Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

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Toss, Keep, or Give Away

June 7, 2013

You know how some people say that for every one thing that enters their house some other thing leaves?  I’m not one of those people.  You know how some people say a place for everything and everything in its place?  I’m not one of those people either.  But it is becoming abundantly clear to me that we have too much stuff. 

The reason I’m in this predicament is because I’m so darn eco-conscious.  I am loath to add to the landfills.  I feel bad about our single trashcan of non-recyclables, non-compostables that gets put out each week – and I’m wracked with guilt when we have extra things – like the four broken and totally unsalvageable lawn chairs we put out this past week. Somehow, in the broken logic of my brain I think it makes more sense for four broken lawn chairs to be piled behind my garage than put in the landfill. 

But wait, couldn’t I do something clever and somehow recycle those chairs or chair parts? In short.  No.  I am not that clever, talented, nor skilled.  I would love to be able to create art from cast-offs.  But it hasn’t happened in the last 50+ years of my life and I just don’t think it is realistic that I’m suddenly going to become a cast-off artist.  I also have a feeling that a move in that direction would lead to more questionable items in my trust rather that fewer.  Now if I knew an artist who wanted broken lawn chairs…

Of course there are a goodly number of things in my possession that can go on to Goodwill (or substitute the name of your favorite donation-accepting charity).  For instance, I have a laundry basket of clothes that need to be evaluated by the daughter for just that purpose.  Unfortunately, the cat thinks the laundry basket of cast-offs is a very comfy place to sleep. So now, not only do I need to sort those into keepers, tossers, and give-aways – I have to rewash the whole kit and kaboodle.

I’ve noticed that over time some items change their position in the keeper, tosser, give-away categories. My garage attic has a number of items from my children’s infancies – a crib, toys, and car seats for instance.  Well, there is no point in keeping the car seats nor the crib, they do not meet the present safety standards (I don’t know how my children survived.)  And the toys, given they are now covered with over a decade’s worth of dirt, I don’t think anyone would believe they could be made clean enough for an infant ever again.  Still, it is hard to jump the breach from Goodwill to landfill.  I may let Goodwill make the decision, after I hose them off. 

To complicate matters psychologically, I am part of a theatre company and every non-tossable now looks like a potential prop.  The crib, for instance, might we not do a play someday that requires a crib?  I can’t let my mind go that route.  I need to assure myself that someone else will always have a crib we can borrow, that I do not, single-handedly, need to save every possible potential prop. Besides, isn’t it better to give some money to Goodwill when we need a crib than to hoard one in my attic? 

Of course the theatre company has acquired a number of props already (many from Goodwill, in fact).  Luckily another board member has taken on the task of storing them.  If they were in my garage that area would just keep growing as I transferred more and more items to the prop pile. 

Yes, I’m feeling an increasing urge to purge.  But where to start?  The top of the house?  The garage?  The basement?  I’m beginning to understand why this large-scale purging of stuff hasn’t happened before (except when we moved, and even then a remarkable amount just got packed and moved with us).  I suspect I will need to be a role model for others in the household, so first purging-place will have to be my room – or more specifically – my half of the room – which won’t be nearly as satisfying as an entire room…maybe I’ll just go take a bath.

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Bee buzz

June 2, 2013

A couple of weeks ago, the same day I installed the four hives, I received a phone call.  It was the librarian from a nearby town and would I be willing to talk to her preschool story group about bees? 

Well of course I was.

Now it has been quite awhile since I have talked to 3 and 4 year olds, so it took a bit of thought.  What would my take-away message be for these little folks?  I decided it was “if they’re fuzzy, let them bee.” 

Minier Library Story Hour 3I figured that most little people, often learned from their big people, are rather scared of bees.  I wanted to talk to them about why bees are good (pollination and honey) and how they really don’t want to sting and only will  if they or their hive is threatened.  Wasps, on the other hand, while they do pollinate, they don’t make honey, and they can sting you over and over with no compunction (but I didn’t use the word “compunction”).

Minier Library Story Hour

 

 

I filled out the talk with other bits of bee facts. Things like that other bees make honey too, just not extra honey (I wonder what bumblebee honey tastes like?).  I talked about swarms a little (mostly because the Moms thought it was interesting).  There was the ever popular description of honey as “bee spit”,  and of course there was the modeling of the beekeeper garb.

This past week the Prairie State Journal (a weekly regional paper, but, alas, with no online presence) came out and I was splashed all over the front page (these pictures and a couple more). 

Meanwhile, my bees up by the house in the topbar hive are doing fine. We’ve had an awful lot of rain the last few days though – about 3” (which is a lot for us) – including a flash flood in the park next door on Friday and numerous flooded roads and fields.  I haven’t had a chance to check my bees this weekend because of a community theater production.  And I need to check the bees I started for my friend.  Soon.  I’ll add it to the never ending to do list.

