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On Sunday I reported to my SolSeed colleagues and various relatives on the trip I took to Biosphere 2 last month, at the end of a two-week vacation that mostly involved visiting relatives in California and Las Vegas.

On Monday I found out I’ve been accepted into the Pachamama Alliance’s Game Changer Intensive program, which will supposedly require 3 hours per week for seven weeks starting at the end of March. Whether this will help me get over my aversion to seeking leadership roles in activism remains to be seen.

On Monday evening I attended a meeting of WAmend, the coalition that formed a couple years back (thanks largely to the efforts of the Get Money Out of Politics working group of Occupy Seattle) to pass a resolution in Washington State supporting a pro-campaign-finance-regulation and anti-corporate-personhood amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This year’s initiative campaign is just getting off the ground, but looks like it has a much better chance of success than last year’s, which failed to collect enough signatures to get on the ballot. This time we’re better organized and will have much more time to collect the signatures, since we’re targeting the 2016 election.

On Tuesday evening I went to a talk at Seattle Town Hall by Denis Hayes, founder of Earth Day, talking about humanity’s (and especially Americans’) love affair with cows, and proposing we aim to cut national beef consumption to about half its current level. In response to my question about the opposing extreme claims of the Savory Institute and the Worldwatch Institute about livestock’s impact on the climate crisis, Hayes and his wife took the middle ground, supporting the UN’s numbers on their current impact (14-16% of emissions rather than Worldwatch’s 51%) and asserting that using livestock to draw down gigatons of carbon is “crazy,” although Savory’s grazing methods are hugely beneficial in other respects.

On Wednesday I left work early for an abbreviated Democracy School program from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (four hours instead of the usual 1-3 days). The presenter, Kai Huschke, described CELDF’s view of the legal “box” that supposedly prevents activists from ever succeeding in blocking destructive corporate projects, and laid out their plan for local community ordinances that “break out of the box,” state constitutional amendments to make those ordinances legal, and ultimately a partial rewrite of the U.S. Constitution to favor the rights of people, communities, and nature over those of corporations. (Unsurprisingly, a WAmend member was in attendance and passed around a sign-up sheet for volunteers.) Kai emphasized that the campaign would likely take decades, just like past efforts to expand people’s rights (particularly the abolitionist and women’s suffrage movements), which he observed were always followed by a “spring back” toward centralization of power. But he also said we don’t have time for an “incrementalist” approach because “the climate is collapsing.” This seeming contradiction, plus the fact that I carpooled to and from the event with two fellow volunteers for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, which has in fact worked within the system to block over 150 destructive corporate projects (coal-fired power plants) and schedule over 180 existing ones to be shut down, only reinforced my conviction that abolishing corporate rights can’t be a prerequisite for solving the global climate crisis.

On Thursday evening, during the SolSeed online work bee, I wrote an email to author Steven Wolfe (which I had been meaning to do for months) asking why his novel, set in 1992 and partly in Tucson, and supporting the concept of Gaia giving birth to new worlds, didn’t mention Biosphere 2 once. He responded the same evening, saying he supported Biosphere 2 and had even said so on his blog, but the idea of including it in his book just hadn’t occurred to him.

This morning I woke up at 5 after a crazy semi-lucid dream about living in a Mars colony that was “invaded” by giant aliens who gave us peanut butter and wanted us to make movies about them. The only reason I’m currently making time to write a blog entry is because I gave up on falling back asleep. I really need to do something about my worsening insomnia.

Tonight I’ll be making matters slightly worse by going to a birthday party for my author/activist friend Saab in Edmonds, from which I likely won’t get home until 11:30. Then tomorrow I’m attending a legislative town hall event at Redmond City Hall, where I’ll hopefully get the chance to ask my state reps a question about the bill currently in process that would have Puget Sound Energy and other Washington State utilities stop using coal-fired power from Montana and replace it with renewable energy.

My alarm goes off in a few minutes, so I don’t really have time to go into depth on “what it all means,” but the headline is clear: I’m diving back into activism even though I still think we’re probably all doomed.

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…in the geopolitical, economic, and climate chaos involved I expect we’ll tragically lose a few billion people.

