Archive for October, 2007

Morning Tea and Power to the People

This morning I submerged a jasmine tea bag into the hot water inside my lovely little blue mug that I bought from a local potter years ago. I’ve done this most mornings for years, but today I suddenly thought to put a little saucer across the top of the mug while the tea steeps.

Why? Because I’ve learned that heat is so costly to the earth. Even here in Portland Oregon — the land of mighty rivers and hydropower — more than 40% of our energy comes from coal, the burning of which accelerates global warming. Heating water takes a lot of energy. Covering it once it’s hot is common sense, and shows respect for the price the earth is paying.

Now I’m sipping my jasmine tea, both tea and mug delightfully warmer than when they sit uncovered while steeping. It seems to me that life has dozens of these choice-points each day. Dozens of chances to be in the moment and respect the earth by consuming less energy. We have more power than we walk around imagining we have.

Simplicity and its Implications

In the late 80’s I led a workshop on simple living at a conference on peace and social justice. This was at a Quaker church in my hometown of Whittier, California and two of my workshop attendees were an older couple with kind and careworn faces. As we all spoke of our experiences it became clear to me that this couple had been living lives of simplicity and conviction about three times longer than my own years on the planet. The woman said something that has stayed with me ever since: 

“I know full well that if everyone lived the way I do – never setting foot in a department store, for example – the entire economy would grind to a halt.” 

I believe with all my heart that we in the U.S. need to consume considerably less to live sustainably on this planet. I’m aware that I’m also talking about people’s jobs being at stake. Equally true is that millions of jobs have been permanently destroyed in recent decades precisely by the engines of economic growth, particularly downsizing and mergers. What we need is jobs —  no, make that work – that is sustainable and resilient in the face of the climate changes that are already well underway.

I Won the Program of the Year Award for my work

Happy day here in Portland, Oregon: I just got the good news that my trip-reduction program — the Carefree Commuter Challenge — won the Program of the Year Award from Transportation Options Group of Oregon.

I’m receiving the award this Wednesday October 24th at the conference in Seaside.

Secret Lover, Secret Watchdog

The casual observer takes me for a mainstream professional in my 40’s. My secret identity as a passionate lover of public transit is revealed below for the first time.

My household’s single car is a well-worn, two-door 1993 Nissan Sentra. Paid for many years ago, our investment fund is now as plump as its floor-mats are thin. It sits humbly unused most days as we gallivant around on TriMet. (Our only burglary happened on a rare weekday I had taken the car on errands. The empty driveway seemed to signal nobody was home. Lesson: our car is most valuable as a watchdog.)

TriMet equals physical vitality for me. When I step off the bus or Max my legs are my locomotion to my final destination, strong and springy under my body. I am fit; I walk miles every week.

TriMet for me equals civic engagement. I brush shoulders with people from all income levels and backgrounds– and observe they pose no threat to me. I’ve logged thousands of miles using transit without incident or accident.

Most significantly, TriMet reduces my carbon footprint in the face of global warming. It lets me be a secret activist as well as a secret lover.