If we do not permit the earth to produce beauty and joy, it will in the end not produce food, either. Joseph Wood Krutch

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Mr. Green Jeans

I have discovered if I really wanted to be fully green, and self sufficient, it would take a pile of the other green....money. That is something I don't have a lot of right now.

I don't currently have 40 acres and a mule, I don't even have five acres and a riding lawnmower. I just have a condo I rent with a small backyard. I may be able to grow a little of my own food back there but, feed myself...forget it. I am reliant on the local grocer for that.

I have electricity, natural gas, water in the pipes, the drains run into the city sewer, and the landlord takes care of any problems I have. In other words, I am dependent on the community. That is the good part.

The bad part of that equation is that if the community chooses not to be so green, it is difficult for me to be fully green. Portland area is quite green but the manufacturers of the products I buy are not. This, I think is the entire premise behind the title of my blog, "Least Footprint". Could I make a lesser footprint than I do now? Absolutely! Should I? Of course. Then why don't I? The answer is simple. I don't yet know how but I am working on it plus it is also true that there are few products anymore that meet the fully green status. Being fully green is not easy.

I sometimes wonder if someone who reads my blog; I don't think there are too many right now actually; came to my house, would they expect I would be Mr. Green Jeans with solar cells charging batteries in the attic, tubes circling the roof to fill my hot water tank, a large greenhouse in the backyard full of tomatoes, peppers, radishes and zucchini and a couple of chickens running in the yard. To be honest I would welcome that life, but as I said, that takes money. Money I don't have. It is a goal though. However not eating chicken any longer those hens would have a pretty good life.

I pretty much began the whole green thing with eating better and that somehow led to starting recycling. I think it is because I started going to sustainability fairs and my eyes were opened to what my lifestyle was actually doing to the planet. It took a while to get really good at recycling but now my trash cans see very little waste. I'd estimate less than 10% of what we throw away now ends up in the landfill. (Unless the recycle station has dumped it there, which I hear does happen.) I am an avid recycler of everything I can now and when I can't recycle something now, and have to throw it in the trash can, it actually makes me sort of cringe. I have a stack of Styrofoam in the garage waiting for someone to start recycling it. I would think they could just grind it up and make something new out of it but I guess not.

My next step, after learning to recycle better, was to reduce the amount of stuff I actually buy. Less purchase, less waste. I have been partially effective at doing that and I still want, I just don't buy as much. I'm still working on that line between want and need.

I think my next step in this process is to learn to eat with the seasons and locally. That is not going to be easy in the winter. September, as it so happens, is "Eat Local" month and so now is a good time to get started on the local eating program I think. I'll report back how it goes.

Green Tip: It is no longer necessary to make a decision on cloth or disposable diapers. g diapers from Australia have just been introduced in the U.S. and they are made right here in Portland Oregon. Kind of makes me wish I had a baby just so I could see how well these things work.

g diapers can be flushed or even composted. Were you aware that 50 MILLION disposable diapers end up in the landfill EVERY DAY! Average time to decay...about 500 YEARS. g diapers completely ends that problem.

For only $26.99 you can try them out. After that you just buy refills and flush. A case of refills is $52.00 for 128 diapers. You can also use cloth inside the g Pants during the day and use then use the flushable at night.

Want to learn more? Visit the videos.

"Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers but as fountains of life." John Muir, 1898

I am taking John Muir's advice and will be communing with the birds, the bears and the trees in the Mount Adams wilderness for a long weekend. I call it "tree time" and it is a necessity for me to help maintain my sanity from living in the city. My heart lives in the hills and meadows of the backwoods, but my feet are still stuck in the city.

Note: My next post will be on Tuesday, September 4, 2007. Have a happy Labor Day. Get out in nature this weekend and show a tree a little love. You'll breathe better for it.

Oh yeah, check out my new "nature quotes" feed over there to the right. See, something new while I'm gone anyhow.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A trip to Ikea

When the Ikea store opened in Portland this last July the news harbingered huge traffic jams and the papers displayed  diagrams of how to avoid the traffic.  However, the biggest story, prior to the grand opening, was of those that camped out in line, some for a week, to be one of the first five-hundred in the door. I knew right away this was a place I wanted to avoid until things cooled off.

As it turned out there was not a single traffic jam, the ones who sat in line for a week, thinking they were going to get a free chair, simply got a coupon for a free hot dog in the cafe, and the doors opened on time to the sounds of Swedish oompah's by a brass band. I think there were a few dignitaries to cut the ribbon.

Well, yesterday, we finally took the light rail down to check the place out.  After all, if they build such a large cathedral to shopping it might be worth the time to at least step inside the door and find out what was doing with everything yellow, blue and square.  It was dizzying.  You are free to shop where you want but if you came with no specific plan they have conveniently put huge arrows on the floor to route you around the mouse maze interior. Ten-thousand different items made from wood,  plastic and paper in every form conceivable that is square.   They pride themselves on being square.  Appropriate for a store that resides in such a big box I guess.

Here is one big kudo to send Ikea's direction though.  If you want a plastic bag, they charge you a nickel.  They beg you with signs  not to use the plastic bags, or if you must they will sell you a large reusable bag for fifty-nine cents instead of the disposable.  They cite these facts in their plea:

The amount of plastic shopping bags that we all use once and toss is overwhelming:
-The average family of 4 accumulates 1460 plastic shopping bags a year.
-100-billion are given away each year in the U.S.
-It can take up to 1,000 years for a plastic bag to break down in the environment!

The nickel they charge for the bags is routed to American Forests, reported to be the oldest non-profit conservation association.  Every dollar donated to American Forests plants a tree apparently.  I had never heard of this organization until this trip to Ikea but a quick look at what they do made them seem like a worthwhile charity.  They will plant trees in your, or another persons name and would make a nice gift.

Ikea also had several displays showing how to live pleasantly in very small spaces.  One display showed how a family of three could live quite comfortably in 580 square feet. Quite livable actually.

Well, that was my trip to Ikea for the first time. I'm not  in a hurry to go back.  In the end we bought six glasses made in Russia for $3.54. The old glasses in the cupboard, the ones we got free at Spaghetti Factory years ago are headed on to Freecycle today to be adopted by a new family. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Shopping Junkie

Do you ever just wake up and feel like you want to run out and buy something? Do you think it will make you happy?  Do you walk into a store and pick up things that are "on sale" knowing you don't really need it but it is "such a good deal" to pass up?  Do you grab the Sunday paper and sort the ads out, so you can read them first?  Don't want someone else to see the ad first and take them all before they are gone...right!   

Hi, my name is Scott and I am a shopping junkie?   "Hi, Scott!"

It is commonly thought that "women are the "shop-a-holics" but I have watched and men are just as bad.  It's just that we are drawn to the electronics, sporting goods, hardware and expensive things like boats, cars, snowmobiles, etc.  Personally my draw is books and camping supplies. I love camping supplies.  It used to be electronics too, but I have much better willpower now, although I still look. 

No, I am not going to list off a twelve step program in this post. Instead I have a video that is just a few minutes long and gives all the instructions you need better than I ever could. You won't regret watching it.  It is so "American".


Monday, August 27, 2007

What's wrong with reducing?

There was a day when I was motivated for another kind of green. Cash! Over many years I tried different "get rich quick" schemes and attended real estate seminars looking for the "easy life". You know, the one where I would just sit back on my pile of cash, with little care for what happened around me, as long as I was comfortable and had a good remote for my HDTV. This, I thought, is what would make me happy. It didn't work out too well, I'm still not "rich" and actually I am quite glad.

The "get rich quick" schemes I tried seemed devised to make sure someone else got rich quick, not me. That is, unless I was willing to enslave my friends and family to be my sales minions in my own little army of vitamin salesmen. They would then enslave their friends and families to be minions in their own little army, and so on. Once I got these dollar signs out of my eyes I realized I wouldn't feel right enslaving my friends and family for my own personal gain.

I also tried the real estate thing, attended seminars, and even signed up for two different mentoring programs. I got dumped by both of the mentors because I refused to be slick and dishonest when dealing with homeowners in my quest for a cheap deal I could flip fast for a lot of dough. Selling vitamins through my friends and family was one thing but selling my integrity to buy a cheap flip was something I simply wouldn't do. It didn't take long and those dollar signs faded quite fast for me. The people I spoke with called it "the New Gold Rush." Here is the statistics on the last gold rush, in the Klondike. One-hundred-thousand began the trip to the gold fields. Only thirty-thousand actually made it. Of those thirty-thousand, only about four-thousand actually found any gold. Of those four-thousand, only a small handful found any substantial wealth. (Source:National Park Service, Klondike Gold Rush Museum) Keep those statistics in mind if someone invites you to the next gold rush.

