Category Archives: environmentalism

an inconvenient truth

last night I went to An Inconvenient Truth with Kathleen, and boy, I really enjoyed and appreciated the movie. It was so well put, so clear, and the science was So Tight. With my environmental engineering background, and my green design/sustainability masters degree, well, I wasn’t sure what to expect. but it was totally riveting, and for the most part I thought he hammered the message just right. Sure, I’m already a believer – but I’ve always thought that hey, carbon was a big issue that could be tackled from the ground as a part of other environmental issues. it wasn’t such a big deal. This morning after I got home I went out and right away bought clean electricity, a carbon offset for my car, renewed my ecological roadside assistance membership, and looked up how to offset any airline travel in my future.

I think the biggest thing that stuck with me was his debunking of the poverty vs. environment “battle.” it’s been a huge issue, more so than the environment vs. the economy (which is a moot point b/c of green design and sustainability best practices that make environmentally efficient growth possible and affordale) — how can you tell people not to use DDT because they’ll get cancer when they grow up when the harsh reality is that if they DON’T use DDT they will probably die of malaria before they reach adulthood? I think Al did a really good job of seperating global warming from environmental issues – it’s not an environmental issue, but is an all encompassing issue.

In the movie, Al Gore (heart!) very clearly makes the point that many african cities were built above the mosquito line, and that as temperatures have gone up in the last decade or so, the incidences of malaria (and other diseases) have rapidly increased. On top of that, the mosquitoes and other disease carrying insects/animals/fungus have been moving much faster and with a larger range thanks to global warming. So the age old poverty vs. environment issue? really is broken down to a global warming issue. there you go. The clarity of the message reminds me of my Eureaka! moment when Wangari Mathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Some of my other thoughts from the movie:

  • gosh, I love al gore. How can I get a job working with THAT guy? Hey, Al! I’m from tennessee too! And I love science!
  • I really should be DOING more about this! I have the training! I understand the science, and the larger interrelated ecological and policy issues! I need to look into scientific journalism, esp. after his point about the number of scientists who disagree with global warming (none in peer reviewed journals) vs. the number of popular media who disagree with global warming (53% — not peer reviewed, and potentially just some guy and his opinion).
  • most amazing point, that I wish he’d spent more time on: how standard economies and off-set purchases can reduce incredibly the amount of CO2, down to 1970 emission levels. that is HUGE! I can’t find this graph online but for it alone I think I’ll buy the associated book.
  • I am so glad he didn’t spend a lot of time on carbon sequestration. I really don’t think it’s a final solution for global warming – the repercussions haven’t been explored, and I am not sure that it will really FIX the CO2. Most of all, though, I feel strongly that it is a solution that will allow American and other rapidly developing nations like India and China to continue to move full strength ahead and damn the horses. There needs to be a cultural shift to new (existing!) technologies and more efficiencies, and I worry that carbon sequestration will be seen as a magic bullet to avoid any related (and probably slight) inconvenience. We’ve always been a big fan of the magic bullet approach – for example, our wholesale push to a hydrogen economy when there are plenty of actually feasible fuels out there that can be used to replace gasoline.
  • I wish he had spent a couple of sentences on the (um) “snowballing” effect of tundra thawing (releases a lot of trapped CO2 into the atmosphere) and coral reef bleaching (reefs are the ocean’s lungs, and fix a lot of CO2).
  • I also would have appreciated a more thorough statement on us car manufacturers – he said that they claim they just can’t produce vehicles that are as efficient as european (or canadian) models, but us mfgs ARE producing cars for sale in canada and europe. GM = Opel, for one. they CAN do it, they just don’t want to in america because they don’t have to. it burns my britches!
  • ethanol got a shout-out but not biodiesel! sad!
  • oh, and GOD. what a huge catastrophe is coming if the oceans rise 20 ft and 100 Million people are displaced on top of the loss of arable land and fresh water supplies diminishing. yikes.
  • the Katrina footage made my heart sink. how could we do that? how could we allow that to happen?

Seriously, y’all, go see the movie. As I said to a friend – it’s not just two thumbs up, but if I had opposable big toes I’d put them up too. it’s whiz bang great. And the science is TIGHT!

worm bin!

a detailed pictoral of my worm bin setup!

this is my new can-o-worms:


when it’s all put together, it’s this big:


but I don’t think it’ll get that big for a while. The can-o-worms is a vertical composting system with 3 trays that the wormies can climb through as they move up to more fruitful digs. then you can just empty the bottom tray of finished castings and put it back into the system. so for now, my worm trays are stored above my kitchen cupboards:


on friday night I got down to business: first, I reused part of the packaging in the bottom of the bin to keep the coir bedding from falling through to the lower tray:

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linkin’ it up

this morning is a gold mine for neat links. mostly from treehugger, which is a fabulous ecoissues+design blog.

article on red hook farmer’s markets and CSAs made me googlemaps how far my commute would be if I lived in brooklyn (about an hour, but I would have to go over the verrazano bridge every day which is $4 each way (spendy!). and also, drive for an hour every day. in traffic. yuck.

I really love eco-salvage/reuse, so was thrilled to find out about the hudson valley materials exchange. PLUS they are looking for a manager, and while the pay and benefits cut would be substantial, it is SO TEMPTING. plus, I drove through newburgh a week before last and while I don’t know a thing about it, it looks like the kind of struggling urban area that I am so fond of. lots of houses were for sale, at least!

