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

Sunday, September 23, 2007

World Bicycle Free Day?

Note: This post has been "Censored". Apparently my attempt at humor was misunderstood by some and so my dry wit has been doused with water and the post edited. My apologies if anyone was offended by my previous humor. It was only intended as humor and nothing else.

Last Saturday, September 22, 2007 was "World Car Free Day". The intent was that everyone celebrate by leaving their car home for the day and get around some other way; transit, bicycle, on foot, roller skates, wheelie shoes, perhaps even by horseback. Judging by the number of cars on the road though, this day of celebration didn't have quite the same appeal as Christmas. Perhaps next year.

I, on the other hand, being fully in the mood to celebrate, put together, at the very last minute, a small spontaneous bike ride down the Springwater Corridor Rails to Trails from Portland to Gresham. I posted the ride on Craigslist for less than a week, but didn't really expect much of a response but I did receive one endearing e-mail though from R. L., who is obviously one of my greatest fans. It read, in it's entirety:

what i would prefer is a "World Bicycle Free Day," particularly the
Peter Pan dorks in spandex like they're in the Tour De France,
retarded Lance Armstrong wannabees. let me know when that happens.
P.S. I used to ride a bike, WHEN I WAS A KID. then i grew up.

R.L., if you read this in my blog, which I doubt, I did actually enjoy your e-mail, it gave me a very good laugh and there's no hard feelings. Really! Oh, and about the kid part...thanks! I love being a kid still and the last time I flew like Peter Pan on my bike was just quickly over my handlebars when I hit a deep patch of mud in Port Angeles. It wasn't that much fun. Oh, and I do in fact wear Spandex but only when it's hot. Not because I look cool, but rather because I stay cool and it has a little extra padding on the posterior where I am, ahem, a little lacking now. That is always helpful on a long ride. Most of the time I just wear pants and a t-shirt though and no one has yet confused me with Lance and asked for my autograph when I wear the spandex. I'll set them straight though, if they do, and let them know I'm just a wannabee and not really him. Honest.

There was a magnificent crowd that showed for my ride and I documented the occasion with a picture. As you can see it was just me, and uhhh, me. It was a great ride anyhow though. How can you not love a trail which takes you through a place called "Beggars Tick Wildlife Refuge"? I'm sure there's a history behind that name but I'm not sure I really want to know.

The highlight of the ride was a stop at the marsh just before you reach Gresham. I was greeted by a French-fry chomping nutria--essentially a huge amphibious rat with a long thick tail---who was looking for an additional handout from me. He looked very well fed by other passersby and certainly didn't need my help on his way to a rodent coronary. He flirted with my "Gorge Delight Just Fruit Bar" for a few minutes, but headed for the water when he discovered I don't feed wildlife and was just pulling out my camera for a quick shot instead of more food.

I hope to be a little better organized for this ride next year. I didn't find out about "World Car Free Day" until less than a week prior and jumped on it the best I could. China actually closed some of their roads to traffic in honor of the day and Portland, being alternative transportation friendly, I feel should follow suit next year. I'll see what I can do. Hmmm, another thing to feed my polyphasic mania.

Note: I traveled roughly thirty-five miles by bike and roughly the same by light rail. Total fuel expenditure: an unknown amount of electricity for the light rail train, one and one-half cups of oatmeal, a small handful of raisins, a generous splash of "Pacific Foods Oat Beverage (Plain)", about a cup of rice, a cup of beans, some plantains, a few slices of yam,Pico de Gallo, salsa and one "Just Fruit" Bar. Had I traveled in my automobile I would have consumed about 4.5 gallons of petroleum plus the above mentioned food items as well.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Nature deficit disorder in children

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of going on a backpacking trip with a friend and two of his boys. It was the first time the boys had ever been out in the woods, even just to camp, much less backpack, and they had a great time. The older of the two was a natural and was very disappointed to leave. So many kids now are simply into TV and video games, I can't tell you how good that made me feel.

Our pack trip took us to the Indian Heaven Wilderness in Washington State where we spent nearly three whole days. I had never been packing in this area before and discovered one of the most beautiful places on earth, right in my own backyard. The whole area was dotted with small lakes right next to giant meadows. There were several rock spires; one of which we climbed and peeked over the top into the meadow below; and surprising little wildlife. Based on the huge amount of steaming, bright blue, berry laden, bear scat we saw my assumption is the other wildlife were hiding out until the huckleberries disappear along with the bear. Never actually saw a bear, just the tell-tale signs they were not far away.