- The Great Disruption by Paul Gilding, p. 53

Up until March 20th of this year, I hadn’t ever lost a grandparent. When I heard the news of Grandpa Mike’s death, I was in my quiet apartment a thousand miles away and in the middle of eating dinner, so the immediate emotional impact was somewhat blunted. I did fly to Los Angeles for his memorial service a few days later, but I didn’t cry, or express much emotion of any kind, until much later.

I started reading The Great Disruption on April 21st, and ran into the quote above while eating dinner that evening. It hit me like a ton of bricks, despite Gilding’s lack of supporting evidence for that specific assertion. Two nights after reading those words, while lying in bed, I cried for those billions of hypothetical deaths that haven’t happened yet. So perhaps believing in Gilding’s version of inevitable catastrophe was my way of accessing the grief for Grandpa Mike that I had been trying and failing to feel.

Something in human nature seems fascinated by the end of all things. Is it simply an extension of the smaller death each of us faces? Or perhaps a streak of egotism is involved, for out of countless human generations, it would surely mark ours as unique to be the last.

- “Whose Millennium?” by David Brin, pp. 188-189 in his collection of stories and essays called Otherness

It’s not as if my preemptive grief for a still-thriving civilization is terribly unusual. As I mentioned in my recent entry about movies, belief in impending doom seems to be part of the spirit of the times – an amplification of a perennial human tendency, triggered partly by the recent turn of the millennium, and further reinforced by the dire warnings of climate scientists and the Club of Rome. Most activists resist this tendency, of course, noting that belief in the imminent end of the world leads to a lack of concern for long-term social, economic, and environmental problems. But maybe it will turn out that my career as an activist died with my grandfather, and just hasn’t stopped twitching yet.

“If you go to an audition and don’t really try, if you’re not really prepared, if you didn’t work as hard as you could have and you don’t win, you have an excuse. . . . Nothing is harder than saying, ‘I gave it my all and it wasn’t good enough.’”

- Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, violin prodigy, as quoted in Mindset by Carol S. Dweck (previously quoted in this blog entry)

All else being equal, helping to save the world appears to be a rather poor fit for my innate pessimism, modesty, and the low energy that comes with my limited-exercise lifestyle. If it weren’t so important to do my part, I’d much rather focus on more entertaining pursuits, like amateur music composition or sci-fi fan art. So maybe the intersection of my existing personality mismatch, my grandfather’s death, and Gilding’s book has pushed me over the edge into assuming that I no longer have a duty to lead the stressful and unrewarding life of an activist. All I have to do, as demonstrated in my first post about Gilding’s book, is wholeheartedly embrace the first half of his thesis while flatly rejecting the second half. This seemingly self-contradictory position feels like a possible betrayal of my deeply held belief in honesty, which may account for my continuing attendance at activist meetings and events.

This line of thought is interesting because it suggests a number of countervailing actions I could take: exercising more, working on my self-confidence (which my manager at work wants me to do anyway), and looking for opportunities to apply my artistic skills and sci-fi ideas toward some activist cause, like my friend Saab does. But the most important question here is still whether I can honestly be certain enough of the inevitable doom I see as implied by Gilding’s arguments to justify what would otherwise be a nearly unforgivable dereliction of duty. So in my next entry, I’ll delve deeper into the question of just how persuasive Paul Gilding really is.


P.S. My first and possibly only experience with The Work That Reconnects was almost completely unhelpful. Naturally enough, if you get a bunch of people in a room to express their shared feelings of despair to each other, it tends to validate and reinforce that despair. How this is supposed to lead to a feeling of empowerment, particularly in the sense of our capacity to work on behalf of a world we believe to be inevitably doomed, is something I still don’t understand.

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I'm writing this from a new apartment, but in the same apartment complex where I was before. The landlords required that I move out of my old unit so maintenance could rip out the living-room ceiling, which is filled with asbestos and has been covered with mold for most of the last six weeks. I'm now wondering whether I should have decided to end my lease, pay the early termination fee, and move somewhere else entirely. Maybe there wasn't enough time. Maybe the costs would have outweighed the risks of continuing to live in these poorly-built structures. Then again, maybe not.

