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Archive for April, 2008

Just a quick note

For anyone (gasp) reading this that does not know me personally — I am moving tomorrow. I don’t have internet set up, yet, so I’ll probably be offline for a little while.

Do not panic. A Day Closer to Fate will return with it’s unscheduled posts as soon as I get me some internets. Most likely, but don’t quote me on this, with many posts because I’ll be bored without youtube to keep me busy and will write quite a bit.

See you soon! *waves*

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The world is falling apart. The crash has started.

Time for some music to inspire and calm 🙂


http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=pGoIXgUWWck

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The other problem I have with greenwashing is the… assumptions that come from it where “Green = expensive.” Since most greenwashed (I’m gonna guess that’s what you’d call it) products have more to do with the corporation making money and less to do with the real environmental impact.

Green should equal frugal (for the most part. There are, of course, going to be things that are more expensive if they’re environmentally friendly).

Let’s go over a common frugal saying, shall we?

Wear it out

Wear clothing until they fall off and then using the scraps either in new clothes/as patches or as rags. Avoiding “planned obsolescence” by using reusable stuff in place of stuff designed specifically to get you to part with more money (and not being designed for what you’re using it for). Giving stuff to thrift stores or charities when you’re truly finished with it. Getting the maximum use and value out of every item that comes into your life. That certainly doesn’t cost any extra, most of the time it costs less, and it’s one of the best things a person can do for the environment.

Less trash, less consumption, more reusing, more money in consumers pockets. Sounds like a win-win situation.

Use it up

This is very similar to wear it out, except I see it as referring more to items which are meant to be consumable. Eating all of the leftovers in the fridge before they go bad. (The Simple Dollar has a very good article on making leftovers less icky located right here.) Squeezing the last of a toiletry out of the bottle (rinsing shampoo out, cutting the end of a toothpaste tube off, etc.). And stuff like that.

Once again, you spend less money and create less trash. Both the environment and your wallet benefit.

Make it do

I love this part. This is probably my favourite part, because it can mean so much. What can you “make do”? Make an older set of dishes do for another year or two. They’re not chipped/cracked/lost, just not as shiny as the new set in the store (remember that set will be just as un-shiny in a couple of months as your current set). Make one car do for the family/neighbourhood. Go a step further and make a bicycle and/or public transit do! Does everyone on you block really need their own vaccuum cleaner? Does every member of your family need their own computer? (To me that there is harder to give up than all the cars and vaccuum cleaners and new dishes in the world.)

Will last year’s wardrobe still do? What if you bought this year’s (season’s) wardrobe (second hand!) so that if you asked the same question in a year the answer would then be “yes”? Can you make the supplies you currently have for entertainment do? Everything from libraries to something that can be very equipment light (I spin poi, which requires one set of poi for me to do).

I’m sure you can see how all of this is both frugal and environmentally friendly.

Do without

Ew. I won’t lie, sometime this part SUCKS. But there are many good parts too. Do without expensive green cleaners and the cancer conventional cleaning products cause and use baking soda and vinegar. (I have one of the world’s worst non-AIDS/HIV immune system. Trust me, if vinegar wasn’t really antibacterial I’d probably be dead by now.)

Do without the impulse buy that you never want beyond the five minutes it takes to purchase it. After that you just need to clean it and eventually get rid of it. I’ve never understood why people bother… I get the whole “I bought it before I thought” concept. After all, marketers and the people who design store layouts have spent years and TONS of money in order to trick you into buying that do-dad. There’s generally no rules saying you can’t return it as soon as you realize you didn’t actually mean to buy it. Within reason of course. (The best way to avoid impulse purchases is to stick to a list, to count to ten and then ask yourself if you really need it, and to limit your exposure to advertising.)

Do without the health problems conventional food causes and the high prices of big name organic and buy from a farmer’s market — or better yet grow some yourself.

I’d rather do without voluntarily than be forced to do without.

A common “environmentalist” saying is (I’m sure you’ve heard this, all together now!) Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. It’s time to focus less on the recycle (which is last for a reason and I lean more towards it being least important) and more on reducing and reusing.

PS. Watch the story of stuff! It’s a bit condescending in tone (I think the target audience might be children) but it really makes you think and covers a lot rather briefly. I may or may not do a full commentary on it in the future, but if fits with this post so away you go now!

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Hunger crisis and what you can do (pass it on)

The part that made me cry was this:
In the sprawling slum of Haiti’s Cité Soleil, Placide Simone, 29, offered one of her five offspring to a stranger. “Take one,” she said, cradling a listless baby and motioning toward four rail-thin toddlers, none of whom had eaten that day. “You pick. Just feed them.”

