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Encouraging North Americans to Pollute Less, Consume Fewer Resources, and Use Less Energy since 2007.

(Better Late Than Never).
 
 

 

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January 3, 2010

I am back. My mood to write was low. And my mood to be positive is low as well. A while ago I have been thinking about what is going on in the world and the USA and I wrote it down:

 We seem to have lost track. In my opinion (and I am not a trained or even good political observer) what is going on in the USA can be explained by this:

In 2007 and  in the spring of 2008 our economy still boomed. We had jobs. Low unemployment. Nicely padded retirement accounts. Relatively inexpensive gasoline. We had received huge loans at great rates and lived in big comfortable homes. We drove nice and big cars. Food was plentiful and cheap. Much of our money could be spent on "toys". Consumerism was fun and flourished. The future was bright and banks assumed it would all be well and the loans would be paid back somehow.  However, the concerns about the environment grew.  The concerns about the war grew. More and more people found themselves in a situation where they could afford to worry. Their own lives were good - let's worry about others. We thought "community". We began purchasing more "green" products.  Barack Obama promised change and gained followers. In early summer 2008 speculation and shrinking supplies drove oil prices up. Many banks noticed that they are insolvent. Our faith in the system collapsed world wide. We slowed down everything and our economy (which needs to grow to be perceived as successful) collapsed. People who have money began spending less. People who had just enough could not spend more and tightened their belts. Some services were not sought for any longer. Some products began to become less than necessary. As a result, a lot of the work and jobs went away. The value of retirement funds became first more real, and then less than real.  We first stopped buying inefficient cars, then we stopped buying new cars altogether. George W. Bush's administration pumped 100s of billion dollars into the economy to prevent total collapse and keep people shopping. Banks who had made mistakes or taken huge risks received loans to be rescued. Most US car companies needed huge loans to continue to function. It became clear that we needed those huge companies and could not let them fail even though they should have. In 2009 Obama began his work as president. More money was needed to rescue the system that we depended on. It had been clear that our health system will not work for much longer and something needed to be done. It had been promised. If not tackled early during his first 4 years it would not show success before he could be reelected. Even though scientists say that it is high time for decisive action to prevent permanent and life-threatening damage, the environment is taking a back seat. The costs for the citizens would be huge. Not a good time to spend money (even if you should) when the tax payers have lost jobs, home, and hopes. For many reasons, we are in the process to miss our chances for the right changes. Change will come but it won't be the one we desire.
This is what I fear: We will not be able to see the fruits of Obama's labor in time but we will see the costs. A republican will take over after in 2013 and turn it all back to focus on what used to work. We will not focus anymore on community thinking (that would be called "socialism" by some) but focus again on the individual interests. Formerly rich people will stay or become rich again even if it is at the expense of others or future generations. The environment will be disregarded because we (the masses) are not feeling generous any longer. We can't afford it since we throw our money at a system that requires eternal growth to be considered successful.  Americans (and probably other people too) worry about the environment only if their lives are very good. Consumption has to be increased first. It will do damage to our home, it will encourage other countries to follow our example, and then it will be too late to do much to fix the damage. What is left is hoping for a good after-life. Since I don't believe this exists, I am screwed. And, unless I am wrong about this, so are you.

Maybe I will find something more positive to write about next time. It is hard to see how the tiny changes will do much for the big picture. Price and regulation are what results in big changes. Neither is pinching anyone hard right now. 

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June 27, 2009

After buying and reading the Humanure Handbook, I decided to build a composting toilet as it is described in the book. You can also get it at their site http://www.humanurehandbook.com. They call it the Lovable Loo, I just call it "toilet". It was cheap. A used and thoroughly cleaned toilet seat from one of the busted toilets in my new house, a small piece of plywood ($7) and some old wood. It works like a charm. I can use it anywhere in the house (no plumbing is currently functional), it does not smell at all, and it requires no water. All you need is fresh sawdust (which might be a problem to come by sooner or later). I like it so much I may keep using it instead of installing a regular toilet. Why use an appliance that wastes so much water and fertilizer and has such a high impact on the septic system if there are better solutions available? Sure, you have to haul a bucket of your own (or family and friends) "droppings" once in a while, but it will turn into great compost over the years. Don't forget, your feces is food for another species!

Talking about wasting drinking water as if we can never run out of it, below is a good example. The guy is cleaning the pavement of a gas station with high pressure drinking water. Just writing this makes me cringe. He uses "drinking" water to clean the ground of minor oil and gasoline spills. Other people die of thirst. What the heck is wrong with a broom? Yes, you may break into a sweat while using it. That is why one could call it "work". Pressure washing the pavement is wasteful and lazy.

Wasting water and being lazy

Oh, and while talking about lazy. Below is a fine example why our kids are fat and lazy and dependent on fossil fuels. Fine parenting. Impressive far-sightedness. Why do I still wonder why our kids don't understand? It is the parents who did not get it and now share their "wisdom" with their offspring! I cannot wait for the green-washed versions of this toy: An electric Tesla Roadster for kids to ride in rather than a Hummer. And someone will tell me that this indeed is better.  Get off your lazy asses and move your own bodies!

Fat kids addicted to fossil fuels

Some thoughts on the economy:  Only a reduction of consumption results in a reduction of consumption. Only an increase of consumption results in a recovery of our growth based economy. How can this be brought together? I doubt that this is the goal right now. The goal right now is to get the economy going. Maybe get it going with an eye on the fact that we are running out of oil but do not want to talk about it and create a panic.

If we cannot convince people to live frugally voluntarily, making consumption more expensive needs to be the main goal for us North Americans who have much more than enough. Increasing efficiency of machines however does not result in a decrease of consumption of resources and energy. Instead people consume more because it is less expensive to consume. Only costs (or automation) limit how much is consumed, no matter how efficiently it is consumed. People consume until they are out of money. Frugality (= mind-set) leads to a reduction of consumption. Efficiency (=  technological solution) without this mind-set results in an increase of consumption overall and in the long term. It allows more people to consume more. Bad news. Don't give efficient machines to wasteful people!

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April 23, 2009

This economic downturn may be the worst thing for our efforts to begin changing our behavior and consumption habits. While it has resulted in dramatic decreases of many damaging behaviors (because we simply cannot afford it right now), it has also decreased our willingness and ability to care. It has also changed our politicians calls for change. All that seems to be called for right now is "Please go shopping!!!" The calls to consume are loud and unopposed right now.

