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

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Take Back My TV | Tell TV Manufacturers: Take Back My TV

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.  

Take Back My TV | Tell TV Manufacturers: Take Back My TV

Monday, February 25, 2008

What a pit

When I was a young teen I had the opportunity to enter Hanford Nuclear Reservation in eastern Washington and see the birthplace of "the bombs". Surprisingly the buildings that processed the uranium for the bombs that ended World War II are rather nondescript square gray structures. Being a fan of too many sci-fi movies as a kid I had really expected them to be rather modern structures with tubes, stacks and glass domes rising into the sky. It was a bit of a let down.

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Just north of the Hanford reservation, and carved deep into the earth and tons of uranium were withdrawn from an open pit mine.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.

Radioactive Remains | The forgotten story of the Northwest's only uranium mines

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

When the last tree is finally gone

"Only when the last tree has died and
The last river has been poisoned an
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.

If a picture is worth a thousand words I will save you reading three thousand more words about this subject. This map illustrates the amount of forest that existed when the first waves of European settlers hit our shores.

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

Inn Ore E Gun Oui' Dew Ever E Thing Rite-Whale Most Lee

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

Forgive Me Frieda

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.

Frieda continues,

"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

Who would have known Daryl Hannah could make such a splash?

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

I'm disgusted--Are you?

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.


The world's rubbish dump: a garbage tip that stretches from Hawaii to Japan