Category Archives: population growth

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.



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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:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Days 246-251: MLwC and the wild fear of no exit

Whoa–this blog got away from me for a few days. Like a LOT of days. I’m not sure where I’ve been….

I’ve been thinking a lot about the insight I had the other day which I described in 64 miles to mindfulness. Of course, the idea of No Exit has been around in various forms for a long, long time, from Sartre to Pema Chodron. It seems that for a lot of us, the idea of No Escape or No Exit drives us to extremes in behavior and thinking, and I’ve been aware of that in my own jungle-mind since that experience in traffic the other day.

Cars give us the feeling that there is always an escape: we can just hop in our cars and away we go! But it’s not true. The expectation, the hope of that ideal gets us in the car, but the reality is quite different and the jarring difference between the two may be at the bottom of everything from mild irritation and a buzzing disappointment in your brain, to road rage and worse. Cars promise escape, but they can’t deliver–not with all of us driving on the same roads, going in much the same direction.

Perhaps that’s why buses have the sort of stigma they do. They represent the opposite: you’re just going where you’re going. There’s no ideal of Escape. No glamor of hopping in the convertible and heading down the road, all care-free abandon. Could be.

Anyway, I’ve been watching myself and these back-of-the-mind thoughts about Exits and Escapes.

thelma-and-louise.jpg

The other issue I’ve noticed the last couple of weeks is a definite change in car usage, and a definite reason why. In summer, the activities are outdoors, you can walk to the beach, hang out at the pool, run in the park, read a book out in the hammock on a summer afternoon. But as the days draw shorter and the temp drops, my activities tend to be more involved with others, in their homes–dinners, game nights, stuff like that. We move indoors and I, anyway, find I’m driving a lot more. Hmmm.

Daily Stats: (Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon)
Car: 21 miles (dozens of tasks and activities)
Bike: 18 miles
Ped: 5 miles
Bus: 0

Day 208 and 209: MLwC, Fremont adventure and more on whales

Fremont Seattle

Neighbor Susan sent me the directions for taking the bus to Fremont yesterday….but too late! I’d already been and back, and it all took a lot less time than I thought. Two buses there, two buses back, little waiting and a lot of sight-seeing on the way. That’s the thing about riding the bus–you actually get to look at stuff. While on Dexter to Fremont, I had the chance to see the new condo corridor that comprises the west bank of Lake Union. Urban living at its best–it’s actually a vibrant, attractive community. Where once there were few people out walking or riding bikes, now there are outdoor cafes, sufficient population density and plenty of walking traffic.

And then there’s Fremont (aka Center of the Known Universe. Please set your clocks back 5 minutes.). Fremont has never been without its vibrant community, and while a long time ago when Adobe moved in I dreaded a lot of the things that were happening because traffic became even more impossible and the funky little hood was suddenly a lot more glitzy, somehow Fremont has maintained its predictable quality of weirdness while supporting a level of sophistication. The transition period in the late 80s and early 90s was a painful series of miscalculations (the old PCC was dreadful; the new PCC is divine, however), but the new Fremont is a walker’s heaven, and if you like Thai food, there’s nowhere better to go. And don’t forget Peet’s. In a town bristling with Sbux, it’s nice to find a Peet’s coffee where you can settle in for a good long while at the epicenter of the Center of the Known Universe.

So, I’ve branched out on the bus front.

On the gray whale front, I’m still thinking about and following the issue with the rogue hunt team from the Makah tribe out of Forks, WA. Previous post here. On Sunday, the Makah tribal council denounced the action and will prosecute the hunters to the fullest extent of tribal law. At the same time that this event has been in the news, studies regarding the “success story” of saving the gray whale from extinction have been thrown into question by recent studies; it appears that there is maybe only a third of the population recovery previously reported, and that the populations are not healthy, some are even emaciated due to vastly diminished food sources. It’s a systemic issue: global climate change impacts food sources, over fishing impacts food sources, over fishing is related to population increases, and on and on.

