RSSCategory: Sustainable Living

Be careful that you don’t piss off your neighbors by living sustainably

July 16, 2012 | By | 2 Replies More
Be careful that you don’t piss off your neighbors by living sustainably

A Ferguson Missouri man is being harassed by the city of Ferguson for growing vegetables in his front yard. I have no patience for heavy-handed government action like this (and attempts to prevent people from putting solar panels on their roofs) that interfere with sustainability. We are so incredibly busy rearranging the deck chairs while the Titanic sinks.

Or perhaps I’m just grumpy because I saw several “clean coal” adds on CNN today in the lunch room at the office.

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Why would a person choose to commute by bicycle?

July 16, 2012 | By | Reply More
Why would a person choose to commute by bicycle?

As I do much of the time, I commuted to my job on a bicycle. It’s a 4 1/2 mile trip that offers me many benefits. I park on the 6th floor of the garage. Though I sometimes ride up the circular garage ramps, today I decided to take the garage elevator. A woman stepped in; then I joined her with my bike.

“Oh, I suppose you are delivering something, but you are taking your bicycle with you in this elevator?”

“No, actually, I’m an attorney and I work in this office building.”

“Oh . . . ” [Giving me the expression of “Why would a lawyer ride a bike to work?”]

I work in a building that probably has more than 1,000 employees, and as far as I can tell, I’m the only person who rides a bike to work. That’s not how it would be in many cities, such as Denver or San Francisco, but that’s how it is here in St. Louis.

One of the many benefits of bicycling is the cost savings, and it’s not just about gasoline. On Thursday, a local bike shop is going to change out my chain and give the bike a complete overhaul, essentially for the cost of two gasoline fill-ups. Other than that, yearly maintenance mostly consists of a few tire tubes and some chain lube. Further, when the commute is less than five miles in city riding, it takes only a a bit longer than it takes to commute by car. It’s win, win, win, but a lot of people won’t consider switching over to bicycle because it’s undignified, or a “toy,” or you might get wet if it rains, or it’s simply not the way that they have commuted for years, and they are not going to consider changing. They should reconsider, because they are losing out.

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The problem with the idea of global warming

July 15, 2012 | By | Reply More
The problem with the idea of global warming

So called ‘global warming’ is just a secret ploy by wacko tree-huggers to make America energy independant, clean our air and water, improve the fuel effeciency of our vehicles, kick-start the twenty-first-century industries, and make our cities safer and more livable. Don’t let them get away with it!

Chip Giller, Cofounder of Grist.org

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Voting on the hot weather

July 10, 2012 | By | 1 Reply More
Voting on the hot weather

June 28, arriving St. Louis, the pilot announced that it was 107 degrees outside. An anonymous cry of “Awesome” from the back of the plane set my imagination rolling. Was this guy some kind of climate change denier painting a smiley face on a killer heat? It made me think of a rock and roller wrecking a hotel room. “We are melting the glaciers! Awesome!”

Who knows what was on that guys mind; it hardly matters. You can’t expect everybody to support efforts to curb climate change. For instance, you can take all the first-person-shooter fans and write them off. When you are done whittling down the potential pool of concerned citizens, you realize that you had better get 100% of the picky breather demographic to put their shoulder to the wheel.

An informal poll of my Prius and Whole Foods friends tells me we are all doomed. My poll consists of various propositions; each proposition has a dollar or social cost balanced by some environmental benefit. Rather than asking a predictable, “Are you in favor of breathing clean air?” question, this stealth poll elicits honest answers; I have painfully realized.

For instance, I proposed a slow motion protest to reduce auto emissions. The protest would occur wherever and wherever one of the protesters was driving the speed limit. Instead of a placard, a protestor would have a bumper sticker proclaiming the reason they were obeying the speed limit. For instance, you might see “WHEN I DRIVE THE [SPEED] LIMIT, I DENY TERRORISTS CASH.” or “WHEN I DRIVE THE LIMIT, I SLOW CLIMATE CHANGE.” or “WHEN I DRIVE THE LIMIT, I SAVE LIVES.”

