Wednesday, March 24, 2010

We The People

Americans are a funny bunch, but I suspect any native countryman can say that about their people. We are a dynamic, rebellious, innovative and prosperous people, but our story is not without its nasty realities that we seem to forget so easily.

The health care debate has been painful and not because the law is going to have problems, but because we are broken and we don't want to admit it.

How many of the 365 million (except the children who couldn't) have read the 2700 page bill as a basis of our opinion on what it will mean for us. Very few, and I am NOT one of them, but yet everyone "knows" what is going to happen. Bullshit! I supported the bill in all of its brokenness because I want to feel as though we can work on making health care less of a blight on our society and try to live better and more gently. We needed something to get the most amount of people in the game and this was the best thing I saw. The real work begins now.

I don't debate climate change responsibility, but rather I try to understand science that shows that regional climate changes from industry, agriculture, bad land use, war and other causes is having a real impact and how we could change the way we live to mitigate the problems these changes will cause. I worry that the larger debate is overshadowing these real changes and most of us are asking for them to be ignored while we fight over who is responsible for only one small part of the larger problem. More bullshit.

I hear so many complaints about our government and corporate entities and how their actions are impacting people in undesired ways. I don't hear the same people saying that they are changing their behavior to stop supporting it. We elect our government which means we have influence, but once somebody wins the real work begins. Our corporations are funded by our buying and patronage and worse yet our loans of retirement savings to fund their operations. If people won't stop doing these things then those same people must stop complaining about the impacts. They are for-profit businesses and you are handing them cash to run their businesses. The businesses in return are on the hook to YOU to get a return any way possible. Your investment didn't have a catch about what they could and couldn't do with the money.

We live in a free country where nobody wants to be told what to do, but our own personal choices don't make up the gap in responsibility for the outcome. We can't have it both ways.

We all need to promote more education and understanding about our very complex and fast moving society. My reading list includes some titles that speak volumes about how little we understand and how much we take for granted. As I continue to expand this list I am growing my potential to live more gently and help all of us move forward. I just don't want to fight with anyone about it because we don't have the time.

Bringing it like you read about!


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cancer Sucks so Fight Back!

I am going to shave my head for Relay this year. Many cancer patients lose their hair due to intensive chemical and/or radioactive treatments. Seven years ago I was lucky that I did not have a treatment intense enough to lose my hair. This year I will shed my hair by choice to symbolize and support those for whom cancer has not afforded choice and the freedom to pursue a healthy life.

I am going to use this act as a symbol of the battle we fight as I raise money for this year’s event.
This year cancer is set to take over as the leading cause of death worldwide, killing more people than the active wars on our planet, disease, famine and natural disasters. Cancer is affront to freedom for every person on this planet and yet the public war on cancer does not command near enough resources.

You can act and together we will find a cure for cancer and the freedom from its scourge.
Not a scientist? Don’t worry. You represent a vital lifeline to the financial resources researchers need to find a cure. Your fundraising will find a cure for cancer.

Not a medical professional? Don’t worry. Your time and fundraising makes American Cancer Society resources available to patients and families. These resources ease suffering and provide critical services when people need them the most. Your actions help keep people and families strong and productive.

Not a politician? Don’t worry, your voice can be heard through the Cancer Action Network so your elected officials get the direction you told them you would provide them when you voted them into office. They work for you and you need to let them know what problems you want to solve.

Not wealthy? Don’t worry. You can make the most of however much you can donate with creative fundraising. Challenge your friends and family to donate by matching some part of every dollar they give. Letting them know that you have made a commitment sends a clear sign of the importance of supporting however they can. Ask them to challenge their friends as well.

Not sure where it all goes? The American Cancer Society has one of the lowest expense margins in the non-profit sector, and therefore the most of your funds raised goes to the research and programs we need it to. Over 81% of every dollar raised is directed to the mission of the American Cancer Society. Most money raised locally stays locally, neighbor helping neighbor.

Doing all of that and still want to do more? Shave your head, put up a sign, make cookies and sell them at work and get on Facebook and tell all of your friends why they need to get involved. Come up with your own creative way to get out the message. Stop making excuses and thinking one person can’t find a cure for cancer. You aren’t just one person, but if you don’t act you will be one less.

We are fighting, we will win. We MUST have hope.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What Can I Do?

Here are some ideas of areas you can review within your own life that have a positive impact on our energy and resource challenges:

Recycle - everything we reuse requires less new material which costs a lot to produce

Transportation - public transit, driving less and pooling your travel all work to reduce the amount of fuel used to move you here and there

Vehicles - maintaining the vehicle you have to its best potential is better than replacing it with a new hybrid. New cars cost a lot in resources and can't pay for themselves and the old vehicles fate at the same time. ROI is the key

Heating/Cooling - programmable thermostats, insulation, fixing window/door leaks and using shades instead of the A/C on high are all good ways to reduce demand

Eating - less packaging, eating in, using everything you buy, buying local and cooking with base ingredients rather than lots of processed food are all ways to save the costs of materials, processing and transportation of our food

You have heard all of these before but they work, they do reduce your footprint and they can be part of something bigger that makes a difference.


Energy Is The Problem Stupid!

The following facts, statistics and considerations were drawn from a very enjoyable reading of Carbon Shift edited by Thomas Homer-Dixon and published in 2009.

Energy Return on Investment (EROI). Anybody who has invested any money or financed a hobby or household understands ROI. EROI is net energy rather than net dollars or net some other resource than can be considered currency in the simple case. Net energy is the real problem behind any talk of oil running out or shortages of fossil fuels. Running out is relative to the cost of discovery, extraction and processing of what we haven't already done so with. The problem is that our sources are decreasing in EROI as we go forward which is going to have cost and rationalization implications. When we hear the equation solely as supply versus demand in the public arena we don't get the whole story. Deeper sea drilling, oil sands, hard to reach pockets of gas and large oil wells with decreasing pressure due to extraction are all example of sources with decreasing EROI. This problem alone points to renewable and alternate sources being cost effective hedges on a future we can't avoid.