I have heard that supposedly people buy less. I would say, people don't buy less in general, they probably just buy less crap and keep or repair the necessary items longer (e.g. cars). They may buy less right now, but they will keep buying what they need. They just buy less OFTEN and some stuff they realized they can live fine without.  If this is bad, then the system that judges it it to be bad is messed up. Unless you fantasize about never-ending economic growth, there is nothing wrong with buying a car or washing machine once every ten years (or even less often). There is much wrong with designing products so they don't last this long or cannot be repaired economically. There is a lot wrong with a society which has evolved a service culture of  replacing items rather than repairing them. There was a time once when you could repair stuff. Few things are repaired these days. Broken components get replaced with cheap new components that break fast soon. If the supply chain of those replacement parts breaks, the product becomes obsolete (and this is even done intentionally when times are good).

It is hard to believe, but although the troubles we are in were in part caused by taking risks (and buying/lending carelessly), to get out of this recession we are now asked to NOT save our money but instead go out and buy things whether we need them or not. It is actually bad for the economy to do the right thing! Is there anyone else who things that there is maybe something wrong with this system?

I have been following on the side the interest in high speed trains. I don't see it as a viable future concept. It may create jobs, but it is based on the concept of frequent, energy-intense high speed travel over long distances. Much smarter would be to focus on regional  public transportation systems (express trains)  that allow people to quickly reach the inner cities for work, leisure, etc. Many more people would use them. In my humble opinion, high speed trains are a nice solution for a few situations. Nice, but not necessary. We need to get away from this idea that we need to be able to reach far away locations fast. There are technological solutions that make this not necessary any longer and which require much  less energy and resources. But, yes, those other solutions also result in few increases in construction jobs.

"The most traumatic events for which this war will be remembered probably have not yet happened",  (Thomas Ricks). This was said about the war in Iraq. It seems with some adjustments, something similar could be said about the environment. I will say it. Here we go: " The most traumatic events for which this global environmental crisis will be remembered probably have not yet happened",  (Karsten Weiss)

It seems clear that it is not the adults that will create the changes necessary. But who will do it? When I was young, some other young people (and at times I) protested against the status quo and visibly opposed what was supposed to be  acceptable. Young rebels. Where are they today? What do they object to? How do they do it? If the young people don't demand change, it won't happen. I don't see them. At school, next to educating the kids academically, we try to teach them manners and respectful behavior. Treating each other nicely while tolerating differences. Great idea. Until you notice that tolerating other people's nasty habits results in the damage of your environment too.  I guess that is the price we have to pay for our values: Starved and coughing we will tolerate the destruction of our environment by those who think differently and want to keep partying. Better nice and sick than mean and healthy. I guess I am feeling cynical today.
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February 7, 2009

I bought my house! Small, close to work, well insulated, and inexpensive (although it remains to be seen if this is still my thought after a few years of renovation).  I need to wait for warmer weather (no heat installed right now) and for the sale our current house (and that is not easy), but I am eager to get started creating  my little, simple eco-home. 

And Barack Obama is president! It was so moving to see the inauguration. For the first time ever I felt something like "pride" to be American. It was so moving to see those millions of people celebrating. A lot of optimism is spreading and, while it is not enough, it is required to begin changing fast and with motivation.

I have many questions about the current solutions that are offered for our economic crisis:
If the problem with our economy is that we have been very busy with selling and buying things we do not need and this system has collapsed because it turned out that there was not real value increase, how will we fix this? As long as they can, and giving it first priority, people will want to continue buying what they need, that is for sure. They may replace it later and fix it more often, but they will continue buying those things. From an environmental point of view, should we really encourage our people to purchase new products BEFORE they need them? Should we encourage people to buy things they DO NOT NEED or even to get a loan to pay for them? What is wrong with eliminating the excesses of a wasteful and unsustainable economy? Will we get back economic "success" if people regain faith in unlimited growth although that is clearly not possible?

Where do those things we do not need come from? I dare say, a lot does not come from the USA. Giving people money to spend may result in the money going somewhere else. How does that help people to keep their jobs here in the USA?  Why should we worry about non-local economies? If they make and sell what we want and don't make, we will buy it. If they don't we won't. If people here make what we don't want we should not buy it either. Nothing wrong with that. I am willing to help my local community by paying a bit more for products made closer to home. But maybe it should not be required by law. It seems silly to prohibit purchases from abroad. People need to be informed regarding the conditions under which a product is made, how much energy is required to make  and transport it and then be allowed to decide themselves. 

I need more answers. It is frustrating to have that many questions.

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December 27, 2008

Finally it is here. Survival, the game. It took me almost two years to get to this point.  It is done. For now at least. The French and Spanish rules are not quite translated yet, only the cards are available in four languages. The website contains free PDF files to print and play. You can also purchase and receive the English version as an already finshed product if you prefer that.. If you are a teacher or youth group leader (or know one) you should check it out. You will need a group of at least 10 people to play this game, but once you get going it will be hard to stop. Of course it is about the environment.

And if I ever find time again to write more here I will. I have too much to do in other areas though. Getting one house ready for sale, buying one in VT, a full-time job, advertising Survival, and a life too. I just cannot focus on this site alone. Does not feel good, but one has to prioritize. _______________________________

November 9, 2008

I just noticed that it has been almost a month since I updated this site. Time flies sometimes and this time I am not quite sure why. Elections? More movie- making plans to promote my educational game and website (Coming soon)? More involvement at work? Searching for a place to live? Raking leaves and winterizing the house? Anyhow...

We will have a new president in the USA. Well, at least he is elected to be the new president. And the expectations are high. Change is supposed to come. It won't come though if we do not change ourselves. Barack Obama has created hope and euphoria, but he can only unlock doors that were previously locked or just in the dark. We, the people, will have to push them wide open and step through. I we work to get it it will come - if we wait for it to arrive, it won't. To me this means, if we want a healthy environment and sustainable life-style we have to change and beginning with ourselves. If we wait for others to do it before/for us or expect it to be easy - it won't happen.

The world's economy is still suffering. What that means I am still not sure. Personally I have not noticed much change. Is it the faith-based economy that depends on sales of stuff that nobody needs purchased with money you don't really have? Not only  is it difficult to understand that this should work for any length of time, worse is that sales alone are not enough. To have a successful economy these days, the sales have to be larger EVERY YEAR! Seems to not working well and I can't say I am surprised. I am surprised that we have fallen for this in such high numbers. And I sincerely hope we learn from this and begin looking for real value in life. Enough should be enough. And more than enough should be too much. And not enough should not be acceptable to those who have more than enough. (But I may get called a socialist now, so I should be careful). GM and Ford may be going out of business? Start making products people need and get used to people not buying new cars before the old ones have worn out! Can't have an economy running this way? Oh, well. The previous way can't work for sure. I hope those companies will find more creative ways to solving this problem than asking the government for money. Maybe the current model really is out-dated and needs a complete overhaul rather than patching up.

Based on this year's Halloween costume I created an educational (I just can't let go) poster about "Vampire Appliances". Below is a smaller version. If you click it it will link you to the bigger version (almost 1MB). Distribute it if you like. It is talking only about small changes, but my students find it amusing and get the message. It may not be a "good" start, but it is a good "start".

