No, you cannot escape them. I have been looking into taking the birds with me to Sweden as well... I probably wont be able to, but I just thought I should warn you that you should perhaps expect to see just as much of these guys in the future as well.
You can see more bird scratchin' action in the gallery.
The rainy season ended a few days ago in Japan. I hardly even noticed it this year. Aside from a few days when I just couldn't wake up in the morning (my blood-pressure is slightly higher than that of a dead person, and I have found that low pressure mornings don't help), I actually would have rather had more rain.
Photos from my exhibition a couple weeks ago at sundown. In case anyone is wondering, the photos are still for sale :) I have twenty prints laying around here that I can't really take with me to Sweden... I suppose I should put up a gallery of the photos that I showed. All in all, I was real happy about it. I had never seen my photos anywhere other than my computer screen, and they turned out great (as far as I am concerned)
So, despite yesterday's survey being quickly thrown together with little planning and some questions that may be difficult to understand, I found the feedback helpful. In particular:
I was happy to see that no-one answered "yes" to any of the "I just don't care" questions. These questions were based on nothing but my suspicious, or feelings as to why so many people continue living as if there is no problem. Of course I have no idea who answered the survey, and I guess those who would have answered "I don't care" are the most likely not to have answered at all, but seeing that for the most part people do at least care rules out general apathy.
Likewise, no one thought that global warming is a myth. From listening to radio programs and reading some web-sites, I get the impression that there are more people out there who trust their leader more than the science. I'm happy that at least of the few people that answered, everyone was intelligent enough to accept the scientific truth.
The replies to number 3 ( I am unsure about global-warming], but willing to risk-it? ) are a little frightening. 38% said that they are "willing to risk it". Of course I have no way to know why they are willing to risk it, perhaps they have nothing to put at risk... which is why I asked the next question about who has children that will be alive when it really starts to get bad. I was thinking that perhaps one reason some people don't care is that they don't have such a stake in the future. Out of those willing to risk it, only one said that they will have children alive then.
Everyone agreed that we consume too much, and a few people answered that they have not really thought about it too much. This is actually encouraging and discouraging. I would rather have seen more people answer that they didn'T think about it... if that is the case, we simply have to get them thinking about it... but if people already think about it, and still we consume as much as we do, what hope is there? (Granted, I don't know anything about the consumption habits of the people who do think about it)
Most people were aware of the rate at which the human population is growing. And most of them have spent some time thinking about what that means in regards to how much we consume. The reason I asked those, is that I feel that we often look to history and judge our own actions based on what people have gotten away with in the past. Fifty years ago people consumed a lot as well. I thought perhaps people are looking at their parents life, and feeling that they are not much different, or even worse, thinking that "at least now recycle, so things are getting better". Yeah, recycling is better than not, but one thing they are missing is the fact that there are billions more people now than there were then. Even recycling can't make up for that.
I'm really glad that no-one felt that technology was going to save us, but I was also really surprised, especially given the tech-minded nature of many blog readers. Too often I see people and companies promoting the latest greatest technology, failing to mention the environmental problems, but gushing about how this technology will do so much to help society. I think it is a very rare case where consuming more of a technology, or living an unsustainable lifestyle in the name of promoting and developing a technology will do more to save the planet than consuming less. I'm all for technologies that will help, but we still have to make sure that we are not doing more damage than good.
Three people thought that helpful technologies would be available in the next twenty years, but (due to a very poorly worded question) most people didn't realize the extent of biodiversity lost in the past twenty years. Couple that with the increase in population joining the consumer class between then and now, and twenty years out, and I am not surprised to see that many people have not thought about these are related. Basically, I feel that twenty years is too far away. So what if the technology is there, we will have already lost too much... main point we can't rely on techonlogy.
I was was both sad and happy to see that only one person thinks their children's life will be better than their own. Perhaps that one person has a horrible life. I have recently been even wondering if I can even justify having a child. While Tomoe and I both agree that we would like children, it seems selfish and counter-instinctive to bring a child into such a situation. Of course, adoption is always an option, but I don't have to think about that seriously for another couple years :)
28% say that they have faith in human's ingenuity and the free-market economy to handle such problems. I must admit. I am one of them.... BUT, and that's a big BUT, I mean this in the sense of "true" free-market. I don't believe we have a free-market now. As a conscientious consumer my choices are incredibly limited, and I don't believe it is because I am in a minority of people who want better choices (see the results of #30 and #31) Unfortunately, better choices are less abundant because companies are allowed to sell their goods below true-cost. If we were charged the true cost for a new car, suddenly public transportation looks a lot better, and more cities in the US would have it. If there were no mega-highways connecting the suburbs and the workplace, suddenly living in the city is a lot more attractive.