I believe it was these experiences that caused me to re-examine my goals in life, so they were not a complete waste. My search now is for a different kind of life and a different kind of green. I started this blog as a way to hold myself accountable for my actions. I have been schooled my whole life in consumerism and it is a difficult transition to live more simply and desire less stuff. It also requires a lot of reading, research and contemplation. Old habits die hard.

I believe our desire for personal comfort is really just a basic part of human nature and always has been. The problem we have now, in our day and age, is that technology allows us to consume so cheaply, easily and quickly we each have the potential, right at our own fingertips, to inflict great damage to the earth without much effort. Just the flip of a light switch, the push of an accelerator pedal, the spray of a can, the pull of a plastic bag from a roll, the quick purchase of an electronic gizmo is all it takes. Moments of our life that can cause damage that will take thousands of years to repair. When we do that over and over it is deadly to all life, including our own.

Some have devised a way in which we can offset our guilt by just paying money. I have been approached by several of these organizations over the last couple years asking me to "offset my carbon footprint". The plan is that by paying someone to find a technological solution and commit a positive act this would in turn "offset" any negative act I choose to perform and get me off the hook for my overconsumption. This never quite sat well with me when it was presented and while it sounded good on the surface, I kept coming back to the same question; What's wrong with just reducing instead? I'm sure the money generated from the "carbon credit markets" goes to quite a few good projects but if we all reduced what we used instead, would many of these projects even be necessary? Here is an example of one of these projects.

A few days ago I read an article about a plan to dump one-hundred tons of iron filings into the Pacific Ocean off the Galapagos Islands in an attempt to increase the plankton count, which would absorb more carbon, thus slowing global warming. The company responsible, Planktos, is seeking funding through a "carbon offset fund". Here is a quote from their website that states it well.

Our Market

Carbon credit markets are opening up around the world, including in the USA. These markets have been created by new government policies and regulations in response to growing climatic and environmental concerns.

The largest carbon markets are driven by the Kyoto Protocol, which is designed to annually reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere by 600 million - 1 billion tons. As part of the Kyoto Protocol, European nations began trading carbon dioxide emission credits in January 2005. And since emissions of CO2 are so extensive, the trading market is of substantial size and value, and growing quickly.

Because of the fast growth in the market, an increasing number of participants have sprung up to provide liquidity, trade exchanges, and financing. Beyond the public exchange floors, large market players conduct many private direct trades adding substantial volume to the trade. There are now also a significant number of investment funds established for the sole purpose of investing in CO2 credits.

When you read "since emissions of CO2 are so extensive, the trading market is of substantial size and value, and growing quickly.", you begin to realize there is a lot of cash being generated by "offset". I am not condemning offset entirely. I think offset funds are probably a good thing overall but not when they are used to absolve the personal responsibility to reduce. Reduction never seems to play into the goals of the funds.

In this example, the iron they intend to dump, at a cost of millions of dollars, will absorb the annual emissions of about five coal burning power plants. There are roughly four-hundred coal power plants in the United States alone, many more in the rest of the world. What do we do about the other three-hundred-ninety-five plants in the U.S.? How much simpler would it be to just reduce the amount of electricity we use?

Here is the link to the article on dumping iron in the ocean from the Wall Street Journal, no less. It's not very long and well worth reading.

Energy Roundup - WSJ.com : Upset About an Offset

Friday, August 24, 2007

BBC NEWS | Americas | Midwest awash after heavy storms

Perhaps Global Warming is not really real.  Perhaps all of these weather records being broken day after day is just a fluke of nature and it will soon all go back to normal.  But then, perhaps not.  Do we continue rolling the dice and hope for the best? 

BBC NEWS | Americas | Midwest awash after heavy storms

How to recycle your move

I believe boxes, like cats, should have nine lives. If you've moved recently you probably discovered boxes are just not very easy to come by anymore. In the olden days one went down to the local grocery and there was a bin right up front, just inside the door, where they threw all the empty boxes. The early bird always got the best boxes and most of them disappeared every day. Not anymore. Now the boxes go to the back stockroom, get shoved through a hole in the wall, are crushed, then are sent off to be remanufactured into a brand new box. I am not clear why that makes sense, economically or any other way, but it must because the stores invest major money in these huge crushing machines. Just another example of how our society has become geared toward disposability and not reuse.

Unless you know someone who has a cousin who knows a guy that has a sister with a boyfriend that works in the back of a store you are pretty much out of luck. I am fortunate to be married to someone that knows a guy in the basement of the hospital and if she went first thing in the morning she could get all the boxes we needed. Most I fear are not so fortunate though.

Here is an option some may not have considered. FreeCycle. After my recent move I posted my stash of lightly used boxes on FreeCycle. They were spoken for in literally five minutes after hitting the web. I was life two for the boxes and through Freecycle these boxes are now seeing a third life. Since this person intends to FreeCycle them when she gets to Boston these boxes will then have four lives and still be going strong. So, if you are moving and need boxes, post it on your local FreeCycle site. Have boxes you are done with? Post those too. It is a great way to recycle your move. Oh, you could also pass along any excelsior or bubble wrap you used as well. Reduce, REUSE, Recycle.

Afterthought: Don't stop at boxes. Put everything you don't want on FreeCycle. You would be amazed at what people are looking for out there. It may seem like junk but there may be an artist looking for exactly what you have. Freecycle.

Green Tip: Got a clogged drain? Forget the noxious chemicals. Boil a large pot of water. Add one cup of Baking Soda and once cup of vinegar all at once. Pour down the drain immediately. If your drain was fully clogged then let water flow until it clears completely. Cheap and effective. Try putting this concoction down your drains once a month to keep them cleared too.

If you want to see an endangered species, get up and look in the mirror.
John Young, Apollo astronaut

OK, that one was cynical but realistic. Here's the positive one.

We don't need to increase our goods nearly as much as we need to scale down our wants. Not wanting something is as good as possessing it.

Donald Horban

Yeah, I like that one. It's a lesson I am still learning.

A correction

As I stood at the sink yesterday rinsing some dishes I noticed that the "Mason" jars I have are not Mason or Ball. They are Kerr. Who knew?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Mason Jars Don't Use a Secret Handshake

I love Mason Jars. Our pantry used to be full of plastic bins and bags. Now it is full of a standing army of Mason Jars. (Truth: There are still a few plastic bins and bags left but we are using up the contents and they'll be gone soon.) Anyway back to the main story.

We buy bulk now whenever it is available. Flour, beans, lentils, rice, oatmeal, spices, there are hundreds of things you can buy in bulk. It is always much cheaper and there is no packaging to throw away. I also like the fact that my food is in contact with glass and not plastic. Did mention that I hate plastic now?

I know some people are out there washing and reusing plastic bags, and I've tried it, but I could never quite get the hang of it. Mason Jars are so much easier and it's glass!

Some stores ( most stores?) will weigh your jar and note the tare weight on it so it can be deducted after you fill it. I don't bother with that, I just carry cloth reusable bags into the store,fill them up, then transfer the contents when I get home. The cloth bags can be easily washed then line dried and will last for years. Spices are the exception. For spices it is easiest just to buy it once in glass jar and then keep refilling that same jar over and over. No need to label as long as you don't ever run the jar through the dishwasher. (Don't forget to have the tare noted though before you fill the jar!) The bulk price of spices is a lot less than buying prepackaged stuff. Don't be fooled by the label on the big jar at the store that says it costs like $26.99 per pound. The spices weigh so little it usually comes out to only a few dollars when you fill the jar.

Mason Jars can be bought at most groceries, especially during canning season. Often in the off season they are piled on top of the freezer cases and require hunting down an employee with a ladder to get one down. I guess they just don't have the same appeal as candy bars which are always at hand level and everywhere. Here is another way to get jars though. Some products, like spaghetti sauce, come packaged in regular old Mason jars. Just buy the product, eat it, wash the jar, get a lid and you are set. "Free" Mason Jar.