Unplug Vampire Appliances

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October 12, 2008

The global economic meltdown continues. It seems that the "faith-based" economic model is not working at the moment. It surely is not "reality-based" and maybe people are feeling this and are putting their assets somewhere else. If there are places where you can put it and not loose some of it. "Virtual wealth" is not very lucrative at the moment.

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I do not care much for the concept of speculation and if you speculated with your money you know you took a risk. On the other hand, the paralysis of the global economy may have dire results for people who have never gambled with their money this way. Economists keep saying that this is just a temporary situation and now is a good time to be buying stock. I always love to hear that. Not. Those who can buy now are either addicted to gambling or can afford it. Some regular people might have been just greedy and interested in short term profits, but most regular people who have put their money into the stock market (or whereever) with the expectation to live well later cannot afford to loose more. It jeopardizes their envisioned future and of course they are pulling out by the thousands. We have operated under the premise that we will have it better than our parents and it is frightening to imagine this not holding true. Those who stay in this currently volatile market are the ones who will do well even if it all collapses. Once you own much more than you really need to survive and additionally have very good connections to those who are in power, it is easy to play with your money. If your virtual wealth investments don't  work out, you still have enough real wealth to live quite well. Certainly better than Joe and Jane Schmo. And so it goes again: The rich, calm, and careful will get gain more wealth (in the long-term), and those who have to scramble will have to continue doing that (no matter how calm or careful they are). 

Although we may not have reached that point yet, one thing is for sure: On a finite planet with an increasing human population (now over 6.5 billion people) you cannot continue increasing consumption of resources and energy indefinitely. One day there will not be enough for economic growth, one day there will not be enough for the population to increase, one day there will not be enough for the population to even stay the same.  The big question is, are we able to avoid the natural but cruel balancing of demand and supply?

Maybe the secret getting through this current relatively mild low is to live simply and frugally. Buy things you need that last long and can be repaired. Use what you own carefully and to its fullest potential. Deal with things people need and that keep being valuable rather than "hopes" and "virtual value". Learn, and teach your kids, how to live in times that are much more difficult than just last year or even now.

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October 5, 2008

Wow, what a crazy two weeks it has been. The economic crisis in the USA shook the rest of the world. Politicians began talking as if the world as we know it is going to end. Some pretty scary pictures were painted. Language was used that in the past was reserved to those doom and gloom environmentalists who claim the sky is falling when they talked about climate change. It is peculiar to see how fast and willing we (US-Americans) can be to adjust fast and throw incredible amounts of money at a problem once it is almost too late. Unfortunately, financial markets function on a basis of trust and react fast based on gut feelings by the rich and influential. Our environment does not. Once our environment is in such bad shape that it is undeniably obvious and begins hurting those who make decisions, it will take a few decades to stop getting worse and a few more decades to begin turning the other way. Some say it may not stop sliding once it is sliding.

I was looking to find the language Paulson and Bernanke used to describe what could happen if we did not pass the $700 billion economic bail-out legislature, but I did not find much. I wanted to rephrase a few of their statements so they could fit a description of the environmental crisis rather than the economic crisis. I hope one day soon many more politicians will desperately feel they "must now take further, decisive action to fundamentally and comprehensively address the root cause of our (...) system's stresses" and ask for hundreds of billions of dollars because they are "convinced that this bold approach will cost American families far less than the alternative" (Paulson, quoted out of context).

I am torn about this rescue package. It is law now, but I wonder who will be helped. I feel that it will ensure that we can at least hope to continue as we have in the past. Is our well-being really based on faith in the markets? Should we design our future around this unstable and unreliable emotion? Nobody owns anything but it we cannot loan each other "virtual" money it all breaks down? It seems clear that our economy is based on economic growth. Yet it is obvious that economic growth in a finite system is impossible to keep up forever. There is a limit to this. And I do not want to be dependent on a system that assumes it's growth can go on forever. The last two weeks have shown that our system is fragile and based on not much more than hope that it will be all alright.

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September 21, 2008

I have mostly stopped reading fiction. It seems to not be important at the moment. What I do enjoy is reading non-fiction that allows me to reach opinions about the environment and the future. Recently I stumbled across a quotation by Tom Friedman. I cannot recall it word by word, but it was along the lines of  "The stone age did not end because we ran out of stones". How true I thought. We need to end the "fossil fuel age" before we run out of fossil fuels. Not only because running out of it would be quite traumatic if we cannot replace the energy with something else, but also because as a species we need to come to the conclusion that there is something better than "stones" (aka fossil fuels) and we should use it instead.

Nevertheless, further thinking occurred and I reached more depressing conclusions. The stone age ended because a material was discovered that allowed some humans to dominate humans who did not have this technology at their disposal. Bronze (or whatever replaced the stone) was more powerful. It was not cleaner or easier to use. On the contrary, it required more energy to manufacture, it required more technology, more specialization. It was certainly less simple than just chipping certain rocks until they had sharp edges. No, bronze (and later iron) was considered superior because it allowed domination, more efficient warfare, the construction of more efficient machines, etc. It resulted in more safety, more success, easier fulfillment of basic needs,  and more comfort. Which material was better was extremely obvious and it had nothing to do with living with less impact on the environment.

Translated to today, I cannot imagine that large groups of humans will say "good-bye" to a source of energy that has resulted in so much power. I cannot imagine that US-Americans will switch to sources of power that are much cleaner but less powerful and less practical and leave the rest of existing fossil fuels to other nations. The efficient use of fossil fuels has given us our civilization as we are used to it. There is just no way that nations whose life-style and consumption levels depend on domination and power over others will voluntarily give up this material. This would explain all this recent talk about nuclear power in the USA. That is power and it is clean (while it is expensive, certainly not simple, includes huge risks, and has problems we have not solved yet). But even then, how do you run a nation's military machine on nuclear power? If you compare stones and bronze you cannot come to the conclusion that solar, hydro, or wind will follow the fossil fuel age. Weaker energy sources that cannot be used for domination would be a step back on the global power scale. If that is what matters, regenerative energies will be a tough sale.

Of course all is different if we actually run out of fossil fuels. It also should not stop individuals from choosing differently and voluntarily reduce their fossil fuel consumption and dependence. That is what I strive to do because, personally, I currently do not need to dominate my near-living fellow humans with power and energy. 

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September 6, 2008

Of course it finally stopped raining. Right when I stopped having time to work on the house. Must be one of Murphy's Laws. The weather will be best for any given purpose when you cannot take advantage of it (and vice versa).