It all started about two months ago, when I noticed a small damp spot in my bedroom ceiling.The gory details... )

From that point (March 6th), it took the landlords three and a half weeks to make a final decision to move me out. But when they finally did so, they wanted to move with some haste--an emergency transfer, they called it.More gory details )

My new unit is much larger than the old one and has its own washer-dryer unit, but it's on the first floor instead of the third, which means I get footsteps overhead but am not immune from roof leaks, as I learned shortly before I moved.Even more gory details ) I'm left wondering if this or a similar disaster will happen to me in the nine months before my lease term is up.  (UPDATE: It did. One fine evening, the bathtub in the unit above me started leaking onto the floor of my bathroom, and I had to hold back the water with a dam made of towels while waiting for the guy with the water extraction machine to show up.  He told me that he has to use it about twice a week in this apartment complex.)  (UPDATE 2: I have now moved to a new complex with no asbestos in the ceilings and no record of recent water leak incidents. It's substantially more expensive and the road outside my window is noisy, but I don't care.)

So what's the metaphor here? Well, the opposite of a global-warming skeptic is someone so obsessed with the climate crisis that he/she focuses on fixes that are too specific to just that crisis (e.g. the Richard Branson prize for figuring out how to pull a billion tons of carbon out of the atmosphere per year). Such a person ignores the fact that an unsustainable civilization such as ours will inevitably continue to produce such existential crises. We need to "move out" of this way of life and into one based wholly on technologies and behaviors that don't undermine our own resource base, destroy ecosystem services, etc. The landlady may give us a few more decades to make that move, but we had better not get too sidetracked by short-term fixes that might let us cling to business as usual for a little while longer. As shown on the diagram on the sixth slide of Paul Ray's presentation for the State of the World Forum, relying on such fixes to save us will probably just lead to a slow death for civilization.

News items

Oct. 5th, 2009 10:02 pm
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  • The Senate finally has its own version of the climate bill, called the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act of 2009 (CEJAPA--not as catchy an acronym as ACES, but oh well). It appears to be similar to ACES but with stronger greenhouse reduction targets and no provision to strip the EPA of its power to help regulate old, dirty coal plants.  It's good that it's starting pretty strong, because there's little doubt it will get weaker in the withering heat of Republican hatred about to be turned its way (right after the final vote on the healthcare bill).

  • On the same day CEJAPA was announced (September 30), the EPA itself said it was ready to move beyond looking at auto emissions under the Clean Air Act and start targeting certain large coal plants with proposed regulations that might take effect as early as 2011.

  • According to a short quote in the latest issue of GOOD Magazine, none of this may matter much to the international climate debate, since any climate treaty would require not 60 but 66 votes to pass the Senate, which doesn't seem likely enough to care about.  "All eyes will be on China anyway."  (For the opposing viewpoint, we go to an article in the online version of GOOD, saying that the world hates us for saying we might not get a climate bill signed into law before Copenhagen.)

  • I just got a cat! Her name is Petra, she's only a year old but seems calm enough not to mind being alone most of the day, and without further ado, here are the obligatory photos:


    Hopefully she'll help me stay positive as the final climate turning point approaches.

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"Take me where I am supposed to be,
To comprehend the things that I can't see."
- Melissa Etheridge, "I Need To Wake Up"

Bad poetry )

I was moved to write a really bad imitation of Martin Niemöller's famous poetic statement by an image I encountered less than two hours ago, and wish I could have photographed: a small child peering out the window of the laundry room in my building, looking at the fire truck whose ladder was extended to the roof, while his parent/guardian, totally unconcerned, worked on transferring some clothes to the dryer.  The firemen (and one firewoman) hadn't forced them or anyone else to evacuate, apparently, because they were pretty sure that the building wasn't really on fire.  There was no smoke visible from outside, and all the smoke detectors were found to be untriggered, meaning the cause of the alarm wasn't even a typical stovetop flare-up, just some fault in the alarm system.  But I talked to the guy operating the ladder, noting that some people had been wandering back into the building for awhile, and he basically said they should have been stopped because "pretty sure" simply isn't good enough.

The lesson here is that even climate skeptics should acknowlege that they might be wrong, and it might be a good idea to do something about that just in case.  But on the other hand, it's all too understandable that we're reluctant to take action when we can't see that any given possibly-climate-related disaster affects us in any significant way.
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Well, sort of. I was in a conference call with the people who were working on revisions to a draft script. Also, it's hard to tell due to the YouTube compression, but at the very beginning of the video you can see a photo of me in the middle row, fourth from the right. (To learn more about the FISA issue, see the second paragraph of this entry.)

