Archived Blog Entries
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.
June 27, 2009
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
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.
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
someone will tell me that this indeed is better. Get off your
asses and move your own bodies!
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
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 (=
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!
April 23, 2009
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
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
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
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:
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
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.
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
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
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
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
October 12, 2008
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
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?
the secret getting through this current relatively mild low is
to live simply and frugally. Buy things you need that last long and can
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.
October 5, 2008
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.
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
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.
September 21, 2008
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
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.
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
and more comfort. Which material was better was extremely obvious and
it had nothing to do with living with less impact on the environment.
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.
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).
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
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
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.
August 6, 2008
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
July 22, 2008
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.
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.
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.
July 5, 2008
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
June 22, 2008
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.
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.
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?
June 15, 2008
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.
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
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.
June 1, 2008
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.
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?
May 22, 2008
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.
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
April 20, 2008
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.
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.
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.
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.
March 23, 2008
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.
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
There should be a way to inform people what they are doing is wrong and not appreciated without getting into physical fights.
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.
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.
March 9, 2008
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
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.
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?
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?
February 17, 2008
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.
February 10, 2008
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
February 3, 2008
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?"
"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
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.
January 27, 2008
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.
January 12, 2008
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
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?
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.
January 6, 2008
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.
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.
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:
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
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.