Below find a picture of a residential building that I may actually build. Next summer I will move closer to my work and I hope to construct what I think is best based on my research and my situation. The design below is just the very beginning of this process since much depends on the available building site. What you see below is is a passive solar trailer although it may not end up being a mobile home. There are advantages with keeping it mobile, but there are limits regarding width and height that make it difficult to have super-insulated walls and ceiling and still reasonably sized rooms inside. Also, Vermont does not have a lot of sun and focusing on passive solar may be the wrong choice.  I really have to design from the inside out. More to come...

Passive Solar Trailer

A while ago I stumbled across this YouTube video by a physics teacher. I liked his logical approach to the global warming debate, how to assess risk reasonably, and how to critically evaluate scientific data for decision making. The video was expanded to a series.  These are lengthy sections (around 9 minutes) and require that you pay attention, but they are well worth it. Start here: http://www.wonderingmind42.com/. Good for high school students (and older) too. 

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August 6, 2008

Well, it does not stop raining here and I cannot do the work on my house I should be doing. So, I am updating my website instead.

You may have noticed: Oil prices have been going down recently. More than I thought they would and I sure hope they do not drop much further. (See previous blog entry below.) On the other hand, I expect them to not drop much further. But I could be wrong since high oil prices have resulted in a reduction in demand and that is something the countries who sell oil really do not want. They want us to stay hooked to their product!

What I find remarkable is that today's oil prices have such an immediate impact on today's gasoline prices even though the oil sold today will not be delivered until a few months from now. It just shows you that there is little direct connection between gasoline prices and oil prices. Prices for gasoline are not based on the price of oil. While I do not work (and never have worked) for the gasoline or oil industry, it seems those prices are based on a speculation of what oil prices will be and how much the customer is willing to pay today rather than how much the oil actually costs. Certainly, news of oil prices going up or down certainly influences the willingness of the consumer. And if you look at profits made by oil companies you wonder how much gasoline would cost if those companies kept their profit margins low and participate in tightening the belt a bit. But business is about making money - not friends.

It looks like we are willing to pay "close" to four dollars per gallon at the moment without changing our habits much. So that is what it will be. More later once we are used to it and vaguely remember lower gas prices. And MUCH more once we will have difficulties finding the stuff. Until then - let's keep the fossil fuel party rolling.

I e-mailed Barack Obama to give him the idea to reduce the income tax for each person by a rate equivalent to 2 gallons of gasoline per work day. That gives people who drive less or who have efficient cars (= do the right thing) a financial incentive. But I think I already wrote about that. Yup - I did. See further down. Anyhow, no response from the Obama camp. Just a generic e-mail once in a while. Well, I am not surprised. He is a busy man. And I am sure his staff is as well.

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July 22, 2008

I have so little time. I cannot update this site right now every two weeks. My house requires a lot of attention and I have to do this during my vacation.

Just a few shorter comments below. Plus the entry I wrote a few weeks ago but never uploaded.

I am getting rather worried that gas prices will go down again. The current high prices are tough for many, however the prices have reached levels that require people to finally change their behavior and demand solutions that are more efficient. Everything is in transition because it got too expensive for most to do it the old way. If the prices drop a lot people will go right back to the old, wasteful, polluting ways. Oil has not been expensive long enough to create deep, long-lasting changes. The changes for the better are here - the mind-set is still "regret" rather than "relief" that the fossil fuel party is over.

Below find a picture I took yesterday. We went camping. The picture shows all who traveled with this rather small car (2002 Toyota Echo) plus all the stuff we brought. Five people plus a standard poodle. Who says you need a big car or SUV? Sure it was tight and you have got to know how to pack your trunk well. But that is just a question of comfort - not a question of NEEDING a bigger car. It is a matter of priorities (and therefor choice). In addition, we could have transported three bicycles on a trunk rack, hitched up a small trailer, and put a travel case on the roof. Although, I that much might have been a bit much for this little car for any longer distance.

Transporting a lot with a small car

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July 5, 2008

This morning I listened to a report on BBC about renewed efforts to harvest coal in England. Towards the end a opponent of those efforts was asked why not to do it and, although his answers were all correct, I thought they did not hit the nail on the head. He said it was stepping backwards, it would be short-sighted, etc. All this need to be defined better to those who do not see it already. So, why not use coal? It is there, let us use it! It is energy - we need it!

This is a question of values, not a question of technological feasibility. It is a question of what it means to "step forward" and what it means to make "progress". It poses the question whether it is desirable to harvest and base our society on energy that we can only create at high risks for our health and existence and that will ultimately run out rather than promote and support energy that has no such risks, and exists (for all practical purposes) forever. To use a metaphor: Is it stepping forward to create ways to cleanly burn the boat you are sitting in to keep the party going, rather than finding different ways of enjoying life and using the sun to power it? Of course we should use technology to solve our problems. What are the problems though? If we have pollution due to unsustainable life-styles or over-population, I find it makes much more sense to focus on changing life-styles rather than on the pollution cause by the wrong way of living. We know we cannot support 6.5 billion people on this planet to live like North Americans or even Europeans. Yet, we (almost desperately) search for ways to continue living like that. While this is understandable since living like that is rather comfortable, it seems more reasonable to look further ahead and further than just your immediate environment (= your backyard and family). Real progress is for more than just a few people/nations. Renewable energy coupled with the necessary life-style changes (because there is not enough renewable energy to continue to the current party) has a long, bright future. Clean, high-tech coal is a luxury only a few can afford just for a little while longer. High-tech methods will allow a few wealthy nations to use coal cleanly while other people will follow our example but without being able to use it cleanly. Focusing on clean coal (or any other miracle cure) will distract from the urgent need to change our ways of living. We are simply too fat and we need to change how much we eat and and how we live, rather than getting more liposuction.

I have no doubts that coal (or any fossil fuels) will continued to be harvested and used. Nevertheless, the sooner we get away from "needing" it, the better.

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June 22, 2008

Again, I am getting suspicious regarding the development of the gasoline prices and the timing. I noticed it during the last election 2 years ago and I am beginning to see it again. Two years ago the increase of prices for gas slowed (or even reversed a bit) during the months before the mid-term election, and then right after the election there was a noticeable jump up. This may have been only in my area, but I am sure the oil companies have an interest in diverting the public eye from gasoline and heating oil prices during an election year. People who are angry with the companies who sell us energy for a huge profit do not vote for politicians or parties who support those companies.

Unlike during the recent months, the price increases are much less dramatic at the moment and (I expect) will stay that way until November. Maybe even drop just a bit to make us believe that things are heading in a positive direction. And when the election is over - boom! - they jump up again. Unless the oil companies right now really cannot control how much we have to pay. In a way that would be even worse news. It would mean that even the richest and most powerful people and companies on Earth have lost control over the liquid that lets our society function peacefully. Just great.

