Saturday, December 13, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
Years ago I made a rather selfish decision to eat a strictly plant-based diet. I say selfish because I was in ill health at the time and changed my diet to become healthy again. It worked and I have never gone back to eating animal foods. My diet now actually remains quite simple and I eat low on the food chain.
My choice to not consume animal foods had nothing to do with animal cruelty and I am not completely opposed to animal foods, as such, I shun the term "vegan", even though in all respects I am one and I suppose, the only thing that separates me from being a true vegan is that my shoes are made of leather and I once had a leather wallet. Oh, and I eat honey sometimes.
Don't get me wrong...I abhor factory farming for it's cruelty I just don't join in raids to overturn cages or man tables handing out pictures of dead chickens or sick cows being slaughter inhumanely. (Even though I am totally appalled at the practices on these "farms".)
No...my biggest concern about these factory farms is what they are doing to every creature who lives and breathes on this earth not just the ones being slaughtered at an alarming rate. I still come to the same question too the more I read about how we are essentially raping the earth to fulfill our greed and pleasure seeking. When we have totally consumed and destroyed the earth in our relentless pursuit of "growing a sound economy" by acquiring even more small green papers which we conveniently convert to blips of electrons in a computer, where do we expect we will live? Have you checked out the other planets? They make Arizona look downright cool.
So..back to the chickens. The links to the three articles below, I hope, will give you some pause the next time you hanker for some hot wings or nuggets. As you read ask yourself; Are we growing chickens or are we playing chicken with nature? You decide.
And if polluting the air is not bad enough
Here is our nation's response:
I'm sticking with my beans and rice.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Saturday, May 3, 2008
Please forgive my up front comments here. I promise I will redeem myself by the time I am done. You see, it seems that the new sustainable apparel store labeled "Nau" (that is pronounced now) is closing. (Collective aaaahhhh here).
I guess the problem is that they wanted to create a store with a smaller physical footprint selling upscale clothes. However,this meant when you bought something there you often had to wait for it. (GASP!) That didn't sit well with most of us Americans and so we just stayed away and went to Nordstrom. After all, if we want something we don't want it Nau; we want it NOW! Anyway, it is rather ironic that at a store pronounced "now" you had to ummm..."wait". Maybe the name wasn't the best idea they had.
Now here is where I redeem myself. What is wrong with waiting? I hate the big box stores and stay away unless I'm forced to go there. I mean there is all that space to heat, clean....fill. I say let's go back to the small neighborhood store with mom and dad running it and junior at the register when things got busy or maybe manning a broom. If that means paying a little more and waiting a little longer...good. You can spend that time getting to know the shopkeeper. Maybe become a friend.
So...I'll keep it short since I know all you Americans out there like short blirpy things...like commercials...and this is nearly the end. Are you happy Nau.
Oh, and Nau...it was a great idea really but most of us are broke out here and probably couldn't afford your clothes anyhow. And the rich dudes that would frequent your store? Well, they drive gas guzzlers and think sustainability is what you accomplish with a facelift. Maybe your demographic was just a little off. Try again though. It's a good concept.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
If you haven't watched Spike Lee's multi-act video dissertation on the Katrina disaster called "When the Levees Broke", I highly recommend you do. It should be available for viewing at your local video store or at NetFlix or may show up again on HBO if you subscribe. It won't make you cry, but it will make you angry. It will also make you smile.
We cannot blame Katrina. Katrina was just the natural; it is mankind that was the disaster. Follow this link below for a short video about "Paradise Faded". It runs just two minutes, twenty seconds and is quite well done.
Monday, April 21, 2008
Dear Least Footprint Reader,
Would you like to learn more about simple living? I have negotiated a special arrangement with the Ironweed Film Club for you to receive this month's disc for FREE! I recently signed up for this club and enjoyed it so much I contacted them to see if I could bring it to my readers. It took them a while to get back to me but once they did they came through in a big way.
The Ironweed Film Club will deliver 3 inspiring films on DVD in April 2008:
Learn how we can curb our ever-increasing oil dependency through a return to sustainable, organic living and community support.
Tired of 'keeping up with the Jones' family? Before you surrender to consumerism, watch others trade in stress, debt and consumption for happier, simpler, stress-free lives.
Engineer and author Jim Merkel demonstrates that a simple lifestyle - while at times intimidating - is not only possible but extremely satisfying.