I believe each of us is programmed to love nature and the lives we live among the hustle bustle of the freeways and shopping malls disrupts that programming, or even turns it off. Time spent with nature though has a way of reprogramming us again if we let it. I also believe if we introduce kids at a young age to the wonders of nature, let them experience it close up, perhaps even get a little grimy, pick up toads and throw some rocks they will be less inclined to take nature for granted later and thoughtlessly destroy it. Having grown up myself in the era of John Denver, and others who sang of the earth, I learned a deep respect for walking in nature with a light footstep. On this trip we left no scar on the ground that would give away our presence except the small bit of dirt we took away on our boots.

I just discovered a new book titled "Last Child in the Woods, Nature Deficit in Children" which some are likening to "Silent Spring". Silent Spring is the book most credit with being the impetus behind the ecological movement of the 70's. The light of that movement has never truly died, even though the candle has definitely dimmed. I have not yet had an opportunity to read this book but it is high on my "read list" now; currently about twenty books long; and when I do I will post my comments and feelings about it. If you want to help in this effort, please send "Powell's Books" gift cards to... Just kidding, but if you do want to help, and you have kids, and have not taken them into the backwoods, even for a day hike, please do so now. Nature shows as much love to us, as we show to her. It is best to learn that love at an early age.


Spread the word! September 22 is "World Car Free Day". "WORLD CAR-FREE DAY" started in the 70's and 80's in different forms but is now a regular planned event, and each year just gets bigger. "Car-Free Day 2007" may end up being the biggest yet. Even the government of China is planning official events in more than 100 cities, including Beijing and Shanghai. They even plan to close some of their roads to private cars.

Our cities, towns and streets don't have to be dominated by cars. It was not long ago they weren't. We can convert our cities and streets into avenues for people-powered transportation once again, it just takes enough voices to make change. Cities can easily be traversed by foot, bike or,for longer distances, bus, light rail, subway or train.

Let's all make "Car Free" day a special event.

Note: Have a blog? Please cut and paste this text into your blog, including this note. Think viral!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Cars, cars and more cars

In the U.S. there are 239 million cars and light trucks on the road. All these vehicles log roughly 2.7 trillion miles every year. That is a 160% increase in miles driven just since 1970 and the amount increases every year. It costs all of us, in the form of taxes, 66.3 billion dollars every year to build and maintain the roadways for all these cars. Public transit sees about one-tenth that amount of funding and Amtrak sees even much less than that.

In the U.S. we account for just 5% of the worlds population, yet we contribute 45% of the global pollution from vehicles. Some states, like California, have decided to get tough on this pollution, but only fifteen other states have decided to follow their lead. The rest have lax, or no standards at all. And here is something that may actually surprise you. The big three automakers, GM, Ford and Chrysler, have actually called for a cap on global warming emissions yet, despite their call for a cap, there have been no federal bills passed to cap, or even reduce, pollution from ANY source. Hmmm...

Source: The Environmental Defense Fund


Spread the word! September 22 is "World Car Free Day". "WORLD CAR-FREE DAY" started in the 70's and 80's in different forms but is now a regular planned event, and each year just gets bigger. "Car-Free Day 2007" may end up being the biggest yet. Even the government of China is planning official events in more than 100 cities, including Beijing and Shanghai. They even plan to close some of their roads to private cars.

Our cities, towns and streets don't have to be dominated by cars. It was not long ago they weren't. We can convert our cities and streets into avenues for people-powered transportation once again, it just takes enough voices to make change. Cities can easily be traversed by foot, bike or,for longer distances, bus, light rail, subway or train.

Let's all make "Car Free" day a special event.

Note: Have a blog? Please cut and paste this text into your blog, including this note. Think viral!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Car Free Day is coming!-September 22

Spread the word! September 22 is "World Car Free Day".  "WORLD CAR-FREE DAY" started  in the 70's and 80's in different forms but is now a regular planned event, and each year just gets bigger. "Car-Free Day 2007" may end up being the biggest yet.  Even the government of China is planning official events in more than 100 cities, including Beijing and Shanghai. They even plan to close some of their roads to private cars. 

Our cities, towns and streets don't have to be dominated by cars. It was not that long ago they weren't.  We can convert our cities and streets again into avenues for people-powered transportation, it just takes enough voices to make change. Cities can easily be traversed by foot, bike or,for longer distances, bus, light rail, subway or train. 

Let's all make "Car Free" day a special event. 

Note: Have a blog?  Please cut and paste this text into your blog, including this note. Think viral!

Bike to the Future

Last weekend I participated in a 28-mile bike ride called "Bike to the Future".  It was initiated by the "Coalition for a Livable Future (CLF)", which I had never heard of before this ride, but they seem to be doing some pretty good stuff. CLF coordinates the efforts of over ninety sustainability organizations in the Portland Metro area plus does some major research on sustainability practices. One of the greatest things they are doing right now is a program they call "Shift the Balance". Even if you don't live in Portland, click on the link and read the list of ideas.  It's a great list.  It really is a forward thinking agency and the stuff they advocate doesn't necessarily requires solar panels on the roof or a wind farm in the back yard.  