Talking about public perception (and a completely non-environmental topic): I wonder how much effort the Chinese government would have displayed to help their people in the earth quake stricken areas had there not been so much negative press just a few weeks earlier in regard to the human rights situation in Tibet and the Olympic Games in Beijing this year. The earth quake and the resulting disaster must have been a welcome opportunity to shine positively and divert from all that talk about boycotting the Games or the opening ceremony. Those sanctions have not been mentioned much after the earth quake and the positive steps the Chinese government took to help their people. It sucks to think this way, but I do not believe that all the sudden Chinese officials care much more than in all the years before. Let's see how they help their people during the next disaster AFTER the Olympic Games when they do not need to be perceived well by the World. What can I say, I am a doubter.

Back to the environment: There must have been a motorcycle meeting somewhere in NH this weekend. Laconia, I think. Hundreds of motorcycles on the road. Most were single riders. Most were big (the bikes, that is). While it is very true that many motorcycles use less gas per vehicle when compared to a car, four people on four big motorcycles is certainly NOT more efficient than four people in one car (or even SUV). Even if the motorcycle gets 50 mpg. If four people on four of those bikes travel 50 miles, they consume 4 gallons of gas and that equals 12.5 mpg per person. Not that impressive, I say. And that ignores the fact that most of those people own cars as well. While they cannot operate two vehicles at once, both vehicles had to be manufactured, both have to be maintained, and both have to be disposed off one day. But who am I kidding? It is not about the environment or getting from A to B, otherwise they would just stay at home or take the car instead. It is about enjoying the ride and the road. It is a sport and leisure activity. A life-style - not a mode of transportation. It currently requires a lot of gasoline, but certainly can be done with more efficient machines or different source of energy. We just never had to worry about this. No wonder the big, powerful, loud, cruising bikes were not developed for countries where there is less space, more people, and gas always cost more than in North America. I wonder how it will be in North America in 25 years regarding motorcycles? Will people still drive the same kind of bikes? How about other fossil fuel hobbies? Will it still be admired by as many as today?

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June 15, 2008

While I generally suppport but also suffer with high gas prices, I noticed they can have a weird result. I live in Quebec but never get gas here since it is even more expensive than in the USA (where it still is less than half of what it is in Europe). A week ago, en route to get my daughter, I was waiting at the border and listened to another person's conversation with a border guard. His reason to cross into the USA was to get gas. That is nothing special really; many people living close to the border do it. However, his only reason (as he said) to drive his shiny, clean pick-up truck 20 minutes South was to get the cheaper gas. He was willing to drive 20 miles and burn more gas and pollute the environment just to save money. While pinching people's wallet may result in changes that we could not accomplish otherwise, it sure can create bizarre situations. While "greener" often is "smarter" (and cheaper), it occasionally is more expensive (at least when viewed without a long-term perspective). Of course, I may be expecting too much from a person who drives such a nice pick-up truck. It seemed to be not used for the work it was designed for, but rather for pleasure. If money continues to be valued highest, the environment will continue to be treated as a means to secure that highest of all values. It keeps coming back to the idea that we need a value revolution.

And as tough it is (and I may be moving back to the USA as a result of a variety of unfortunate circumstances), gas seems to not be expensive enough. People still ride their cars, motorcycles, ATVs, etc. for pleasure. Hopefully less but I have not noticed much change in my town. People are still wiling to pay for this sort of fun. I would like to see some sort of government intervention. How about a deduction from the income tax based on driven miles to work with a vehicle that consumes one gallon of gas per 35 miles maybe for a maximum distance or 25 miles? The people who want to take advantage of that need to keep receipts and a log book. If you choose to drive a more wasteful vehicle, you pay more. If you choose to live further from work, you pay more. Or how about a deduction of your income taxes equal to 2 gallons of gas per work day? You use more, you pay more. You use less, you get higher deductions. You use public transport, you still get the deduction.

I showed the "11th Hour" to several groups of my students. They do not love it but they understand the message and urgency and listen intently. Not bad at all for a documentary. Better than "The Inconvenient Truth" concerning young adolescents. As much as I like that documentary, there is just too much of Al Gore and the kids see it as a promotional video. I wish there was a version with less of him. YouTube, maybe? In any case, other good (= popular while increasing awareness) movies to show adolescents are: "The Day After Tomorrow" (scientifically dumb, but really popular), "Water World" (good action), and "Help Save Planet Earth" (older and goofy, but they listen). I have purchased "Planet in Peril" but have not shown it yet. Once I know I will change this post. Oh, and if you want to see a glimpse of the future if we do not change, watch "Idiocracy". You can find it on YouTube in nine 10 minute segments. Kind of depressing if you think seriously about it, but kind of amusing if you see it as a cynical satire. Rated R though. Mostly for language. See the first part above or on Green Videos page.

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June 1, 2008

I looked at a National Geographic magazine last Thursday in the waiting room. I think it was a Special about China. A lot of photographs of people consuming stuff. Many of the pictures looked like they were taken inside a US mega-shopping mall or Dollar store. Anyhow, it was fascinating. This is a huge country with a huge population and they sure are beginning to live at North American levels of energy and resource consumption. What I find surprising is not that they want to consume like us and do not seem to hold back in concern for the environment; I am not Chinese and do not want to point their way from a country that has modeled this for decades and still is the biggest waster of energy in the world. What I find troubling is the attitude of US or European corporations I notice more and more. They want that market no matter how destructive it can be to sell modern products in such large numbers. And not only China, India is seen as this huge market as well. The richest 1% of the people of India amount to 10 million people. And those 1% have money to spend! Getting just 10% of those people interested in purchasing a car results in 1 million more cars on Earth! It is going to be interesting in the USA once those two countries flex their economic muscles. India and China make up 30% of the world`s population. We are used to getting it our way since we have been the most powerful nation on the planet. Times are changing and we may have to pick at left-overs soon. Not looking good if old ways are to continue. But our corporations will participate. If money is to be made it will be made no matter what. So while we look in concern at the environment in the US (and occasionally world-wide), the corporations (made up by the people who are concerned when at home) reach for those opportunities without scruples. No doubt with the excuse that it will be someone else if not them. The “great” role-modeling continues. When will we learn that we are responsible for what do on this planet every minute of the day – not only in our own backyard or when not at work.

In around a month there will be the annual local parade in town. Parades show people and products that are admired, respected and accepted by the organizers of the parade. There will be some floats, there will be a few people on bikes or on foot, and you get to see a lot of people who are something here. You also get to see a good selection of machines that pollute, and you get to breathe a whole lot of toxic exhaust fumes. Are we that backwards? We display proudly personal vehicles (trucks, hot-rods, muscle cars, street racers, ATVs) that are not museum pieces and in use only occasionally. No, they are in use every day when the weather is right. Inefficient, fossil-fuel burning machines that are used for no other purpose than entertaining individuals while polluting the environment for all. We wave at the drivers, point out certain features and details on the vehicles to our children, send the kids to get the candy they throw, expose them to a good dose of dangerous fumes, never mention any of their negative environmental impacts, laughingly cover their ears because of the noise, and accept blindly that they will learn from us that those devices and their users are to be admired. What is wrong with us? At a time when driving is so costly and the awareness for the environment is so high, is it not time to change what we are supposed to be proud of?