I think it’s only going to get worse. I was going to write about the possibility that corn would be rationed this year, and how much that will screw with our food prices (and availability) but the article talking about the rationing got taken down.

Just consider this: corn is heavily subsidized, and in most processed food. What do you think will happen when the main ingredient in most processed crap food is suddenly taken from the free market? Especially considering the fact that this “junk food” has been effectively lowering in price — so that sometimes that’s all the poorer people can afford.

Suddenly the “food” that the poor are eating is either no longer available or is made with more expensive ingredients. I think anything we can do, anything at all, to soften the blow of that should be done.

Right now it’s just the Haitians that need to eat dirt. It’s going the wrong way: we need to get it to be less people that eat dirt, not more.

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Dumb article in NYT

Article is here: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/05/business/05oil1.html?pagewanted=2&_r=3

I know. Who does she think she is, taking on a New York Times article?!
This… article just seems so… flawed to me. Let’s read through it together, shall we? (Only the parts I’m commenting on have been pasted here, you really should read the whole article to ensure I’m not taking anything out of context.)

…higher oil prices have made it economical for companies to go after reserves that are harder to reach.

And later

Many oil executives say that these so-called peak-oil theorists fail to take into account the way that sophisticated technology, combined with higher prices that make searches for new oil more affordable, are opening up opportunities to develop supplies.

Ok. Let’s review what “peak oil” means. It means the running out of oil which is cheap. Or, it means that the oil prices have risen. Wait. Wasn’t this article trying to prove that peak oil didn’t exist? (I certainly stumbled across it from someone trying to use it that way ) And right here they’re stating that this magical new technology is only useful when oil prices are as high as they are!

Oil companies say they can provide enough supplies — which might eventually lead to lower oil and gasoline prices — but that they see few alternatives to fossil fuels.

Y’know, I can make enough widgets to meet supply. Honest. And, there isn’t anything that will replace my widgets. No siree bob!

Of course the oil companies aren’t going to admit to alternatives! C’mon, that’d be just stupid! Businesses don’t tend to hand consumers over to their competition willingly. And if the oil companies went, “oh, yes, solar panels attached to the roof of a car would work even better than fueling up with gasoline,” that’s exactly what they’d be doing. (Disclaimer: I have no idea how well solar panels attached to the top of a car would work. I’ve never tried it and never seen research on it. This example was for concrete purposes only.)

Oil companies are returning to old or mature fields partly because there are few virgin places left to explore, and, of those, few are open to investors.

Rough translation: Oil companies are desperate to find more oil and since they’re out of new land to drill in, they must find a way to get more oil out of their old fields.

Some forecasters, studying data on how much oil is used each year and how much is still believed to be in the ground, have argued that at some point by 2010, global oil production will peak — if it has not already — and begin to fall. That drop would usher in an uncertain era of shortages, price spikes and economic decline.

… Yes.

Two [out of three barrels of oil] usually are left behind, either because they are too hard to pump out or because it would be too expensive to do so. Going after these neglected resources, energy experts say, represents a tremendous opportunity.

To me, this screams, “we’re so desperate for oil that we’re going back to the stuff that we previously said wasn’t worth getting.” It’s like waiting until the last minute to buy a prom dress. And going to every store in town, only to return to the first store and buy the ugly, over price dress, since all of the other stores are right sold out. Sure, it’s better than nothing, but you never would have taken it if there had been other options. Why are the oil companies going back to the oil they’ve already said is “too expensive” to get? Is all the other oil gone?

Each well produces about 10 barrels a day at a cost of $16 each. That compares with production costs of only $1 or $2 a barrel in the Persian Gulf, home to the world’s lowest-cost producers.

Now, I’m not sure I understand this part. Do the entire ten barrels cost $16? As saying it is comparable to $1 or $2 a barrel implies. (Ten barrels for $16 would be $1.60 per barrel) or is it right when it said that each barrel costs $16? In which case, there’s no comparison: This new technology costs eight times (we’ll be generous) the amount the cheapest oil costs. Again, peak oil is about oil becoming more expensive than the economy can handle. Upping the costs by eight times is supposed to keep the prices down (therefore avoiding peak oil)… how, exactly?

But as these light sources are depleted, a growing share of the world’s oil reserves are made out of heavier oil. … [heavy oil] can be turned into liquid fuel by enhanced recovery methods like steam-flooding.

So, we’re out of the light stuff that’s cheap to extract and are left with the heavy, expensive-to-extract stuff? Or did I misunderstand something?

After years of underinvestment, oil companies are now in a global race to increase supplies to catch the growth of consumption.

