Category Archives: systems thinking

52WoLP #14: I Just Wanna Celebrate!

Celebrate Lincoln Park is a combo of two free events being offered by Fauntleroy Community Association. Here are the deets:

  • April 23, Tues., 6:30-8:30 at the Hall at Fauntleroy: speakers (such as the fabulous Trileigh Tucker) tables, fascinating people sharing fascinating information (full disclosure, I will be part of the crew at the ALPN table)–and who else? Seal Sitters, Whale Trail, Puget Sound Partnership, Seattle Parks, and more. Come get some history, some future, some ongoing thangs.
  • April 27, right smack in the park itself, all kinds of things going on! First, there will be a low tide and naturalists available and also, therefore, a zillion happy kids running around. ALPN, Alliance for Lincoln Park Nature, will be offering Art in the Park with three sessions of writing and sketching and having some fun ;-). I’ve heard a rumor that the guy who makes those beautiful balancing driftwood sculptures will be down at the shore making beautiful balancing driftwood sculptures.(full disclosure: I love what Sky Darwin does.) There will be nature walks, nature talks, nature all around. Don’t miss this.
  • All activities will start at the south of the park, much more information will be available at the Celebration on April 23, plus I’ll be keeping the faith here, check back as we get closer.

    Mark the dates! April 23 & 27–see you there!

    52 Weeks of Lincoln Park is a year long project chronicling and loving the seasons of LP in beautiful West Seattle.

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    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 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 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

    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 198 and 199: MLwC and WTF?

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

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

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

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

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

    Day 175: MLwC and the upside of Evangelical Environmentalism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Day 160: MLwC and when making things easy makes things worse

    In the USA, making things easier and then selling tons of those easy things is the basis of our entire economy and consumer culture. It’s human nature: easy is good, difficult is bad. But as with all good things, there is a tipping point where good goes bad.

    In the world of “easy things,” that tipping point is often related to over-consumption. At this time of year, I think of all the garden watering contraptions that have been invented–to take the trouble out of the task of watering. Most of them rely heavily on a broadcast spray functionality that could not–really!–could not be more wasteful. On an 80 degree day, spraying water into the air guarantees losing about half of what you’re pumping out.

    Sierra Club blog had a good quote a few months back that comes to mind:

    “The greenest ballpark in the country may be Fenway Park, because only an idiot would try driving and parking there.” (Sports Illustrated, March 2007)

    And over at Confessions of a Green Girl Wannabe Marguerite, who is in Paris right now, notes that:

    There is some advantage to not having access to the comfort of modern appliances. In our Paris appartment, I still have not figured out how to use the wash machine. The dryer appears to be even more of a mystery. One [interesting] consequence has been how little dirty laundry we have generated as a result.

    Fast food is easy–so easy, we eat too much of it. Driving is easy–so easy, we forget other forms of transportation, or even forget how nice it might be to hang closer to home. Getting a double tall split shot cappuccino is ridiculously easy–and our landfills are overflowing with plastic and paper cups to prove it.

    I rarely drive downtown anymore. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I did, and I would not have predicted that a year ago. I resonate with the Fenway park quote above: driving downtown is so hard anymore that I’ve learned a hundred other ways to get there–all smarter and less impacting than driving.

    What other things might be better if they were just a wee bit more difficult? And how on earth could we possibly sell such an idea to an entire culture that bases its choices on “easy livin'”?

    Daily Stats: (Wed)
    Car: 0
    Bike: 0
    Ped: 3 miles
    Bus: 0
    internet: all day long.

    Day 159: MLwC plus new scientific evidence

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

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

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

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

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

    Day 157 & 158: MLwC and small news

    How cool is this: I not only remembered the cloth bags for the farmer’s market today (not a very big deal cuz cloth bags are just easier to use at farmer’s market so I made that switch a while ago), but I remembered plastic bags as well! This is a first.

    Here’s my new system: when I get home from the market, I unpack the stuff I get and if the plastic bag is clean and dry, I just empty it and put it right back in the cloth bag. Then next week I get to the market and voila, I have plastic bags. I personally think this is sheer brilliance. Since I just recycled two bulging bags of plastic bags today, I’m thinking we could make a real dent in our personal contribution to the mountans of this modern-living-through-chemicals product.