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An Oily Taste in My Mouth

October 30, 2011

It has been just over 18 months since the Deepwater Horizon accident and it seems that everywhere I turn I hear or see another  BP or BP sponsored advertisement.

First I started seeing these videos on my desktop Weather Channel gadget, videos about the employees at BP.  Then it was the Gulf coast tourism ads, proudly and prominently sponsored by BP.  And my reaction to all of them has been distaste. 

I’ve been to the Gulf (pre-oil spill), it is a beautiful and fascinating place.  I like people and am always happy for people to be satisfyingly employed.  But it’s the second meaning of these advertisements that makes me gag.  They are so clearly and obviously an attempt to make BP look good.  See – we’re a good company to work for; we’re nice people.  See – we’re doing a good job in the Gulf coast, see it’s “open for business” – and by the way, aren’t we wonderful for sponsoring these ads too.

What would be better?  How about some clear and obvious progress on doling out the $20 billion dollars meant to reimburse those affected negatively by the oil spill.  Last I heard they’d given out $7 billion.  How about a sincere apology and attitude of contrition that lasts as long as the suffering their oil spill caused?  Frankly, BPs recent advertisements have only reminded me to continue to bypass those stations.

I want only the best for the Gulf coast. I hope that tourism picks up, the coast heals, the oyster beds rebound, the dolphins stop dying, and life is better than before.  And I hope that BP does right by them.  When they do, I’ll willingly visit their stations again.

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1978 musical – Seein’ the Light

October 9, 2011

Got 15 minutes?  Check out this industrial film from 1978 made for Allied Chemical.  It’s a pro energy-conservation bit.  It’s amazingly timely. (and I think I had her haircut in 1978).

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Nuclear Power: Hubris or Optimism

March 13, 2011

 

a highway tipped sidewaysOn March 11th I awoke to the heart wrenching news of the massive earthquake in Japan. The earthquake was soon followed by devastating tsunamis. The death toll is likely to exceed 10,000 people.

 

 

 

 

  

 

The earthquakes not only destroyed homes and infrastructure, it damaged nuclear power plants with at least one and maybe another at risk of suffering a meltdown.  A nuclear situation called the worst since Chernobyl.

Japan_Explosion_Nuclear_Plant

About a week ago I heard a talk on the radio given by Helen Caldicott in which she talked of the dangers of radioactivity, nuclear energy and nuclear warheads.  It was the scariest information I’d heard in a long time and reminded me of all the reasons I opposed nuclear power so vocally in the ‘70’s. 

Nuclear power is unacceptably dangerous.  There are intolerable levels of risk related to nuclear waste (from mining, refining, enrichment, and the reactor,) and nuclear proliferation (the plutonium that is created as a function of nuclear fission can be used to make nuclear bombs), human and equipment accidents, and extensive environmental degradation.

Man’s belief that we can handle any and all negative consequences related to nuclear power is either a sign of tremendous optimism or tremendous hubris.  The situation in Japan shows the lie to both. 

Perhaps, somehow, a meltdown of any and all of the nuclear reactors will be averted.  I can only hope this happens.  If a meltdown is averted that does not, however, prove our optimism/hubris was well-placed.  It means only that a catastrophe was averted, this time.

It is  overwhelmingly horrific what has and is occurring in Japan (as I write this a volcano in southern Japan has begun to erupt).  That some good will come from it I hope and even expect.  The world leaders have been proclaiming their willingness to assist in any way possible.  I have no doubt we will be hearing marvelous, uplifting stories of great help and heroism for the months to come.

But will it affect our unwarranted optimism and hubris regarding nuclear power?  German anti-nuclear protestWill this near or eventual reactor meltdown give the world pause before it builds more nuclear power plants or extends the life of others?  In Germany thousands formed a 28 mile long human chain between the Neckarwestheim nuclear plant and the southwestern city of Stuttgart.  The protest against extending the life of Germany’s nuclear power plants had been planned before the earthquake in Japan, but organizers say the disaster gave added focus to the demonstration.

Will there be more anti-nuclear demonstrations.  I hope so.  Would I attend?  In a heartbeat.

Generally, those who agree with me, agree with me, and those who don’t, don’t; and nothing I say here will really change any minds.  [However, for those who have not formed an opinion yet, might I suggest a look at this nuclear power fact sheet.]

Meanwhile, may the Japanese survive, recover, and be somehow better for this terrible spiral of disasters.