If you decide to convert your pantry to an army of mason jars, here is a tip I learned from experience. I labeled the jars on the front....Wrong! Label the lid instead. It is much easier to find what you are looking for when they are four deep in your pantry. And don't forget, if you drop one and it breaks, don't throw it away, it still recycles. If the lid gets crusty you can recycle the lid in the metal bin. New lids can be bought separate from the jars in a little cardboard box but since you are not using the jars to preserve food (canning), they can get a little crusty or be bent out of shape and still be OK for pantry use.

I read the Fake Plastic Fish blog every day now and, as Beth has found out, it takes a long time to rid your life of plastic. I second that notion. I am on a much smaller campaign than Beth to rid the plastic from my life but so much comes in plastic now, I sometimes scratch my head at how it is really possible to fully eliminate plastic from my environment. Even the computer I write this blog on is made of plastic. Well, a lot of it anyhow. Slowly but surely I am ridding my life of as much plastic as I can. The Mason Jars (OK, sometimes they are Ball Jars) are a very good start and the way they look like an army of glass in the pantry is rather cool looking.

UPDATE: Beth at Fake Plastic Fish has come up with a great way to clean lids from spaghetti sauce jars. Here's the link to her post.

"It is not so important to know everything as to appreciate what we learn." - Hannah More (1745-1833; author, philanthropist,educator )

Green tip:

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLFS) are used in shampoo's, toothpaste, dishwashing liquids, soaps and many other products as a sudsing agent. There is evidence they are a carcinogen and also can inhibit eye development in children. These chemicals are absorbed quickly through skin and mucous tissues so ingestion is not necessary to be exposed. SLS is also lethal to fresh water fish and since it does not break down well in the environment any put down the drain stays around for a long time. Don't forget that what goes down the drain goes to the sewage treatment plant. The solids are then removed and are commonly pumped onto the edges of roadways and into fields as a fertilizer. The SLS and SFLS enters the environment again at this stage and can wash into fresh water sources.

The Materials Safety Data Sheets for SLS cautions workers to avoid body contact. But this same chemical is put into most body and hair care products. Is that weird or what?

ALWAYS READ THE LABELS! Avoid products with these ingredients.

Another freebie quote-I love this one

"The frog does not drink up the pond in which he lives."

The Sioux Indigenous Peoples

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Moving is a pain

OK, I know I have harped on the moving thing a bit, but really, it was not my fault.  The apartment I lived in went condo and I had to buy or leave.  It wasn't that great of an apartment and an even less great condo so...I left.  Besides the empty lot next door, full of feral cats, was plowed under and turned into a subdivision of asphalt and concrete.  Really sad for the cats and I lost a great view of the natural world.  

Well, I am in the new place now and it is very quiet and rather peaceful. Boxes still strew the floor but it is getting there.  We sit back in the trees and lots of plant life. I love it.  It took a lot of looking to find the right place and being green topped the list.  Here are just a few of the green advantages of the new place.

1. We have gas...the natural kind. I mean for heat and water, not the umm other kind of um...natural gas. 

2. We are walking distance  to the store (1.3 miles), library (1 mile), bus (.3 mile), light rail (1 mile), and lots of other stuff. 

3. We have a backyard big enough for some raised beds and a compost bin.  Zero garbage, fresh peppers and winter greens, here we come.  (One advantage of the Northwest, you can grow lettuce and other greens year round. (sssshhh...keep that quiet though.)

I have been making good use of Freecycle and CraigsList to rid myself of stuff and so this move is taking a little longer as I carefully sift out what I really need.  If you live in Portland area and read my blog watch FreeCycle because I plan to make it very busy real soon with stuff large and small.

I do have a personal confession though and I will make it short.  No Impact Man had a blog recently about reality and optimism. I find his blog posts, and the comments that follow, fascinating and am usually inspired to write my own comment or two or three, plus the occasional diatribe. However after going back and reading my own comments and then comparing  it with others views I was forced to look in the mirror a bit. Staring back at me was (gasp)...a pessimist.  That was a little odd to me because I always considered myself an optimist.  How strange to find the real me.  It woke me up a bit though and I have pledged now to become a realistic optimist, if that is actually possible.   I am realistic in  knowing I will never change the world alone but I can certainly hold out hope and be positive about changing me and hopefully inspire another to change. After all I was a plastic devouring, can loving, junk food eating, electronic gadget junkie who loved to just get out and drive to nowhere for no reason and threw everything into the same garbage can and dump it into the dumpster with absolutely no thought for where it would end up and I saw the light.  I did draw the line at littering though before, there were fines for that after all. See my first confession.  In short though, I was a pig.

Well, I am sure I will still be compelled to yell a bit about this and that in my posts because I do still hate what is happening to the earth and it does upset me I can do nothing about it but, for my own sake,  I plan now to end each blog with a quote or a positive statement plus a green tip of the day.  So here is today's positive statement about mindless consumerism. Oops, was that a pessimistic statement?

Until you make peace with who you are, you will never be content with what you have.

      Doris Mortman (No idea who Doris is, but I love her quote)

Here is the green tip for the day.  Want to get rid of junk mail?  Move...it doesn't follow you! Sure, that is drastic but it works.

A freebie quote

"Take everything you like seriously, except yourself."

- Rudyard Kipling

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Why "the market" alone can't save local agriculture | By Tom Philpott | Grist | Victual Reality | 16 Aug 2006


Why "the market" alone can't save local agriculture | By Tom Philpott | Grist | Victual Reality | 16 Aug 2006

Why The Economist's recent assault on "ethical food" missed the mark | By Tom Philpott | Grist | Victual Reality | 03 Jan 2007


Why The Economist's recent assault on "ethical food" missed the mark | By Tom Philpott | Grist | Victual Reality | 03 Jan 2007

Water, Water Everywhere, but Guilt by the Bottleful - New York Times


Water, Water Everywhere, but Guilt by the Bottleful - New York Times

On the anti-bottled-water bandwagon - Los Angeles Times


On the anti-bottled-water bandwagon - Los Angeles Times

Co-op America: Summer 2007 CAQ: Corn Ethanol Isn't the Answer (A Co-op America Expose)

I need another day or two to get situated in my new place and then I will be back with my regular blogs.  In the meantime this is a great article on the truth of ethanol.  I was not aware it takes seven barrels of oil to produce eight barrels of corn fuel.  Interesting article. There are many other reasons this is not a solution as well; pesticides, land usage, food crop converted to energy crop, and much more.   In the end, the only solution is to reduce consumption of energy.  There is some debate now on whether global warming is even real.  Even if it is not, there are many other very good reasons we should all reduce our energy consumption.  

Co-op America: Summer 2007 CAQ: Corn Ethanol Isn't the Answer (A Co-op America Expose)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Nano_Sunscreens.pdf (application/pdf Object)

Nano, nano was funny when Mork said it to Mindy but when it is in your sunscreen and other products it is no laughing matter.  This is a sixteen page report but it is an easy read and  very valuable information.  

Nano_Sunscreens.pdf (application/pdf Object)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

ilovemountains » Blog Archive - End Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining » Robert F. Kennedy, Jr: King Coal Pillages Beautiful Land

I grew up in the era of John Denver and one of his most famous songs, Rocky Mountain High, contained the words:

Now his life is full of wonder but his heart still knows some fear
Of a simple thing he cannot comprehend
Why they try to tear the mountains down to bring in a couple more
More people, more scars upon the land

The year he wrote those words was 1972.  I don't think  he even knew at the time how far we would go as a nation in tearing down the mountains. We literally scrape the tops off and discard the tailings in the valleys and hollows.  Below is a link with further details.   This is so sad to me it seriously brings a tear to my eye. Read it and weep?  Conserving electricity will help more...tons more!


ilovemountains » Blog Archive - End Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining » Robert F. Kennedy, Jr: King Coal Pillages Beautiful Land

An Astronauts Perspective

Donald Williams, born February 13, 1942 became an astronaut in 1978 and logged over 288 hours in space on two separate flights before retiring in 1990. He had this to say about our planet.

"For those who have seen the Earth from space, and for the hundreds and perhaps thousands more who will, the experience most certainly changes your perspective. The things that we share in our world are far more valuable than those which divide us."

We live together on a big blue marble breathing the same air, drinking the same water, sharing the same resources. Yet we act as if, should we mess this planet up and make it uninhabitable, we have somewhere else to go.

