tear the house down to do that.” Really. Mike and Jason might add some ideas or explain how we might do it differently but “no” just isn’t part of their vocabulary.
  6. Magic: They said what they were going to do and then, magically, they just did it.  In my experience, this is unusual.
  7. Work ethic: Did I mention pride of work and ownership?  Again, less common all the time, and the job they did was gorgeous.
  8. Design sense: they’ve seen a lot and have good taste–good ideas and suggestions.  For Mike and Jason, it’s the art and mechanics of the job, not just the muscle and know-how.
These guys are keepers and they are right here on The Rock.  They work all over, of course, eastside, north and south, but my preference is to keep things local when I can–especially with the price of gas and traffic issues we’re having just now.   If you need a contractor who can do it all, elec to drywall and plumbing, give these guys a shout.  
Also, just so’s you know I’m not overly partial, here are some rave reviews from West Seattle Blog and Yelp.

construction in process Urban Build


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.



Plastic Disturbia

The other day I was paddle boarding around the bay in West Seattle. At this time of year, we have extreme low and high tides, and the slack tide in between tends to be the collection point for a lot of garbage in the water. Even as the day was lovely, the paddling exquisite, I kept coming across a disturbing pattern: big globs of muck that were built out a tangled mess of fishing line, 6-pack ring, seaweed, plastic bags, algae, bungee cords, dead fish, feathers, plastic bottles, unidentified gunk and plastic food containers. The common ingredient: plastic. And there were a lot of these little floating islands.

plastic in our oceans

These congealed half-bio-half-plastic masses are very quickly becoming ubiquitous in our oceans. If the only damage were that of the scenery, I could almost but not quite shrug it off.

The damage is much, much worse. In fact, you could say that what I was seeing off Lincoln Park was just the barest tip of an iceberg.

Sierra Magazine has an article this month entitled “Message in a Bottle” and it’s worth a few minutes to read. Gird yourself, you may not be prepared for the story:

  • There is an area off the coast of Japan known as The Garbage Patch, three times the size of Texas and a seeming doldrums where the world’s plastics collect and degrade.
  • Don’t kid yourself: plastic doesn’t ever entirely degrade like things in the organic world. Plastic simply breaks into smaller and smaller pieces. Those pieces at some point become indistinguishable from krill and other food sources in the ocean
  • This plastic broth is making its way into the food chain; the bellies of baby fish are gorged with the stuff and yet they die of starvation. Adult birds and fish are ingesting it. It’s real, it’s happening.
  • One of the main culprits is a thing called plastic nurdles--manufactured plastic molded into small nuggets for easy shipment to manufacturing plants all around the world to make things like that handy blue plastic water bottle, that shovel and bucket your kids play with at the beach, the parts in your car, the caps on your soda, the packing in that new TV (not to mention the TV itself), the plastic wrapper on the grapes you brought to the picnic, the cap on your latte-to-go, your flip-flops, and that bobble-head toy you got at the ballpark. The massive ships carrying these nurdles sometimes lose their cargo, sometimes they accidentally dump large quantities of the stuff, sometimes it just gets loose.

The thing I can’t get out of my head, the thing that haunts me is how much plastic there is. We really don’t even think about plastic as plastic anymore, we think of it as normal. Diamonds may not be forever, after all they are organic structures, but plastic really IS forever. Where will all of this stuff go, this stuff that really IS forever?

In my own little life, we have upped our efforts to decrease the amount of plastic in our lives, but it’s an uphill battle. We reuse our plastic bags and buy in bulk as much as possible, we forego the plastic cap on the latte, we avoid the over-architected containers.

And we have to content ourselves with that. It’s not enough, but it’s something we can do.

The clean-up on this mess will be monstrous; if we started today, we could have 100% employment for decades. The one upside to this is it’s undeniable: the massive three-times-the-size-of-Texas floating islands of garbage are real. You could go there today and be blown away by the iceberg-depth and island-breadth of the mess.

plastic ocean 2

For Sarah and others

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

Upsides and Downsides of a Remote Workforce

telecommuniting from an espresso joint

So, for the past couple of months I’ve been in the real workforce again (as opposed to the consulting workforce).  There’s a pretty big difference.  But what is most intriguing to me are the real challenges to working remotely, because even though I’m a regular staff member now, our main office is a bit out of the way.  We have a team in NY and a team in Seattle; I go in at least once a week but am otherwise on the phone, skyping, emailing, and texting.

