Thursday, December 13, 2007

US Impeding Bali Climate Talks

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it." - Upton Sinclair

Yes, I get the irony of the post following a post on how I don't talk about Global Warming is about Global Warming but that's on a personal level. On a national governmental level it is of the utmost importance and agreement on this fact is what is going to make all the difference. So how sad am I as an American that my government is one of the biggest problems and at the same time is refusing to be a part of the solution.

Check out this article in the NY Times which illustrates how much of the problem we in the US are

or the one in The International Herald Tribune

or in The Australian

and then sign the petition here to tell them that you won't stand for this

And then pass this on to everyone you know who has a child or grandchild and ask them to do the same.


Live Sustainably



Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Why I Don't Really Talk About Global Warming

"When one argues with a fool, there are two." -anonymous

Global Warming is in my opinion the single greatest threat we as a species have ever encountered and we are presently at a tipping point of no return. Having said that, I rarely discuss it with anyone, and here's why.

It's not necessary.

There are two ways to look at this. The first is that you believe what the Nobel Prize winning IPCC says, what science tells us, and what experts warn, that we are causing global warming and that the only way to reverse it is to radically and quickly rethink our priorities and the way we live. If you fall into this camp, than you're already on the right road and I'm preaching to the choir. The second option is that for some reason you buy into the spin, don't believe the science, and don't think you have anything to do with the whole global warming issue. Here's what I usually tell these folks, something which the 9 minute video above explains quite well and in much more detail.

Let's look at the four scenarios of global warming, assuming that you actually believe in thermometers and agree that the world is getting warmer as we speak.

  1. Global Warming IS caused by human activity and we continue living unsustainably - Lose/Lose situation. We could have turned things around and we didn't, and we are still addicted to fossil fuels, creating political instability, and destroying the environment.
  2. Global Warming IS NOT caused by human activity and we continue living unsustainably - Lose/Lose situation. On the Global Warming front we will have to ride it out, and we've missed the opportunity to clean up our acts.
  3. Global Warming IS NOT caused by human activity and we start living sustainably - Lose/Win situation. On the Global Warming front we'll just have to wait and see, but we pollute less, wean ourselves from cheap oil, take better care of the earth and help in a whole host of other ways.
  4. Global Warming IS caused by human activity and we start living sustainably - Win/Win situation. If we have acted in time and do enough, we could avert a major climate disaster, and at the same time, we get all the benefits of working towards a cleaner way of living.
So in my opinion, whether you believe in GW or not makes very little difference. The only chance we have of making things better is living more sustainably. And on that note, while I think it's important to stay informed, if you take this seriously to begin with, stay away from all of the articles about the ice shelf melting and how bad things are getting. You don't need more proof, and they will only depress you into feeling like your actions mean nothing.

For some more info and a good overview on what's going on and what can be done, check out the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Live Sustainably



Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Story of Channukah - A Modern Day Parable

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead

I recognize that the story of Channukah is not the average fodder for a sustainability blog, but sometimes, what's old is new again.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the story, here it is in a nutshell. Around 2200 years ago Antiochus IV, fresh from an unfinished war with Egypt and fairly peeved about a rebellion in Jerusalem, ordered his army to ransack the Jewish Temple and force the jews to partake in idol worship. A small group of rebels led by Judah Maccabee and his brothers fled to the hills and basically engaged in guerrilla warfare eventually turning back and defeating the 40,000 plus army and retaking the city. Sort of "300" with a menorah if you will. When they finally got back into the temple, they found that the menorah, which was a ceremonial lamp, had only enough pure oil for one day. They lit it, and the oil lasted for eight days, just long enough for them to make more.

It's interesting to me that after all these years, we're sort of right back where we started from. Back in the day the problem was that Antiochus had sacked the city and ruined the temple. Well today, the problem is that we have sacked the planet and ruined our environment. By burning fossil fuels with reckless abandon, we have not only altered the atmosphere, but we have created political instability and caused peoples all over the world to suffer so that we may have cheap power.