Perhaps we should all step back just a bit and look at our planet as Saturn sees us. We are that tiny speck of light, smaller than a pinpoint at about 11:00 just inside the faint outer ring. Can you see us? Has your perspective now changed as well?

Photo taken of the outer solar system through Cassini's cameras. Cassini is an unmanned deep space exploration craft on a mission to Saturn and Titan. At this time, Cassini was nearly 1.5 billion kilometers (930 million miles) from Earth. The earth and moon in this photo are not more than a few pixels across.

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

My stuff is calling and I'm on Hiatus


Meat is murder on the environment - earth - 18 July 2007 - New Scientist Environment

I eat a plant-based diet but I do this primarily for my own health benefit more than environmental purposes. Heart disease runs rampant in the men in our family and under the advice of my doctor I eat a low-fat plant-based diet. I am in my 50's now and have normal weight ( I lost 45 pounds), blood pressure (from 135/85 to 110/65), cholesterol (I never checked this before so I have no idea but it is at the bottom of the scale now), blood sugar (I used to be severely hypoglycemic and was on the verge of Type 2 diabetes) so it must be working.

I do share concerns with others about what factory farming and unnatural livestock practices are doing to the environment I live in. This link goes to an article on this problem in the New Scientist magazine. Unlike some of the vegan and vegetarian publications they have no axe to grind, they are just reporting facts. It is short and straight to the point with references to the back-up research. I did find it interesting that a bovine fed naturally (grass-fed), rather than a concentrated feed diet (cattle yards), emits 40 per cent less greenhouse gases (methane) and consumes 85 per cent less energy during its growth cycle. That's a considerable difference. Multiply that by the millions of cows in feed yards and you can see this is a substantial amount of avoidable energy usage.

Meat is murder on the environment - earth - 18 July 2007 - New Scientist Environment

Note: The packing is nearly done and the days have finally arrived to actually move all the crap that owns me from one house to another. I have been filling my blog with articles of interest of late and will do so for the remainder of the week since I will be very busy. I'll get back to normal posts next week.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Suspect in bee die-off: Insecticide Widely used bug spray may be behind deaths of millions of bees- mlive.com

I do not use insecticide any longer.  If I have an insect pest problem I use a combination of Dr. Bronners Peppermint soap and a few essential oils.  With this mix I have rid myself of a major ant infestation and kept hornets from building nests under the eaves.  Right now we are in the middle of a catastrophic bee die-off and there is evidence it is chemicals that are the culprit.  Here is a link to a good article on the subject.  


Suspect in bee die-off: Insecticide Widely used bug spray may be behind deaths of millions of bees


For the recipe to get rid of ants follow this link to "The Invisible Gardener" and look for his "Dances with Ants" instructions.  Andy is a sheer genius when it comes to pest control and organic gardening.  There is a small fee to join his site for a lifetime but well worth it. Look for his Internet only specials.

Climate Change : Yahoo! Green

Global warming!  More oil! Yeaahh?

Climate Change : Yahoo! Green

Friday, August 10, 2007

Effects of Fast Food Branding on Young Children's Taste Preferences -- Robinson et al. 161 (8): 792 -- Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine

This link is for a technical paper which is about six pages long.   It is not necessary to read the whole thing to understand it.  The beginning of the report explains the methodology while the second half of the report gives the results.  Most telling in this report is that young children even thought carrots tasted better if they came in a McDonalds wrapper.  There was also a direct relationship between TV watching and the prevalence of eating at McDonalds. 

McDonalds was chosen because they are the industry leader however these results, I am certain, cross over to others, such as Burger King, Taco Bell, etc.

Think your kids aren't being manipulated by TV ads?  Read these results and you decide.

Effects of Fast Food Branding on Young Children's Taste Preferences -- Robinson et al. 161 (8): 792 -- Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine

Well, I've finally done it this time!

Here is a shocking statistic. Americans throw away more than 100 billion polyethylene plastic bags EVERY YEAR and only .6 percent are recycled per the WorldWatch Institute. Five of these bags floated by my car window, blown by the wind, the other day on a trip of only five miles. Having previously seen the and information on and the information put out by WorldWatch Institute on how plastic bags can literally float for miles and end up in trees, waterways, etc. it didn't really truly sink in until I saw these bags float past my windshield. I have started seeing them everywhere now and knew I had to do something.

Here are some of the basic facts as reported by Reusable Bags.com.

  • Hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, whales and other marine mammals die every year from eating discarded plastic bags mistaken for food.
  • Plastic bags don’t biodegrade, they photodegrade—breaking down into smaller and smaller toxic bits contaminating soil and waterways and entering the food web when animals accidentally ingest.
  • As part of Clean Up Australia Day, in one day nearly 500,000 plastic bags were collected.
  • Windblown plastic bags are so prevalent in Africa that a cottage industry has sprung up harvesting bags and using them to weave hats, and even bags. According to the BBC, one group harvests 30,000 per month.
  • According to David Barnes, a marine scientist with the British Antarctic Survey, plastic bags have gone "from being rare in the late 80s and early 90s to being almost everywhere from Spitsbergen 78° North [latitude] to Falklands 51° South [latitude].
  • Plastic bags are among the 12 items of debris most often found in coastal cleanups, according to the nonprofit Center for Marine Conservation.

    (Source: Reusable Bags.com)

    After I watched these bags go by I began to think up solutions to the problem. I was even tempted for a moment to jump out of the car and chase the blasted things but since I am unable to run as fast as the wind I decided it was not the best option. I thought about this for quite some time that day and have come up with an idea that could, if successful, make a large dent in reducing the stray bag population nationwide.

    I call it the PUP Brigade. PUP stands for Pick Up Plastic and I'll leave you to your own devices (dictionary) to figure out the brigade part. The PUP Brigade, when in full bloom will help eradicate a considerable amount of the plastic littering our planet. However I cannot do it alone. I need your help.

    Here's how it works. Just click here to go to the site and enroll. There is a welcome statement that will give you a few more details and enrolling doesn't obligate you to anything except noting your desire to pick up plastic when you see it. If you want to be more actively involved you can be an area coordinator. More on that later. If you are simply interested in grabbing and recycling every bit of plastic you see and perhaps weighing it and reporting how many ounces or pounds you have pulled out of the environment and recycled then simply enroll in the group and get started all on your own. By enrolling in the group you will have a chance to converse with others all across the nation who share your same interest in eliminating plastic waste as well as encourage others to Pick Up Plastic. I also envision Parties with large groups, organized by a local coordinator, picking up plastic in a public park, beach, square, road or wherever plastic is a problem. I have established a Google Calendar so these events can be listed in a central location.

    If you are interested in being a Coordinator simply e-mail me and I will let you know the details and other contact information. Coordinators will be needed in every city across the nation and would be responsible for finding a location that needs cleanup, then notifying the media as well as performing other general organizational duties such as contacting service groups, schools, scout troops, etc. It would be volunteer work but should only be a few hours every month to accomplish. How much time you spend would be up to you and duties could be shared among several individuals in a large city. As a coordinator you would have access to the calendar to post dates for events and would notify the media of the dates the event would occur. You would not need to be present at every event.

    Rather than reinvent the wheel I have set this up for now as a Google group with a web accessible calendar. As time goes by I will move this to a dedicated website but for now this will suffice and there will be no delay waiting for web development.

    Please, if you are reading this blog, and have an interest in eradicating plastic from our streets, parks, beaches and waterways...sign up now. If you can be a coordinator simply e-mail me and we can work out the details.

    I have mentioned several times and as a nod to the recent post about reusable bags and Reusable Bags.com I suggest a review of her August 2,2007 post before rushing out and buying reusable bags. She has some very valid points. Ones I hadn't previously thought about.

    Please join PUP today even if you can only get out and pick up bags and plastic on your daily travels. The life you save may be a turtle, a seabird or perhaps even that of the the whole planet. I need your help.

  • Thursday, August 9, 2007

    EIA Kids Page - Waste to Landfill

    This is a great site for learning how landfills work. It is geared toward kids but if you are an adult...don't let that stop you. It's good for you too.

    A Kids Page - Waste to Landfill

    Do plastic bags really take 500 years to break down in a landfill? - By Juliet Lapidos - Slate Magazine

    Please enjoy this article while I take a slight hiatus from my own posts.