Last week I ran across a letter to the editor, written by First Nation tribal member Ann Stateler, which helped open my heart again regarding this incident. Here it is in full:

We are First Nations whale conservationists who regard whales as our sacred brethren. The heinous poaching of a gray whale by five Makah tribal members pains us deeply [“Gray whale shot, killed in rogue tribal hunt,” Times page one, Sept. 9].

No tribal tradition we know of would condone the ruthless killing of this whale. The poachers desecrated an ancestral whaling legacy, compromising it beyond redemption. Their selfish, cruel act betrayed whales and the Makah Tribe.

Inflicting mortal wounds that cause an animal to bleed to death over 10 hours; killing out of frustration with bureaucratic delays; putting ego and self above community — such behavior mocks traditional Native values. The poachers’ blatantly illegal actions warrant full prosecution in Makah tribal court and under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The time is overdue for Makah elders, culture bearers and tribal leaders to reassess the viability of whaling in the 21st century. Imperiled by global warming, habitat destruction and other monumental threats, fragile whale populations will not endure for the next seven generations if only select groups of humans commit to protecting whales, while others persist in exploiting whales.

— Ann Stateler (Choctaw/Five Tribes)

Daily Stats: (Mon, Tue)
Car: 0
Bike: 4.5
Ped: 2
Bus: approx 25

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 155 & 156: MLwC and a wee bit more on Chinatown

Interestingly, after the post the other day re Green Films, New West offers another story that sounds chillingly like the Owens Valley rip-off that was the true-life basis of the fictional noir film Chinatown. The story, entitled “Water again,” (the infamous quote from detective Jake in Chinatown) takes place in Southern Idaho and follows a proposal to take millions of gallons of water out of the Snake River every day in order to sustain housing and development in the Idaho desert south of Boise….Hmmm, I wonder where I’ve heard that before.

Cadillac Desert chronicles what happened to the Owens Valley farmers and the vast, fruitful agricultural areas that supported local economies and provided fresh food for the whole region. When the water was siphoned off for L.A and the San Fernando Valley, those farms dried up–literally–and became part of history.

I wonder if Idahoans will allow the creation of their own Cadillac Desert, lining the pockets of Mulholland type developers who have purchased desert land on the cheap, hoping to turn it into an oasis–on the backs of tax-payers, local farms, and the eco-system at large.

Daily Stats: (Thu, Fri)
Car: 0
Bike: 0
Ped: approx 7 miles
Bus: 0
Desk: miles and miles deep into the early morning light.

Day 77 thru 80: My life w car

Been flying all over the place running errands in the car–it’s just like that sometimes. And this week promises to be busy as well. A lot of travel to the eastside where it seems no buses go…

newyorkart-michael.jpg

Somewhat unrelated (at least on the surface) to the environment, yet related in a systems kind of way…I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the social organization of Europe in medieval times. Yeah, really. It’s all related to a larger thought about communication networks, the larger conversation of culture, our interconnectedness and denial, but here’s what I’ve been mulling over:

In medieval times, there were basically three channels in life: the Church, the Military, and Commerce. The Court (royal, not judicial) had all of those rolled into it and was the center of all things.

In a way, we still have this organization, though much more complex and hard to read. I’ll stop here and tell why I started on this train of thought: my partner is a therapist, and as a result, we socialize with a lot of therapists, analysts, and others in the psychological care world. People in this world have a certain disdain for people in the Commerce world, and I won’t even mention the Military–it goes without saying.

I view the therapy field as an extension of the religious channel of medieval times; that channel served a spiritual need, a community need, for guidance that is not offered in the other channels.

What my partner and I got to talking about the other day is how each of these channels views the other channels as “less than,” or somehow corrupt in ways that they themself are not. So goes the military in its view of the non-military world and its concerns; so goes commerce with its profit imperative which it believes is paramount to all others; so goes the care-giving fields which certainly claim a higher moral ground to the other channels.