Desperate to produce enough to match the demand.

Back in California, the Kern River field itself seems little changed from what it must have looked like 100 years ago. The same dusty hills are now littered with a forest of wells, with gleaming pipes running along dusty roads. … Each year, the company drills some 850 new wells there.

So, 850 new oil wells every year doesn’t change the scenery? What kinda tripe is this?!

“Yes, there are finite resources in the ground, but you never get to that point,” Jeff Hatlen, an engineer with Chevron, said on a recent tour of the field.

Someone needs to go back to elementary school, and do the exercise where they take buttons out of a cup to learn subtraction. Basic truth: if something is finite, and you’re taking some of it away/using some of it, you will run out. Unless of course, he meant that the company will never be able to get all of the oil out of the ground. Maybe he’s right. But they will still reach a point where they cannot get anymore oil out of the ground. Or where the consumers cannot afford to pay the price to have some new miracle technology (that can only be used after a certain price threshold) extract more oil.

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I’m going to let you in on a terrible secret. One of those things normally I keep hidden away inside of me. Are you ready for this?

I am not going to have kids.

Well, saying “not” is probably a bit of an overstatement. But I almost definitely will not have children. And if I decide to have kids, I will have a single child. One. Not two; Not maybe four. One. And even that probably won’t occur in this lifetime.

Why?

Because of overpopulation. Because I’m no where near alturistic enough to dedicate twenty years of my life to some snot faced brat (okay, if I raised one I probably wouldn’t see him or her that way, but the point still stands). Because the genetic make up of my current boyfriend and me would be a terrible combination to bestow on a poor, innocent, little baby.

Because I’m hardly patient enough to housebreak a puppy, and they are way cuter than human young. Because I don’t think it’s fair to force a child to inherit what will be left of the planet in another thirty years. (Hopefully, I’m being rather pessimistic.)

Because I fall apart when I’m in a bar and someone stumbles towards the bathroom. That moment where I think, “oh, I bet they’re throwing up!” just completely panics me. Usually I have to go home after that. There’s no way I could ever, ever deal with a young child who has the stomach flu. Count me out. Stop the ride — I want off! Child for sale! Free! All stock must gogogo! And then I’d run screaming in the opposite direction. Besides, both sides of my family have a history of terrible morning sickness (when it’s a male baby at least). There’s no way I’m going through one vomiting morning to bring another human being onto this overcrowded planet!

Suffice to say, I think the “must be a mother” gene skipped me over. I also think we need to give incentives to families to have one or two children. No punishments for more (at least not yet) and no sketchy underground, quasi-forced abortions either. But the world’s population needs to be curbed. I’ve heard the easiest way to convince people to have less children is to give mothers some reassurance that their offspring will live into adulthood. So, better health care for everyone? (Don’t look at me, I’m not a politician, I don’t know how that could be achieved!)

I’ve heard it said that in the rich world, where affluence is the problem, overpopulation is most often blamed. And in the poor world, where overpopulation is the problem, affluence is most often blamed. I think both problems need to be addressed. Affluence has the advantage in that it can be worked on immediately. Starting today. Overpopulation needs a couple of generations to … humanely be solved. I think the rich world, with all of it’s benefits, has the heavier burden, since both excessive consumption and overpopulation can be seen. And the responsibility of fixing them is laid where the problem occurs!

So, the first world countries cannot continue to consume at their current level. I’m controversial here. Whenever I see some amazing technology or charity or something that allows third world countries a taste of our lifestyle… I get angry. Because the planet cannot support the entire six billion (it’s not seven billion yet, right?) population within the norm of Canadian, European, American or Australian (or whatever) lifestyles. It’s great that a little kid in South America can have a really cheap laptop. Wonderful. Where’s the equivalent sacrifice in the first world to make up for the use of resources?

I think less time, money and effort needs to be put into raising developing countries to our level and way more needs to be put into lowering our life’s standards to a sustainable norm. So shoot me. Yes, the poor of the world need more resources. The gap really does need to be closed. The movement is going to have to be more downwards from the rich and less upwards from the poor, though. Unfortunately, we are at a point in time where there are an extremely short supply of resources lying around, unused, to pull out of thin air (to use to raise the poor to the rich’s standard of life without affecting said standard).

If you want that kid in Africa to have adequate food, what are you doing to ease your usage of the global food supply? Are you growing a garden? Are you cutting down on your driving instead of feeding your car corn? What about supporting local farmers so that you aren’t taking food from that child and having it shipped to you?

