Apr 26, 2007

new digs

Hope you like this, I'm not convinced so expect further changes. Frankly, the green was driving me crazy! California is reverting to it's golden/brown state w/ the onset of the dry season. I'm invoking that here. Green isn't the only color of environmentalism.

Apr 25, 2007

Caution: Heady and (local) Wine Influenced

Lately, some other environmentally bent bloggers (Colin Beavan and Sara Gottlieb ) have questioned what we're sustaining, where we draw the lines of our commitments to conservation. Without reading any research on this line of conservation theory, here's a basic outline of what I think sustainability means, and the way that I approach those goals.

When I refer to sustainability, I'm addressing human lifestyles that will allow the persistence of the range of life forms that we currently enjoy on Earth. Most important to me, is the preservation of habitats such that all species can play out their destinies without an overbearing human influence. I take an eco-centric view of life, not prizing humanity above the rest to the extent that this is possible. I am human after all.

Clearly people are part of nature, and thus enjoy the same sanctity that I ascribe to life, in general. Clearly our actions must be viewed in this context of humans as part of nature. Some folks see a division between the tech fix greenies and the simple lifers. I guess I fall closer to the simple lifer side without rejecting the places where technology can help us.

I try to view sustainability through a community lens, which becomes more difficult as we globalize and homogenize, attempting to convince the world that the US standard of living should be a goal. My ecological footprint needs to be such that I'm not personally overdrawing resources to the detriment of other species, and indeed to the detriment of my own kind in less wealthy regions of the world.

As I've come to these conclusions (which I'm sure will transform over time) I've found a need to examine my life in terms of the basics (food, water, shelter, family) and modern human existences (transportation, employment, societial position). I feel I should consume resources at a rate that allows their regeneration in such time that those resources, and any others dependent upon them, do not disappear as a result of my wants.

Colin asked what lines we draw. I feel like I draw the line at my health, and I even weigh that (a bit obsessively) at times. So I'm healthy enough to get around by bike, so I ride. But I need anti-inflammatories so I take them! I'm a healthy vegetarian w/o supplements. I was an unhealthy vegan, even with supplements.

I also draw a line where privilege meets right. This is perhaps the most difficult to define, and it is highly personal. I believe in a right to food, water, shelter, self determination, and knowledge. I find our abilities to attain these are highly variable. I only aspire that my own pursuit of these rights allow other people and life the same opportunities.

Apr 22, 2007

Happy Earth Day!

I woke up expecting rain, but for the moment it's sunny! Here's to McLaren Park Earth Day, all the other projects like it, and our tender planet, which inspires us all.

Apr 20, 2007

Learning about the Carbon Economy

My alarm went off this morning before seven, waking me in the middle of a dream about the assasination of Al Gore. I guess my brain got my recent viewing of "Bobby" confused with my impending morning at the American Association of Geographers conference. There were several sessions today on Theorizing the Carbon Economy.

I saw the first one, which included a very interesting discussion by Sam Randalls about using northern science as the exclusive guide to environmentalism. He spoke about carbon colonialism and the way climate stabilization functions as a progression of mondernity's attempt to control the world. This was all new for me, and at 8 AM, I was wide awake. Wow.

Kathleen McAfee (from SFSU, my alma mater) went into the idea of trading nature to save it. She questioned whether there were net gains in conservation through these carbon (and other ecosystem services) schemes. A lot of this resonated with me.

And Emily Boyd really got my brain swirling with her paper on theorizing the carbon economy. It was illuminating to learn that London is at the center of this new economy, with huge businesses set to profit off of this enterprise in the coming years. And there were concerns with the way these offsets are administered and who stands to benefit. Boyd referenced a scenario in China where people are convinced to plant trees. Ok, so now they're stuck in contracts for the next 30 years with these trees. They can't eat the trees. The time scale is just huge.

I went to the session in part to deepen my own understanding of the carbon economy, what with all this hype about buying offsets. I have considered buying offsets, but as I don't think I'm well enough informed of their actual effect, I haven't. I'm glad I didn't. I've always kinda thought that the offset idea was impractical, or a license to pollute. But I've thought about it for flights. Next month my univeristy is sending me to SoCal to present my research on off-leash dog recreation at a student research competition. I'd rather take a bus, but they're sending us by plane.

I have more learning to do, but before I buy an offset, I'd like to know I'm not locking a farmer into a lifestyle that he can't sustain for 30 years. I'd like to know that I'm not building an economic sector that will be dependent on further pollution. I'd like to know that I'm not buying into an inherently elitist system that prioritizes my flying privileges over the land use rights of people in less developed countries.