If you Join Ironweed Films in April you'll receive these 3 films on 1 DVD--to keep not rent! If you enjoy the membership, you'll continue to receive 2-3 films each month on socially-conscious, political and environmental topics. If not, you can cancel at any time without a hassle.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Remember the View-Master? Well, they are still around, made by Fisher-Price, but they are in cartoon shapes now and not so boxy. The original View-Master, like the ones I used to get every Christmas as a kid, were made right here where I live, in Beaverton OR, at a plant on Hall Boulevard. The plant is gone now, but it's toxic legacy remains and has yet to be cleaned up.
You see, it seems as though the water well on the site; the same one that everyone drank from that worked there; has 1600 parts per billion of Trichloroethylene (TCE) in it. TCE was a byproduct of the manufacture of the View-Master toy. The legal limit for TCE in water is only 5 parts per billion. Yes, 5 parts per billion and this water has 1600 parts per billion in it. That is a lot and after just five parts per billion, TCE starts doing some very nasty things to your internal organs.
Many of the people poisoned worked at this plant for twenty years or so drinking this water. They are now the focus of an advisory group that is tracking their health and looking for answers. I hope they find some.
It kind of makes you think though. That, seemingly innocuous, fun toy under the tree was not so innocuous after all. And it is certainly not so fun for the workers poisoned in its making who may develop cancer or some other ailment. And I have to ask myself. Who is ultimately responsible for this? Is it the company, ViewMaster Corporation, that made them and in doing so poisoned the well? Or, is it we who, through mindless consumerism, bought them and developed a market for this product. That is a question I can't answer. I do know we need not worry about the well being poisoned any further though. I'm sure they're made in China now.
Friday, March 28, 2008
Below is a question and answer found on www.physlink.com Unless you are a math dweeb, or a glutton for punishment, I suggest reading only the question and the bold highlight. The rest is relatively irrelevant to the rest of my post. But in the interest of putting lots of huge numbers on my site (huge numbers are cool) I put the rest in too.
Asked by: Lou Spadaccini
Well, the classical radius of an electron (this is the 'electo-magnetic field' type of radius - nobody has actually measured the exact radius of an electron.) is about 2.82 x 10-15 m. An average size of an apple is about 4 cm or 0.04 m in radius (at least the apples I just got today from the supermarket:-).
So the scaling factor is just: radius of the apple / radius of the electron which is: 4 x 10-2 m / 2.82 x 10-15 m = 1.42 x 1013
This means that in the universe where the electron is as big as an apple in ours everything will be bigger by a factor of 1.42 x 1013 or 14,200,000,000,000 (fourteen trillion and two hundred billion times bigger.)
So now you can calculate how big would the human be: for example I am 6 ft (1.83 m) tall so in your apple-sized-electron universe I would be: 1.83 m x 1.42 x 1013 = 2.6 x 1013 m tall! Just to give you an idea how tall I would be: it would take light a full day to travel from my toes to my nose! (and it only takes about 8 minutes for light to travel from the Sun to the Earth.) Also, I would be about 3.5 times taller than the diameter of our Solar System (farthest reaches of the Pluto orbit are at about 7.37 x 1012 m.)
Answered by: Anton Skorucak, M.S. Physics, PhysLink.com Creator
As I was leaving the movie theatre last night I suddenly noticed that all around me were electronic devices. They were on the wall, on the ceiling, inside the projection room, in the lobby, by the front door, outside the theatre, behind the ticket booth glass, on the walls of banks, in peoples hands...everywhere! It was then I suddenly realized that the harnessing of something none of us will ever see, the electron, has completely transformed our world.
Forget about the harnessing of fossil fuel energy for cars. When the fuel runs out, the cars will disappear anyhow,horses will begin to sell for a premium ,horse thieves will take the place of car thieves and those things they stick down the window to get in your car will start going cheap on e-bay.
No, it is the way we have harnessed the electron that has changed our world. And these little buggers can do everything. Cameras, computers,ATM's,scanners, infra-red sensors, weather detectors, alien life form detectors (yes, that's true...sort of). Well, there I go with a list again. Just make a mental list. Every word I type uses electrons and I should probably conserve.
Now before you swear off electrons altogether, or set up a website devoted to their conservation, I should point out that it is not the electron that is the problem. It is the harnesses we build. Chips! Gazillions and gazillions of chips containing transistors, capacitors, resistors and many other things most of us just don't really understand. We attach these chips to hunks of metal and bits of plastic, and as long as the TV turns on when we push the button all is well with the world right?. Well, not exactly.