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May 22, 2008

Today I put up the new and redesigned website (Generation2) of Polluteless.com. It looks much better that what I had even though it pretty much contains the same information. I will see what it does. I have had amazing feedback for another website I created and people looked only at two pages. Is everybody in such a hurry? Does nobody read? Is it all about the first impression?

Gas prices are going up. I predict $4.25 per gallon by end of the summer if not more. I need to find a job closer to home. It is difficult but we spend over $5500 on gasoline just to get to work. It is stupid and a huge waste of time. Unfortunately it is not easy to find work as a teacher in Northern Vermont. I feel rather stuck. I may have to change careers, but this is easier said than done. There are advantages when living in a large city but that is not an option no matter from what angle I look at it at the moment. It has to get a lot worse and when economic survival becomes all what matters, other aspects (like owning a house and enjoying living with my girl-friend and her children) will diminish. Sad and difficult times coming up for many in North America. This is the beginning of a major transition we need to get through. Later we will be fine.

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May 4, 2008

Stickers are up and for sale. You have seen them when you arrived.

Not much to write this week. I have been very busy with the environmental game I hope will revolutionize environmental education. The kids love it. I am in the process of getting it ready for initial production. It will be available for free online, but the nice version to play right out of the box needs to be ready too. Once I can manufacture, I will begin advertising. I am thinking about giving away the first 50 games. It will cost me, but (A) it will hopefully create good publicity, and (B) I drive so much to work that paying for this equals some sort of carbon-credits. I help other people to pollute less. It might be more efficient than me trying to do it. Wishful thinking.

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April 20, 2008

Yesterday I received our weekly package of junk mail. I really have to get on this and hang a note on my house door to declare that we do not want this stack of paper. It is so ridiculous. There are only two or three flyers we even look at. 80% goes right in the recycling bin and the two I look at I could live without easily. I don`t buy much anymore since I decided that I will focus on buying only what I need.

There was a great example of green-washing in this junk mail. A large home improvement center (it could be any; this one is Canadian) advertised that their flyers are printed on 100% recycled paper. Better than the shiny stuff it used to be. It actually used to be just regular flat (not shiny) paper, then they switched to glossy paper (and I got annoyed), now they proudly announce that they print on recycled paper. My paranoid mind is wondering if they did this on purpose. Switching from glossy to 100% recycled looks like a dramatic switch while switching from regular flat paper to recycled paper is hardly noticable. In any case, here is the green-washing: You open this supposedly environmentally friendly flyer and on two pages this company promotes yard and deck building materials from pressure treated wood. Every single item on those two pages is hazardous to people and environment while it is manufactured and after it needs to be discarded! Nice green surface, same old evil, short-sighted, conservative selling practices. Pressure treating involves toxins and creates materials that may cause cancer, cannot be discarded regularly, should NEVER be burned, and will cost you some money when you want to bring it to the hazardous waste dump. So, instead of printing on recycled paper, this company could choose to not sell this cancer-soaked wood any longer. That would really make a difference. I am afraid that is too much change though. Better stick with tiny (popular) steps forward while continuing to make huge steps backwards.

I started reading "Humanure". Great book. Too bad I do not live rural enough to try this out. Composting human feces that is. It is most likely completely illegal in my village. But what we usually do is such a dumb concept: We defecate and urinate in our drinking water to transport this mix long distance to treatment plants where it is mixed with industrial waste and storm water run-off and turned into something that should not be used for agriculture any longer. Then we clean the water and repeat the process. This concept allows large cities to exist while its citizens stay healthy but it sure is not smart.

It will begin selling stickers here soon. I am working on this page and the credit card set-up. The environmental education game I developed also takes up a huge amount of time. Needs a website and I want it all to be in four languages. More than this website. I cannot maintain polluteless.com in four languages. Not even two. Not enough time and it really is only for North Americans. The game is for the world and those four languages make sense. Chinese would be great.

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March 23, 2008

Recently my girlfriends's youngest, a boy age 11, pointed out that in all his friends houses water is wasted by letting it run while they are brushing their teeth. Even though this is just a small thing, we were pleased. It is not easy to raise children to deveolp a sense for environmental issues, especially if they are exposed to a completely different (and much more convenient) life-style every other week (as it is in our case since they live with their father half the time). Nevertheless, Adam noticed that he is less wasteful than his friends in this situation. I began thinking that this is a great step in the right direction but that it will take more to change other people. I asked myself: How can we get young people to be less respectful and more outspoken toward people who pollute the environment or waste resources without creating anger or spiteful reactions?

Most, if not all, eco-negative behaviors are a result of wanting something more comfortable right now. The only way eco-negative behavior will become less widespread is if it becomes more unpopular than it is convenient. Few humans will do what is less comfortable for a long time. There are several ways of doing this. Making it illegal and tracking down and charging people is one way. I do not like it a whole lot. What needs to come first is the insight that certain actions are damaging. It is easier to follow laws if they make sense and if they apply to all equally. What I think can and should be done much more is peer pressure. All too often we are bystanders when it comes to environmental damage. We look, we notice, we say nothing.

I have tried the peer-pressure in the past. Decades ago, while still living in Germany, I used to get really mad if someone had their car running while just sitting in it to warm it up (this is illegal in Germany for a long time). I even opened car doors and turned engines off if the car was not occupied or I would pound on the roof if I got no response. I was an angry young man then. After some incidents turned almost into fist-fights I decided that this was not the right way and stopped.

There should be a way to inform people what they are doing is wrong and not appreciated without getting into physical fights.

How about saying something like: "Excuse me, I noticed you .... Did you know that this is using more energy/ wasting resources/ polluting the environment? I would like you to think a bit more about what you are doing. As a person living on this planet this is my business and I do not appreciate you thinking only of yourself ". You could also give them a note. But a note cannot be customized as easily.

How about ten $1,000 prizes given each week to people who were recommended by others as a persons who changed their habits significantly for the better. That could be a nation-wide contest. Live on TV. The $1,000 should be not cash but come in form of something the people need and has a value of $1000, such as organic food, new windows, contribution to wall insulation, etc.

Damaging the environment needs to be made UNPOPULAR. It needs to be so bad that people will yell at you, tell you to get lost, stare at you as if you are completely out of your mind, make people give you the finger, and make you feel you need to stop what you are doing rather than stop what the people are doing to you. I do not know if I want to live in a place like that though. I rather live in a place where people feel guilty without having to be told and where doing the right thing is popular and honored.

