Macro Meme: It’s the environment, stupid.

Blog Action Day Logo I have been in something of a theme with my current reading and when you are keenly aware of a topic it is hard not to notice an aggregation and honing of ideas starting to happen both within me and in the world at large. And since it is Blog Action Day and the both the topic of this year’s action and the one I have been immersed in are the environment, a post seems in order. I have been meaning to post on several environmental topics recently but now these will all just be jumbled into this one post.

  • Cradle to Cradle by By William McDonough & Michael Braungart is a great book I have had on my to read list for many years and really got me thinking about the way we make things. The mindset we have when we create (and ultimately purchase, use, and dispose of) things is crucial to starting to see the full life of that thing – far past its initial use.
  • I have just begun reading The World Without US by Alan Weisman (more on the book, with interviews) and it mirrors nicely with the last fiction book I read: Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake (which I highly recommend). Both deal with life after the fall of mankind, albeit in much different capacities.
  • Jason posted about green accounting and included a great excerpt:

    When a majestic, 300-year-old red-wood is cut down and turned into picnic tables, the logging and picnic table-building activities add to the gross domestic product (GDP), while no deduction is made for the loss of that tree and all the nonmarket services it provides. When a paper mill dumps dioxin-laden wastes into a river, the paper-making boosts the GDP, but no deduction is made for the costs associated with the water pollution. Conversely, no addition is made to the GDP for the air and water cleaned by wetlands or old-growth forests.

    It is long overdue that we start accounting for non-monetary assets in the way described.

  • Lastly, this article about bottled water really got me thinking. “We pitch into landfills 38 billion water bottles a year–in excess of $1 billion worth of plastic.” I drink bottled water, or I did, and never really thought much about it (typical brain-dead consumer). The amount of energy that it takes to make the bottles, fill them, transport them , and consume them (not to mention market them) is astronomical. The article tackles the issue of bottled water from many angles and presents varying viewpoints – it is worth reading. One of the facets of this topic that most interests me is the mentality that bottled water is somehow better than tap water in the United States and how the bottling and selling of water takes a large toll on the environment and that this tool, at least in the U.S. is mostly unnecessary, and as it turns out, very costly on a personal level, too.

    In San Francisco, the municipal water comes from inside Yosemite National Park. It’s so good the EPA doesn’t require San Francisco to filter it. If you bought and drank a bottle of Evian, you could refill that bottle once a day for 10 years, 5 months, and 21 days with San Francisco tap water before that water would cost $1.35. Put another way, if the water we use at home cost what even cheap bottled water costs, our monthly water bills would run $9,000.

    We do quite a lot in this country to make sure we have potable drinking water in every home, we pay for the infrastructure in taxes and when we build our homes. Why not make use of this resource and forgo the petroleum-based container variety?

  • WWKCD – What would Kirk Cameron do?

    • Patent Room is a very neat site showcasing drawings submitted with patent applications of the 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s.
    • I really need very little reason to post a link about Daniel Quinn’s novel Ishmael Jason’s post/mini review of it seems like reason enough. I have been thinking more and more about these issues lately. These things go in cycles.
    • Flash + Evangelical Christianity + Kirk Cameron = A maddening desire to kill
    • Nice CSS dropshadow technique that doesn’t use CSS hacks or javascript.
    • If you saw any of the following: Hollow Man, Vertical Limit, A Knight’s Tale, The Animal, or The Patriot in a theater you may be entitled to your money back (pdf). Looks as though Sony used a made-up film critic named: David Manning to hype those films. God, if I could just get the same deal for: American Psycho, Blade, Congo, The Haunting, Malibu’s Most Wanted, and Mr. Deeds.
    • Snopes’ list of unanswerable questions they have received that have a sense of urgency to them. Some favorites include mention of: Cat’s eating a dead person’s face off, hickies, penguin eggs, bananas, witches, and Corona among many other bizarre requests. Some of the requests however really give Snopes a lot of credit. Here is my favorite:

      if anyone understands what im (sic). saying please e-mail me at this e-mail adress (sic). does anyone here bilieve (sic) that there are aliens in other planets? who really made us is there really a god? im not saying there isnt (sic). but who made god? seriously please answer back at me

    • Ever wanted to compare Google Maps and Microsoft Virtual Earth side-by-side?
    • Atheist. Agnostic. Thanks to the writings of Kurt Vonnegut, I now have a new label to use when describing my views: Humanist

    Movies, books, dirty jokes, & fruit portraits

    * If you ever corner me in a bar or such place have me tell you the story about Bob Sagat that Paul Provenza told the entire theater at SXSW 2005 after the preview screening.