P.S. I finally updated my website to reflect my new job and location. The only thing left to revise is my resume.
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Yeah, I haven't been doing something productive every weeknight, as I'd planned--even if you count shopping and suchlike.  Either I tell myself I'm not feeling up to it, or I sit at the dinner table reading a novel and then don't have time (at least not if I want to watch one of my four TV shows after checking email), or whatever.  It's kind of sad, really.  What's even sadder is that even on unproductive nights, I often end up getting to bed five to ten minutes later than I prefer.

One of the ideas I had for organizing this project was to reserve each day of the week for a specific activity.  I'm not sure whether this was wise, but at any rate, Wednesday was going to be blogging day--and I certainly have enough ideas for posts to do one a week.  While I did decide to post twice in the first week, I missed the second week entirely and skipped last week as well.  Meanwhile, of the other tasks, I've only worked on music compositions twice and posted transferred and revised content to the new SolSeed site once.

I think I may need to start writing a description on my calendar of what I do each evening or my lame excuse for doing nothing.  Except that if it starts filling up with excuses, it might just depress me and make me even less motivated.  Please post your opinions!

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I've blogged before about the so-called Issue Attention Cycle and its possible consequences for the current era of nearly universal interest in environmental issues.  I experience something similar when it comes to my interest level in writing and other creative pursuits.  A big part of it is mental stimulation; both the summer when I started my first job, and this past summer when I transitioned up here to Microsoft, have been very productive periods.  (There might also be a Seasonal Affective Disorder angle, which would be unfortunate considering how little sunlight I'll be getting here in Seattle.)

As an example of the current downswing, I got motivated enough to sign up for Seattle Bioneers, a two-year-old satellite to the nineteen-year-old annual Bioneers event held in San Rafael, CA last weekend.  I learned lots of awesome stuff there )

...and I thought it would motivate me to change my life somehow, or at least follow up to learn more about the several interesting organizations I discovered.  But so far it hasn't worked out that way.  Today and Monday, I was able to talk myself into eating vegetarian meals at the Microsoft cafeteria (after having met someone wearing a "Real Environmentalists Don't Eat Meat" T-shirt at the conference), but Tuesday I met a chicken wrap I just couldn't resist.  Also, I felt like I should have been pumped enough about the event to post about it on Monday, but obviously that didn't work out either.

But!  I now have a plan to force myself into being more motivated.  In the past, the first thing I've done when logging onto my home computer in the evening is read the comics.  No more!  Henceforth, I will both read my email and do something else constructive before allowing myself to slack off for the rest of the evening.  That may go against Cecile Andrews's concept of unrushed living and real appreciation for leisure (she says Americans have forgotten how to just do nothing)...or then again it may not.  But I think I'll at least feel more like I'm getting somewhere with my life.


Aug. 19th, 2008 09:34 pm
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Here I am in the vicinity of Seattle, the town that calls itself the Emerald City, the town whose mayor created the US Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement. I moved up here to work at Microsoft, a company that has purchased enough white Priuses to comprise most of its large campus shuttle fleet. Also, the tableware in Microsoft's 24 on-site cafeterias is made of vegetable products, designed to be composted, and there are compost bins in every break room and conference hall as well as the cafeterias themselves. It has its own private bus service, supports an on-campus bicycle maintenance event . . . I could go on. Whether any of this resulted from employees acting in their role as stockholders, rather than just leaving large numbers of identical comments in a suggestion box somewhere, I don't know--but it all seems very hopeful, especially when compared with the execrable environmental records of so many other massively powerful corporations.

But here I am, making a ten-mile commute every day from temporary housing on Mercer Island, alone in a rented SUV. To be fair to myself, I asked for a compact, but apparently all the Sea-Tac Avis had on hand was a Hyundai Santa Fe (amusing name for a Korean car, though no more so than the Toyota Tacoma if you think about it). But if I wanted to, I could take two buses and little more than an hour each way--yet I can't make myself accept the inconvenience. It's sad, really.

I'll be returning the vehicle next Monday or Tuesday, then riding back from the airport to my new apartment on a couple of express buses, and probably going back to my previous habit of biking to work, this time from a full two miles away instead of one and a bit. So all told, that's maybe three and a half weeks of being environmentally irresponsible (and probably over $100 of gasoline, which may not be expensable under the otherwise generous Microsoft relocation package). But I'll probably still buy some extra carbon credits this month, just to make me feel a little better about it.
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Two weeks ago, for the first time in something like two years, I actually got out into the wilderness and did some hiking. And as far as I can remember, this is the first time I've ever planted a tree. I know, I'm a terrible excuse for an environmentalist.