    Do plastic bags really take 500 years to break down in a landfill? - By Juliet Lapidos - Slate Magazine

    Wednesday, August 8, 2007

    Energy Information Administration - EIA - Official Energy Statistics from the U.S. Government

    All the data that is fit to print. Straight from the Federal Government.

    Energy Information Administration - EIA - Official Energy Statistics from the U.S. Government

    Basel Action Network (BAN) - E-Stewards - Responsible E-cyclers

    Need to get rid of your computer but don't want it to be sent overseas and dumped. Here is a link of responsible E-cyclers.

    Basel Action Network (BAN) - E-Stewards - Responsible E-cyclers

    The straight scoop

    My post on Monday, August 6, was based on actual facts in my life but I did exercise a touch of poetic license in that I turned three homes into one composite home. Today, I wanted to present the actual facts as they existed then.

    Shortly after I was born, our family began to slowly sink into poverty. We were somewhat middle class for a while after I was born but it was before I was truly aware. My very first actual memory is that of a rental home near Noti, Oregon that had once been a stage stop. We lived there until I was four when we moved to a second home near a wildlife preserve. This is when we reached the lowest point of our poverty and this home, and I use the term loosely, is where we had no indoor toilet. Just an outhouse out the back door next to the chicken coop. We did have a small tub in the kitchen surrounded with a cardboard box and there was one spigot in the kitchen sink that put out brackish cold water from a shallow well but the pump on the well was not reliable so water was a real fight sometimes. The house itself was merely a two-room shack with large holes in the walls making it impossible to heat. We did, in fact, huddle together under blankets to stay warm when the weather turned cold. The roof leaked and we had cans on the floor to catch the drips. We lived in this house for about for about two years.

    The last of the three homes we lived in was called "The Sailor Farm" and at this point we had clawed our way out of poverty enough to have indoor plumbing, hot water and a nice kitchen. There were also a lot of incredible places at the farm for three boys to run and play. Of all the places I ever lived as a child this one holds the best memories.

    In all three homes in Noti we were impoverished to some degree, depending on whether my dad was working or not. My dad found work when he could, usually temporary or day jobs, so we usually had very little money. Some months were better than others and there were days we had no food. One entire month we survived on just a fifty pound bag of potatoes and nothing else. We speak fondly of the unknown person that dropped that bag of potatoes on our porch to this day.

    Most of what we ate during our years of poverty came from what we could grow or raise and once a month we picked up government food commodities. For a few years we also had sixteen dairy goats and some chickens. We sold the milk to a large local dairy; they used it for cheese-making; and also had an honor system egg booth on the highway to Florence. People were very honest and just took what they needed and left the money. These endeavors generated a little cash but it was certainly not enough to feed a family of five.

    During these years, the 50's, a family living in poverty was left to starve. The Food Stamp program would not exist until much later; 1964. Commodities were the only government help available and those came just once a month and were limited. The community helped us but we were not the only family needing help, the whole area was depressed, so that too was limited. Still, the community felt an obligation to help and it did. Much of this community spirit has been lost in our society now and that is sad.

    So life in Noti sounded dreadful, right? In my memory, they were the best years of my life. As a family, we were happy then and even though we struggled and starved, were cold and faced the elements, we looked out for each other, worked together and survived. I did not know then of the things a rich life could bring. The toys, the comfort, the worry. I didn't know then we were impoverished and since this was the only life I had ever known, it just seemed normal. You just assume everyone lives that way and not knowing any different you are happy. Once you achieve some richness though, I am sure it is difficult to go back and be as happy.

    My oldest brother, seven years older than me, has a very different recollection of these times because he personally witnessed our family's slide into poverty from middle class and was old enough to understand. Being older, he also had more chores which created a great deal of contempt since we, my other brother and I, were too young to chop and carry wood or clean goat pens and chicken cages. He had to do it all.

    Our poverty ended when my dad found work in Seattle as a hospital repair technician. He remained with that job for about eight years, then began his own company which was very successful. Even when our situation improved though, we were never what a person would call rich in U.S. terms, but the job in Seattle did give my dad a good living wage with benefits. We began shopping for groceries instead of growing our own food and we no longer picked up commodities. My mom no longer canned or made fresh bread but our pantry remained full of food at all times. We also discovered the TV dinner and many nights, while my parents were out doing other things we would make our own dinner and eat while we watched TV. Life seemed good to all of us...for a while.

    It was inevitable that this quick return to "wealth" from such deep poverty would change our family and it was a rather quick decline. The cohesiveness that poverty mandated disappeared and it took only about six years before our family unit completely disintegrated. Our new rich life looked good on the surface, but deep inside it brought with it a great deal of unhappiness which destroyed our family.

    I would not want to go back to the abject poverty of Noti and would not wish that on anyone. Part of my happiness then was just a state of unknowing bliss and I had no idea we actually lived in squalor, starved and were so susceptible to weather and disease. Looking back now I can see that life was not that great and my parents and oldest brother, having witnessed the slide into poverty from middle class, have a much less fond outlook than I do on those days. I did in fact spend a good deal of those years sick, had nearly all the childhood diseases know to man plus a few more and twice nearly died with mono and German measles.

    My post on Monday may have made poverty sound like a wonderful thing...it is not! Poverty is definitely cruel and heartless and the only good I can see in it is that it does force a family to work together and stay united simply to survive. If done right though, this positive can be carried forward into a better financial standing but it does require work. Our family, however, did not survive the transition and the end was rather ugly.

    I am not "rich" now by any stretch of the imagination. By U.S. standards I am probably lower middle class. I am not in any present danger of homelessness, and poverty is a distance away but I do feel poverty's presence at times and wonder if calamity will ever strike and give it a chance to catch up for a visit. Staying rich requires a person to always run faster than poverty and not stumble, regardless of how rich you are. If you stumble, poverty is waiting. It can happen to anyone.

    Even though I am not considered truly rich, like Donald Trump, my lifestyle, when compared to most others on the globe, is definitely "Rich". I have tons of stuff, eat well, drive a nice car, have more clothes than I really need and have electronics galore. Books are a true addiction for me and I have enough books to cover nearly an entire wall in my office, even after I recently sold and gave a lot away.

    Where I go my stuff goes and I lug all it all here and there, even though it is a lot of work. I am attached and sometimes I think it owns me, rather than the other way around. When I go backpacking I always realize how little I actually need to survive and that the rest of my stuff is truly "wealth". But I soon forget and just keep holding on to my stuff as if I need it for survival.

    There is a parable in the Bible about a very rich man who could not find happiness. He came to Jesus who sent him away and told him to sell all he had and give the money to the poor. He was so attached to his stuff though, he couldn't do it. He chose instead to remain sad but wealthy. Sometimes I wonder if I am a little like that rich man. It is difficult to get rid of stuff and I don't really know why. When I do manage to dispose of things it feels as though I have lifted a small burden off myself but...I still hold on. Why?

    I did return to Noti to find the old houses where I lived. All of the houses were actually gone, but the flood of memories I spoke about really occurred causing me to be quite emotional, right out of the blue. The memories were both pleasant and painful. Nearly everything else in Noti looked the same as when I was a kid. The elementary school, the barn at the sailor farm except that it had been repainted bright red, the little store that doubled as gas station and was run by a guy named Proctor who was also the barber and our landlord. All of it seems to exist in a time warp because the highway was rerouted and now bypasses Noti completely leaving it isolated and alone.

    I enjoy the things I have and there was a time I thought I needed then to be rich and happy. I'm not sure that is true. I no longer desire to be rich but I do hope to avoid poverty. I strive to be content now with just enough to feed me, clothe me, house me and quench my thirst. I want to live more simply with less reliance on fragile technology, and more connection with God, community, family and myself. Success in some of these things still escapes my grasp but I have not lost heart and push on, trying to unlearn the lessons of rich living and find simplicity.

    Peace to you all.

    There is one that makes himself rich, yet has nothing: there is one that makes himself poor, yet has great riches. Proverbs 13:7

    Tuesday, August 7, 2007

    Can technology save us?

    Technology, in my very non-professional opinion, will not be able to save us from ourselves. I have no PhD on the matter, but history, I believe, will bear out my conclusion since it is based not on hope, but on observation of fact and logic. Perhaps too Spock like for some, but it gets the job done.

    It is a fact that all technology, no matter how simple, requires upkeep and repair. The recent bridge collapse in Minneapolis highlights this basic problem with technology. While it has not yet been determined exactly what went wrong, undoubtedly, based on previous similar disasters, it will be one of two things. Error in construction/engineering (human error) or lack of proper maintenance (human negligence).

