Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Stop Recycling!?!?

By Marcie Barnes

I was inspired on Earth Day by this post I found while looking around which contains some great ways to have a greener kitchen. I am constantly trying to think of ways to reduce my "carbon footprint" and would love to help those of you out there reading do the same.
Here is a summary of what 7 Steps to a Greener Kitchen tells us to do:


1. Bring your own bags to the grocery store

2. Wean yourself off plastic and packaging (Rather than relying on plastic cling wrap and re-sealable baggies, store food in reusable, lidded containers)
3. Recycle (more on this below)

4. Greener cleaning (Use the natural power of household items like lemon juice and baking soda wherever possible.)
5. Buy environmentally friendly kitchen gadgets (products made of recycled materials)
6. Make it meatless (Raising livestock has a (far) more significant impact on the environment than cultivating plants and grains)
7. Buy local and organic (amen)

So, I like most of what the post has to say, but, like I said, I've been doing a lot of thinking. When I start from the statement that we are in a "race to imminent extinction", - I then begin to ponder what we can do to slow down this race, and fast. I happen to firmly believe that global warming is very real and most definitely being caused by humans, as is the consensus of most scientists today, and there already have been a host of climate-related problems beginning to crop up that you wouldn't normally think of: health-related ones. Then, I did some research on what contributes the most to global warming, and the answer often was meat production (more here) and, well, largely the United States and all it's industrial activity in general. When you look at the figures from a per capita standpoint, the USA really is, well, the butthead of the environmental concerns globally. No wonder a lot of other cultures don't like us so much...

So, it got me thinking - when we recycle, there's usually a big truck that comes to pick up the recyclables, then it's probably sorted and trucked somewhere else, and taken to a recycling plant that uses a lot of water and emits more carbon dioxide into the air. Hm, something seems a little off here…it's been hard to find much data on this "theory" - but I have found plenty of other people (see this for an example) who seem to have the same concerns I do, and it appears that the only thing that should be recycled is metal, possibly also glass. Turns out plastic recycling in particular is complicated, and what you may think you are recycling may end up in the landfill anyway (!).

It seems to me that landfill space is a lot more prevalent than potable water, you can read here about countries that are starting to have major water concerns due to overpopulation. I am starting to think it's better to concentrate on the "reduce and reuse" part of the mantra, and recycle when it makes more sense.

So, thanks to startcooking.com for the great post, all of the items were wonderful tips for being more green in the kitchen and beyond, I'm just not so sure about #3 anymore…I say the mantra should be changed to "Reduce, reuse and recycle metal (maybe glass too)" :)

I think I am going to have a lot less guilt about throwing things in the trash from now on. Unless it's meat. We should be eating as little meat as possible and when we do eat it it should be local, grass-fed and cruelty-free (the way our "old school" farms used to do it). And it just doesn't seem right to throw away up to half of the food we produce - especially when it comes from an animal.

Hm, you know, the dinosaurs were kind enough to leave behind all that fossil fuel for us to use, perhaps we are just contributing (via our landfills) to a future energy source for a future generation to use to power their spaceships…space may very well be the "new frontier" when the Earth becomes uninhabitable. Maybe that sounds crazy. For now, let's try to not to have such a "disposable" disposition.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Environmental Visionaries Part Three: Timothy Ferriss and the Four-Hour Workweek (?)

By Marcie Barnes

"Human life has long been focused on the exclusion of the environment and the rest of the food chain, hence our current race to imminent extinction. Serves us right. The world does not exist solely for the betterment and multiplication of mankind."
(p.273, used with permission)

I had many, many, many "aha" moments while reading The Four-Hour Workweek. Mostly because of my own disjointed ideas about - well - life and how it should be lived, my love for entrepreneurship, and confusion over the overwhelming messages in society about a lot of things including the environment. Yes, Tim's book is largely about business and personal productivity (and sometimes is categorized as "self-help"). I stumbled across his book via his blog via a fitness blog - and well - what I am trying to say is this is a must-read for anyone looking to cut through the clutter in their life in all kinds of ways - health, fitness, business, stress, the environment, charity, the list goes on...