And yet…in truth, none of them live very well without the others. A military that is detached from the moral and emotional imperatives of the community is simply a dictatorship and a brutish one at that; a culture of commerce that does not see itself as part of a larger system wherein the health and well being of the system upon which it is dependent is paramount is simply greed gone awry (yeah, maybe we’re there…); and those charged with giving care of one sort or another who are disconnected from the other channels will become untethered at some point and unable to add a valued voice to the larger conversation of community.

At all times in our human history, we’ve seen these channels of organization be recreated in different ways; we’ve seen them struggle for ascendancy, usually to the ultimate detriment of the the larger community. I guess I’m thinking about these things right now because it seems we are so close to having every possible form of communication available to us short of Vulcan Mind Meld, and yet we still strive to shut down communication of our shared experience.

The Church does not want to hear about the crushing effect of over-population and diminishing resources and so it retreats to a sanctimonious ground which they will call “higher ground.” Therapists do not want to associate themselves with business because their own view of themselves does not include a desire for profits (I mean, come on!), so they deny business as a valued aspect of life and therefore shut themselves off from a very needed participation in that larger conversation. The Military does not want to humanize the world since it may have to go to war with it, so it denies the human aspect of its own people, not to mention other cultures, it objectifies so it can rigidly command and control.

It is, at the end of the day, our own attachment to the outcome of our actions–our concepts about who we are and how we’re defined–that causes us the most trouble.

Well…after all that, here’s the details of my carbon-based life:

Daily Stats:
Car: Whew! about 50 miles total (approx 12 tasks, sometimes 2 people)
Bike: 5 miles
Electric-hybrid bus: 0
fexcar: 0

Day 71 – 72: My life w car

bumblebee_mirrorlake1b_web.jpg

Oprah goes green: Going Green 101. I really loved seeing this show at the gym while I was working out, even though some of the ideas seemed really, really old. I thought: we can recycle just about anything.

Green investing: I truly believe that this will become a big deal in the near future. We’re about to be cornered on everything from energy to sustainable foodstuffs. So, one day soon, all these “wacky” alternative ideas may become more mainstream than ever thought possible.

What’s up with the bees?

Use one less paper napkin!

Daily Stats:
Car: 10 miles (two tasks, two people)
bike: 0
bus/flexcar: 0

Day 58: My Life w Car

Mexico gets it!!

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One of the last gray whale “nurseries” in the world–in San Ignacio, Baja California, Mexico–has received a huge boost in protected lands, as reported by NRDC. 109,000 acres of federal land surrounding this habitat will be set aside for conservation…by the Mexican government. This spoils the plans of several companies to use this area–such as Mitsubishi, Essa and others, which is a great victory!

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Now if Mexico can just limit the amount of tourist travel, marinas, high end resorts etc, maybe this gem can remain a sanctuary for not just whales, but for an entire natural system. I’m not so sure that Mexico is aiming for this; even Costa Rica, a country committed to its natural bounty, is running right on the razor’s edge of selling its crown jewels. But there are models, it can be done at least to a degree–we can limit access and still keep people happy and able to visit. It’s a constant struggle for Hawaii or the Grand Canyon, for example, but with smart limits, it can be done.

Daily stats:
Days without carbon based transportation: 0
car: 3.5 miles
bike: 0
flexcar/bus: 0

Day 43 & 44: My Life w Car

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Holy shit, I was sitting in a car with a friend in San Salvador traffic yesterday–she was smoking, holding the cigarette out the window to not bother me–and suddenly we’re behind a bus that accelerates and good god, you should have seen the black cloud of smoke that encircled us. It was thick, like it was palpable with particulates, and with our windows open, the cloud filled the car and stayed there.

I literally felt trashed, like breathing would hurt me but I’m an oxygen dependent organism, so what am I going to do.

The swallows around here are preparing to travel up North–they’re swirling and chattering in large obvious groups. I imagine what it’s like flying here, as a small bird, and yeah, I’d be pretty excited about leaving too. Even though I like San Salvador, and love my pals here, I won’t miss the thick billowing clouds of pollution that happen all over the city. Also, I won’t miss the poverty and over-crowding, the wild population growth.