Right now I think I'm much better off taking personal responsibility for my carbon emissions and doing my best to keep them low as I can only do so much to offset them (like community organizing for earth day, habitat restoration, etc)

I missed the session that followed. It included a paper w/ the title, "An Inconvenient Celebrity? Promises and Pitfalls of Celebrity Involvement in Climate Change Science, Policy, and the Public".

Apr 16, 2007

A friend in Sweden sent me a link about a climate action at an airport. I'm so impressed. Scroll down for an English description of the action. The pictures are great, too.

Apr 13, 2007

Convincing Cats to Crap on Corn

I know I've blown a lot of smoke about how companion animals are super Compactors. Someone recently remarked to me that dogs have about 10 posessions, all of which we supply. Ok, so my cats have way more than 10 posessions, the vast majority of which were aquired pre-Compact.
But I'm trying to reduce Quivus and Zalaazil's ecological pawprints by switching to corn based litter. They already eat organic, raw food from a local supplier, so we feel good about their diet. It's what comes out the other side of digestion that's bugging my housemate and myself.

If you're asking why we haven't made this transition already, note that we've tried. Why were they ever on crystals? Long story, quite sad, involving a much younger Quivus (Kwi-vis; mangled Latin meaning "whatever") and a broken pelvis.

Generally our attempts to green our cats' poop habits ends with some yellow on a treasured item. That incites either myself or my housemate to lament the amount of water and Nature's Miracle we have to consume just to save the stack of towels, pile of sheets, or our security deposit.

New strategy though! We are working with 2 litterboxes these days. One w/ corn based litter, one w/ crystals. Zalaazil (zaa-laa-zel, Arabic for "earthquakes") likes this set up, all the more to mark. Quivus shuns the corn thus far; our little girl is addicted to crystal, but I think there's hope.

Apr 11, 2007

Sierra Snowpack

From the SF Public Utilities Commission:
"Following the fourth driest winter on record and concerned about possible first year drought conditions, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) today urged its 2.4 million San Francisco and Bay Area customers to curtail water consumption in the coming months to help avert possible mandatory rationing and deeper water consumption limits later this year. According to the latest measures, March precipitation at the Hetch Hetchy reservoir was just 27% of normal and the Sierra snowpack in the region is at just 46% of normal for the season."

And Colin Beavan was on the Colbert Report.

Apr 10, 2007

McLaren Park Earth Day

Plans for McLaren Park Earth Day are well underway! What an exciting day for southeast SF.
Today I snagged name tags from SCRAP so that staff will be identifiable. While I was there I saw a fifty gallon drum full of waterbottles. I took fifty to put into the canvas bags (also from SCRAP) that I'm giving out to the first 50 participants. We've decided to have water stations with biodegradable cups.

I also had the pleasure to meet some community activists at the Bayview Hunter's Point Foundation for Community Improvement. I was introduced to a local dance artist who works not only with his own group, Sick with It, but also with other youth in a group called Gig Squad. I was also given the contact info for Bread Me Out Family.We hope to schedule these performers to kick off the event. I'm very excited to have the ear of these local performers!

I've arranged 3 bike rides to McLaren Park for the event. I'm kinda trippin' b/c they haven't appeared on bikespring.org yet, but the word has gone out along other channels.

This Earth Day celebration is all about local community and local action. It's an opportunity to learn about the various efforts of our neighbors to positively impact the local environment. If you're working on an Earth Day project in your community, post a comment so perhaps we can learn from each other.