The above quote really sums up my thoughts on the issue at hand (and my three-part series). There's just so much clutter out there that it's hard to make decisions on a daily basis about just about anything. That is, of course, until you truly educate yourself on all sides of an issue and test your faith on whatever it is. Tim is beyond his years in doing just that, and he can show you how, too. I really think we humans have a gene for innovation, which has ensured our survival. Ironically, the way things are moving now, we really are in a
race to imminent extinction. Let's use our innovative genes towards saving our planet, and therefore our species. As shown in Horton Hears a Who, it takes all of our voices working together and we can make a difference. And as Don Henley said in The Last Resort, "You call someplace paradise, kiss it goodbye" - which means to me, an idealistic view of -whatever- will only lead to its destruction. Let's get back to eating and living the way Mother Nature intended.

Please start by checking out this post on Tim's blog,
The Unusual ROI of Going Green... which is an informative post about how making "green" choices can benefit you as well as the rest of humankind (oh and the planet) in ways you probably didn't think of before. And if you're one of those who scoffs at the "green" movement, then hey, maybe you can make some money in the process. But it's not all about money, it's about having what you need to survive and be happy...we knew that, right?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Environmental Visionaries Part Two: Don Henley & The Last Resort - How Man Raped the Land

By Marcie Barnes

(Note: this song is credited to the Eagles and Don Henley, sometimes along with Glenn Frey (as a songwriter). However, in the L.A. Times article referenced below, Henley calls it "his baby" and it is widely referenced as a foreshadowing to his solo career. Therefore, I give full credit in that sense to Don Henley for this wonderful piece of work, for the purposes of this article. :) )

First of all, if you are not familiar with the song The Last Resort by the Eagles, check out this excellent article about the song, which includes a clip you can listen to. Full lyrics can be found here.

My husband played this song for me a few weeks ago and I quite frankly can't get it out of my head. He asked me what I thought it was about and my answer was "Wal-Mart?" He rolled his eyes at me and said "It was written in 1976, how can it be about Wal-Mart?" I was surprised. I guess I thought The Last Resort was a newer song, because the message seemed to be so modern to me. Lo and Behold, The Last Resort was indeed written in the 70s and was recorded on the well-known Hotel California album. Anyway, I guess the part about " Some rich men came and raped the land…Nobody caught em...Put up a bunch of ugly boxes, and Jesus, People bought 'em" really screamed "Wal-Mart! Wal-Mart!" to me. Apparently, Henley was talking about Los Angeles :P.

I think I was still in the ballpark, though, because there are endless examples I could come up with regarding how man is raping the land today - from clearcutting (Wal-Mart) to carbon dioxide emissions (Wal-Mart, see below) and meat production (lots of places, to include Wal-Mart) - this Industrial Era we are in is running at an increasingly fast pace, and at what cost? This recent article talks about how global warming impacts health (and causes death) in more close-to-home ways that you don't hear about at the water cooler. They are called climate-sensitive diseases to include malnutrition, diarrheal diseases and malaria. The article says they already kill millions every year. In addition, as Americans, we are contributing by far the most to the Global Warming crisis, and the lion's share of that is coming from Industrial, Commercial & (public) transportation sources…which is largely what Wal-Mart (and other similar operations) are all about. If I lived in another country I'd be pretty peeved at the US for contributing so much to all these problems that cause global sicknesses and deaths, all while we throw away up to half of the food we produce…sigh, we disgust me.

Anyway, Henley has been an advocate for lots of environmental causes over the years to include his own
Walden Woods Project and Caddo Lake Institute. Although he says The Last Resort is about "the quest for a better life, a personal search for self and success", I still say in this day and age, it's about Wal-Mart.

