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

Saturday, March 29, 2008

How many parts does a View-Master have

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

The mighty electron

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.

If an electron were increased to the size of an apple, how big, proportionately, would a human being be?

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.

E-Waste...it's our problem

E-waste Video

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Epidemic!! Yeah, I copy that...over!

April 17th is a national day of action to stop global warming. Give your sick photocopier a break. Click on the picture to learn more.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Put on your walking shoes, get out your change

"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

How to Inoculate Your Children Against Advertising ∞ Get Rich Slowly

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.

How to Inoculate Your Children Against Advertising ∞ Get Rich Slowly

Holding my feet to the fire

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. 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. 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. 3. Drive even less.  I think $4.00 gas will probably help that a little.
  4. 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. 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. 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. 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

I like the Olympics...but...

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:

Provinces pay price for green Olympics | World news | The Guardian

And if you still think this is just a water problem across the Pacific pond, read this from the Seattle Times:

Seattle's Water Supplies Dwindling

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:

Water In Conflict

If you live in the US, here are one-hundred tips on how to save water in your region.  

100 Ways to save water

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

Toilet Paper Cubes

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. 1. It is not easy in the real world we've created.
  2. 2. Not buying plastic is next to impossible.
  3. 3. Being green takes time. I don't always have time.
  4. 4. Being green is more expensive. Why is that?
  5. 5. It is tough not to drive in a suburban world.
  6. 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. 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.