I could go on a while longer about this but, just follow the links below for a refresher course on e-waste and what harnessing all those mighty, yet oh so tiny, electrons is doing to our world. Worse yet, electron harnesses are made mostly of purified silica sand, with a few other metals attached. And unlike our depleting supply of oil, we have tons of sand and no end in sight for making these things. Of course, we may need to get them to market in buggies, but that's a topic for another post.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Thursday, March 6, 2008
"I think a trading range between $80 and $120 a barrel this year is about right, but with the softness of the dollar, and the occasional interruptions that you have because of politics, I think we could see $120 oil.'' So says Peter Barker-Homek, head of the Abu Dhabi National Energy Co. in an interview with Bloomberg.com.(Bloomberg)
Wouldn't you know it, right after I started this post, in pops an article from the Seattle Times which begins
OPEC said today it will not put more oil on the global market despite record-high prices for crude, blaming the U.S. for economic "mismanagement" that it said was having a worldwide effect.
Oil soared past $104 for the first time after the OPEC announcement and the release of a government report showing a surprise drop in crude-oil stockpiles.
Light, sweet crude for April delivery jumped $5 to settle at a record $104.52 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange after earlier rising to $104.64, a new trading record. Earlier this week, oil prices broke the previous inflation-adjusted price record of $103.76, set in 1980 during the Iran hostage crisis.
The U.S. dollar sunk to record lows today, with the euro fetching $1.53 for the first time ever in Europe.
So. let's see. The $100.00 per barrel oil we're seeing right now gives us a gas price at the pump of about $3.60 per gallon in my area. An increase of 20% would push it to about $4.32 per gallon at the pump. That's a pretty big jump.
It wasn't actually that many years ago I could fill my tank for about a buck a gallon. It cost me about $20.00 if the tank was nearly empty. If gas jumps to $4.32 per gallon that same tank will cost me $86.40. For one tank! Not that I am complaining mind you. I never complain about the price of gas because every dollar bump in the price is another "tax" imposed on frivolous driving and Hummers. Take that Frieda!
Eighty-six bucks will almost buy me a decent pair of boots or walking shoes unless I want some really nice ones then that might set me back two tankful's. I've never really personally kept track, but a good pair of hiking boots will probably get me a couple thousand miles or so before the Yellow Plug Vibrams wear out. (I base this on the experience of those who have through-hiked the Appalachian Trail, which is 2200 miles long. A fresh pair of good boots usually wears out about the end of that hike. Cheap boots are a different story. Moral: Don't buy cheap boots. They're expensive.)
So let us say I spend $134.95 on my boots; Rocky Boots has a nice pair for that amount; and I walk two thousand-two-hundred miles in them. That equates to about six cents per mile. My car gets about eighteen miles to the gallon so if I multiply the per mile cost of the boots by eighteen and that will equate the cost of my boot soles to the price of fuel. Are you still with me here? The end result is this. One gallon of fuel will carry me eighteen miles for $4.32 (projected). The boot soles will cost me about $1.10 to travel the same distance, albeit much slower. (Hey, I figure if Frieda can liken light rail to freight trains, well I can pull a little latitude between boots and gas.)
But wait, I can get a Tri-Met bus pass for just $76.00 and go anywhere I want in the entire Portland Metro area all month for less than the cost of just one tankful of gas. I even get there much quicker than I do with my boots. Although you still might consider wearing shoes when you get off the bus. It's just the polite thing to do unless you're at Collins Beach or something. So anyhow back to the math. If you travel 2200 miles on a bus in one month (could happen but probably not) it ends up costing you only about three and half cents per mile. So multiply that out by the eighteen mpg of my car and it costs only sixty cents to travel the same distance as my $4.32 did in the car. A savings of about $3.72 cents.
Ok, I know the math is a bit fuzzy and questionable but the point I make is this. Gas is no longer cheap, it probably won't be ever cheap again. That means a frivolous trip is no longer frivolous, it's downright expensive. So, why not walk, or ride the bus, or take the train, or just play at the park instead of having to park. If you can't bring yourself to do that to stay green, why not do it to save some green. It just adds up. Oh, and Frieda, no offense...I was just having a little fun. Enjoy your Hummer. There may be more room on the road for you real soon.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
I subscribe to many blogs, scan most of them, read some of them, and save posts from a few. This post (link below) is on a blog called "Get Rich Slowly", an excellent blog. This post is one of the best I have seen...ever, and I wanted to refer all two of my readers I'm joking, I think) to this post...especially if you have children.
There are still a great number of things I need to change to win any sort of green award so here are seven things I plan to start with:
- 1. I really need to take shorter showers. For some reason the warm water in the morning just feels so good I lose all track of time. I'm thinking of setting a timer for five minutes and hope that helps. Actually I went to a campground one time with coin showers. At the end of the five minutes only the hot water turned off. That got me out of the shower REALLY fast.