"Who will provide the grand design?
What is yours and what is mine?
'Cause there is no more new frontier
We have got to make it here

We satisfy our endless needs and
justify our bloody deeds,
in the name of destiny and the name of God"

Buy locally (or even better, grow your own food), get off your dependence on animal protein for your own health and that of the planet, and be happy :)

Next installment: Timothy Ferriss and The Four-Hour Workweek from 2007.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Environmental Visionaries Part One: Dr. Seuss: We Must Take Care of Our Speck! (And Horton Hears a Homeschool Outcry)

By Marcie Barnes

My family went to see Horton Hears a Who recently. I really appreciate the efforts of the G-rated filmmakers to make these films enjoyable for parents as well as children, and this one really took the prize for me. In large part because of (what I saw as) the important underlying meaning: we could all be floating around inside a universe that is actually the equivalent of a piece of dust in someone else's world - everything could cease to exist at a moment's notice. Life is truly fragile.

The new movie is based on Dr. Seuss' classic tale
which was written in 1954. Although there certainly are some departures from the book, Dr. Seuss' general message is still very timely today. More on that later. I did want to address one particular "adaptation" that stood out at me, and as I expected, has caused a bit of a stir in the homeschooling community. Near the beginning of the movie we are introduced to the "villain" - an overbearing kangaroo voiced by Carol Burnett who makes the comment "...that's why my Rudy is pouch-schooled" while observing Horton doing something she didn't agree with. This coupled with the other comments made by the kangaroo throughout the movie about how Horton is "defying authority," "corrupting our children," and "attacking our way of life" - you can see how the pouchschool/homeschool analogy didn't sit well with the homeschool community. Now, I have all kinds of respect for people who choose to educate their own children, mostly because I have very few teaching bones in my body.

That said, there is a stereotype associated with those who choose to homeschool, because of the obvious "snub" at public schools, and most other organized forms of education at large. I've been part of these kinds of debates before (stay at home vs. working moms, etc.) and I tell you, it can get nasty real quick. My take on it is this: we're all mothers and we all do the best we can for our kids. If I had to teach my kid there would be some pretty serious deficiencies - especially in areas such as music and math (which he actually is showing early promise in). Therefore, I am looking forward to creating a balance where we parents step in and fill some of the holes left by the school, and I expect, vice-versa. I plan to write more about this in the future, but for now I invite you to check out Michael Davis' Family Hack
blog, in which he documents his travels with his family around the world, among other things. I like to call his education style "worldschooling" - and I think in this day and age it's increasingly important for kids to not be sheltered when comes to education. (and I can get started on my soapbox about sheltering kids from germs too, but not today :)) We live in a diverse world that is constantly blending and getting smaller. We need to teach our kids to be good worldly members and neighbors so we can work together to keep our species alive as long as possible. That doesn't mean they have to become Muslims, but they certainly should learn about Muslims and why they are just as devout in their faith as you may be in yours, just for one example. At the end of the day, the greatest faith is an educated and tested one.

Which brings me back to the big meaning in Horton Hears a Who: what if we really are floating around on a speck in someone else's world? And what if that someone had the power to dunk our speck in a boiling pot of oil (movie) or made part of beezlenut stew (book)? What if that "authority" decided we weren't taking care of our speck anyway, and decided to make our death quick and painless out of mercy? The main theme I want to pull out in this series is this: on the path we are currently following, the demise of the human race is inevitable. The planet cannot sustain what we are doing to it. I think the planet will survive, I think the cockroaches will survive, but I'm not too sure about the humans. We live in a very delicate world.

Oh yeah, and don't forget too: "A person's a person, no matter how small."

Check out the World Clock
that shows an approximation on the speed at which we are killing the environment (and other things) and read this article I found today about how global warming is directly impacting our health (let alone the health of the planet.)

Next installment: Don Henley and The Last Resort from 1976.

(Photo credit goes to The Davis Family on flickr.)