    If this were an isolated event a different conclusion could be drawn but, this sort of event; bridge collapses due to faulty engineering or lax maintenance; has a long history dating back as far as even the Roman Empire and beyond.  Here are just four examples of bridge failures. A brief look back into history will show there are many many more. I have selected bridge disasters  in the U.S., however this is an international problem as well.

    • In 1876 the Ashtabula Bridge in Ashtabula OH suddenly collapsed, taking with it a train filled with 158 passenger and crew. 92 dead, 48 injured. The cause: A fatigue crack that was not found due to a deficient inspection routine.
    • On December 15, 1967 the Point Pleasant Silver Bridge in Kanauga OH suddenly collapsed killing 46 people, injuring 9. It was determined years of corrosion had been allowed to build and maintenance was neglected and practically non-existent. Vibrations from rush hour traffic shook the bridge apart after a major component failed due to corrosion. After this disaster the federal government mandated National Bridge Inspection Standards (NBIS) and required all bridges to be frequently inspected. This was nearly forty years ago and it is still being neglected!
    • On July 17, 1981 the Hyatt Regency hotel walkway collapsed killing 114 people and injuring more than 200. It was determined there was poor engineering of the supports and the engineer that signed off on the final report was convicted of gross negligence and lost his engineering license.
    • On June 28, 1983 the Mianus River Bridge collapsed sending vehicles into the river 70 feet below. Only three people died but the disaster brought to light that deferred maintenance on bridges was still a major concern. Inspections had not been done on scheduled intervals and not enough money had been budgeted to even pay to inspect the bridges. This was twenty-four years ago and it is still being neglected.

    Fast forward to today when a bridge in Minneapolis suddenly fails taking an unknown number of lives and sending dozens to the hospital. It is likely exactly the same problem we had in 1967 and 1983. We have great technology and some very advanced technologic skill, but lack of maintenance reduces that technology to piles of scrap. With technology we can now build higher, span further, go faster, fly higher,communicate farther, drill deeper and harvest more of the earths resources in a shorter period of time than ever before. But should we?

    Look out a window right now and also drive around your nearest city or town in your mind. Take note of everything you see. Now go back in time to imagine your surroundings as they were were just one-hundred years ago. Does the world look much different? Is it cleaner and safer now than one-hundred years ago? Has the industrial revolution been kind to the world it seeks to change? Have we advanced or declined in our respect for each other and the world in which we live?

    Everything you see around you that is man-made is aging in some way and needs maintenance. Much of it is well past its prime and cannot be refurbished. It can only be removed or replaced. What is it going to cost to maintain all we have built over the last couple hundred years? If we tore it all down, what would it cost to rebuild? Bridges are only a small part of the equation. All technology and innovation must be maintained or replaced, big and small. Our most recent innovations, the computer and cell phone, lead very short lives and must be constantly updated or replaced. Much more frequently than older technology since they are technologically fragile. In fact all technology is fragile though and decays rather quickly. Do we have the resources to sustain all that we have built and manufactured in just the last one-hundred years? If we don't, what will happen to our society, our economy, ourselves?

    Nature, given enough time, will repair itself and bring about it's own balance. Technology does not, it simply decays and crumbles leaving us with a mess to clean up. Other advanced civilizations existed before us, there may be others that follow. We find remnants of these advanced civilizations buried under sand in the desert or covered with vines in the jungle, seemingly abandoned without a clue as to why. I often wonder if they discovered the same thing we will soon. It is not possible to harness nature through technology and it is fruitless to try. The end is always a return to the earth and living a more natural and simplistic way.

    Right now, in the U.S. we have bridges, dams, tunnels, buildings, rail lines, steam lines, gas pipelines, oil pipelines, water lines, sewer lines, levies and much more, in need of update and repair. Much, if not most, of this technology was built by previous generations and has been maintained with band-aids due to limited budgets and human resources. The bill to fix the bridges alone is estimated to be 190 billion dollars. That is billion with a B. The bill is about the same for dams. But what of the aging steam lines, brittle power grid, leaking pipelines,crumbling dams, failing levies, collapsing tunnels, etc. What is it going to cost to repair or rebuild those? Who is going to pay for it?

    In the Appalachians right now we are literally tearing the tops off mountains so we can capture the coal underneath. We then destroy this coal in furnaces and cast it to the sky as particulate matter. This particulate rains down on the surface of the earth spreading pollution. What will be the affect on our world from this? See this previous blog.

    I spoke with an engineer a few days ago who told me he will be busy for the next ten years just tearing down aging power plants that are far past their prime. The cleanup of these dirty plant sites, he says, will be massive but will most likely left for another generation. There are very few plans in the works right now to replace these plants since the money is not available. How do we maintain our thirst for electrical power when our electrical power grid cannot keep up? If our electrical generating ability fails us what happens to all the technology based on its power? Is the technology we have constructed to hold nature at bay strong, solid and sound?

    Technology comes with three price tags. The cost to build, the cost to maintain, and the cost to tear down. History has shown we are great at building things, lousy at maintaining them, and slow to replace. Tear down and clean-up is generally inherited by a new generation. I am in the generation that has inherited the first wave of clean-up, hence we have Super Fund clean-up sites now with no money or resources to cleanup. The problem is too massive. My children will inherit this bill and problem and my grandchildren will be left with determining how or if we should rebuild. What legacy are we leaving in our wake for these future generations?

    What we have wrought on this earth seems new and wonderful. Enjoy it now because it is probably not sustainable. Some experts may say that viewpoint is wrong, that we can overcome any adversity through technology, but the experts have been wrong many times before. History has not proven out that viewpoint. Man has been on this earth for eons of years. Civilizations and empires have come and gone. Nature and the elements has been the only constant. It is much bigger than any of us and is a force to be reckoned with. I dare say there is no manmade technology that can completely control it. Technology is convenient, new, bright and seemingly wonderful but it also has a heavy price tag. Do we have the budget to pay it?

    (Note: The continuation of Mondays post will be posted here tomorrow.)

    Update:  I wrote and published this post before I received my morning newspaper.  This mornings front page included a story entitled "Water, sewer lines at risk of failing in  New Orleans. "

    Fifty-million gallons of water are leaking now from the system every single day.  This is a pre-Katrina problem although Katrina did exacerbate the issue. It is worried that soon the sewage lines will fail and leak into the water lines making the water no longer potable.

    Quoting from the story, "We don't have the confidence now to say the system won't fail," said Robert Jackson, a Sewage & Water Board Spokesman. "We're basically holding it together by tape, by glue, by spit, whatever you can get ahold of."

    The cost to repair the system: $5.7 billion.  Ka-ching! Composting toilets are looking cheaper every day.

    Infrastructure Report Card 2005

    Here is a link to the Infrastructure report card prepared by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ACSE). Concise and scary.

    Infrastructure Report Card 2005

    Monday, August 6, 2007


    I never knew Poverty had such an ugly face, until I met Rich. I had just turned seven when my parents told me about Rich. When they described him he seemed like a cool guy and when they told me we were going to go live with him, I got pretty excited.

    It was only a couple weeks later that we moved in with Rich. We never again went back to visit Poverty and I don't even recall we said a proper goodbye. We just packed up the few things we had, moved from Noti to Seattle, and moved in with Rich. We didn't tell Poverty where we were going because we had no intent to ever see him again, and we certainly didn't think we would miss him.

    My parents were pretty happy when they first met Rich. I was happy too because he fed us food I'd never tasted before, bought me lots of things, even took us on great vacations and gave us indoor plumbing. It didn't take long before we all learned to love Rich because Rich gave us so many things. I still remember the first Christmas with Rich. He bought us so many things we didn't know what to do with them all. I just took them all to my room and put them under my bed. I'd play with them later.

    Sometimes I imagine Poverty is following me, hoping to be friends again. When I look back he's not really there but I start to remember when we used to live with him. I'm not sure Poverty was that bad of a guy, actually. Oh sure, he didn't bring us very many things, and the food he gave us was a little scarce and kind of plain, but I do remember our whole family talked more, and had more fun, when we lived with him. He seemed more real than Rich. I mean Rich bought us lots of things; he still does; but he is just not friendly. He's just Rich, and for some reason when he tries to be personable he just seems so...plastic.