- 2. I've changed every possible light to fluorescent already but I need to be better at turning off lights when I leave the room.
- 3. Drive even less. I think $4.00 gas will probably help that a little.
- 4. Grow a garden. However that is not easy when there is so little room and very little sun. I have plans for a container garden that can be moved to any location. I need to get building it.
- 5. Plant more trees and clean up more. I have been on one volunteer tree planting excursion. In less than two hours we planted four-hundred trees and stripped English Ivy off some of the existing trees. It was a lot of fun and I want to do it again.
- 6. Use less disposable items. I no longer buy paper napkins and towels but when we eat out I use them. I need to follow No Impact Man's method and carry a rag with me. Maybe some pocket silverware as well.
- 7. Attend seminars. Portland is stuffed with free, or very cheap, seminars on living green or simply. It's just a matter of going.
That's my bad list. Next time I will try and post a few of my accomplishments. Big and small.
Monday, March 3, 2008
Beijing is currently facing a huge dilemma. It needs more water. The population of the city has exploded and since the citizens have become much wealthier they now demand flushing toilets, more landscaping, more parks and ever more luxuries. All of that takes ever increasing amounts of water.
On August 8th, the Summer Olympics will begin in Beijing. Millions of people are expected to flood the city and so the whole area has been given a facelift, including building the worlds largest airport terminal and a stadium that looks like an irradiated birds nest.
The Chinese government is also tapping water resources from neighboring provinces and aquifers beneath the city to meet the huge demand for water the Olympics will bring. A few examples; an entire dry riverbed has been refilled with water for the rowing competitions, a huge canal has been dug to divert the Yangtze river, and clouds are being seeded with silver iodine to promote rain. The result is that water is being diverted away from provinces which become less arid each year as a massive drought widens and in the case of the cloud seeding that has the potential of changing weather patterns around the world.
So, I live here in the Pacific Northwest and I wonder why I should care about China's water problem. After all China is a long ways away. Well I refer you to a previous post for that answer. Imported from China It is truly a small planet we live on, we are all connected by the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. Politics may have formed national boundaries, but nature knows no boundary or country and the earths problems affect us all, regardless where we live.
Want to read more:
And if you still think this is just a water problem across the Pacific pond, read this from the Seattle Times:
And if you still think water is not an issue that will someday affect you, or perhaps even send some in your family to war go to:
If you live in the US, here are one-hundred tips on how to save water in your region.
In the immortal words of Jerry Brown, former governor of the great State of California; If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down. Wise words from a very different California governor. I mean, except for the current one. And that will be the terminator of this blog for today.
Saturday, March 1, 2008
We returned from the grocery store the other day and the last thing I pulled from the trunk was a huge cube of twenty-four rolls of recycled toilet paper. My first thought as I looked at all those rolls was, "What would No Impact Man" do? But then my next thought was "Oh my, this whole thing is wrapped in a whole bunch of plastic. What would Fake Plastic Fish think?"
In 2004, for some odd reason, I began to realize I was completely dependent on a system of grids for my life. Electricity, water, cable, telephone, Internet.... But then I started thinking about how I use all these things and wondered what impact it had on the planet. I had never really thought about it too much before. I just bought things, used them, then threw them away. Once I did, it was someone else's problem, my problem was solved and I didn't even have to think about it anymore.
I started reading about living greener and I began to realize that, out of respect for the backwoods, I had always used the "Least Footprint" method when I backpacked. Meaning that after I left camp there would be no trace I had even been there. Why, I thought, shouldn't I try to live Least Footprint all the time, not just when I am out backpacking? So, on September 29,2004 I registered the domain name "Least Footprint". It was a small start and I pretty much continued living the the same way and just recycled a little more. To be honest, my original intent was to start an online store filled with technological super cool "green" gadgets and gizmos which I would then ship around the world on diesel belching trucks and high flying jets so others could save electricity and take dribbly showers. Buying local and less was not in my vocabulary yet.
The "Least Footprint" thoughts stayed with me though, but it wasn't until I heard about "No Impact Man" and started following his blog I really got serious. On April 10, 2007 I stood at the podium and disclaimed to the world, "Hi my name is Scott and I am a resource pig" as I started this blog. Every day since I have followed No Impact man on his journey,wondered how he got by without toilet paper, and even threw a few comments his way from time to time. I've let my own blog meander wherever it went...sometimes good, sometimes boring, perhaps sometimes even off subject but I have no real project like No Impact Man or Fake Plastic Fish to report on so I just write what I think or what disturbs me that day. There is a little behind the scenes self flogging that happens too that you can only read by looking between the lines.
