Archive for the 'climate change' Category

Great, Green Job Opening

I’m hiring! Rather, the state agency I work for is hiring me a full-time assistant to work on the Governor’s Commuter Challenge (I am the program manager). Full job description and link to apply is here

Perhaps I’m biased, but this is the coolest project in the greenest state in the nation (Oregon). The theme of the Challenge is “Save Money, Reduce Emissions, Share The Ride.” My assistant program manager will help me reach out to 8,500 Capitol Mall employees and encourage them to commute without driving alone, with a special emphasis on carpooling.

Please help spread the word to people who want to work in sustainability.

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John Edwards Endorses Obama: Yes

Former U.S. Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., at a campaign stop in Adel on April 20, 2007.I’m happy to see John Edwards’ endorsement of Barack Obama for president.

I had liked John Edwards very much as a presidential candidate, himself, and was sorry when he left the race in January. He was the only major candidate with the guts to talk about sacrifice (less consumption!) in the face of global warming, and to name corporations as predators who often work against the well-being of citizens.

I voted for Obama in the Oregon primary myself, being convinced not just by his overall vision, but particularly by this: he rejects the notion (that Hillary and McCain embrace) that the U.S. should suspend the gas tax for the summer.

Driving A Prius In The Wild West

My job in transportation options has taken me, in a new Prius, to the high desert town of Bend, Oregon (recently named by American Cowboy magazine in its Top Ten list of wild-west towns). The Prius, mud-splattered from the Santiam Pass, is now dusted with snow as well, so it reminds me of an Appaloosa pony.

Appaloosa mare running
photo by emokidsdontcryx3

Oh, don’t I wish. Horses are cool.

So my Prius (actually my employer’s, not mine) informs me it is getting 46 miles per gallon on this trip. Excellent mileage compared to SUV’s, and of course with every gallon of gas we burn creating 20 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, I’m saving a few hundred pounds of emissions over driving an average car. Also, this hybrid handles and performs beautifully, front-wheel drive and all. The Prius is so popular in our motor-pool that I couldn’t extend my use of it to a third day.

The downside of not just the Prius, other hybrids and actually all gas and energy conservation measures is that if we don’t stay conscious of the reality of peak oil, we can easily offset our conservation measures to some degree by then driving or consuming more carelessly. The irony of our nation’s overconsumption is that it does not make us happier. Juliet Schor, the Harvard economist, shows this clearly in her body of research.

Bearing that in mind, I am parking my Appaloosa-colored Prius this afternoon and taking a vanpool with about ten colleagues over to Redmond, saving a few hundred more pounds of emissions. Kind of like taking a stagecoach in the days of the old West. I wish.

Why Bother? Three Great Reasons

Of all the good pieces in today’s Green Issue of New York Times magazine, “Why Bother?” by Michael Pollan is the one that helps us see that lower-consumption lifestyles are crucial in dealing with global warming, Inventors and legislators cannot rescue us.

1.) Pollan points out that being a role model is powerful. As various citizens like you and me consume significantly less, especially in terms of fossil fuels, other people will follow our example. Social change tends to happen exponentially (much faster than linear growth). I would add that people will especially follow the example of us diamond-cut lifers as they see we are happy in our simplicity, with a high quality of life (different from a high standard of living, which is measured just by volume of consumption).

2.) Acting ‘as if’ can make amazing things happen. Pollan cites how Vaclav Havel and Adam Michnik were instrumental in bringing freedom to the Soviet blok by acting as if they lived in a free society. We need to act as if we are living in a sustainable society, one that intends to still be existing seven generations down the road.

3.) A reason of mine that Pollan did not address: we sustainability artists who live well by consuming less are working out the kinks in all the new systems and ways. I really mean the old systems and ways: growing a good percentage of our own food; skillfully using public transit, biking, carpooling and walking for transportation; sharing valuable items within a community instead of one-item-per-person. We are blazing the trail so that when various collapses start happening, these survival skills will be in the social knowledge-base.

Me? I’ve been working in our food garden and enjoying a car-free weekend, using my legs and a TriMet bus to get me everywhere I’m going — church, the film “End of Suburbia” at the Bagdad on Hawthorne, and a dinner party reunion of our cross-country skiing group. Fun!

Our Portland CRAG Launches!

Last night five friends of mine, new and old, got together at Colleen and Thad’s house in NE Portland. We had wine, a delicious potluck dinner and animated-to-hilarious planning of our Carbon Action Reduction Group.

Honestly, it would have been fun and funny even without the wine. The four sled dogs milling around our legs added a lot to the happy hubbub. Bottom line: We’re going to do it! We’re responding to global warming by measuring our households’ carbon footprints and working together to control and reduce them. This is the basic spreadsheet each household will use.

Probably because I was the initial instigator, I get to be the group’s ‘accountant’ in the first year. I accepted this role only because Ewan O’Leary, who is starting his own carbon-offset business, is going to help me. (I love teamwork.) We are naturally open to new members: please post a comment at top of this article if you’re interested.

If you are sitting there thinking you are definitely not ready for this CRAG thing yourself, don’t feel alone. Here is what some of my friends said at the prospect. And I am absolutely still friends with them; I’m even going hiking with Micki tonight. I do believe, though, that my frequent-commenter Mick down in Berkeley is thinking about starting a CRAG, himself. Hope he’ll keep us posted. 🙂

Our Carbon Reduction Group

The funny thing about climate change (also known as global warming) is that it is so invisible to us, while so serious. Our daily lives here in the affluent U.S. don’t look different despite the icecaps melting, etc. But our lives should look different — we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050. So Colleen and I are starting a Carbon Reduction Action Group (here is my first look at this).

This means we and whoever joins us will be counting our households’ monthly greenhouse gas emissions in three ways: our heating bills, electricity bills and transportation (personal use, not business use). The idea is healthy competition with ourselves to steadily reduce our emissions down to a sustainable level, especially given that government is not taking the lead.

To clarify, CRAG in the United Kingdom is a Carbon Rationing Action Group. I’ve noticed though that the term ‘rationing’ is seen differently in the UK than in the U.S., i.e. with less morbid fear. So I’m doing as some others have done by using the term ‘carbon reduction action group’ rather than ‘carbon rationing action group’. Got to respect your market.

If you find this idea daunting you’re not alone. Half my friends freaked at the idea of counting and reporting their emissions. But I know in my gut this is absolutely doable. More soon.

Learning To Count Carbon

I posted my thoughts on Bear Stearns right after it collapsed. But a deeper problem even than the money-drunk nature of our culture is the way we count.

Our economic system hasn’t yet learned how to count in a way that reflects reality. Natural systems like air, soil and water (also known as the primary world) are holding up our whole civilization. Our economy is predicated on them and would collapse in their absence. Yet we assign them no value in our Gross Domestic Product, which unfortunately gives us every incentive to squander them in the course of making and consuming the things that are counted in GDP. Most of those things, in turn, contribute very little to our happiness.

The other thing we need to learn to count is carbon emissions. They’re the primary drivers of global warming and all of us are creating them every time we drive and fly and most of the time that we use electricity. If carbon emissions were counted and taxed we would create them more sparingly. They’re not taxed, partly because we haven’t figured out how to count them, and also because we lack the public and political will to do it.

All the market players, government, businesses and individuals alike, will be continuing to operate in economic unreality until we have a carbon tax and also accurate valuations of what natural resources actually contribute to the economy. The cost of these delusions, of our not knowing how to count, is exponentially escalating climate change with economic impacts that will make the Bear Stearns collapse look like a fond memory.