    Apples, angles & architecture

    More house updates

    2nd floor start

    They are to the second story. The recent snow and rain has caused some delays, though they say it should be no more than 60 days away from completion.

    We have moved again. Now we are in a much better neighborhood, with a fenced in yard and 3 bedrooms. I feel better now. if I could only unpack all these boxes – I just can’t do it with another move less than 3 months away. My life is a disorganized mess.

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    White Oleander was a good book and a decent movie. I thought it was well acted all around. There was a lot left out and the movie definitely felt less yucky than the book, but so did the sense of the main character’s ordeals and the true, deep reach and hold that her mother had on her life. Worth seeing with your significant other even if you have not read the book.

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    Buy this for your loved ones this holiday season.

    Teaching

    Did you know that many states use 4th grade literacy tests to estimate future prison populations? That and other facts can be seen by watching PBS’s new Misunderstood Minds series.

    In this series (and companion website) researchers and experts try to explain why millions of American children struggle in school today due to what many believe are just normal differences in the way each of us learn.

    The site is a very good resource for those dealing with a child who is having problems in school (or even before) and there are many interactive tests you can take that can help determine how differences in the way you learn may affect your performance.

    I was turned on to this idea because, in so many ways, my little bother Kelby (from the Big Brother Big Sister Program) is very intelligent when speaking, however he has a very tough time reading things that I think a 9 year-old should be able to read. Underscoring my experiences with him is the fact that he has to attend special remedial classes for reading and math. This is a source of great embarrassment for young Kelby, and he often tells me how he wishes he didn’t have to be separated from the “normal” kids. Aside from the hit to his self-esteem, I am not so sure the remedial classes help him as much as they could because they may not take into account the way Kelby learns.

    A recent episode of Oprah (yeah I watch it) was devoted to this idea that people learn in different ways and we are just now beginning to understand that. Some common differences in the way we learn are:

    -Some children are very creative and write imaginatively, but do poorly in history because weak memory skills prevent them from retaining facts.

    -Some students are weak in sequential ordering and can’t follow directions. They may test poorly, and often don’t do well in mathematics.

    -Some students cannot process information when it comes to them in large “chunks” and it is only when it is broken down that they can comprehend it and retain it.

    More information can be found in the book A Mind at a Time by Dr. Mel Levine.

    The only problems with these specialized techniques for teaching individual students stem from the fact that there already are not enough teachers and the ones we do have must cope with classroom sizes upwards of 35 children per class. Teachers cannot be expected (within the current system) to seek out the differences in the ways each of their pupils learn and then structure lessons that are unique for them. Even with awareness (there are programs that teachers can go through to become better at dealing with these problems), the job of the teacher must be increasingly frustrating.

    Civilization is a mutant beast…

    I have been reading a book recently, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins and to be honest I didn’t think I would enjoy it as much as I have. Robbins’ writing style is like nothing I have read before and many of is ideas echo other things I have read and adds pieces to the puzzle I am constructing that is my view of the world. Incidentally, if you have seen the movie, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues you may have a bad taste in your mouth for this book. I haven’t seen it but I have heard it was pretty bad – which it really had no right to be but Gus Van Sant’s projects are sort of hit (Good Will Hunting, Drugstore Cowboy, Finding Forrester) or miss (To Die For, Psycho – remake) I guess.

    Anyway, one point it stated, that I truly believe but that many people have a really tough time swallowing is the idea that early man lived better than we do now.

    “In General, primitive man enjoyed great stability…Primitive culture was diverse, flexible and completely integrated with Nature at the level of the particular environment. Primitive man took from the land only what he needed, thus avoiding the hassles that result in modern economics from imbalances of scarcity and surplus. Hunting and gathering tribes worked only a few hours a week. To work more than that would have put a strain on the environment, to which they related symbiotically.”

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    We put in an offer on a piece of land yesterday. I assume we will find out if it is accepted today. Because the lot is much more than we were thinking of spending we will be looking for less expensive ways of building our home – possibly doing it in phases over the next 10 years or so. Who knows – we still haven’t found a builder to build our home anyways. That comes now.

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