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March 9, 2008

I began working on finishing a game I developed for increasing the awareness about the environment. I have played it so far with a few groups of students and adults and had been using clipart images for the playing cards. To put it online and to possibly sell it I need original art work. So that is what I did the last week: I created and scanned my own artwork and put together the new playing cards and logo. When that is done and the game rules are complete, it will be available online as a free download in .pdf format or for purchase if less assembly is desired. Based on the feed-back I receive from the players the game is probably my best invention so far. It will find a prominent place on this website. Until this happens I will not talk much about the details.

Recently the Pentagon decided to give a military contract for building refueling aircraft to a French company. And you should have heard the uproar! What is all the fuss about I wonder? Since when do US-Americans have a problem with purchasing foreign goods? Since when do US-Americans have a problem with purchasing less expensive goods? Are those people who are upset seriously suggesting that we should purchase an inferior product at a higher price to be used by our military just because it is made in the USA? I cannot understand this attitude. I understand well to try to purchase American products. I check where anything comes from and if I buy it try really hard to make sure it is from here. It is generally more expensive and that makes it often difficult for me. Nevertheless, if I feel I need the item and it is well made, I prefer to buy locally. Mostly because I do not want products that are made in countries where the environmental regulations are weaker than in North America and where human rights are considered less important and terrible wages and work conditions are the result for the workers. This does not apply in this case. The environment and working conditions for the workers are most likely better in France, but that does not matter to those who are upset. They are upset that a decision was made that showed that the US-American competitor offered a more expensive product that did not match the requirements as well as the French product. Tough. Complain that we are not able to come up with a better product, not that our Defense Department decides to buy the best at a lower price. American jobs can only be saved if Americans do it better than others. So do it better and make sure that we train a workforce that does it better.

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March 4, 2008

I am basically almost-vegetarian. Not voluntarily but because I do not want to eat meat from animals that were treated cruelly and know that meat is a rather inefficient food. Although I would eat meat only rarely, I have not found a source for cruelty free meat and where I live it is not possible for even organic farmers/ranchers to avoid the slaughter factories. I object to this treatment of animals. As a result I eat almost no factory or farm meat. In my romantic view of the world, animals should live well, there should be no suffering, and death should come as a total surprise. Occasionally I eat deer or moose or whatever wild animal. I do like meat and I do not object to killing animals for food. For environmental reasons it should happen only occasionally (say once per week), it should be expensive, and it should be done with respect. So, I decided to get my hunting license. First of all, I am interested in the knowledge for a long time now, and secondly I would like to have the option to go get my own food. One day I may have the place to go hunt and one day I may actually do it. There is way too much deer here.

The course was rather interesting, especially the parts about commercial hunting of the past. The way it was described by the instructors and the way it was perceived by the attendants reminded me of our current situation and the way we use energy and my hopes for the future. Old-time commercial hunting was portrayed as primitive, short-sighted, selfish, barbaric and the audience agreed completely that the way it was done then was unsustainable, uncivilized, and dumb. There was a lot of head shaking and wondering how we could have ever thought this is right. Will we look back in 50 years at today's times and think the same?

Other language was interesting as well. To quote from the manual about a habitat's carrying capacity: "A habitat cannot meet the needs or an unlimited number of animals. Indeed the number of animals that the habitat (...) can support is determined by the quality and distribution of food, shelter and water, as well as the availability of space for each species' mobility needs." Humans need to control the number of animals in a habitat so the animals do not destroy their own habitat and then die slowly. Replace the words "habitat" and "animals" with "Earth" and "humans" and you got a statement that says pretty much what has been said by many all along: In regard to pollution and waste of resources, humans need to control what we do in our given habitat otherwise we will destroy our own habitat and die slowly afterwards. Since there is no one controlling us (and we fight all attempts to be controlled), we have to do it ourselves voluntarily. I hope we will reach this attitude soon.

Now, why hunters in my area feed deer to control the number of animals in a given habitat does not make sense to me. Unless you are more interested in trophies rather than controlling the species. If there are too many, hunt and eat them. If there are not enough, feed them and let them be. But both at the same time AND talk about controlling the number of animals?

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February 17, 2008

I want to talk briefly about the "few simple steps" it takes to "save the planet". What sort of nonsense is this? We are addicted to doing what we do. We can relatively easily modify our behavior to create a tiny bit less damage (which does not make any difference), but reducing our impact significantly is wicked hard. Not only do we like to live while using as much energy and resources as we do, many of us also just would not survive if we had to reduce our consumption levels by 80% (which seems to be the appropriate amount based on current world population). Most of us would loose their jobs if we could not use cars anymore. Many of us would die without fossil fuels to heat our houses in the winter. Many of us would be extremely miserable without air-conditioning (thousands may even die as it happened during a heat wave in Europe a few years ago). Our health system relies on plenty of energy to be available. Many women would not know how to give birth the old-fashioned natural way without C-section or hospitals. Our food supply would collapse without fossil fuels. Our drinking water supply would be endangered without fossil fuels. In short, at the moment we NEED most of the energy we use to survive because we have forgotten how it can be differently.

Telling each other that just a few easy steps are all it takes is doing fellow humans a big disfavor. Sure, we have to begin somewhere. Announcing to a smoker that it is easy to quit results in frustration because it is not easy and success comes only after a period of suffering. People who need to break a strong habit or an addiction need to be mentally prepared. We need to encourage each other much more than we do. We need to begin looking honestly at the dramatic levels of change that will be necessary instead of constantly padding us on the shoulder for the insignificant changes we made. To use the smoking metaphor: We need to admit that we are addicted, are killing ourselves, and need to stop smoking instead of thinking we can stop anytime, the future is still bright, and cutting cigarettes 1/4" shorter is enough.

Other: I still would like to make a few interesting videos about the environment and put them on YouTube. I know how to do it but I cannot think of anything that interesting yet. Damaging the environment less is not very flashy. It's got to be funny, or bizarre, or at least different. Putting the advice on this website into moving pictures does not strike me as something anyone would care to watch.

I am working on a line of stickers to be put on, well, whatever. They are the shape and size of bumper stickers. I do not know if I want to get into selling stuff. I like the non-commercial aspects of this site. I may make them available for no profit. You order one by calling the company that makes them. If there are enough orders, I can buy some in larger numbers. Maybe travel to sell stickers. I cannot imagine that this can be a profitable business and I am rather reluctant in shelling out a large amount of money to buy hundreds of stickers. I am not a risk taker that way. If I ever do this, there will be a link the the top menu bar. Right now I have 17 designs and am asking friends what they think of them.