How does it work?  Well, the wear and tear on my carbon footprint is a lot less than when I was traveling as a consultant.  I go days without using my car, and really only use it when necessary, so that’s all good.  And sure, I like my home office as much as I ever did–the view from here is outstanding.

But the communication gap and the missing free-flow of ideas, thoughts, the sort of thing that happens when a few people are in a room together…well, that’s not so great.  All those theories about our brave new wireless world aside, communication may still require the exchange of facial expression, on the spot info, partnering, spontaneous ideas.  Yeah, that’s what I’m talkin about.

I’ve read recently about groups of remote workers gathering in cafes to work together–not people from the same company, just people who work remotely.  Why?  Better energy, they get more done and enjoy it more.  I’m considering joining one.

An article in Information Weekly suggests that if everyone who could telecommute did, it would save 9 billion gallons of gas and $38 bb a year in expenses.  In fact, there’s a new boom in telecommuting due to gas prices.

But admittedly, telecommuting can be a lonely thing as well, and motivation can take a hit (not me, I’m just sayin’).  An article from last autumn on NPR discusses a NY group that formed in order to create a group energy–no one was from the same company, they just work together.  And there are telecommuter meetups–not sure I’m ready for that, but it’s good to know about.

Anyway, it’s a 50/50 deal right now.  There’s good stuff, there’s bad stuff.

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!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 233-237: MLwC, roads and more roads

It’s likely true that traffic will expand so as to fill the roads available to it.

I’ve seen some long lonely roads zig-zagging through Texas and there are country roads in every state where you can count the cars that pass in an hour on one hand. But in metropolitan areas, the solution to traffic is always, always more roads. And when that solution is put into place, voila, traffic expands so as to fill the roads available to it. Until it reaches critical mass, and then the next plan is cobbled together: more roads.

The alternative, of course, requires a change in thinking, change in behavior, and change in long term planning. Change, in other words. More roads requires no change whatsoever, it’s more of the same. Where are the leaders who will stand up, come hell or high water, and envision a different approach?

Locally, last year we passed a major bus plan (Transit Now) last year that is rolling into effect over the next 10 years. I see bus ridership going up but tend to think it has more to do with gas than anything else. Time will tell. I’d love to see this work effectively and alleviate some of the dependence on automobiles on the road.

We have a big expensive package for road expansion coming up in the next election that is getting a lot of criticism mainly because it’s not forward thinking enough and bears too many of the solutions that have gotten us where we are now in terms of traffic. That is, a dependence on the car and solo driver.

Ron Sims has come out against the plan. A lot of cross-party dissenters have pointed out its many flaws. And yet it has a good chance of passing. Why? Because the keystone is more roads, and more roads is the “intuitive” answer to more traffic. It’s also incredibly expensive for so little return…which means somebody’s going to make a boat-load of money on this deal if it goes through.

I look at this package with the knowledge that in 50 years, my oldest son will be 80 when it’s paid off. My granddaughter will be 55. Their ability to make public investments relevant to their lives and times will be severely limited by this package. Should I be so lucky, I will use my pension until I am 110 years old to pay my share!

In the RTID, there’s something for everyone who works at Microsoft: light rail, more roads, bigger roads…and light rail running along the very paths that were planned to be supported through the Transit Now package we already bought and paid for. Will it work? Many of the planned improvements won’t even be paid for with the plan and as Sims notes: This roads-and-transit plan just doesn’t move enough people.

Interestingly, the city of Bellevue, the land of SUVS, no buses and little to no walking, endorses the plan lock stock and barrel.