[More . . . ]

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One million people call for the end of fossil fuel subsidies

June 19, 2012 | By | 1 Reply More
One million people call for the end of fossil fuel subsidies

One million people tweeted their opposition to fossil fuel subsidies. Common Dreams has the report

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Ten reasons to drink tap water and avoid bottled water

June 10, 2012 | By | 1 Reply More
Ten reasons to drink tap water and avoid bottled water

This should be an easy first step toward a more sane and sustainable way of life: Stop using bottled drinking water and convert to tap water. Here are a bunch of good reasons in an infographic. These numbers are staggering.

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It’s time to get serious about living sustainably.

June 9, 2012 | By | 3 Replies More
It’s time to get serious about living sustainably.

I couldn’t agree more with Bill McKibben. it’s time to get angry.

So far we’ve raised the temperature of the earth about one degree Celsius, and two decades ago it was hard to believe this would be enough to cause huge damage. But it was. We’ve clearly come out of the Holocene and into something else. Forty percent of the summer sea ice in the Arctic is gone; the ocean is 30 percent more acidic. There’s nothing theoretical about any of this any more. Since warm air holds more water vapor than cold, the atmosphere is about 4 percent wetter than it used to be, which has loaded the dice for drought and flood. In my home country, 2011 smashed the record for multibillion-dollar weather disasters—and we were hit nowhere near as badly as some. Thailand’s record flooding late in the year did damage equivalent to 18 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). That’s almost unbelievable. But it’s not just scientists who have been warning us. Insurance companies—the people in our economy who we ask to analyze risk—have been bellowing in their quiet, actuarial way for years. Here’s Munich Re, the world’s largest insurer, in their 2010 annual report: “The reinsurer has built up the world’s most comprehensive natural catastrophe database, which shows a marked increase in the number of weather-related events. For instance, globally, loss-related floods have more than tripled since 1980, and windstorm natural catastrophes more than doubled, with particularly heavy losses from Atlantic hurricanes. This rise cannot be explained without global warming.”

I’m getting really tired of hearing people talk the talk, without walking the walk. All of us do it, me included (what else can you say when I take a long airplane trip to vacation in San Francisco, despite the fact that I often ride a bicycle to work?). In the meantime, we are living in the only industrialized country that is still debating whether burning fossil fuels is heating up the planet. I’m tired of people driving to Earth Day in big SUVs. I’m tired of the fact that most of us who whine about sustainability (including me) live comparable lifestyles to those who downplay the importance of such issues.

And how is THIS for a sobering talk?

The speaker is Dr. Peter Raven who, in a gentle voice, is reading the riot act to the audience (his speech “Saving Ourselves” runs from 5:55 to 29:00). Raven is a courageous speaker who is not afraid to tie the exhaustion of natural resources to the exploding number of human beings on planet Earth. His facts and figures are not in dispute by any thinking person.

[At the 29:00 mark, Raven describes an attempt to reclaim a precious preserve of extremely bio-diverse land in Costa Rica–this video was created at a fundraiser for that effort, titled the “Children’s Eternal Rainforest.”]

As Bill McKibben says, it’s time to severely devalue mere talk and to start making things really happen. The path is going to require some conscious change at the highest levels, because we cannot depend on ourselves to keep making the right decisions–we don’t have that kind of willpower. We don’t yet know exactly where we are headed, but we do know that we need to steer sharply away from fossil fuels. We also have some reason to believe that this future devoid of fossil fuels could be an opportunity as much as it is a crisis–see this talk by Amory Lovins, who argues that it is time to “Reinvent Fire.”