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The Good? Ol’ Days

March 18, 2010

I’ve been reading Mayflower: A story of courage, community, and war by Nathaniel Philbrick.  mayflower-8 I am not a history buff, but I have some ancestors who came across on the Mayflower – two great great great great great great great grandfathers – Stephen Hopkins and Edward Doty (one of Hopkins’ servants), and a 7-greats grandmother, Elizabeth Fisher Hopkins.  I don’t know which of Hopkins’ children I’m descended from (my mother knows – she has researched our genealogy quite extensively), but Hopkins had 4 children who came with him on the Mayflower: Giles and Constance from a first marriage, and Demaris and Oceanus whom he had with Elizabeth.  Oceanus only made part of the trip actually – well part of it as Oceanus – she was born on the Mayflower.

While I’m talking about Hopkins, he had been to the New World before on The Sea Venture,  which shipwrecked on Bermuda, a shipwreck that is thought to be the basis for Shakespeare’s The Tempest.  Hopkins was involved in an attempted mutiny with that trip and was nearly executed.  Lucky for me, he talked his way out. 

Edward Doty, Hopkins’ servant, took after his master in some ways. He is infamous for being in the first pistol duel in the New World with Hopkins’ other servant, Edward Leister.  They injured each other, but, again lucky for me, no one was killed.  They apparently both spent some time with their hands and feet tied together though in punishment.

But Hopkins and Doty really aren’t the point of this post.  Something that Philbrick wrote about the development of the colonies really grabbed my attention:

It took a tremendous amount of lumber to build one of these houses – even a modest house required at least twelve tons of wood.  Just as daunting were the heating requirements of the home’s open hearth.  It’s been estimated that the average seventeenth-century New England house consumed fifteen cords, or 1920 cubic feet, of wood per year., meaning that a town of two hundred homes depended on the deforestation of as many as seventy-five acres per year (p. 186).

Elsewhere in the book he talks about how the Europeans’ arrival, hunting, and fishing resulted in a precipitous decrease in deer and fish in New England that the Native Americans were very conscious of.  At one point the various tribes attempted to form a coalition. The plan was to kill the Europeans – but not the cows – because they would need them for food until the deer population increased to a sustainable level again.  The argument the Native Americans were making among themselves was they wanted to go back to living like their grandfather’s had.  Ah, the good old days.

When were the “good ol’ days” for the world environment?  Perhaps before Europeans came to the New World?  Well, one of the reasons they came was for North America’s natural resources, not least of all the wood since the Europeans had pretty well deforested all of Europe.  Perhaps humans and the environment were in pretty good balance in North American in the 16th century, but other parts of the world were already showing a people/nature imbalance.

I have a feelingworldpop that the environmental good ol’ days for the World were probably a thousand or more years ago.  It took from  0 A.D. until 1800 for the World’s human population to increase from 300 million to 1 billion.  In just the next 200 years the population skyrocketed to 6 billion. An increase of another 3 billion is expected by some in the next 50 years (source: NOVA)  Wow.  It does make you wonder how much the Earth can take.

The world has seen changes are an increasing rate as the human population keeps exploding.  I can only hope that I have great great great great great great great grandchildren who can look back at the 21st century.  I hope they don’t think these were the good ol’ days.

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Going Green vs. Fighting Climate Change: Do they differ?

October 20, 2009

On one of the blogs I follow the author wrote about Climate Change and people she knows who don’t believe (Retro Housewife Goes Green: Does Climate Change Really Matter?).  The gist is that belief in global warming is not a prerequisite for behaving in an environmentally conscious way.  I agree with her whole heartedly and added this comment to her blog post (with a few edits and additions):

Hear Hear! I’m not sure I can think of one thing that is good for fighting climate change that isn’t “green” or one thing that is “green” that isn’t good for fighting climate change. On top of that, a goodly number of “green” activities and “fighting climate change” activities (reducing energy consumption, reducing petroleum product use, reducing fossil fuel use and emissions) cost us as individuals *less* money and reduce the US dependence on foreign oil – those should be songs to a right wing conservative’s heart.

Granted, some things (buying sustainable, organic, local, and ethical) can cost more immediately – but they are good for us, individually (physically and spiritually) and globally (climate, environmental health, and social consciousness)…

I don’t understand a refusal to behave even the least  bit in an environmentally sound way. Yes, it is perfectly possible that the climate science data is being misinterpreted and won’t result in the expected climate change.  But that doesn’t change the fact that emissions are polluting the air, [picapp src=”5/7/9/1/Nitrogen_Oxide_Levels_0ea4.jpg?adImageId=6258683&imageId=4785935″ width=”500″ height=”333″ /]

our practices are fouling our soil and water, animal species are going extinct at an alarming rate, and the chemicals in our household goods and products are making us sick.  And whether global climate change is occurring or not doesn’t change the fact that we waste money when we waste energy.

So go ahead and poo-poo those who believe in global warming.  Even if you’re right we’re still in a  heap of trouble.