Category Archives: WiserEarth

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

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Day 133: MLwC, food and the 4th

Here’s what the 4th of July looks, smells and sounds like in my neck of the woods:

seattle fireworks pic

Wall-to-wall people camped out at the beach from early morning on in order to have a good spot to watch the fireworks over Elliott Bay and Queen Anne.

Traffic backed up from the bridge all the way to and from the beach all day and until the very early morning hours.

The twin smells of barbecue and wood fires, combined later with sulpher from the fireworks themselves.

Boom boxes blaring, kids running around laughing, squealing, adults talking over too much beer and sun…but all having a pretty good holiday.

And food. Chips, hotdogs, hamburgers, pizza, take-out chicken, store-bought cherry pie…a cornucopia of processed american food.

Which brings me to the Slow Food, an international organization with over 80,000 members started in 1986 as a reaction to McDonald’s and other american fast food enterprises. They focus on the intersection of community, farming, food production, taste, health, and the pure enjoyment of real, unprocessed food. Their mission statement:

We believe that everyone has a fundamental right to pleasure and consequently the responsibility to protect the heritage of food, tradition and culture that make this pleasure possible. Our movement is founded upon this concept of eco-gastronomy – a recognition of the strong connections between plate and planet.

Anyone who gets their food at a local farmer’s market is part of the slow food movement, whether they realize it or not. Anyone who takes the time to prepare their meals, who cares about what goes in their body, or who enjoys real, unprocessed food, or prefers restaurants that use local fresh and organic produce is part of the slow food movement. Because in our culture, it is much easier to just buy a bag of chips, pick up some hot dogs or burgers, grab a mass-produced pizza and knock back a six pack of fast-brewed beer.

We have come to expect so little from our food. In a fast food world, it’s all about quantity, not quality. In a slow food world, those values are reversed.

So, anyway, I spent the day with pals (so great to hang with your girl gang, Di!) and had lunch at the Pike Place Market. Later I rode home to spend the evening with some more friends; we had slow cooked spicy black beans, rice, guacamole, corn tortillas, salad, and a fresh fruit crisp with cherries from our own pie-cherry tree in the backyard…and man, was it good! How was your 4th?

Daily stats: (Wednesday)
Car: 0
Bike: 15 miles
Bus: 1.5 miles
Water taxi: 2 miles
Ped: approx 2 miles

Day 132: MLwC and the growing web of organizations

rooted_substrate.jpg

 Michael Spalding, one of the editors at WiserEarth commented on Hawken’s seminar noted here earlier. I thought his comment was worth highlighting as the wordsmithing captures the ideal and mission of WiserEarth so well:

That long list of grassroots organizations that scroll on and on, is actually a part of WiserEarth (www.wiserearth.org), an online tool to improve the quality of connections between anyone interested in social justice, environmental restoration or indigenous rights. If the unnamed movement is analogous to the immune system, as Paul suggests, then its success does not depend on the strength of any one organization or individual, but on the quality of the connections between them. WiserEarth was designed to all the community develop the connections that they need to better do their work.

We live in an age when “quality of connections” has a meaning its never had before, and WiserEarth is creating a space to leverage the potential of our connectedness.  Will this change how the world works? Early days, but I have no doubt whatsoever.

Thanks Michael!

Daily Stats (Monday)
Car: 0
Bike: 0
Bus: 0
Ped: 0
Desk: about 15 hours worth.

Day 119 thru 121: MLwC and WiserEarth.com

Traveling again this week, and really rushed for time. Time is a critical factor in selection of transportation modes. I elected to drive to the airport and park rather than risk not getting picked up by the shuttle again….Anyway, I was thinking about how much I travel over the course of the year and how much this impacts my carbon footprint. I’m a consultant and this travel issue won’t likely change a whole lot in the near future which makes my activities while at home even more important–walk, bike, bus, etc.

On Sunday, I hung out a while at Paul Hawken’s site WiserEarth, trying to figure out how it works. I heard back from Michael regarding the beta site re my sense that it wasn’t targeted well; I couldn’t figure out if it was for professional .org people or for regular people like me. He confirmed that they are still working out some aspects of the site (it’s beta) but:

“In a nutshell, it is definitely for people like you. I encourage you to check it out and make sure your favorite organizations are represented in there. And we are always looking for feedback on usability and for ideas on future enhancements to make the site more useful for your line of work. We can’t guarantee everything will be implemented (we have constraints on tech support and funding of course), but we do value community feedback.”

So , I went back to the site and created an account, and then went for a run.

alkilincolnpark.jpg

During the run I began to think about all the stuff rolling around in my head and realized (this may be a Doh! moment for some of you but it was sort of exciting for me): The Compact, my own MLwC project, Wildlife Alliance, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Critical Mass, the Backyard Wildlife movement here in Seattle and a hundred other things that I personally take an interest in, are all part of a much, much bigger movement that as Hawken puts, is as yet un-named and is potentially the biggest movement in the history of the planet. People like you and me–perhaps not doing big global projects, but doing things we care about, passionately, and that contribute to a larger common good.