The ride itself was great and the hills were always perfectly timed with the areas I wanted to spend more time looking at, or vice versa.  It was also a great introduction to some really nice neighborhoods I never knew existed in North Portland. That's actually one of the great things about bike travel is that you see and experience what is around you, rather than just view it out your window like a dull movie with an NPR soundtrack.  Just keep an eye out for the cars because some of them are not keeping an eye out for you. Bright yellow clothing and flashing lights on your bike don't make you less cool, and they just might make you less dead someday. <<<<Safety message to some of my fellow bikers who equate "think safety" with wimpiness.  And to the guy who told me my bike looked like a Christmas tree, (I have one flashing light on the back end) I forgive you and wish you maximum visibility when you most need it. OK, repeat after me.  Lights...cool! Dead...not cool!  Lights...cool! Dead...not cool! 

There were three slightly interactive rest stops on this ride but the one I enjoyed the most was a brand new neighborhood called "New Columbia Housing". It is a project of the Housing Authority of Portland and is a superb example of thoughtful planning. Essentially what they have done is bulldoze what was once a crime-ridden community of ticky-tacky, industrially painted, drab, low-income only housing  and replaced it with a genuine neighborhood of  great looking low income, middle income and luxury homes, along with  low-income senior housing and apartments. To this they added parks, a recreation center, play fountain, play yards, lots of trees and grass, a brand new school and the most humongous upside down tree you ever saw. CHECK OUT THE PICTURES!  They even bulldozed AROUND the old trees, left them standing where they were and designed around them. Great thinking...really!

By realigning the roadways the housing authority was able to add more units in the process and serve more people. The entire project was also specifically designed to bring people together by the addition of walk-throughs and adding open spaces and trees making it feel more like a true community than a development. It was all built with sustainable practices in mind and I was quite impressed.   to read more about how this development was built sustainably.  If other cities are not studying this as a model of housing done right, they should.

Monday, September 17, 2007

A beauty to behold

There was quite a difference in our ages but I was still very much in love.  She had just come out of a long term relationship with my brother and, even though they had seemed in love and were quite inseparable, that ended suddenly in a big blow-up on the way to the store. My brother just walked away, left her sitting all by herself, and then called someone else to go get her. He didn't ever want to see her again and, looking back, I'm not sure I really blame him. They had been through a lot together. This was not the first time this had happened.  In fact, it was actually quite a frequent occurrence. When all the facts were laid out, it was always clearly her fault. But this final incident pushed my brother to the edge, and any love he had for her was gone. That's how I ended up in a relationship with her. 

I picked her up at my brothers place and she was there waiting in the parking lot of his apartment complex when I arrived. I drove her home and, despite her tendencies to blow up without warning,  I loved everything about her.  We would have several similar incidents over the next year or so, and more than once I also left her sitting alone, but I always went back for her. I understood her problems better than my brother did.  She had lived quite a fast life, had been quite abused in her early years and was just more sensitive than others. Years later I also found out she had some pretty nasty scars from being hit but she kept them covered very well with make-up.

I am no longer in love with cars. Not like I was with that 1965, bright orange, with black stripes and black interior Opel Kadett Rallye. She had been used for racing and the original owner had modified the engine in a way that dramatically increased oil pressure. This was great for the bearings and camshaft but it also meant changing oil pump gears and pan gaskets on a regular basis.  I never knew when the oil pump was going to blow and it always happened in the worst spot. But I had gotten her absolutely free from my brother and so she came cheap. My brother was  sick of her problems but I, being eighteen, fairly mechanically inclined, and "needing" wheels didn't care about her frequent blown oil pumps and pan gaskets. She was still a beauty to behold and I just kept a spare oil pump in the glovebox and tools in the trunk. It was a nuisance but wasn't really a problem.  After a small fender bender I discovered the entire drivers side quarter panel had been plastered with about three inches of bondo and then repainted.  The sight of those huge chunks of bondo on the pavement was hilarious and made a very small accident look like a major collision.

I still think of vehicles as necessities but they are just expensive  hunks of moving metal to me now and no longer a love interest. In many ways I have started to hate the automobile. They are troublesome and expensive.  I hate driving around town and enjoy riding transit and reading a book much better than driving most times.  In truth, I don't think automobiles are quite the necessity we all think they are.  Personally I've grown used to having a vehicle I can use at a moments notice because it eliminates the need to plan ahead and  leave a little earlier to get places by transit, bike or on foot but I am working to break myself of this bad habit. Perhaps the truth is that while I have fallen out of love with the automobile, I am still in in love with her twin sister, Convenience, and they are quite inseparable. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Junk your Junk Mail

I want you to pledge. No, this isn't PBS.  I'm not asking for money.  I just want you to pledge to fight junk mail. 