Reading other blogs and writing this one keeps me thinking about this stuff on a continuous basis and I've changed a lot of the ways I do things, or at least feel guilty when I don't think. I've discovered a few things about living "Least Footprint" though.
- 1. It is not easy in the real world we've created.
- 2. Not buying plastic is next to impossible.
- 3. Being green takes time. I don't always have time.
- 4. Being green is more expensive. Why is that?
- 5. It is tough not to drive in a suburban world.
- 6. Garbage is literally everywhere and as a people we should all be ashamed. Recycling, buying bulk and using less is not that hard. It just requires change.
- 7. As a planet, we are in serious trouble and we must all accept responsibility for that trouble or write an apology in our wills to all of our heirs who follow in our huge footsteps.
So, No Impact Man finished his one year deal successfully and it's all over but the book. I realize now I never formally congratulated or thanked him for what he did so, Colin, great job. You truly made a huge impact on many people. Waiting for your book.
And last, but not least, Fake Plastic Fish has been awarded the prestigious honor of being a "Blog of Note". You'll find her on the list not far above "Food Mayhem" and if you don't follow her project yet, check it out. She is the wiz when it comes to fighting the evil plastic menace and even though she is just one small voice in a sea swirling with plastic she is making quite a splash. So anyway, congratulations Beth, you have a great blog, a worthwhile project you attack with passion and it is certainly worth the honor you received. Now I have a bunch of TP to unwrap.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
This is a between posts...post.
Worldwide, over 45 million televisions will be purchased in 2007. America lags behind the rest of the world with no standards for responsible electronics recycling. With the 2009 conversion to digital millions of useless TV's will be hitting the landfills.
Help pressure leading TV manufacturers to establish "Take-Back" programs across the country.
Click below to go to this website, sign the petition, make the pledge and learn more. If you are able, write a letter to the editor.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Few not directly connected with Hanford in some way have actually been to these places and I was fortunate to have seen them only because my dad's business took him there and I got to tag along for the day. The most memorable part of that trip was the impossibly hot chili that seemed to have a delayed fuse. It had us looking for an ice cream shop about five minutes after leaving the cafe but it sure tasted good.
I was fortunate I could visit the Hanford Reservation for the day and then return safe and snug to my home in Mountlake Terrace that same night. Others are not as fortunate and live out their lives next to its legacy. For some that has caused a huge impact on their health.
Just north of the Hanford reservation, and carved deep into the earth and tons of uranium were withdrawn from an open pit mine. The Seattle Times, yesterday, ran a very good article on this subject and here is a small sample:
"The mine itself haunts people with a question: Are we being poisoned by what was done to our land?
The story of what happened, and continues to happen, on the reservation is a cautionary tale at a time of renewed interest in nuclear energy and the toxic uranium needed to fuel it."
The full article can be viewed at the link below.
For a little over two-hundred years we have been a nation of action. It is time we change that mode and become a nation of thought instead. Thought of what our actions mean to the generations that follow us. Thought of what our actions have done to others less fortunate. Thought about what our actions mean for every single one of us. Then we should return to action and try, I mean really try, to clean up what our thoughtlessness has left behind. If that's possible.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
"Only when the last tree has died and
The last river has been poisoned and
The last fish has been caught,
Will we realize that
We cannot eat money"
19th Century Cree Proverb
The first European setters to arrive, not knowing how to live in harmony with the land, died in large numbers of disease and starvation. After the first year in the new land had passed more than half the population lay breathless six feet under the soil. The rest, by sheer brute force, took control of the land, tamed it, and began to forge a new continent in the image of the one they left behind. Most had come with the goal not of starting again in a new way but to plunder the unclaimed riches that lay beneath their feet and in the streams. The cry in their heart was to spoil the riches, sell them for money then live out their life in wealth. A few were successful. What they did not realize though is that the indigenous peoples knew where the true wealth existed and it need not be stripped from the earth in huge quantity to be converted to machines which would then create ever more modern technology.
For thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of years, the indigenous peoples of America took trees from the forest, bathed in the rivers, fished salmon from the streams, killed bison on the plains, hunted deer, harvested shellfish and even cultivated crops. Yet, because they took only what they needed, the continent flourished under their care. The earth itself was their wealth, the soil, the waters and the pure air their savings account.
This next map shows how much forest we had remaining three-hundred and thirty years later.