Specifically, I spent a morning in the San Bernardino Mountains near Lake Arrowhead, under the auspices of the Mountain Communities Releaf project, which is trying to accelerate the recovery of the forest after last October's devastating fires by having volunteers plant seedlings in the burned areas -- our group of around 40 planted hundreds in the course of less than four hours.

Pictures! )

I may be doing this again next weekend (with actual boots this time!), and they're also planning trips to water the trees in the summer.
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So, Al Gore and the IPCC won the Nobel Peace Prize and somehow I haven't posted about it until now. Well, maybe I've been reading too much Glen Barry lately, but I'm beginning to wonder just how far Gore's and Leonardo DiCaprio's strategy of top-down activism will get us. That said, I'll still vote for Gore for President if he decides to run.

In possibly related news, the mayor of Redlands finally put the U.S. Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement on the agenda of a City Council meeting yesterday. I'm hoping it has less to do with Gore's Peace Prize than with what the City Clerk briefly noted: the Council had received twelve communications in support of adoption and only one in opposition. To toot my own horn a bit, at least two of the former were last-minute emails I persuaded my coworkers to write, and some or all of the rest were postcards that I printed up and helped distribute. The result was a bit anticlimactic--the motion passed without real debate, 5-0, just like almost everything else on the agenda. Still, now we have a continuous bloc of USMCPA support with our neighbors to the north (San Bernardino), south (Riverside), and east (Yucaipa).

Meanwhile, up north in Oakland, the Apollo Alliance has a new partner group: the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and its new Green for All campaign. In the words of New York Times op-ed columnist Thomas L. Friedman, the Baker Center's president, Van Jones, is "on a crusade to help underprivileged African-Americans and other disadvantaged communities understand why they would be the biggest beneficiaries of a greener America. It’s about jobs. The more government requires buildings to be more energy efficient, the more work there will be retrofitting buildings all across America with solar panels, insulation and other weatherizing materials. Those are manual-labor jobs that can’t be outsourced." Replacing lost jobs for poor unskilled laborers, revitalizing our infrastructure, and cooling the planet: is there nothing green-collar jobs can't do?

I had a third related story, from this past Sunday's San Bernardino Sun, about how European cities are doing much better than their parent nations on meeting the goals of the Kyoto Protocol, but sadly it doesn't seem to be online. (Yes, I'm wasting literally tons of paper by getting a daily newspaper. It was a snap decision when some guy came to my door one day, and I'm really starting to regret it.)
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Last night, I was happy to discover that my typical shower has dropped to about ten minutes in length. This is an example of efficiency at its best: a short shower conserves water and the natural gas that heats it, and it leaves me more time to do other things. The only loss is the luxury of taking it slow, which is a lost cause for most Americans these days anyway--particularly those with as many different interests as I have.

But efficiency can be a problem. As a geometry lover, I've always enjoyed finding the shortest path to take from Point A to Point B, taking as many diagonals as possible so I can reach my destination half a minute earlier than I otherwise would. But recently, I've learned to avoid biking northwest on one diagonal street here in Redlands, because another major road merges in from the east and there is no stop sign.

This points up a general principle with wide application: the shortest path to a goal is often the most dangerous one. On a global scale, economic efficiency means promoting the rapid development of innovative new technologies and minimizing the time spent on testing for harmful side effects or considering the potential for weaponization. Of course, we can cynically observe that for any technology, "if we don't build it, someone else will." On the other hand, we can also work to form global compacts of governments, corporations, and universities to help guide humanity's technological development with an eye toward a simple truism: efficiency must take a back seat to survival.
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One would assume that frugality, being closely akin to "voluntary simplicity," would be an ideal that any environmentalist could wholeheartedly support. The problem is, though, that frugality doesn't always mean buying less stuff. Sometimes you buy something cheap, when a more expensive alternative would actually be better both for you and for nature.

Some pricey green products offer a sort of deferred frugality: hybrid cars save you money at the gas pump, while compact fluorescent lightbulbs last longer and reduce your electric bill. Whether these effects are enough to make green the cheapest way to go is somewhat arguable, but certainly possible.