Apr 6, 2007

Shout Out to SF Cyclists

SF cyclists have had a rough week, following the publication of a one-sided account of an altercation at last week's Critical Mass. I was at CM and it was a wonderful ride that wound into the Excelsior, onto Alemany and Bayshore, down 3rd St to the Giants game. I bailed after we hit the Giants game.
Many of us exchanged compliments and exultations via email about the route and the vibe afterward. Wow, was I shocked to read the SFChronicle articles this week, slamming the ride and cyclists in general because of an alteration between an auto driver and a handful of cyclists. I was stunned by Mayor Newsom's words for the SF Bike Coalition.
There was another lopsided article today from the guys who wrote the original piece, which was entirely from the perspective of the auto driver and some SFPD officers.
This column is about limo driver. I saw this limo driver by city hall, I even contacted these journalists on Friday and offered my account b/c I got wind of this article, but they did not respond. The limo guy was driving among the throng of cyclists. From his position (on the right side at the beginning of the block), it seemed as though he headed into the mass purposefully, though he may have very well just gotten stuck. I tried to engage him because he was driving among the mass. I was waving a sucker, which I was giving out to drivers and pedestrians. They had little pieces of paper attached that said, "Thank you for your patience".
He would not stop so I stopped in front of his car, because I was concerned that he was going to hit someone. I fully support helping drivers exit to the right at Critical Mass, but he was at the beginning of a block and his aggressive approach seemed dangerous at the time. As soon as I corked him, he got out of his car. I was smiling and offering him a sucker. He grabbed me and my bike and started shaking me. Perhaps he was trying to drag me, I was holding my brakes down, trying to stay up right. The man was about twice my size, a good 6 inches taller than me. He was commenting about how, "there [were] no cops here". I was telling him to get back in his car and pull over the the right and relax (though in retrospect he was all the way to the curb so he didn't need to actually pull anywhere, he just needed to relax).
This exchange lasted about 15 seconds. Several riders saw what was happening and slowed to help me. They stopped w/ good intentions, but most of them were guys and the driver immediately released me and started arguing with them. I saw a friend who was watching, rolled up to him and actually left rather quickly.
Perhaps I should have stayed. I felt like I had no control over what would occur between the driver and the other cyclists. I don't like altercations at CM or when I cycle daily. My instinct at CM is to encourage folks to keep moving when something like this happens.
I don't try to piss off drivers. I didn't cork this guy out of arrogance, but b/c I thought someone might get hurt. Some CM riders have called me the PR lady b/c I constantly ride up to auto drivers, especially the ones who look angry, and thank them for their patience. During the Katrina memorial ride, I handed out Mardi Gras beads to drivers and peds, trying to engage them w/ the message.
I realize that a lot of folks hate Critical Mass, but a lot of folks also treat us like shit everyday that we ride. Yep, every day cyclists are harassed, doored, and hit by cars in this town. Keep all of this Critical Mass hype in perspective: A couple of cyclists got out of control AFTER a couple of drivers got out of control. Property damage occurred because some cyclists tried to prevent people from getting hurt. And it's silly to play this whole chicken or the egg thing. Bikes were invented long before cars!
peace, co-existence, nonviolence

Apr 5, 2007

Bottled Water Sucks

I've decided that we should go about making bottled water less hip. Tap water is sexy, people, so robust, rugged... and yummy. Tap water is so alternative, not mainstream (ha!) at all.
Check out the bottled water pledge on the SF Dept of the Environment's website.
Take it. Water is a serious environmental justice issue. And while I could drink bottled water as a Compactor, that's silly.
I found this image in an article about "Steve Trewhella who adopted his local beach in Dorset and organises regular clean-ups". Stewardship, like tap water, is Compact friendly. Beach cleaning is a laudable alternative to shopping.

I wish I could figure out how to supply McLaren Park Earth Day with non-bottled water. I'm thinking about trying to get ahold of a bunch of water coolers via freecycle. We could refill them throughout the day. But I might be the only one who's down for this idea because it will be so labor intensive.

Apr 3, 2007

Home Purge

7 years ago I moved to San Francisco with an army duffle bag, rolling suitcase, backpack, and pillow. I also shipped my computer here. I was 19, leaving in Georgia my folks, my horse, dog, and 5 cats. And a ton of material crap I now can't believe I ever had.
I have way more shit now. And while I consider it to be of higher quality (for the most part) the volume of things is astounding.
I purged my room tonight, found tons of stuff I wish I had taken to the Really Really Free Market on Saturday. I discovered a bounty of paper begging to be recycled - mostly manuals from Apple products long gone or out of warranty.
I also discovered that I have 5 leashes, 4 correction collars, 3 soft collars, 2 gentle leaders, two id tags and no dog. And yet, none of these items made it into the "bye bye" pile.
I'm blaming this on the Compact, believe it or not. See, this whole purge is a step toward my move to London. But I'm actually considering hanging on to crap as a result of my anti-consumerist experiment - because I don't want to have to find these things later! It's that weird tendency to guard my possessions that I've noticed several times in the past 15 months. I'm actually considering moving about 120 degrees of longitude w/ a small stash of ALL of the possible things I could need. Seriously, like even binder clips, envelopes and notebook paper or my supply of volunteer t-shirts (my veritable uniform for dog walking), b/c I have a TON of that shit here.
Am I destined to arrive for grad school w/ a duffle full of office supplies?

Apr 1, 2007

RRFM, Church of Stop Shopping

Yesterday's Really Really Free Market was celebratory and fun. Live music, juggling lessons, fresh coffee and everyone sharing their excess. Every month I manage to look around my apartment and find something to take along that someone else wants or needs.

I can't sing, but if I could, I'd join the Stop Shopping Choir. I just saw the Reverend Billy's movie, not What Would Jesus Buy, but the documentary out on dvd. I love the creativity of the in-store actions and street performances. It's been about a year since I've been to a Church of Stop Shopping service. Like the RRFM, the Church is engaging and community oriented. http://www.revbilly.com/