Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Al Gore's Big House

Or houses?

Media has had news about the allegedly "global warming" utility bills for Al Gore's residences; the preacher against global warming.

I saw his movie, "Inconvenient Truth." It's one of the few movies I have seen since I am not one for Hollywood, celebrities and their big houses.

I liked the movie.

Yes, the message is important, we do need to address global warming. My main complaint about the movie was not seeing bicycles. I don't think he mentioned bicycles. One can walk away knowing we have a global warming problem while feeling helpless about solutions.

Yes, celebrities, politicians and so forth live in big houses all too often. Would you listen to some cleaning lady, or janitor, like me?

Not long ago, I heard someone on the radio complain that Wikipedia wouldn't allow articles about "just anyone down the street." Try doing an entry for the cleaning lady.

Does someone have to live in a big house to have a voice?

Also, just about everyone drives.

We all live in Al Gore's big house, it's our Planet Earth.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Conversation about The Compact

The compact to not buy new things was a topic on KUOW Radio's "The Conversation" yesterday (February 26). A group of folks making a compact not to buy new things except for a few exceptions such as food. This can reduce consumption. They have a Yahoo group and so forth.

Interesting idea.

I haven't taken any pledge against new items, but I don't consume as much as most folks around me.

One caller worried that such movements could put folks out of work. Less consumption means less manufacturing and retailing.

Here is where we can connect two movements. There is a movement for "shorter work week." A quote I once saw said, "work less, buy less, live more fully."

Having a family can make downsizing more difficult. Kids are often influenced by peer pressure and advertising for shiny new products. They can become like "Trojan horses" residing in the household and bringing demands for things they see on TV or at friend's places.

Still, several callers with kids said that their children were understanding and going along with the program, so to speak.

My lifestyle is quite austere. I have no one's demands to worry about, but myself.

Being single has advantages.

Single living is be more the story of my lifestyle than being gay. While listening to that show, I checked my email and found this piece about how to tell you are gay.

Here are the 3 top items that came to view in that email.

You know you are gay if:

1. You wear appropriate underwear for each of your dates.
2. You understand the subtle differences between at least 20 brands of vodka.
3. You understand the immense importance of good (or bad) lighting.

Much of identifying with various strands of culture revolve around consumption. Whether you are an SUV driving "soccer mom," or a fashion conscious gay male, the stereotypical norms of our culture are often defined by the products we buy.

Here are some questions to ponder.

Does downsizing make one a loner in this culture?

Is being a loner necessarily bad?

Is having a nice car, clothing, furniture, living space a prerequisite for dating and being in a relationship (either gay or straight?)

Are there other ways of feeling connected besides being in a relationship; being the top catch for a date?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

One Thousand Two Hundred and Eight Plastic Forks

sadly stuck into the grass in front of poor "Old Main" administration building of Western Washington University.

1208 per hour.

I rush by. "Is that 1208 more mouths having to be fed each hour on planet Earth?" Over population. The grass sure does look tired and trampled. It's been winter. Lawns look beet up, dormant, full of dog droppings, litter, plastic forks.

Not yet the vibrancy of spring.

Next day, I look again. "NO." It's not 1208 more mouths, it's 1208 people who die each hour, from malnutrition related causes.

1208 each hour. Could be you or I.

It's a fund raiser for university students to go with out eating for 30 hours and donate $2 to some hunger relief fund.

I remember a similar campaign during my college days, so many years ago.

It still seems like the poor old Earth is too crowded and burdened. One can feel overwhelmed. Ready to walk on by and forget.

It's nice to be generous and charitable, but an ocean of hunger can be deeper than even Earth's "fished out" oceans. Of course fish farming and better distribution of wealth can bring more to the table of satisfaction.

Still, it seems like we're losing ground.

Also found on tired lawns, just before Spring's vibrancy begins:

Old condoms.

Another thing sprouting all over Bellingham:

New condominium developments.

Of course compact condominiums are better than single "family values" acres of sprawl. And condoms are one of many good ideas.

Let's put two and two together and address the world population explosion.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Alternative Fuels Raceway?

There are some folks who want the State of Washington to help fund a Nascar racing track in Kitsap County. Bad idea, as I am not into competition and all that oil consumption.

There is another proposal, in the Legislature, to use our state motor vehicle fleet for giving a push to locally produced bio-fuels. Money for converting school buses, state cars and so forth to alternative fuel.

I put two and two together. How about a state subsidized "alternative fuel race track?"

If the state were to fund something like this, it might be justified as a way to "drive" new technology. Western Washington University has a program for building cars that run on alternative fuel. They have built electric cars, solar cars and so forth. Often, I read that these cars are entered into competitions in various parts of the world.

Maybe even this wouldn't be a good idea.

I hear bio-fuels aren't that good. The amount of energy consumed in growing the crops can cancel the benefit. Today's Bellingham Herald had an article about dairy farmers who are worried that bio-fuel demand is pushing up corn prices, thus raising the cost of producing milk.

I have to have reasonably priced chocolate milk to run my bicycling.

Forget the bio-fuels and the idea of a competitive Nascar track, even my thoughts about an "alternative fuel" race track. I've got to have my chocolate milk.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Oil On The Brain

Title of an interesting book. I heard the author, Lisa Margnelli, interviewed today on KUOW's show called "The Beat."

Interview is still in KUOW Radio archive for The Beat, February 20 07. It's about half way through that hour long show.

Pictured on right is drilling rig I saw off southern California coast during my 2003 bicycle tour.

She talked about how much our oil economy is driven by the consumer.