Sometimes, though, the financial tradeoff ends up being largely absent. Solar panels, while they can decrease your electric bill, take many years to pay for themselves because the initial cost of installation is so high. With organic food, the only benefit is a possible decrease in medical bills that might result from lowering your daily dose of deadly agricultural chemicals--but at least in Los Angeles, the air is a far greater threat to one's long-term health prospects than the food. So sometimes, going green is about giving up frugality and donating a little more of your hard-earned cash to support a cause you believe in. It's like charity, except that in this case you get a box of pasta or a shiny roof ornament in return.
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In my recent entry on The Third Way, I observed that "for most people, the mantra 'think globally, act locally' is hard to accept when the whole world seems to be accelerating out of control." What I didn't admit is that I count myself among those people.

Of course, local-scale issues shouldn't be ignored. Modern mass culture tends to make citizens feel that our particular town or city is essentially small and unimportant, which is why few people complain when local news coverage takes a backseat to national and international events. But all scales are relative; from an individual human's perspective, even a ten-family village is a large and important thing, and in fact, the quality of local drinking water is a far more immediate and pressing issue to the average human than the results of the latest national election.

The problem is that global-scale forces can also act on individuals. For instance, air quality here in the small city of Redlands depends heavily on the driving patterns of millions of people throughout Southern California. The national election affects me too; after all, national-level policies can change the amount I spend on taxes, the waiting time at airports, and (indirectly) the cost of food at the grocery store. And on the global scale, climate change and biodiversity loss have ramifications that reach into every corner of the world.

The fact is, if we don't have a healthy planet to live on, eventually local-scale issues simply won't matter, because we'll be too busy dealing with the disastrous consequences of the global issues. So it's hard not to prioritize global-scale solutions to global warming over the question of how close I personally live to point-sources of pollution. My health may suffer as a result, but not half as much as it will if Octavia Butler's predictions about the effects of climate change on the American economy prove accurate.
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As far as I know, swallowing solid plastic objects doesn't cause a big problem because they go straight through your digestive tract without being broken down. But when exposed to liquid for longer periods, or when heated, plastic starts to leach hazardous chemicals into that liquid. Here are some safety tips:
  • When you buy bottled water, don't reuse the bottle more than once or twice.  (In other words, don't make the same mistake I just found out I've been making for the past three years.)  Reuseable water bottles may have some protection against leaching.

  • Storing liquidy or acidy foods in glass containers is a good idea (source).


  • In general, plastics number 3, 6 (styrofoam), and 7 are the most potentially dangerous, although if a #7 container also has the letters PLA on it, then it's a safe and biodegradable plastic (source).
Thank you for your attention.
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Well, I've graduated now and figured I should finally get around to posting some stuff I wrote for class that's also relevant to this LiveJournal. Here's the first entry, an autobiographical essay I wrote for a class called Classic Environmental Readings.

Read the essay )
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The way I deal with my health is like the environmental crisis in miniature. Two examples:

My mother tells me I don't use enough toothpaste, but despite occasional toothaches, I tend to assume that the fact that I'm using toothpaste at all makes it very unlikely that I'll get a cavity. Similarly, half-measures aimed at protecting the environment are often assumed to be good enough simply because the government or corporation implementing them doesn't feel like doing any more.

I know I should get more exercise, but I put it off, telling myself that I don't have the time, or that biking to Harvey Mudd and back twice a week (at most a seven-minute trip each way) is enough, or that I'll take a fun PE class every other semester and that will be good enough even though it only meets once or twice a week. In other words, I'm trying to claim that what I want to do anyway is good enough. In this respect, I'm like a gung-ho free-marketeer who claims energy- and resource-efficient measures are becoming more profitable, meaning that corporations will want to do the right thing, and that therefore no regulation is needed.

Another aspect of the exercise problem: in an ad for Utne magazine, I saw a description of an article that claims exercise won't make you live longer. I haven't even read the article itself, but it nevertheless serves as an attractive excuse for not trying out the exercise machines at the gym. This is like government officials and oil-company executives putting their trust in a single study showing that human impact on the climate is negligible (despite a global consensus of climate scientists that the opposite is the case), because if they admitted that pollution posed a serious threat, they would have to try entirely new ways of doing things.

If it's that difficult for me to change my own behavior, imagine how much harder it is for society as a whole to overcome the same problems, even when everyone knows the problems are there.

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