Today, after just fifty-seven additional years, the map below shows the forest that remain. Less than five percent of the original forests remain now and each day another one-hundred and eighty five acres disappear.
When the last one is gone, then what?
If you want to read three thousand more words on this subject simply click on any map above and you will be taken to the website of the "The Native Forest Council". They put out an excellent publication called "Forest Voice" on the subject.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Perhaps you haven't heard but Portland Oregon was just named the nations "greenest" city by Popular Science magazine. But, well, ummm, according to Forbes magazine, that honor actually belong to Ames-Boone, Iowa. Portland didn't even make their list. Not even in last place. But cheer up Portland, MSN city guides thinks we are one of the ten greenest cities in America. They weren't specific on whether we were number one though.
If you believe David Owen, of The New Yorker, well, he thinks good old NYC is the greenest place to be, not Portland. Now I've never been to NYC personally, but I have watched Cash Cab, and I think that might be a real stretch. Are you sure Dave?
Yahoo thinks that Hastings, NE is the greenest place to be, even though Nebraska is actually kind of brown.
Sacramento is the one I truly feel bad for though. According to the Sacramento Bee, they aspire to be the greenest city in America but always kind of find themselves stuck in the middle. Mediocre. Well, duh, I mean what do they expect would happen if their governator drives around their fair town in a Hummer all day. Personally I think Sacramento is a great place to be, even if they aren't the greenest. I mean after all, they do have a killer train museum that is well worth a visit even if you are not into trains.
The out guy in all of this green contest stuff though is Boulder Colorado. They claim to be fiercely progressive in managing their greenhouse gasses and expressed shock they weren't on the Popular Science list. Better luck next time Boulder but, hey, cheer up, Forbes magazine considers you to be the "Smartest City in America" and that has to count for a lot...right? You'll get it all figured out.
Well, to be honest I don't really pay serious attention to these lists but my first thought when I read that Portland was "the greenest" is that the rest of the world is in some serious trouble. Oh, it's true, we are pedestrian and bike friendly, organic and local produce is easy to come by, and if all else fails, the rain keeps everything green without us doing a single thing, even if it is just moss. I mean moss is green and natural. It counts. No argument. It counts.
On a serious note, Portland is on a better track than most cities I think. Not that that is really saying much. Despite my sometimes very vocal complaints about Tri-Met Transit's management and their grumpy bus drivers, we do have a really great system for getting around that saves oodles of gallons of petroleum. Or would I should say, if we could get more people out of their cars and onto the busses. Tri-Met can get you lots of places in a decent amount of time for less than the cost of a gallon of gas and that is a real bargain. Plus they have a new commuter rail line that opens soon and a couple new light rail lines in the works. Bigger and better things all the time.
Another big accomplishment for Portland is that our largest hospital system Providence, just recently began diverting all of their food waste out of the landfill to a company that transforms it into humus. (Not hummus...one M...humus.) A big green kiss their way since that is seriously a huge accomplishment. Honest. Food waste in the landfill is really, really, really bad.
Another accomplishment that makes me smile quite a bit is that one of my favorite places to eat is now collecting the used foil wrappers from their burritos and recycling it. And they even bring your food out on a real washable plate, despite the fact that it is essentially fast food. And very much unlike so many places that do a small green deed, and then trumpet it all over town, these guys just do it because they really care and don't need to advertise their greenness. They just do it because it's the right. It's why they see a lot of the green from my wallet.
Well, those are just a few examples I notice. On the whole I think we in Portland are still doing a good share to mess up the planet and fill the landfills but...well, we're trying to be better. Honest. And that counts for something doesn't it? I mean just little.
There is probably a contingent in Portland that numbers at least ten percent of our local population that really gives this stuff some serious thought and takes action. You can see them flying across the Hawthorne bridge on their Cannondale bundled against the sub freezing temperature with a messenger bag slung over their shoulder. The rest of us, self included, have a long way to go to be truly green. From my travels around the country though, Portland is doing a much better job than most other large cities. For that we can still be proud so, I guess we can honestly keep that number one spot. At least until the next magazine list comes out, or Boulder Colorado figures out how to beat us. They probably will too since they're smarter than everyone else and mom always liked them best. They may, in fact, be getting on a roll real soon and it is never a good idea to stand in the way of a rolling Boulder. Ouch.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
I read with great interest a letter to the editor of the Portland Tribune by one Frieda Campbell in Milwaukie Oregon. The tag line was "Rail steals resources needed for highways". Her letter reads in part "The reason I am concerned over the irrational national fascination and rush to make this fascination a reality is that it diverts critically necessary resources away from the building and maintenance of the highways systems--upon which we rely to transport our commercial freight."