Oil is the number one source of energy on the planet at 34% of the total
Coal comes in next at 27%
Natural gas comes in at 23%

Those 3 sources alone comprise 84% of the total sources of energy for our planet. With decreasing EROI, increasing competition, non-industrial difficulties in sourcing these fuels from certain geographies and the negative climate impacts of all three it sure seems to me that spending some of the future money now to switch will save money. The benefits include increased stability and security, creation of domestic jobs and positive changes with climate issues. Don't you agree?

We should refocus our effort on a broader mission of independence from these energy sources that can no longer balance their costs and non-renewable nature with the increasing role they will need to play for our growing society.


I Live in a Free Country, Don't Tell Me How Much Energy I Can Consume!!!

The following 40 year old quote opens the chapter entitled "The Perfect Moment" from the book "Carbon Shift" edited by Thomas Homer-Dixon and published in 2009.

"It is always a little hard to find a convincing answer to the man who says, "What has posterity ever done for me?" and the conservationist has always had to fall back on rather vague ethical principles postulating identity of the individual with some human community or society which extends not only back into the past but forward into the future. Unless the individual identifies with some community of this kind, conservation is obviously "irrational." Why should we not maximize the welfare of this generation at the cost of posterity?"

--Kenneth Boulding
"The Economics of the Coming Spaceship Earth" - March 8, 1966

Americans do live in a free country. Freedom as we all know isn't free, just ask our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan how much it costs to defend our country against terror. The legitimacy of those conflicts is not being discussed here, but is debatable.

Free choice has consequences, which we are all free and obligated to deal with. But with energy consumption, we don't. We don't because we are ignorant to the costs.

Americans represent 4.5% of the Earth's population yet we consume 25% of its petroleum resources. Our choices to consume this way have consequences on us and countless others who are often far less insulated by energy driven society against them. Yet we complain about high gas prices and we won't conserve in the car or at home. We don't recycle enough and we aren't forcing industry to create less waste in the first place. We don't want to pay more for cleaner and renewable energy and we fight about whether our actions really impact the climate. It is our manifest destiny to live in our free society with unlimited economic potential. Bullshit!

We are part of a large community dependant on limited non-renewable resources whose use is hugely damaging to the environment, food sources and lead to the suffering and deaths of millions of living beings (plants, animals and humans) every year, but since most of don't see it we don't care.

Each of us must come to understand the true price of our choices. That understanding must translate into changes in all parts of society so we can hope to leave a legacy from our existance.

To think that humans could easily be credited with wiping out a billion years of natural development of petroleum resources in the span of 200 years, and leaving a far less habitable planet in its wake is very scary.


The Climate Change Delimma

Climate Change, Global Warming, Greenhouse Gases, Carbon Trading, Peak Oil, Energy Scarcity, etc. What does it all mean? What is really going on?

Climate change is a real function of living on this planet. There are built in cycles of change, feedback loops that can be triggered by yet to be understood causes, and then there are changes that come as a result of the activities of the living organisms that reside on Earth.

There are other problems within the class of things that can be called climate change. Many of these issues have what appears to be a regional or local scope, but can and will turn out to be bigger than that in time.

Environmental damage due to deforestation, fresh water diversion, agriculture, hunting/fishing, industry and population growth necessitated development all impact the people that depend on the land and resources where they occur. These problems are not new, and their history from all around our planet can teach us a lot about how we can think and act. Billions of our fellow earthlings will continue to be impacted by these problems for generations.

The public face of climate change, in America to be sure, equates it with global warming. A strict reading of the news would make you think that a magical ceasing in carbon dioxide emissions would take climate change out of the headlines. This is completely false and a very damaging idea.

The carbon cycle of our planet is long and slow such that the emissions of gasses like CO2. methane, and others will be felt for decades to come. The change processes are underway and stopping them abruptly is not possible. Our actions, and we need to act, to reduce emissions will work to reduce the magnitude and duration of these effects, but will not stop them.

As I pointed out above there are other problems that are not solely related to global warming and will not be solved by changing CO2 emissions. The public debate is not complex enough to include this, but without tackling these issues as well we aren't going to be entirely better off.

The first step is to look around your own community, think about changes you have personally witnessed and dig deeper to find out what is really going on. Only then will we all be able to agree on the issues and how we can work together to solve them.


Lively Up Yourself

Bob Marley recorded a song with the name "Lively Up Yourself". Ever since I heard that song and came to understand the struggle and message behind his music I have thought this phrase was a good euphemism to describe the act of rising to a challenge or getting your head in the game.

Most recently I have been feeding my curiosity about the potential future impacts of climate change, environmental damage, population growth, energy scarcity and conspicuous/ignorant consumption with some healthy reading. I feel more informed for sure.

That said, I am much more unsure of the security of the American lifestyle when it is so obvious that business as usual is the mode for the 300+ million of us. We aren't well informed, we don't know what actions we can take to help and we believe somebody else is going to do it all for us. We are so wrong, but time has not run out.

Just this week a CNN article highlighted one of the key problems, the declining popularity of math and science education. Check out the article here

Without math and science we can't understand our key challenges, how to solve them, where to apply our resources and measure our progress. And trust me our competition (China, India, etc) aren't going to do it for us for free.

"We are in an age when asking whether we should be doing the things we are, and taking responsible action is going to be the difference in our future." -- Jason Phelps, 2009

We should all take some time to lively up ourselves and figure out how we can be part of a future we all want but won't have if we don't act.