And it’s the combination of all those things that is creating this massive global movement that Paul Hawken is writing about.

When I returned from my run, I went to the site and entered my first organization. I’ll follow up with others. I’m no expert on so many things out there, but I know about my own life and interests, and that’s what I can share. How the site will evolve, how it will utilize my interests, network us all, remains to be seen. How I will use it remains to be seen.

Participating is sort of a leap of faith. Take The Compact, for example. You use your big car to go shopping and buy things, much more than you really need, without thinking about alternate paths, and it’s all so easy, so fast, who really thinks about it. So the Compact has groups all over the planet finding different ways to live outside the planned path of consumerism. Once that habit is busted, these people like Rachel in SF, or myself here with my own habit-busting project, we find ourselves connecting to our city, our community, our planet in a whole new way. Rachel, just like me, just like you, is one little atom bouncing around out there amidst a gazillion atoms, changing the way atoms bounce here in Seattle, Tokyo, Buenos Aires and who knows where else.

And that, I believe, is what Paul Hawken is talking about. Bring what you have, share it, find your community, find energy, find a different path and share your map. And Hawken clearly understands the internet has made the path to sharing your map possible.

Daily stats: (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday)
Car: 25 miles
Bike: 0
Ped: 3.0
Bus: 0
Air: 2400

Day 116 thru 118: MLwC and the way things are interconnected

I’m old enough to remember when the term built-in obsolescence began to gain currency. Apparently, the movement on the part of manufacturers to create goods that would have a shorter, definitive life-span started in the 30’s (I wasn’t around then 🙂 ) and really became part of our culture in the 60’s (I was around then) and is now so common we rarely think twice before trashing something we bought a week ago, year ago, two years ago, whatever.

There was a time, really, when you bought things and expected them to last. And last a long time.

This built-in obsolescence or planned obsolescence is, in many ways, at the root of our collective carbon footprint now and I find myself thinking about it with relation to My 30 Days of consumer celibacy and how The Compact works, that was mentioned here the other day. The author, Wendee Holtcamp spent 30 days not buying anything new and chronicled the adventure. According to the Compact, the goal is to wean oneself from our consumer addicted society….

What happens in an experiment like this, I imagine, is similar to what has happened in my own experiment with urban transportation: once you break a pattern of behavior, you begin to view everything in relation to that pattern differently.

So, now I’m starting to wonder about this buy-nothing-new project that started in San Francisco by Rachel and others. It’s not some anti-corporation, self-punishing hard-core movement–it’s smart people who understand that the more new stuff we buy, the more landfill we create and the more we put into motion this global supply chain that is at the heart of an unsustainable consumer culture.

When we first bought the house we’re living in now, we had to do a lot of very necessary repairs right off the bat. Some of them involved new wood siding on the house to repair dry-rot, etc., and I remember thinking, “what would it be like to follow the production of this lumber from the forest all the way to our house?” Because it’s not just the lumber yard where you purchase it, it’s the trucks, trains, ships that get the wood from the forest (sustainable or otherwise); it’s the rubber in the tires, the steel in the chassis, the hardhats, the gloves, the dock with its hauling equipment and cranes; it’s the computerized programs that track inventory, the reports, the finance and banking; it’s the plastic ties, the labeling, the marketing and the packaging…it goes on and on.

Marley’s ghost

For some reason, it makes me think of the Marley’s ghost in A Christmas Carol who shows up to haunt Scrooge dragging a long line of chains and money boxes rattling behind him.

Basically, that’s what buy-nothing-new is getting at: recognizing that the mass of stuff we buy new involves a greater participation in this completely unsustainable pitch of manufacturing, marketing, distribution, and sales–unsustainable because it takes resources to create and distribute stuff, but the model doesn’t put stuff back in.

So, the Compact is focused on not introducing more new stuff into the world, borrowing or buying used, and thereby perhaps driving a market demand that items be built better to last longer. That then got me to thinking about Seth Godin’s post commented on here a while ago that he will know we’re actually gaining ground in the environmental movement when cars have LED readers on their bumpers that advertise the mileage–encouraging longevity over new, new, new.

I’m not ready to do the compact quite yet, and when I do, I’ll definitely do a 30 day trial first; but I’m really captured by the thought of reducing the massive global supply chain that goes into our consumerism–making things last longer, repairing, recycling, borrowing, lending. There’s also a wonderful network and community aspect to the Compact that is attractive.

Daily Stats (Friday, Saturday, Sunday)
Car: 8 (2 tasks)
Bike:7 miles
Ped: 3.5 miles
Bus:0
air: 0

PS. I have a confession to make. I’ve gone back and forth and back and forth on whether or not to include other people’s cars in my daily stats. I’ve been incredibly ambivalent about it but have this last week decided: No. This project is about My Car, not all cars. So, I’m really only looking at ways I use my car…and the possibility of living without a “my car” in the future. Thoughts?