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February 10, 2008

A few days ago I was listening to one of the Republican contestants to run for president. I believe it was Mitch Romney. He has suspended his race in the meantime. He said something along the lines that Global Warming is called "global" warming because it is a global issue, otherwise it would be called "America Warming". Of course, global climate change is a global issue (hence the name), it made me realize though that it is being used as a pretty lame excuse for doing nothing radical, or nothing at all to prevent it in the USA. If we want to wait for the whole planet to agree that something has to be done, we might as well wait for world-wide peace. Please do understand, I am not against working for world-wide peace. I actually believe that eco-positive attitudes can only appear and exist long-term after a society has achieved peace and justice. What bothers me is that we (North Americans), the biggest polluters and energy and resource hogs for decades, are looking for world-wide unity before we begin implementing radical steps to end the plundering of our planet. We had no qualms getting us into the mess without anyone helping, but now we are crying for all countries to pull together. How pathetic! What sort of world power is this? Enough leadership to get all into trouble, but not enough guts to lead the way out.

I say, we change away from the ways that have resulted in the mess even if not all participate. We may not have started the abuse of our environment, but we have pushed it to record levels, sustained it for decades, and still are in the Top 2 regarding pollution, waste, and carbon emission levels. It may cost us the global economic leadership to stop damaging the environment as much as we do, but at least it will be honest and credible. Maybe others will follow. They have followed in many ways in the past.

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February 3, 2008

I found this awsome video and website (see below). It is a fast-pace video that makes some global connections very clear. It will change your perception of consumption. This is a great video for teachers. Some of my students actually thought it was interesting and that is something worth mentioning about an educational video.Go to http://www.storyofstuff.com.

Recently updated on this site: Additional link on left menu bar to "Feeling Guilty?"

Removed "Printer Friendly Version" link. It was intended as a joke and no one was looking at it. I replaced it with the "Green Videos" link. It makes more sense that way.

I really would like to tell the people who really do not care where to go and what to do. But I am torn. This site is designed to inform people. At the same time I feel that I am not the only one who is angry and I would like to express my discontent. However, I do not want to offened those who sit on the fence in these times of urgent need for action. We need those millions of people. Just make up your mind, would you! Dante once said "The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of great moral crises maintain their neutrality." I do not believe there is a place like hell, but you get the point.

I will not link the _angry page_ in a prominent place or in the menu. If you want to read it, you will have to look for it. If you find and read it, don`t complain if you get offended.

The other day I listened to an interview with a MIT professor. I did not pay attention to his name. He said that while at MIT you will find friends, work, and sleep, but you may choose only two. I reworked it a bit and came up with this: Living on Earth: Sufficient resources - Wasteful existence - 6.5 Billion humans; Select two and abandon the third. I presented this dilemma to my students. I had the feeling it made them think.

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January 27, 2008

I have no time. I am working on creating YouTube videos to distribute the message better. And by now I hate looking at the computer screen.

So, more some other time.

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January 12, 2008

The other day a colleague asked me an interesting question. "What do you do to benefit the environment?" I initially did not understand. I thought she was wondering what I do NOT DO. But she wanted to know what I actively do to benefit the environment. Still confused, all I could say was taking showers less than 5 minutes and using the wood stove to heat water for doing dishes. I began asking myself why I had such a difficult time with this question yet know so many good examples to pollute less.

In my opinion though her question approaches the problem from the wrong side. An organism without forsight and without genetic programming takes advantage of its environment as long as this environment can support the organism. Anything you do as a "modern living" human being most likely causes damage. Generally speaking, consciously benefitting the environment can only revolve around damage reduction. What an individual can do to benefit the environment pales in comparison to the number of things one can STOP DOING. At the current situation and with this many North Americans having such a huge impact on the environment, the question should be: What did you decide to NOT DO any longer to damage the environment less?

Occasionally I wonder whether humans as a group are blessed with forsight. We are getting to the point where our life-style and number of individuals cannot be supported any longer by our environment (the only one we have) and it does not seem to bother us a whole lot. To survive as a large group of relatively civilized and comfortably living humans we have to learn to decrease our current environmental requirements. Especially North Americans. Soon and significantly.

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January 6, 2008

I have shown videos here that point out that global warming (or global climate destabilization as it now seems to be appropriate to be called) is happening. Although I trust what the majority of scientists are saying about this (meaning: it is happening and human activities are causing or at the very least are accelerating it), I do not believe that it should be the decisive reason to alter your habits if it comes to pollution of the use of energy. Global climate destabilization is something one can still deny. It may be going on - it may not be.

One of the real problems is that too many are ignoring the possibility that it MAY be true. Most of us seem to believe that it is wise to continue as if nothing CAN go wrong. Even if you choose to listen only to certain scientists, there are DEFINITELY signs that there MAY be a problem with our climate. To me it seems wise to prepare ourselves as if those who say global climate change is human caused could be right. It is a matter of intelligent risk management.

The other, and in my opinion, more severe problem is that we (North Americans) are living at levels that cannot be sustained. Humans inhabit one planet and North Americans (7% of the world's human population) consume about 25% of the resources on it. China and other nations are catching up, to a large extend because they manufacture what we order and purchase from them, and because they would like to live the desirable life-style we have modeled for decades in many aspects, especially the parts that require energy. The Earth is our home, our space ship. Very little material comes from the outside. Meteorites, asteroids, and some dust. What we get in large amounts is sun light. And we will receive that for millions of years to come. Nothing to worry about there. Fact is we are traveling on a ship with LIMITED RESOURCES. If we cannot replace what we use up (= consume) it is gone. And North Americans have developed a life style that consumes resources at a dramatic rate. We are like a cloud of locusts descending on a field and starting to chow away. When all is eaten we leave to go to the next field. Unfortunately there are no other fields.

This is what needs to change in my mind: We have to reduce our rate of consumption. A lot. Otherwise there will be not enough left for 6 billion humans to live and life will turn pretty darn serious and sad.

On another topic:

Recycling has become such a fad! It is portrayed as if it is THE solution to our consumption problems. Of course it looks great on the surface: Any material we use for whatever we want to can be perfectly recycled and reprocessed to become anything else in the future. Conveniently forgotten or ignored are energy requirements for those processes, that toxic wastes accompany recycling processes, and the fact that materials get mixed with other materials and "perfect" recycling is not possible. Recycling should be a emergency solution AFTER reducing and re-using. In my ideal world people even refuse to participate in the consumption of unnecessary products and reduce waste that way. However, little profit can be made if people consume less or use products over and over rather than buy them again. From an industry point of view the only profitable solution is to use advertising and marketing tools to create guilt-free and eternal consumption followed by recycling. It has happened.

Labeling products as "recyclable" is as useful as labeling foods as "edible". Just because it can be done does not mean it should be done, is good for you, or should be considered smart.


 

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