Following the pipeline all the way from filling stations striving to keep the customer happy to gas truck drivers "doing what it takes" to make sure the station remains stocked. She met one driver who wore shorts in the truck because gas spilled on one's leg is better than gas soaked pants. That can turn one into a human torch.


Then there's the refineries. There's all that effort placed in cracking geological formations to get out the increasingly hard to tap reserve.

She even visited some oil exporting nations such as Iran, Nigeria and Venezuela. In Venezuela, she described one woman who was waiting in a cardboard hut for over 20 years for her promised benefit of a new house from government oil revenues.

The interview describes it much better than I. It's quite interesting.

Of course the conclusion involved trying to use less oil. She mentioned things like tele-commuting, more efficient cars, car-pooling.

I would add to this the story of my lifestyle. I've never driven a car! Bicycling, walking and public transit has met that the only time I "filled up at the pump" was for a lawn mower. That was part of a lawn mowing job I had in college.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Viking Biker Rune passed through Bellingham before crossing Canada in winter

Last November, a person named Rune passed through Bellingham on his way around the world. Traveling by bicycle. He was headed for Canada, to bike across that country in the winter.

Yes, the
WINTER. Rune's home country is Norway.

By now, he is crossing prairie provinces and one can follow the trip on his blog, Vikingbiker's Diary. Lots of interesting pictures, Youtube videos and so forth.

An interesting contrast to my kind of cycling. His sleeping bag cost $800, while I lucked out and found mine at the Grocery Outlet (of all places) for $10. Of course, mine is only good in temperatures above 45 F. I only bike tour in the summer. His has to be good in weather down to maybe 30 F. below zero.

I forgot the exact number, but cold.

His kind of biking is more extreme than mine. Not only is he crossing Canada in the winter, he headed north (after crossing the Canadian border) to Prince Rupert, BC. before starting his eastward trek across the country.

Wanted to get even farther north, I guess.

His dramatic trip is generating a lot of media coverage; newspapers, TV and radio stations. In the media, he often says he wants to see the world now. See the world now because after one gets married, one basically stops doing things like this.

I guess that would be "going from one extreme to another." "World traveler" to "nester."

As for me, I prefer more moderate cycling. One or two month "summer vacation" trips while keeping my job and rented room, here in town. I've been across the USA, but only in the summer. I'm not planning to marry, but have met bike tourists who do travel as a couple. Others leave their spouses at home while doing a tour. For moderate trips at least.

I've done nothing as extreme as biking around the world or crossing Canada in the winter, but bike touring remains a part of my lifestyle; year after year.

Everyone is different.

Rune is having a great time and it's fun to follow his progress on the web. One of his Youtube videos with snow blowing across the road is quite memorable.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Pacific Northwest outgrowing it's hydroelectric resource

Image: power line near Bonneville Dam.

Governor Gregoire has signed an executive order called "Washington Climate Change Challenge."

Someday they might come up with a better name.

Basically this challenge means "rolling back greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020."

Good idea, but a hard step to take due to population growth.

Yes, population growth is a big factor.

Most Northwest electricity used to be "non greenhouse gas emitting" hydro-power.

Dams on the rivers.

We've built just about all the dams we can, but our population and economy keeps growing.

We've outgrown our rivers!

I hear that the percentage of power which the Northwest gets from
hydro-electric sources keeps dropping. It's been dropping for years.

New people means having to get power from new sources.

If we can't build anymore dams, "new sources" has been natural gas, coal and nuclear.

That is in the past at least. Hopefully we can also be adding some new power from green energy sources such as wind and solar.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Washington State Initiative 957 has just been filed

It would require heterosexual couples to have kids within three years or else their marriage would be annulled.

I doubt it would get enough signatures to make the ballot, but it's sure succeeding in starting a lot of conversations.

Let us add to that conversation a link between "sexual politics" and "environmental politics."

Population, procreation; it doesn't make sense to persecute alternative lifestyles, such as gay lifestyles, while the world's getting too crowded and the north pole is melting. Look at all the traffic.

So, let the conversation roll and let's start talking sexual politics linked to environmental politics.

I doubt that Initiative 957 is a serious initiative. It is basically a conversation starter. Filed in response to a recent Washington State Supreme Court ruling against gay marriage.

Court ruling called Andersen V. King County.

This decision, declared that a “legitimate state interest” allows the Legislature to limit marriage to those couples able to have and raise children together. Because of this “legitimate state interest,” it is permissible to bar same-sex couples from legal marriage.

This initiative to also bar "child free" heterosexual couples from marriage may not go real far, toward the ballot, but it's going a long ways in editorial pages, blogs and radio talk shows. Now that the conversation is starting, it is time to link this discussion to environmental issues. How much procreation do we want to promote in this world, or do we want to embrace some alternatives?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Oil well near a Taco Bell drive through

Production not far from consumption.

While most oil for US lifestyles is imported, some is produced locally in places like Southern California.

Thinking about my last post for a tax on imported oil.

Domestic oil production would be exempt from such a tax.

A tax on oil imports is a good idea overall, but would not be without side effects. For instance it would likely encourage drilling for oil in places like Alaska's Anwar Arctic Wildlife Refuge. Maybe that wouldn't be the end of the world.

American's tend to rail against the drilling consequences of oil consumption, but then drive home from the protest.

I saw this interesting juxtaposition of land uses during my 2003 bicycle trip down the west coast. This was in the Huntington Beach area. Ironically, very nice bike paths in that area. Much of Southern California has real nice paths along the beaches and other spots.