So…what am I doing down here?
I’m training the team here on Active Listening and the Art of Questioning. Specifically, how managers and direct reports go “dead” during evaluations because the manager practices the “opn-the-head-and-pour-the-info-in.” This approach works with kids up to about 8th grade, optimistically; after that, if the individual isn’t engaged on a problem solving, thoughtful level, they aren’t engaged at all. They’re merely nodding and saying, at specific points, what they believe they should be saying.

There’s a lot of that going on here with supervisors and managers. I observed a review yesterday where the agent stopped looking at the supervisor 2 minutes into the conversation, slumped in his seat and stared at the floor. The supervisor pushed on, never veering from her review form, never checking in with the agent. She even lowered her head to try and catch his eye…yet, she never veered from her performance review form. the conversation lasted 12 minutes, and 10 minutes of that time the conversation was functionally dead.

The good news, when I asked her what she thought was going on with this kid, she said she suspected he was ashamed because the review wasn’t good but his usual work is above reproach. I asked why she pushed on, knowing there was a problem–she had no answer. So, my work is trying to make this exchange alive, relational, meaningful.

Active listening means you take in the whole picture–the posture, the eyes, the words, and perhaps most important, your own feelings about how things are going. Our ability to put our own perception in the present moment aside in favor of the obligation of the task at hand is amazing to me…and a little frightening.

Daily stats:
Car: probably about 12 miles of gagging, pollution soaked travel through town
bike, bus, flexcar: zip
Walking: probably 1.5 miles

Day 42: My Life w Car

overpopulation.jpg

Some El Sal stats to consider: 19% of the population of El Salvador has a yearly income of less than a dollar a day; 48% is under the poverty line. The cost of gas here runs around $2.40. A quart of milk is about a buck.

A friend of mine here in San Salvador yesterday was talking a lot about the inequality of income and economies in the world, as it related to immigration legislation in the states. It’s a big issue, no denying that, and personally, I feel as confused about it as can be. But as the conversation went along, I found myself more and more energized about another topic: Overpopulation.

So, I said, “let’s bump this up a few notches, to about 35 thousand feet, and look at the really big picture.” What is the world going to look like when there are 9 billion people in it? This is what it looks like when there are 6 billion–and no one I know feels like things are working very well–dwindling resources, inability to offer a quality life to the majority of earths human population. So, what is it going to look like when there are 9 billion.

His answer was totally predictable, and for a smart guy, I was sort of disappointed. He said, “it’s been proven that in industrialized nations, the birth rate drops as the families become more educated and healthy.” That’s the same Bill Gates crap I’ve heard so many times. In fact, if that were so, the US would not have surpassed 3 billion a few months ago, right? I mean, we’ve got to be among the most industrialized modern nations in the world, I’m thinking, so how come we’re still growing at a phenomenal rate?

Everyone points to Germany when they toss this industrialized nation/zero population pithy response out. Germany has zero pop growth and has for awhile now. Well, one nation out of the whole world–and a sort of unusual and smallish nation at that–is not good evidence of the whole industrialized nation theory.

The conversation with my El Salvador friend continued and I said, Look, you know what I’d like to see in the world? I’d like to see a world where we are equal to all other forms of life on the planet. Not more important, more special, more this or more that, but equal. No other organism on this planet is free to reproduce endlessly without dire consequences. Since we are, next to bacteria, the most populous species on the planet, our dire consequences will be dire for the whole dang neighborhood.

And still, all we seem able to focus on is ourselves–our poverty, our diseases, our human suffering. As if everything else were a mere backdrop to our own experience.

Finally, the crap about global warming not being caused by human activity–hello? If you really read the studies, you see that carbon pollution has been around since the middle ages…and it’s totally related to the rise of cities and city-states.

And it’s all about Coal. We should be rising up demanding the end of Coal as a fuel, period. Coal is evil. And it’s 40% of our “contribution” to climate change. AND, AND, AND!! Coal was viewed as so evil in the 13th century that King Edward banned it. A man ahead of his times.

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Daily stats:
car: approx 7 miles (taxi)
bike, bus, flexcar: 0