OK, I have to pause here for a moment and interject a few things. Frieda is commenting about Portland's move to light rail usage since there has been much ballyhoo lately about the cost. None of the arguments hold a lot of weight when you consider the amount of money spent each year laying oil-based asphalt to build or maintain roadways. A cost that rises each time oil ticks up a penny. A few years ago Vancouver, across the river from Portland, was making the same kind of noise about light rail. That's when fuel was still eighty-nine cents a gallon. Light rail lost. Vancouver regrets their decision now since each day they become more and more isolated by traffic jamming at the Columbia River bridge.
But back to Frieda. Frieda, I have no irrational fascination with light rail personally and riding has never made me downright giddy. I just sit down and read my book or talk to the person near me content that I don't have to grip the wheel and curse the traffic. Think about it, if more of us rode the light rail we wouldn't need to build new roadways for diesel belching trucks. Less cars, more room for trucks...right?
Frieda writes, "(How much freight --with the very possible exception of illegal drug freight---have you observed being transported on the Max system?)"
Wait, Frieda, the MAX light rail is a people mover not a freight train. The big choo-choos are for the freight, not the little electric choo-choo. That's why they call it LIGHT rail as compared to the big choo choos which are HEAVY rail. And guess what, according the the US Department of Transportation, Research and Innovative Technology Administration trucks use TEN TIMES more fuel to transport goods than rail anyhow.
"Think of it this way: without highways, massive reductions in freight.
Without freight, massive reductions in commerce.
Without commerce, massive reduction in economic activity and no economic growth.
Without economic growth, economic stagnation.
With economic stagnation, all the other economic-related social problems based on it.
Got it folks? Get it! And hopefully before it's too late."
Frieda, YES, yes, I got it. I got it. It sounds great! Less roads, less trucks. Less trucks, less stuff. Less stuff, less stress. Less stress, more community. More community, less crime. Less crime... Are these the social problems you refer to?
Frieda, I've been to those big boxes full of "freight" which you say drive our economy. And I've been to the landfills where all that "freight" ends up no longer wanted, having served a very short useful life, and having been hauled by yet another truck. We need not consume for consumption sake just to make sure our economy "grows". And how does Wal-Mart opening another store, thus "driving" economic "growth" and putting another hundred mobile warehouse trucks on the road really benefit me or my community? Cheaper toilet paper does not keep me warm at night or keep my kids fed.
In my lifetime I have seen huge "economic growth" in this country. Huge! But the park near my house is now full of homeless families sleeping in their car, abandoned by a system of "growth" that sent their jobs overseas or phased them out by mechanization. The streets of our cities are filled with mentally ill citizens turned away from care by a system that rewards only those who have enough money to be counted worthy of health care The average citizen can no longer afford to buy a place to live as we convert to an economy that serves only large corporate interests. I am quite certain Frieda that if you made eight dollars an hour for your labor, or even ten, you would find it difficult to appreciate our "economic growth". Frankly Frieda, I think a little economic stagnation might do us all a little good. Perhaps, by necessity, we would once again find a sense of community. I'll see you on the bus Frieda...I'll wave to you as I pass you in your Hummer.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Daryl Hannah is probably best known for being the mermaid who fell in love with Tom Hanks. Or was she the unreachable conquest of Dudley Moore? No, I think she was actually a cave dweller. Alright, alright, I know that's not her real life.
In real life Daryl Hannah is quite an activist for sustainable practices. Albeit one with a much larger budget than my own. She was even arrested a couple years ago when she chained herself to a walnut tree--for three weeks!!--in protest of the bulldozing of the largest urban farm left in America, which just happened to be in South Central Los Angeles. This farm sprouted in 1992 right after the LA riots and allowed the citizens to grow their own fruits and vegetables. That, of course, would be a direct assault on corporate food and could not be tolerated. Why, that chunk of land would be much better off with a warehouse of frozen peas imported from Mexico sitting on it. Don't you think? I mean in South Central LA most of the grocery stores sell vegetables in crinkly bags from Frito-Lay. And the spelling of Frito is real close to fruit so who needs some fresh stuff out of the ground...right? Well, the new owner, having purchased the land for five-million dollars, refused to sell it back for the sixteen million dollars raised by Hannah and others. Sad, very sad. Daryl, you're a ten in my book for trying.