    Others have told me I am fortunate to live in the same place as Rich. I guess so. But I don't remember we were all that unfortunate when we lived with Poverty. It's just that things are different now. Before we lived with Rich I never knew you could buy food in little aluminum trays, inside a box, that you just popped in the electric oven and then ate while watching TV. I had no idea toilets could have little handles that sent water shooting through until Rich gave us a house with indoor plumbing. I was completely unaware that vacation is something you did once a year, taking you to places far away, but Rich took us to lots of them. Rich gave me all these things then and he is still giving me things. The only thing he asks in return is that I take good care of things. But even when I don't, or when I've lost what he gave me, he just buys me a new one. My house is stuffed with the things Rich has bought me. Every time I move I realize just how much stuff that really is. Oh, I'm thankful to Rich, and the things are nice, but sometimes it just seems like a lot of work making sure I still have all of it. I often worry that some of my things will end up missing and I think some are. Rich doesn't ever get too upset though, he just buys another one.

    Not too long ago I saw Poverty again while on a trip to Mexico. It seems he moved there after we left and I don't even think he recognized me. Rich was with me, and since the two of them don't have much in common, I didn't get a chance to talk with Poverty, or see how he was doing, what he had been up to. Rich was constantly reminding me of the places I had to see and things I was supposed to do. Reminded me that I didn't have time to stop and talk to Poverty or the family he was living with. Part of me wished I had though. Perhaps I could send Poverty some money later, I thought. I don't remember if I ever did.

    Poverty's face was much uglier than I remembered as a child. But the family he was with didn't seem to care and, in fact, they were having a small party and seemed to be genuinely having a good time. Everyone was smiling and laughing, the kids were playing in the dirt, the adults were watching them play and talking. It appeared Poverty still didn't give many things but, strangely, none of them seemed to care. I wasn't sure what to make of that since Rich had assured me so many times he was making me happy with the things he was buying me. I think this may have been the first time I began to wonder if Rich was right. I wondered if he really was making me as happy as I thought . These people seemed so much happier than people I know.

    I thought about Mexico for a long time afterward and one day I just asked Rich why he didn't make me happy. Rich simply pointed to everything he bought me and looked perplexed. "But what about those people in Mexico living with Poverty", I asked Rich, "why can't you make me happy like that?" Rich merely shrugged his shoulders, scratched his head and then walked away. Didn't say a word; like he didn't care about my question. He seemed cold and distant. He made me feel empty, depressed and lonely inside.

    I couldn't get Mexico out of my mind, so I drove to the place where I used to live with Poverty, see if I could remember if I was happy then. It took me a full day to get there and find the old house where I used to live, but it was still there. Even the outhouse and the chicken coop were just as I remembered. The fence that held our goats had rotted away mostly but you could still make out where the posts had stood. I peeked in the windows of the house, a few were broken out and all were dirty, and then I looked through the cracks in the walls. No one lived here anymore, it still slunk to the right just like it used to, but it didn't look much different than when I lived here as a child. Even the porch, still intact, dipped toward the ground the same way. Most of the roof had fallen in and, for just a moment, I even thought I heard Poverty calling me from the kitchen window. It was an illusion but my mind raced with memories and slipped back in time to 1959. I remembered again the cold nights my whole family huddled together under blankets and told stories trying to stay warm before sleep. I remembered waking up in my mothers arms, feeling her warm breath on top of my head, my dad outside already feeding the goats and chickens before hauling their manure to a large pile in the back. As I stood there I almost thought I could smell breakfast cooking; fried corn meal mush. I even thought I saw my brother motioning for me to come play through the hole in the wall.

    Something brushed my back and I woke from my daydream. It was Rich. "Come on, we gotta go. This place is ugly. Who'd want to call this place home? We can stop at the mall on the way back. I'll buy you something. Make you feel better. You look depressed."

    Rich was right. I was depressed and a few tears had even trickled to my cheeks but it was not because of the ugly place I used to live. It was because, in some small way, I actually missed Poverty. Poverty had taught me a lot about love, family, survival and I never really thanked him for that. Poverty had kept our family together and back then I didn't even know his face was so ugly. I just knew my family was everything and when he lived with us he made family seem so important. Poverty always made sure we needed each other more than him and gave us no choice but to love each other. If our family had not loved and cared for each other we would have frozen, starved or possibly died. Poverty left us no choice in the matter and I thought for a moment how cruel that really was. I realized how truly ugly Poverty is compared to Rich. But while it was clear that Poverty was cruel and ugly, it was also true that Rich never really paid much attention to anything but the things he wanted to buy and, unlike poverty, he never did anything to hold our family together. I looked at Rich's face intently for a long moment. He did have a much better face than Poverty, but perhaps that is because Poverty never cared about his own face, he just made sure we looked good to each other. It left me with a lot to think about.

    I knew Rich was right though, I couldn't stay here. I wanted to stay a little longer though, remember just a little more. It felt good to remember those days living with Poverty. I stayed about another hour, walked into the woods where we used to play and looked back towards the road. I realized, as I looked back I had known Rich far too long for this to ever be home again. I knew I probably wouldn't want it to be. When I drove home I would once again be among the things Rich bought me and the luxuries he afforded. I knew I would still enjoy those things but here at the old place where I lived with Poverty there were faded memories that warmed me on the inside. Memories of a tight knit family struggling together for survival. They were good memories filled with love and I didn't fully understand my feelings that day. I missed poverty but I was drawn to the life with Rich. But the things he gave me over the years never made me happy for long, never once gave me warm memories like this. Just a lot of snapshots.

    Rich looked impatiently at his watch as he stood by the car waiting to take me back home. His artificial tan, gold showy rings and great looking clothes looked totally out of place here. There was no doubt he had a lot of appeal, but now I felt more distant for some reason. I wondered if he was truly my friend. He barely looked my direction, continued looking impatiently at his watch, wanted to go.

    I knew I had no choice but to go with him. My life had become entangled in the Rich way of living and he was part of me now. I turned toward the old house one last time to see if Poverty was really standing out there somewhere. He wasn't and I saw only glimpses of an ancient memory that brought another tear to my eye. I turned to leave. Rich looked very appealing in his fancy clothes and shiny rings but in an odd way he made everything around him look uglier than it really was. Even me.


    I think often about that day I returned to my old home and the life I lived with Poverty. Rich and I have had quite a few discussions about that day and about Poverty. I've suggested they speak to one another, see if they could find some common ground, but he is against it and I don't think they ever will. I know within myself that I would never want to live with Poverty again, he is ugly and cruel, but there is also part of me that is tired of Rich and his self-centered ways. I admire both Poverty and Rich but that, I fear, is an odd admiration since they are so very different. I heard recently of a city not far away where there is a great prophet that long ago resolved this same dilemma and could teach me many things. Someone told me his name was Simplicity. I'm headed there tomorrow to find out what he has to say. I think Simplicity might have the answers I seek.

    pov·er·ty (povÆÃr t"), n.
    1. the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support; condition of being poor; indigence.

    rich (rich), adj., -er, -est,n. –adj.
    1. having wealth or great possessions; abundantly supplied with resources, means, or funds; wealthy:

    sim·plic·i·ty (sim plisÆi t"), n., pl. -ties.
    1. the state, quality, or an instance of being simple.
    2. freedom from complexity, intricacy, or division into parts.
    3. absence of luxury, pretentiousness, ornament, etc.; plainness: a life of simplicity.
    4. freedom from deceit or guile; sincerity; artlessness; naturalness: a simplicity of manner.

    ----to be continued on Wednesday 08/08/07---

    Friday, August 3, 2007

    So where do I go from here?

    The more I see how my "American way of life" is subsidized by other people's suffering, the more I am offended by the way things are. I know I can't change the world, I can't even change another person, but I can change me. I am not obligated to participate in causing another persons suffering though my actions...or purchases. Even if it is the accepted norm.

    I ran across another blog quite by accident, about a week ago or so, which summarized exactly how I have been feeling for the last few months. I have reprinted one of the posts here, in it's entirety, because it's so well written and I didn't feel a small excerpt would have the same impact. I reprint it here with the authors permission. I have also given the link below in case you want to read the rest of his blog. Most of his blog is not about resource conservation, but it is some really good stuff about life and living compassionately. I recommend it as a must read. Be warned though, it is very powerful and quite an emotional read. Here is the excerpt I promised from Weblog "Spirit Poor".


