Monday, October 11, 2010

Books I've Been Reading

I recently read E.O. Wilson's The Future of Life in preparation for a small panel discussion I did through the Aspen Writers' Foundation program on Grassroots TV: AWF Reads. Paul Andersen, a local naturalist and author, led the discussion. See the show here.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Reduce Your Margins (repost)

One quick and painless way to save resources is to reduce your default margin settings in Word. The current margin conventions are simply that, a convention. Changing your margins to 0.75" all around will reduce the amount of paper you buy, use, and throw away.

Think about this: 8 million tons of office paper are used per year in the U.S. If we ALL changed our margins to 0.75" we would save 380,000 tons of paper a year. This amounts to $400 million dollars of savings, and over half the number of trees found on Rhode Island. Per year.

And don't feel badly about stiffing the paper industry. They are the third largest industrial generator of global warming pollutants, the number one industrial cause of global deforestation, and the number one consumer of the world's fresh water.

So change your margins at home, change them at work, tell your friends, and sign a petition to get Microsoft to change the default settings on their programs. Save some trees.

To learn more, check out some of these links: Climate Change: Changing the Margins,, Penn State Green Destiny Council

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Books I've Been Reading

In preparation for a lecture by Beth Conover, I've been reading the compilation she edited, How the West Was Warmed. This book of essays tells the story of different Rocky Mountain residents' responses to climate change.

One I liked especially was "The Universe on Blacktop (My day of saving 66 million BTUs)" by Laura Pritchett. She tells an entertaining tale of her family's adventures in dumpster diving and makes clear the advantages of recycling.

"Recycled cans take 95% less energy than those made from aluminum obtained from bauxite. About thirty aluminum cans are produced from one pound of aluminum, and each aluminum can requires about 3,000 British thermal units (BTUs) to produce it. So... every two or three cans we recycle basically saves one pound of coal."

Monday, June 29, 2009

Books I've Been Reading

Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh
by Helena Norberg-Hodge

Helena is the director of the International Society for Ecology and Culture. I was lucky enough to attend a lecture she gave about a month ago organized by the Sopris Foundation. She had an incredible presence and interesting take on the ways that development have influenced "third-world" cultures.
"Development is all too often a euphemism for exploitation, a new colonialism. The forces of development and modernization have pulled most people away from a sure subsistence and got them to chase after an illusion, only to fall flat on their faces, materially impoverished and psychologically disoriented."

Ironically, her personal experience has been very geographically and culturally diverse. Helena was born and raised in Europe, did her studies abroad, followed by research in Little Tibet, and now lives in Australia. This international and globalized lifestyle has yielded a staunch proponent of localization, both of economies and culture.

What I found most striking was her assessment of Gross National Product. GNP is not something I have given much thought to, and like many, I have followed the logic that higher GNP meant higher standard of living. It had never occurred to me that actions like growing your own food, which I support, actually reduce GNP. If something as simple as growing and consuming your own vegetables acts negatively upon GNP, how can we possibly use this statistic to compare developed and undeveloped countries?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wolves are an Endangered Species

Secretary Salazar (a rancher, by the way) has kept a Bush-era plan to remove wolves' protection under the endangered species act. This could mean nearly 1,000 wolves being shot in the next few months in Idaho and Montana. This seems crazy to me: wolves are a crucial part of Northern Rockies' ecology, maintaining healthy elk populations which in turn protects local flora from overgrazing. Additionally, we have spent millions of taxpayer dollars saving wolves from extinction in the lower forty-eight states. Now we want to remove the protections that make it illegal to kill them? The delisting plans for these states are not sufficient, and are based on a population size too small to protect wolves from extinction.

Make your opinion heard, send an email to Salazar's boss.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Thoughts on the Debate

I thought that the debate was pretty good, although I was disappointed to not really hear anything new from either candidate. Obama definitely got stuck on clearing up the facts, which is a bummer because it gave him less time to talk about new and exciting things, it sorta seemed like him and McCain were bickering a bit. Sadly, he wouldn't have to constantly explain things if McCain wasn't leading such a "uniquely misleading campaign" (media's words, not mine).

I thought in terms of body language, Obama was way better. The town hall format was supposed to favor McCain, who I thought looked awkward, tired, and withdrawn. Obama on the other hand leaned in, interacted with the audience, and seemed very engaged.

One of my problems with McCain and Palin is that they never actually ANSWER the questions. They wax philosophical and metaphorical about defeating evil and supporting the middle class, but without actually saying HOW. Obama (and Biden for that matter) on the other hand always address the question posed to them, usually in a concise, clear, and well-thought out manner.

I think Obama was the clear winner of this debate, although I definitely don't think he made undecideds love him.

Follow this link to read a non-partisan description of each candidates environmental plan and voting record.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Abstract Wild

"Effective protests are grounded in a refusal to accept what is normal. We accept a diminished world as normal; we accept a diminished way of life as normal; we accept diminished human beings as normal. What was once considered pathological becomes statistically common and eventually "normal" - a move that often veils denial. Decayed teeth are statistically common, just like smog and environmentally caused cancers. That a statistically common decayed tooth is also an abnormal tooth, a pathological tooth, a diminished tooth, a painful, horrible tooth, is a fact we deny. Until it is our tooth. At present most of us do not experience the loss of the wild like we experience a toothache. That is the problem. The "normal" wilderness - wilderness most people know - is a charade of areas, zones, and management plans that is driving the real wild into oblivion. We deny this, accepting the semblance instead of demanding the real. This, too, is normal; modern culture is increasingly a culture of semblance and simulacra...

...The reduction of social criticism to private defect is incessant in our culture; it cripples our outrage and numbs our moral imagination. Convinced that it is really our problem, we are no longer astonished by evil and living nightmares no longer awaken us. We are put down, so we shut up, abandoning the prospect of autonomy, self-respect, and integrity. Signing more petitions, giving money, or joining another environmental organization helps some, but these things are too abstract to help us and our problem. These means are too far removed from the end, the intention unachieved. Indeed, our apathy and cowardice stem, in part, from this: these abstractions never work, they never achieve a sense of power and fulfillment. They correct neither the cause nor the effect. We end up feeling helpless, and since it is human nature to want to avoid feeling helpless, we become dissociated, cynical, and depressed.

Better to live in the presence of the wild - feel it, smell it, see it - and do something real that succeeds, like Gray Nabhan's preservation of wild seeds or Doug Peacock's intimacy with grizzlies. We know that in the end moral efficacy will manifest knowledge and love: our intimacies. We only value what we know and love, and we no longer know or love the wild. So instead we accept substitutes, imitations, semblances, and fakes - a diminished wild. We accept abstract information in place of personal experience and communication. This removes us from the true wild and severs our recognition of its value. Most people don't miss it and won't miss it in the future. Most people literally do not know what we are talking about.

To reverse this situation we must become so intimate with wild animals, with plants and places, that we answer to their destruction from the gut..."

an excerpt from The Abstract Wild: A Rant
by Jack Turner