If you have a half-hour, you can print and mail a few free forms  which will dramatically reduce the amount of junk mail you receive. I used the site on Monday and it is a piece of cake to use. It will also help you send letters to your state representatives to start a junk-mail opt out list.

So do this, pledge first, then start printing your forms.  The trees are waiting.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Waste Couture: Environmental Impact of the Clothing Industry

A boy, probably no more than twelve, sits at a sewing machine about to be struck by his employer with a club. He sits at this machine for ten hours every single day and earns just $1.00 but the upside is that we in the U.S. can buy T-Shirts for just $5.00 a piece. Isn't that wonderful! This means we can wear it just a few times, then give it to the Goodwill, who will sell it back to a third world country as scrap. Welcome to the world of "Fast Fashion".

I had another post lined up for today on junk mail but I received an article in my Inbox this morning I felt was important enough to share right away. Please read this article. It is long, so you may want to approach it when you have a little extra time, but even if you have just a few moments the pictures speak volumes.

Confession: I have a mountain of T-Shirts in my drawer. I volunteer a lot at bike rides and other events and always end up with a T-Shirt. I certainly don't need it, it's just a reminder I helped out and they usually look pretty classy. I'm going to print this article now give these shirts back in order to raise awareness these cheap clothes come with a terrific human cost.

One recent exception. FlexCar. FlexCar gave me a T-shirt this last weekend that was made in Downtown L.A., USA and is made from 100% Organic Cotton. These were being given free to all members. If they can do it, why can't everyone else? The answer: They can, but probably not at $5.00 a piece.

Please read this article, download the .PDF and hand these cheap T-shirts back with a copy of this article. Most people are not aware.

Waste Couture: Environmental Impact of the Clothing Industry

Monday, September 10, 2007

Ruminate on this!

I love the smell of a farm. There is something pleasing about the aroma of fresh dung in a field coupled with the bellering of cows and the cackling of chickens. Perhaps not all share my view but if you grew up around this smell it holds a particular sentiment and nostalgia. I honestly do love the smell.

But just exactly how much sentiment and nostalgia comes out of the back of a cow. Here are a few statistics that will probably surprise you as much as they did me.

They typical dairy cow produces 120 pounds of sentiment every day. Let's see, 120 times 365, give or take a pound or two, throw in a leap year every four, average for water content differences and divide the result by 2000. There it is, each cow produces 22 tons of sentiment every year. In Oregon alone, according to the Dairy Farmers of Oregon*, there are roughly 122,000 dairy cows creating such nostalgia. That means 2,684,000 TONS of new sentiment are created every year. I think if you are the guy with the shovel, this sentiment may quickly lose it's nostalgia though. Either way that is a lot of sentiment and there are not that many people, like myself, that wax nostalgic about this stuff. So, what to do, what to do?

Here is one idea. NW Natural, (our local natural gas company) has hatched a new plan to pick up all this sentiment, let it decompose in a sealed environment, and create BioGas which will then turn a turbine and generate electricity. There is even a plan that it could be "cleaned" and mixed with the the regular natural gas supply as well. I guess gas doesn't actually come much more natural than that anyhow. I'll ruminate on this a while and get back to you when I find out more.

(*Source: Portland Tribune: Friday September 7, 2007, Page:A 10)

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Lighter Footstep - Train Yourself to Give Things Away

Well, I'm back from my backpacking  trip in the Indian Heaven Wilderness in one piece with no sore muscles. I not only had a great time, I was also able to commune with quite a few bears who made their presence known all along the trail but never stopped by to chat. Perhaps that was just as well. I also met a great guy named Rip Caswell, an artist, who shared his campfire and lots of stories with us each night. It was a great trip.

I haven't really gotten back into the swing of things since I returned and so I have missed a few posts. This one today is probably going to be a little light.

I subscribe to another blog called "Lighter Footstep".  Sort of like mine but without the occasional rant.  Below is a link to a short post about giving things away.  It is not long, very well written and it is something I am in the process of doing right now myself, having just moved.

I have been using FreeCycle like crazy, have posted a number of things on e-bay, which I practically gave away, and put a thing or two on Craigslist as well. If you don't belong to your local FreeCycle you should get involved.  It is a great way to get rid of stuff and let me tell you, it feels good to get rid of stuff.

Here's the link.  Oh, and don't miss the link at the end of the article about "How to give stuff away" You might need it.

Lighter Footstep - Train Yourself to Give Things Away