If I had a house I would use small scale wind power. this blog is very very very interesting and great. note to self: seriously consider purchasing a small turbine for dad and maggie for christmas.

Also of note: the instructions for building your own wind turbine. If only I had my own house. The two adjacent empty lots down the street from me are selling for $425,000, y’all. Can you imagine? I want so badly to buy them and put up a straw bale house, but $425K? gracious.

THIS is so awesome: a fuel consumption meter made in Finland that you can install on any car with installed “electric liquid fuel sprayer” (fuel injectors?). Since getting the insight I have noticed that the instantaneous mpg reading really affects how I drive the car, and I think that if car manufacturers are going to continue to make distilled hybrids that are more of a show of “good faith” than actual innovation and conservation, at very least they should install instantaneous mpg meters in all vehicles to change driving habits and to educate consumers. Seriously, (Ford Motor Company, Toyota), you can’t be all talk about being a green company and then blame american buying habits for the lack of hybrid sales or lack of demand for more efficient vehicles without at least trying to EDUCATE people a little!

I will end with this collection of containers that have been reused as structures. Containers are very cool, and being someone who grew up thinking about the smallest area that I could live in comfortably (is this parking space large enough? this very large handicapped accessible public bathroom? it already has running water… where should I hole up if there is armageddon? [not even kidding, I might have been what is known as a “weird kid.”])

Tax Deductions? I hardly know them!

I’m trying to figure out if I’m getting a 2005 or a 2006 hybrid insight. Of course, a very pity and entertaining post regarding the lengths to which I must travel to get the insight follows, but here’s the info I’ve found:

I talked to the IRS, because based on this table the 2006 insight isn’t eligible for the tax deduction (that’s ending this year). Vehicles that are eligible are:

Ford Escape Hybrid — Model Year 2006
Mercury Mariner Hybrid — Model Year 2006
Lexus RX 400h — Model Year 2006
Ford Escape Hybrid — Model Year 2005
Toyota Prius — Model Years 2001 through 2005
Toyota Highlander Hybrid — Model Year 2006
Honda Insight — Model Years 2000 through 2005
Honda Civic Hybrid — Model Years 2003 and 2005
Honda Accord Hybrid — Model Year 2005

AND, according to the UCS analysis of the 2005 energy bill 2006 insights aren’t yet accounted for in the new tax CREDIT system, either, though it does look like the manual insight will be a bust there entirely. Something about it only being a ULEV instead of a SULEV, I think. Something. Although, frankly, if you consider pounds of CO2 equivalent emissions for a ULEV that gets 65+ mpg and compare that to a hybrid pickup that gets 18 mpg and a $650 tax credit, it might not seem like a really valid way of awarding tax credits, regardless of the complicated formulas that pop out these results. I’m just saying.

So, anyway – the IRS said that the list is constantly in flux. They said that Honda had to apply for the tax credit/deduction, and that they had just added new information. So, I called Honda to find out if they’d applied. And they said they didn’t have any more information but that there was a process in place. And gave me a case number (because my stepmom is in the computer at Honda as the original purchaser still! creepy!) and I can call back and check.

it’s a crap shoot, I guess – I could really try to get the 2006 model and hope that I get a deduction, or I could get the 2005 and be sure of the deduction. After my tax bracket etc. we’re probably talking about $500, but hey. Just another thing to research obsessively on the internets, I guess. Anyway, this is all a moot point if I can’t get my new car on the road before the end of the year, because then I could revert to the exceptional civic hybrid tax credit, and actually save a bunch of money.

oh sweet jeebus.

I can’t jump up and say this to the people who are talking behind my cubicle, because I am EAVESDROPPING. but:

stop bitching about public transit! it’s the best thing ever, especially getting into and getting around NYC! it’s cheap, it’s fast, it’s usually quite convenient. I would LOVE to be able to take a train to work! LOVE to have time to read, or knit, or whatever! LOVE to not get frustrated at tailgating, to not use up oil, to not leave a nasty vapor trail of potential carcinogens behind me as I zoom!

1. I don’t care if you think subways are FILTHY. stop being such a priss! You know what’s filthy? your lungs after breathing CAR SMOG all your life.
2. I don’t know WHY you think it’s hard to go from NJTransit in Penn Station to anywhere else in midtown. I hear you talking about your options like they’re awful, but really, are the choices of bus, subway, walking (gasp!) or cab just too wonderful and plentious that you can’t choose?
3. I am SO SURE you’re not that important that waiting for a train is going to kill you . Seriously. No, REALLY. you are NOT THAT IMPORTANT! if you were, someone would be providing a CAR with a DRIVER to take places!

you know what bugs ME? sure, maybe I get a tiny big squicked out when I hold onto a railing on the subway that is warm from someone else’s hand, but really what bugs me are smug suburbanites in big cars with matching unexercised legs and lungs bitching about public transportation. you are the people who tailgate me when I’m on my bike because you don’t know how big your car is and you’re afraid to pass. you are the people who buy giant SUVs and pickups because you might need them for 2 weeks a year when you’re on vacation with your whole family. You are the people who require a 2500 sq. ft. house for a family of 4ish. KNOCK IT OFF! you have NO IDEA how good you have it!

and why are you in such a flippin’ hurry, anyway?

snerk. it’s a good thing I didn’t poke my head out of my cube and butt in, b/c I just checked the log and one of the PThaters is a client from a Major Automobile Company. For all I know, she loves public transportation, and gets a bonus every time she slams it!