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National policy regarding fossil fuel subsidies keeps getting distorted by campain contributions

May 11, 2012 | By | 1 Reply More
National policy regarding fossil fuel subsidies keeps getting distorted by campain contributions

At United Republic, Bill McKibben reports on the obscene amount of Big Oil lobbying each year in Congress. It amounts to $146 Million per year. Bernie Sanders and Keith Ellison have launched a new bill that dramatically cuts subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. McKibben notes that no member of Congress makes rational arguments in favor of fossil fuel subsidies. No arguments need to be made, because money talks:

According to Open Secrets, the oil and gas industry has already spent $37.6 million lobbying the federal government in the first few months of the year alone. They also spend buckets of money on campaign contributions to persuade our elected officials to vote for policies they favor. A recent vote in the Senate revealed just how persuasive campaign cash can be. A bid to end taxpayer subsidies for the five biggest oil companies failed to get the 60 votes it needed. The 57 senators who voted to end the subsidies received about $6 million from the oil and gas industries, compared to a whopping $24 million pocketed by the 41 senators who voted against the bill.

No wonder America is so slow to move to elementary conservation methods and sustainable energy production. This is not a new story, of course, but a continuation of legalized bribery that infests the entire electoral system. Even worse, this is a system that severely punishes representatives who do the right thing.

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Amory Lovins offers his recipe for Reinventing Fire

May 3, 2012 | By | 1 Reply More
Amory Lovins offers his recipe for Reinventing Fire

Our energy system is inefficient, disconnected, aging, dirty and insecure. In this TED talk, Lovins argues that we can become frugal with our energy, eliminating our addiction to oil and coal by 2050, in addition to using 1/3 less natural gas. This talk is based on ideas presented by his book, Reinventing Fire, and his website.

This could cost $5 trillion less than business as usual, assuming external costs of business as usual is zero (which he wryly terms a “conservative” estimate). His approach requires no new inventions, no act of Congress and no subsidies, and it will increase the U.S. economy to 158% of the present.

Our addiction to oil costs us $2B per day in direct costs and $4B in indirect costs, such as the U.S. military. This amounts to 1/6 of GDP. Lovins opened his talk by noting that 80% of the energy we use every year comes from burning four cubic miles of primordial swamp goo.

How can we reduce the use of oil? Make cars “oil free.” Cars use 3/5 of this amount. 2/3 of the energy caused to move a car is attributed to its weight, but over the past 25 years, our cars have become “obese.” We have the ability to make lighter and “more slippery” autos, which makes electricity an excellent way to move cars. Lovins asserts that we have the technologies to make the cars much lighter. America could lead this revolution, though Germany is currently in the lead. If this technology were prevalent, it would be the equivalent of finding 1 1/2 Saudi Arabias worth of oil.

He proposes that we save electricity and make it differently. Most electricity now is wasted. Buildings now use 3/4 of our electricity. That offers a tremendous opportunity for savings through “integrative design.” (min 14). One way of doing this is via “2010 retrofit.” Industry still has $1/2 trillion of saving to reap. Pumps can be made much more efficient by using larger straighter pipes instead of narrower winding pipes. (Min 16). Needing less electricity means we can make it more easily. China is leading the way currently. Solar panels are an excellent way to make the shift. Wind and solar constitute half of the new capacity of electricity. (19).

How can we replace coal-fired electricity? Natural gas is one option. A grid using wind and solar can be a substantial part of the grid, much like it is in Europe. (21) The U.S. grid is old, over-centralized and vulnerable, and it will need to be replaced by 2050.

In 34 states, utilities are rewarded for selling us more electricity. Where they are rewarded for cutting our bills, investments are shifting to renewables. (22).

Lovins’ approach to “reinventing fire” asserts that our energy future is a matter of choice, not fate. He recognizes that these facts and numbers seem incredible, but they are true. A bonus would be an 86% reduction in greenhouse gases, in addition to a much more secure energy supply. He describes his approach as a “once-in-a-civilization business opportunity.”

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