    Think about the drink

    I washed my hair by a mountain stream once. We were backpacking for an entire week and I stunk. So I took an impromptu bath, rinsed my hair in the stream, and watched the bubbles drift downriver.
    Didn't give much thought to the hikers who would be collecting water from that same stream down below.
    We live our lives with that same thoughtlessness. "I can live any way I darn well please. To hell with the rest of you."
    We wouldn't say that out loud, or maybe even think it. But it's how we live.
    It's what we do when we buy clothes made in third-world countries at the expense of someone else's near-slave labor.
    It's what we do when we sip rich coffee grown and harvested by the sweat of people who will see almost no income for their efforts.
    It's what we do when we buy products that can't be easily recycled. When we carry them home in plastic bags. When we toss away the glossy packaging and eventually the item itself with its non-degrading plastic and toxic chemicals.
    It's what we do when we treat the waitress that way. Or the co-worker. Former friend. Husband. Wife. Child.
    What's your trickle down? What are you dumping in the river for others to drink? What lives are impacted by your actions? Take a long, hard look downstream.

    Spirit Poor: Think About the Drink


    I am aware that sometimes my blog or comments probably sound like I have jumped up on a high horse and don't know how to get off. It's really not that way exactly. At least I hope not. I do have a bone dry sense of humor that is sometimes missed or misunderstood and that often gets me in trouble. I also tend to rant about things that are really just hitting me square between the eyes and I would like to change in myself. I am truly a novice when it comes to using resources correctly so I give myself challenges and put my thoughts out there in cyberspace so I have a higher standard to live up to. But in the end, I do believe I have still missed the mark a bit.

    So back to my original question, "Where do I go from here?"

    I have reasonably determined that if I stay mindful of what is leaving me in the form of trash, garbage, refuse, water, wasted food, hydrocarbons, methane?, recyclables--and anything else I might have forgotten in the list-- then I will be making headway. However, having given this careful thought, I don't think it is enough to just think about my waste stream. I also must think about where what I acquire comes from.

    As I look around my house I find things that most likely were made by another man's poorly compensated sweat in a third world country. There are other things too that used an extreme amount of resources to produce or probably created a great amount of pollution in their manufacture. When I buy these goods, do I not perpetuate suffering or extreme pollution and also share in the blame?

    There is a hidden price for cheap goods that someone else pays instead of me. I can only live cheaply because the cost to produce my goods is kept low by cheating someone else out of the right to pursue happiness. Is that fair? I have the right to pursue happiness but those in "developing" countries don't? That's arrogant and piggish and I don't want to be that way.

    I plan on being more mindful of what I purchase. I am with No Impact Man on buying used but that is not always possible so here are some points I am going to consider on every new purchase. I am sure I will revisit this list later and add to it, but this is the list for now.

    1. In which country was this product made?
    2. Were the persons that manufactured or assembled it paid a decent wage, and did they work decent hours? Is there a chance they were kept locked in their place of employment for long hours with no breaks? Were they forbidden to use the restroom for long periods? Is it Fair Trade?
    3. How far did this product have to travel to reach me? How much oil was consumed in it's manufacture and shipment?
    4. What air /water /soil pollution occurred when this product was made?
    5. How many tons of resources did it actually take to manufacture any metals in the product?
    6. Did anyone die to extract the resources necessary to manufacture the product?
    7. How much plastic is in the product? If there is plastic, is it recyclable or will it end up in the landfill?
    8. Is the packaging excessive? Can the packaging be recycled or will it just end up in the landfill?
    9. How long will this product last? Can it be renewed or repaired? Is it manufactured specifically to be disposable?
    10. Do I really NEED it, or do I just WANT it?
    11. Does my use of this product create any additional pollution?
    12. When I am through with this product will it be difficult or impossible to dispose of?
    13. How long will it take for this product to decompose? Will it ever decompose?
    14. Will this product harm me, or those around me?
    15. Can this product be purchased from a local manufacturer instead of an importer?

    Whoa, that's a big list, you might be saying. Well, it should be. I would call it mindful consumption rather than impulsive and it is what I should be practicing. If it takes me a few days or hours to determine if I should buy something...that's good! Stores are set up for impulse purchases. If I must run myself through a checklist before I purchase, I will be less prone to buy on impulse. And I do love to buy on impulse. It makes me downright giddy. Until I leave the store. Then it just makes me less rich.


    Thursday, August 2, 2007

    Eating Local

    Here is an excellent video that clearly spells out the need to eat local. Following the video is a link to find a CSA in your area. This link has every CSA and farmers market which belongs to "Local Harvest" but there may be other small CSA's or markets in your area as well that are not members. Your community may have a CSA organization that has a list of more.


    Eating locally for me is one of the biggest challenges I face and is is going to require a major shift in the way my life is organized. That is coming soon. I was once a member of a CSA but they only delivered produce in the summer and I wasn't fully satisfied with the produce they provided. Very little variety and not as fresh as I would have expected. But when I get settled in my new place I may give this a try again. Suggestions are always welcome.

    Wednesday, August 1, 2007

    The Big Question

    This is a good video I ran across. It tends to be a little overly simplistic but it does get the gray matter turning just a bit.
    clipped from www.youtube.com

    blog it

    Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

    Today I split from my normal dialogue, and occasional diatribe, on sustainability, consumerism, pollution and the like because August is officially "Happiness Happens" month. So be happy, it's the law...well sort of.

    The constitution promises you 1) life---well if you woke up this morning and you are still breathing you got that one nailed, 2)liberty--uh that one is under attack a little and we just won't go there right now, and 3) the pursuit of happiness---hey, it's the pursuit you're promised, not happiness so, get over it.

    Anyway, if you live in one of the states shown below, then back in 1999 your governor declared August officially "Happiness Happens" month. So if you live in one of these states you must be happy. It has been officially decreed. The rest of the states couldn't decide if they were happy or not and you citizens of those states will just have to do the best you can. Maybe go see a good movie or something. We'll think happy thoughts about you from time to time and hold out hope for you next year.

    Oh, I should also mention that the governor of Texas was happy back in 1999 but I am not sure whether he is happy right now or not. He didn't take my phone call so I wasn't able to find out.

    Happy States and the responsible Governor

    Alabama - Don Seigelman
    Connecticut - John G. Rowland
    Idaho - Dirk Kempthorne
    Indiana - Frank O'Bannon
    Iowa - Tom Vilsack
    Maryland - Parris N. Glendening
    Massachusetts - Areo Paul Cellucci
    Nebraska - Mike Johanns
    Nevada - Kenny C. Guinn
    New Hampshire - Jeanne Shaheen
    New Jersey - Christine T. Whitman
    North Carolina - James B. Hunt, Jr.
    Oregon - John A. Kitzhaber
    Rhode Island - Lincoln Almond
    Texas - George W. Bush
    Vermont - Howard Dean, M.D.
    Washington - Gary Locke
    West Virginia - Cecil H. Underwood
    Wisconsin - Tommy G. Thompson

    Well, I guess I have to tie this into the theme of my blog somehow so, here goes. Here is your project for the month to achieve more sustainable happiness. (Phew, got the tie in accomplished.)

    1. Smile at at least ten people you don't know and give them a genuine warm hello this month.

    2. Clean out at least one messy closet, cupboard or drawer and give the stuff you don't NEED away. Notice I said NEED not WANT. Meditate on the difference if you must. It has been a hard lesson for me to learn too and I understand completely.

    3. Pledge to give away at least twenty one-dollar bills to persons less fortunate than yourself this month. They're all around if you pay attention and a dollar or so means a lot to them. Don't be judgmental, just give it freely and without strings. If you really want to be happy, give them a five.

    4. Forgive someone that does not deserve forgiveness. Trust me, that really makes you happy inside.

    5. And lastly, do something fun and quit working so hard. When you die, your in box will still be full. Then what are you going to do? Don't worry, be happy.

    One last thought. I have been thinking a lot lately about "time pollution". We are all in such a hurry now that our concept of time has been polluted. As a result we are no longer cordial to one another. Society tells us we are expected to go fast. Fast food, fast cars, instant soup, quickie car washes, minute rice, express lanes... (Have you noticed I like lists?) Anyway we get mad at our

    "Oh, look at the time, gotta run, I have another blog to attend to. Sorry, we'll do lunch someday. Ciao"