Echoing something Tom mentioned a few days ago on another post about the bicycle question, Carless in Seattle has a nice quote in his header:

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

Meaning: it won’t be until we realize we can’t build our way out of this problem that we actually start to think differently. Tom commented the other day that he takes a certain delight in causing a back up of cars with his bike riding because he hopes it will force the drivers to think differently about creating safe and effective bike ROADS, not just lanes.

RTID is just more of the same. More roads for a problem that actually requires behavior change. In our little berg of West Seattle yesterday, while running our errands, I was again struck by how nicely our hood is growing–to encourage walking and biking traffic. I LOVE, for example, the cross walk in the middle of town that shuts down traffic in all directions and opens up multi-directional crosswalks for 4 minutes.

Let’s try something different for a change.

Daily Stats (Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon)

Car:0
Bike: 14 miles
Ped: 6
Bus: 14

Day 191-194: MLwC and still partying like it’s 1959!

As Saturday was “Take a Conservative Friend to Lunch” day (not really, I just made that up), my partner and I took my friend Tom B. to lunch. First off, we love Tom.  He’s a good guy, and mostly we should just talk about movies and music, and mostly we do.  But not Saturday. Talk turned to the usual list of Talk Radio Hit Parade “issues” –Immigration, Global Climate Change Fraud, Taxes, and unexpectedly…Wildlife.

This last was too much for me. Tom was going on about how wrong it is that if he’s hiking in a National Park, he’s not allowed to carry a gun to protect himself in case he’s charged by a bear. I’m not aware of that law, but I like it.

Tom feels that humans should be able to carry guns in the wild in order to “even the playing field” with ferocious beasts. That was hilarious to me, and I thought, “Oh yeah, there’s that whole weird twist on the ‘dominion’ thing again.” I suggested that once upon a time, people didn’t go into the wilderness unless 1) They knew what they were doing and 2) They understood the risk. But now, you have so many people out there at any given time it’s almost not like hiking anymore.  And worse, people are building their 5,000 square foot houses in the middle of the wilderness and being outraged when a cougar attacks one of them when out jogging. This is not a ferocious beast, this is a response to lack of territory and resources.

We’re still living like it’s 1959

Here’s the deal: we are still living like it’s 1959 and there are only 3 billion people on the planet. 37 years later, world pop is well on its way to 7 billion. We are the only species on the planet that has the wildly extravagant idea that we can populate endlessly, use all resources available, without systemic change. How does this relate to Tom’s desire to go wherever he wants without incursion from wildlife (or any other natural barrier)?

We seem to think that the entire planetary system is without the very reactive wiring we take for granted in ourselves: loss of territory and defensive strategies, fear for resources and reactive measures, protection of offspring and dwellings. Just about every creature on this planet shows evidence of that behavior–from vegetation and invasive plants, to cougars and loss of territory/food resources, to humans and fear of invasion by all kinds of forces. We’re just organisms responding to stimuli. I know, I know, a lot of people are truly offended by that and I can understand the offense. I just find, for myself, that I am much more able to live in harmony with other creatures and systems when I remember I am just an organism like them…except with a whole arsenal of tools to make sure I win any argument we might have.

All creatures on this planet respond to threat and loss of “freedom” pretty much the same we do.

Anyway, back to Tom B. I may be deluding myself, but I do think he sort of understood that we have gone way too far in expecting the animal kingdom to be fine with inexperienced hikers and joggers just willy-nilly crashing into their environments. They react as they are wired to react. We’re the ones that are jimmying the game, we’re the ones that expect the laws of nature to change.

One last thing on this rant: I’m not really out to change Tom, just to make sure some little bit of the other side is represented in the conversation. I don’t want to change anyone–I just want more information to be included in the conversation. I want us to wake up our brains with just a little more new information.

Oh and, yeah, I do wish we’d realize it’s not 1959 anymore and we are close to 7 Billion People on this planet and things really, really do change in big ways with that kind of impact.

Daily Stats (Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon)
Car: 0
Bike: 0
Ped: 0
Bus: 0
(been sick with a summer cold and ain’t doin much of anythin’ these days)

Day 183-187: MLwC and what are YOU doing?

This remodel seems determined to eat my life.