They found one nights worth of oil and miraculously it lasted for eight nights. We're presently at or nearing peak oil. And for those who don't agree, ask yourself this. If it takes 100,000,000 years for oil to form, and we are pulling it out of the ground at an ever increasing rate, isn't the question when we are going to run out, not if. And if that is the question, perhaps we should not hope for an "8 day" miracle, but demand that our government work towards switching us to renewable energy now before it does run out.

So all that seems a little dark, I hear ya, dark, but true. But the greatest part of the story to me is that a small group of plucky brothers led an untrained militia and defeated one of the greatest armies on the planet. Why? Because they were fighting for something that they believed in, something they were passionate about, something important. That to me is what makes the Channukah story relevant today. There are huge seemingly insurmountable obstacles ahead of us, but if we band together and show others the way, our voices will be heard. It's going to take action, and I believe that we have not only the will but the power to see this through.

Who knows, in 2000 years, maybe they'll add on a postscript to the story and talk about how close we came.

Thanks to my Dad for sending me "A Green Menora" by Arthur Waskow that got me thinking along this track.

Live Sustainably



Monday, December 10, 2007

Make It An L.E.D. Christmas This Year

"Weather forecast for tonight: dark. Continued dark overnight, with widely scattered light by morning." - George Carlin

Let's face it, living sustainably is one thing but giving up your christmas lights is something entirely different. Of course the best thing to do is simply not use christmas lights in the first place, but for many, it's just not the same without them. Luckily, LEDs have come a long way and are here to save the day. (You can read a neat explanation here).

Forever Bright, a really cool (pun intended) LED company now sells L.E.D. christmas lights everywhere from Costco to your local hardware store and they are great. They last for 200,000 hours, contain no glass (no broken bulbs anymore), use only 2-4 watts (compared with 43 or so for similar incandescent), and give off almost no heat (compared with the 94% of the energy in the old kind that were given off as heat - christmas morning fire anyone?).

So let's do a quick break down here. Assuming that you are one of those folks who needs to be able to see your house from the moon around this time of year (I kid, some of them are actually quite nice) and you use 20 - 100 bulb strings, let's look at some numbers.

  • Cost per string - Relatively the same if you shop around, less if you buy online.
  • The incandescents use 850 watts of power while the L.E.D.s use 60 watts of power.
  • If burning all bulbs for 6 hours a day the old ones will use 5.1 kWh/day and the L.E.D.s will use .36 kWh a day.
  • If you put your strings up right after turkey day and run them every night, that's 153 kWh a month for the old school bulbs and 10.8 kWh a month for the L.E.D.s.
  • Finally, using a base of .15 cents/kWh your same ole same ole bulbs are going to cost you $22 in electricity while the cool new ones are going to run you $1.62
Bottom line, they are cheaper, cooler (there's that pun again) and will actually pay for themselves in the long run. And if you don't think it'll make a difference, there are over 100 million homes in the U.S alone so the potential for energy savings is huge.

Thanks to Pablo at for his writeup.

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Al Gore Receives Nobel Peace Prize

""We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive." -Albert Einstein

Today in Oslo, Norway, Vice President Al Gore, was given the Nobel Peace Prize along with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change."

As Gore noted in his speech (which I highly recommend checking out) "today, we dumped another 70 million tons of global-warming pollution into the thin shell of atmosphere surrounding our planet, as if it were an open sewer. And tomorrow, we will dump a slightly larger amount, with the cumulative concentrations now trapping more and more heat from the sun.

As a result, the earth has a fever. And the fever is rising. The experts have told us it is not a passing affliction that will heal by itself. We asked for a second opinion. And a third. And a fourth. And the consistent conclusion, restated with increasing alarm, is that something basic is wrong.

We are what is wrong, and we must make it right."

Now there are a lot of people who will put Gore down for his carbon credit buying, his jetplane travel, and the mansion that he lives in, all points that I think are fair but possibly not balanced. Having said that, he's put climate change on the map and done more for the sustainability movement by doing so than just about anyone out there. And the first step is to acknowledge the problem, which he now has most of us doing.

So a hail and hearty Huzzah to Mr. Gore for his past, present, and future accomplishments and for helping make this global problem one that everyone is (finally) talking about.

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