    Okay, so it’s not big. But you takes your smiles where you find them.  Here’s a mini-challenge I’m going to take up this week: not one new plastic bag.  For all instances, re-use or use canvas.

    plastic-bags-pix.jpg

    It takes approximately 10-20 years for bio-degradable plastic bags to bio-degrade.  That’s a definition stretch, in my mind. It’s estimated that 500 million to a billion bags are used and discarded each year, and that’s probably a low-ball number; others estimate the number at 100 billion.

    Daily Stats (Sat & Sun)
    Car: 24 miles (5 tasks, 2 people)
    Bike: 0
    Ped: approx 5 miles
    Bus: 0
    Water Taxi: approx 2 miles

    Day 148 & 149: MLwC and a 4 minute vid about how we connect

    Web 2.0 … The Machine is Us/ing Us

    Take 4 minutes and watch this vid created by a group of students at Kansas State University’s ethonography dept. It’s amazing and inspiring and beautiful in its weird way. it’s the world we are living in and participating in. it’s us.

    I’ve had family in town all weekend with a ten year-old to show the sites of Seattle and environs to. We did a lot of it via bus, ferries, monorails and foot–you know when you’ve worn a ten-year old out, you’ve walked a lot.

    Daily Stats (Thur, Fri)

    Car: 0
    Bus: approx 5 miles
    Ferry: approx 8 miles
    Monorail: approx 2 miles
    Ped: approx 7 miles

    Day 139: MLwC and the long, hot days of summer

    In Seattle, unlike a lot of places, we don’t usually get a whole lot of really, really hot summer weather. I grew up in S. California and know (and have missed) truly long hot summer days.

    But the last few years, it does seem that we’re getting more of those long, hot summer days and often, even though it’s cold and rainy for much of the year and people go a little cabin-crazy around February, you hear a lot of grumbling among natives about when the rain and clouds will return. Can’t please everyone, it seems.

    This last winter was, well, treacherous. Mind you, for the most part all we usually deal with is lots of rain and Seasonal Affect Disorder. Last winter we had record breaking amounts of rain and wind like you wouldn’t believe–this is not hurricane country by any stretch and yet we had hurricane force storms roll through large swaths of the region. The biggest storm is now known as The Hanukkah Hurricane, for its timing right on the holiday.

    Why do I mention this? Because a lot of trees fell during that storm, which was bad enough–I mean, a LOT of trees. Power was out for a couple of weeks in many areas, roads were blocked. This is an area with a lot of urban trees…though less than we used to have.

    Because a lot of trees fell and did a lot of property damage, the following months were marked by the daily cacophony of chain saws and chippers. Not just to handle the fallen trees, but to take down the remaining trees around houses. There are several houses just in our neighborhood with huge (I mean huge) trunks in the lots where once were mighty and beautiful evergreens and pines.

    Now, when the hot weather has hit, these houses no longer have any shade at all and the sun is hitting full force, causing the house and gardens to heat up. Result: much more dependence on air conditioning and watering to maintain the status quo. (I’m not even going to get into the loss of habitat resulting from the urban clear-cutting).

    wilsons_warbler pic

    Do I blame people for being nervous about trees around their house? No, I don’t. I’m a little nervous myself–our house is surrounded on all sides by madronas, cedars, pines and we watch them with real trepidation when the winds hit–which interestingly is much more than ever before. I recall reading in The Weather Makers that one of the impacts of global climate change will be an increase in extremes–bigger winds, bigger droughts, bigger rains–in all the places that used to have “normal” amount of same.

    The point is, we live in a systems based world. You do one thing and it has an impact over here, over there, and in places you can’t even predict. Because of that, yes, our choices matter.

    Trees have always been a source of natural air conditioning and protection for homes. Sometimes that protection can turn into a liability. Many of the more knowledgeable people I’ve talked to have suggested that hard-core pruning, thinning out of volunteers and the like will make the existing trees stronger and less likely to fall. Degradation of soil, lack of care, removal of necessary understory brush will cause the trees to be weakened. We sort of live in a magic world where all things– trees, animals, weather, people– are seen as objects to be used as we wish, rather than as a healthy systemic environment requires.

    So, here’s to a long, cool drink this afternoon in the hammock. Shade–sure, it’s old fashioned, but it works.

    Daily stats: (Tuesday)
    Car: 0
    Bike: 0
    Bus: 0
    Ped: 0
    It was a lot-of-deskwork-day.