But I digress. Carless in Seattle is an interesting blog that attempts to untangle the very very tangled mess that is Traffic in Seattle. A recent post takes apart a ballot measure (RTID) for tackling traffic issues. His bottom line findings:

I spent ninety minutes this weekend reading through all the RTID projects and trying to categorize them. The results: 47% of RTID is about expanding service for single-occupancy vehicles (SOV). King County, mind you, is spending 61% on things other than roads expansion for SOVs. But the new Cross Base Highway in Pierce County is a huge factor (new SOV capacity is 75% of Pierce County’s portion of RTID), and there’s a bunch of road widening in Snohomish County as well.

He gets to the nub of it here: Why are we focused on more of the same, ie, Single Occupancy channels, instead of alternatives? As someone said, more lanes will just fill up.

Why SOV?

The question should not be more or less lanes, but rather Why SOV? Our contractor needs to drive to our house to do the remodel (the one that’s threatening to eat my life), he’s got a truckload of tools and supplies. He’s a valid SOV case. The 15,000 people who drive in and out of Seattle every day to sit at a desk carrying little more than a laptop and a phone are unexplored opportunities to find better ways to get around. Better mass transit, better car sharing, better bike infrastructure.

Grist offered a good overview of the issue the other day, highlighting the problems in figuring out what to do with the traffic problem in Puget Sound. While I understand that most people bought their big expensive cars in order to drive to work, in a congested urban environment, more lanes for more SOVs just don’t make sense. There are so many other ways we could solve this problem.

 

The Wizard of OZ

A tee shirt I have in mind to make, specifically for biking (big print on the back….I’ll probably get run over): “What are YOU doing about traffic in Seattle?” People seem focused on what the local government is going to do about traffic, all the while continuing to drive the same way they did 10 years ago, despite staggering population density, concentrations of businesses downtown, bigger cars, more trucks…What do they think? That the government really is the Wizard of Oz? And if the gov did do something radical to change things, those same people would be the first ones to sabotage it. So I’m skipping the whole government bullshit and going straight to it: What the heck are YOU doing about traffic?

Daily Stats (Thur-Mon)
Car: 11 miles (2 tasks)
Bike: 10 miles
Ped: 0
Bus: 0

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

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

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

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

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

Bike considerations.

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

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

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

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

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

The MLwC project half-way point

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

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

So, without further ado, here are the stats.

The crowd roars

Review round-up from Day 90 :

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

From Day 90 to present:

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

seattle071.jpg

Big changes:

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

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

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

Day 172: MLwC plus the Sherlock Holmes formula

I love the Sherlock Holmes formula:

“It is an old maxim of mine that when you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

Andrew Mason notes in his blog on Global Climate Change, that a similar situation is arising in the ongoing argument over whether climate change is due to human impact or not. He doesn’t site Sherlock (I’m not sure that would win him any rhetorical points), but the gist of his argument is the same.

We observe that the earth is getting warmer ….Scientist offer plausible explanations. Some suggest it is caused by non-anthropogenic factors such as natural solar cycle increasing solar radiation, volcanos belching green-house gases, the tilt of the earth’s axis, reduced cloud cover due to natural factors. Some suggest it is caused by green-house gases resulting from burning of fossil fuels and the loss of forests and other CO2 sinks due to human activity.

One by one, scientists uncover evidence that falsifies the proposed explanations. They succeed in falsifying all theories but one: the increase in greenhouse gases, principally CO2, due to human activity….until someone proposes another theory, or is able to show that the evidence which destroys an alternative theory is wrong, we are left with the anthropogenic model. And that is as close to ‘proof’ as anyone can get.

I’ve been perusing stories about weather anomolies and discussion of global climate change around the world and note that African nations such as Ghana and Nairobi are entering the global conversation, as climate changes become more apparent. When all of us have observed the same thing, everywhere, will the naysayers still be claiming it’s not happening or it’s solar flares?

Daily Stats (Monday)

Car: 0
Bike: 0
Ped: approx 3.5 miles
Bus: 0

Day 166 & 167: MLwC and NoImpactMan Rules!

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

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

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

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

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