Take a click over to Ms. Hannah's website and poke around a bit. It's a very good site which contains some well done sustainability videos, and a super cool store. Be sure to check out the "Everyday Essential" section of her store for things like the Comfy Food Carrier, or the Best Water Bottle. Or if you have a few thousand rumbling around you don't know what to do with then check out her Fantasy Play Things section for a fifteen thousand dollar bio-diesel hay hauler and a thirty-thousand dollar solar boat. I told you she had a richer budget than mine.
Friday, February 8, 2008
Please read this article. I previously reported that the trash dump swirling in a never ending vortex in the middle of Pacific was the size of Texas. Well, it's grown now. A lot. In fact it is huge now. Really huge.
Friday, January 4, 2008
Oil at $100.00 per barrel? Why should I care? Well..here's a few reasons and this is just a very small list of the products made from oil. Many may surprise you.
Ink, Dishwashing liquids, Paint brushes, Telephones, Toys, Unbreakable dishes, Insecticides, Antiseptics, Dolls, Car sound insulation, Fishing lures, Deodorant,,Tires, Motorcycle helmets, Linoleum, Sweaters, Tents, Refrigerator linings, Paint rollers, Floor wax, Shoes, Electrician's tape, plastic wood, Model cars, Glue, Roller-skate wheels, Trash bags, Soap dishes, Skis, Permanent press clothes, Hand lotion, Clothesline, Dyes, Soft contact lenses, Shampoo, Panty hose, Cameras, Food preservatives, Fishing rods, Oil filters, Combs, Transparent tape, Anesthetics, Upholstery, Dice, Disposable diapers, TV cabinets, Cassettes, Mops, Sports car bodies, Salad bowls, House paint, Purses, Electric blankets, Awnings, Ammonia, Dresses,Car battery cases, Safety glass, Hair curlers, Pajamas, Synthetic rubber, VCR tapes, Eyeglasses, Pillows, Vitamin capsules, Movie film, Ice chests, Candles, Rubbing alcohol, Loudspeakers, Ice buckets, Boats, Ice cube trays, Credit cards, Fertilizers, Crayons, Insect repellent, Water pipes, Toilet seats, Caulking, Roofing shingles, Fishing boots, Life jackets, Balloons, Shower curtains, Garden hose, Golf balls, Curtains, Plywood adhesive, Umbrellas, Detergents, Milk jugs, Beach umbrellas, Rubber cement, Sun glasses, Putty, Faucet washers, Cold cream, Bandages, Tool racks, Antihistamines, Hair coloring, Nail polish, Slacks, Drinking cups, Guitar strings, False teeth, Yarn, Petroleum jelly, Toothpaste, Golf bags, Roofing, Tennis rackets, Toothbrushes, Perfume, Luggage, Wire, insulation, Folding doors, Shoe polish, Fan belts, Ballpoint pens, Shower doors, Cortisone, Carpeting, Artificial turf, Heart valves, LP records, Lipstick, Artificial limbs Hearing aids, Vaporizers, Aspirin, Shaving cream, Wading pools, Parachutes
OK, so now it's time to have a little fun. Print this list then mark off everything you have in your house, or on your person, that is petroleum based. How many were you not able to cross off? For me, it was very few. Still think you are conserving oil by just driving less?
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
Here in the U.S. we are very well fed people who live in bloated houses, drive immense gas-hog vehicles (usually two or three), worry over our investments, pine for that latest this and that and ache when "the good life" is just out of our reach. We have lots of spare time and complain when the cable goes down or the toaster doesn't work quite right. Meanwhile the rest of the world would be happy with just a little more food, some warmer clothes, a real house and perhaps a blanket to stay warm at night.
A fairly new website called KIVA specializes in micro-loans to individuals in poorer countries and helps them start or build a micro business so they can afford what we in the U.S. take for granted. These micro businesses usually revolve around food, clothing, shelter, firewood, recycling, and such and are formed by people that do not live in a buy it-trash it society like the U.S. They treasure every little thing life brings them and are happy with it. Despite their poverty a smile still comes quick as they ask only for a tiny bit of help so they can lead a decent life.
A twenty-five dollar loan to a micro business may sound like a small amount but in another country it is the same as a thousand to you and I. It can mean the difference between eating or not or having clothes or a blanket. On KIVA an individual, along with thousands of other like-minded individuals, makes small twenty-five dollar, or larger, loans to help start or build a micro-business. Unlike a charity this is money you lend and is not permanently given away. Eventually, in a year or two, you will see all of your money back. You can withdraw it of course but the best course of action is to put it right back into another business. There is no interest paid but the reward of seeing a positive result from your money is much greater than a dollar could ever provide.
If you want to lean more about KIVA simply follow this link to a PBS documentary. It is about twenty minutes long.