All an individual in the rich world needs to do to solve overpopulation is to either not have any more children, or to limit the amount of children they plan on having. That’s it. One less mouth to feed, couple of less years getting up in the middle of the night to feed a screaming infant, several years less of changing poopy diapers. I mean really, it’s not a lot to ask, is it?

At the same time, the easiest first step to deal with affluence is to start looking at everything one purchases and asking oneself, “do I really need this?” Such a small effort to make such a huge difference. There is, of course, much further to go once that becomes a habit, but it is an excellent place to start. One can worry about gardening, slow clothing, making it themselves, doing without comforts they’ve actually convinced themselves they need, repairing instead of replacing, etc. later. For now, one should worry about buying only that which they actually want or need, instead of letting advertising convince one of one’s needs.

The poor do not have much they can give up. Sadly, I think this burden is mostly going to end up on the shoulders of the rich. The rich who have anything electric do a chore for them, have access to anything they wish to eat at any time of the year, have a roof over their head which does not leak, windows that keep the flies out, doors that keep strangers out, a computer to read this post on.

Maybe they will have to make do with two kids, one car, one television, one computer, one less container of strawberries in December, a smaller house, hanging their clothes to dry and a new wardrobe less often than every six months. I know it’s a lot to ask. Trust me, I could ask more. But, how dare I suggest you give up even one of your comforts so that another person can simply go on living. Deal with it; I’m asking. Are you good enough to answer?

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Greenwashing

“How far into evil can one go in the name of good, before they can no longer be considered good?”

Okay, so I’m totally not a philosopher. There shall be no debate here about what good and evil are. Least, not today.

What I will tell you, is that I think “Greenwashing” is evil. And it’s exactly evil in the way that they’re trying to do good, but missing the mark.

I actually saw a couple of ads on the TV (gasp! I was watching TV? Since when?!) the other night. One was for buying a water filter at Wal*Mart, and since it would, theoretically, stop the purchaser from buying bottled water, Wal*Mart is now a “green” company.

Wait a minute… What?

You heard me. I’m going to write it again. Wal*Mart is calling itself a green (an affordable green, actually) company.

Cue incredulous staring at TV through a couple more commercials. Again. What?

That, my dear friend, is “greenwashing.” When a company/product/whatever declares itself “green” or environmentally friendly — without actually changing to be so. It’s like buying a hybrid car. Yes, it uses less gasoline. Does the electricity-half really not produce carbon dioxide? (I don’t know, doesn’t it?) Does it really use less oil? They’re a step in the right direction… when the walker turns their ankle. A+ for effort; not so much of an actual impact. Sometimes even a hindrance to forward motion.

I’m torn, actually. And I don’t think I’m the only one. Do I turn a blind eye to the greenwashers and just do my best to research what I’m buying? After all, one could argue that they’re raising awareness. And that some of them might be making honest efforts. And some companies might even keep their green(-er) practices up after this “fad” fades. And then there are the consumers who flat out refuse to use truly green products, for whatever reason. Something is always better than nothing, after all.

But what about the people who don’t research? The mindless consumers that think they’re doing “their part” to save the earth because they wash with Tide Coldwater (hey, it’s still filled with icky chemicals– but the whole cold water part is one of those steps in the right direction!)? Sadly, I think this consists of the majority of our society. When was the last time you looked into how a company treats it’s employees? What about how it’s products are shipped? Are they made in sweat shops? Don’t just indignantly claim, “No!” unless you know they weren’t. Is that organic product really natural? Good for the environment? Healthy? Or just labeled organic? What’s actually in those “natural/artificial flavours”? What sort of chemicals are in that shirt to make it that colour? Will washing that product into the sewers damage the surrounding ecosystem?

I could ask myself all of the same questions, by the way. Honestly, I’m sure I look into things more than some people… but I don’t research everything I buy. In part (are you ready?) because, sometimes, I just blindly accept the greenwashing.

There are several cures for greenwashing. The most obvious is to avoid it, but I’m probably biased because I enjoy living under a rock; I tend to avoid pop-culture like the plague. Another would be asking what they gain from hopping on the bandwagon, peddling to the trend. The most time consuming would be actually researching what’s going on behind the scenes. I’ve found the easiest thing to do is to eliminate the middle man (eg, farmer’s markets or a family owned company). After all, if you’re dealing with the person who grew your food you can get more of a feel for the operation (even just by trusting your gut) than when dealing with the high school student bagging your groceries for minimum wage.

So, anyone reading this. Anyone at all. Even you. Yes YOU. What do you think of greenwashing? Has it gone too far into evil to still be considered good? Is it making enough of a positive impact for it’s negative side effects to be overlooked? Am I crazy for considering it evil/good at all?

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