I was actually under the impression that a lot more people believe in good old capitalism to save the world. (I don't know my demographics... maybe not too many americans read my site). I also thought that one reason so many people might be against changing our behavior, is that they feel that the market economy always works out for the best. I'm glad I'm wrong.
But for those people who do believe so strongly in capitalism and human ingenuity as the saviour of the world, I wondered if they also believed that capitalism relies on government subsidies, or if they were confident enough in their religion that they could throw away the government funded crutches let true capitalism, where goods are priced according to their true cost, take over. That is why I asked if people believed that if we made a radical change now, and cut off oil and highway and factory farm subsidies, that we are so weak and helpless, so as to never be able to recover. Obviously there would be a period of discomfort, but do they think it is worth it... I guess this depends on if they have kids who will be alive 50 years from now.
I'm glad that people feel good that they recycle. They should. I had a suspicion though, that they recycle (which does some good) and then turn around and fly to Thailand for vacation (wipes out their recycling good). Of course, it is impossible not to fly in this day and age, so I randomly put the number of flights a year at three. I have to fly too... I never looked into taking a boat to Sweden in the fall, but I suspect a month long boat ride is not doing much to save the earth either. The point though is less that we should do away with airplanes, but more that we should think about it before we hop on a plane to the Caribbean for a weekend. If there is an alternative (say, taking a train to Hokkaido) Do it. If you have no choice, (the only way you can see your family is to fly home once a year) go for it. If you fly all the time for work, think about that work... is it really doing more good than damage?
Everyone was in agreement that the biodiversity of the rain-forests must be preserved, less people knew how the consumption of beef is contributing to their destruction, and, as I feared, even less people have cut back on their meat consumption despite the fact that they think we should save the rain-forests (of course it is not a rain-forest specific issue). Two people actually know the damage it does, but wont cut-back (I didn't say "stop") because it tastes too good.
This is one of the issues that gives me the most stress. It is so easy to do compared to say, quitting your job that promotes unsustainable lifestyles, or cutting down on the number of hours you spend flying (especially if you don't fly much already). Yet, despite how easy it is to decide to only eat meat once a week, people seem so reluctant to do it.
I was afraid that many people saw eating meat as natural (64%), and saw no problems with it. I don't argue. I am not saying that people should quit for animal rights (though I do feel that by now we should be civilized enough to treat animals with at-least the respect they used to receive). I am asking people to cut-back because it just is not possible to continue consuming meat at the same rate, or faster, as our ancestors used to. Why? Because we don't live in our ancestors world anymore there are several billion more of us now, and there will be several billion more by the end of the century. We can't compare ourselves to our grandparents. Any "common-sense" we have gleaned from them must be thrown out! The situation has changed, and our habits must change with it.
The most mind-boggling thing about this was that 100% of the people say they have thought about it, but only 64% saw a problem...
Finally, almost half of the people said they would like to do something, but don't know what to do. This is encouraging. Especially since all but one person said they they do have time to read the "Good Stuff" guide. (although I think the double negative phrasing of the question may have thrown some people off) . If you really feel that you would like to do something, please read the guide, and if it does not help, or you need some extra support (kind of a Consumers anonymous sponsor), write to me. I offer my services as a "personal trainer" in your effort to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Not that I know all that much more, but I have more time to devote to learning than most people have, and if you are ever unsure about something, or want to know if there is a better option, it doesn't hurt to get a second opinion. Heck, I would even go to your house and point our the major things I think can be improved, though I doubt that many people want me to come into their home and preach to them.
Something else that was helpful, was Paul's comment, about not reading books, such as the guide, but reading blogs, and that I should put that information in a blog. A while back, as I was reading the World Watch Institutes State of the World 2004. every page would have something I desperately wanted to share with the anyone who reads this blog. I feared though, that in the end, I would be pretty much copying and pasting from the PDf to my blog... that sounds a bit illeagal.
It did make me think however about how if we want to get a point across, breaking it up into bite sized pieces, and feeding it to the audience bit by bit a day at a time is probably a more effective way than simply recommending the book. I am going to see how I can work this into my own blog while remaining leagal.
I also chatted with another reader who mentioned that the missing variable that keeps me from understanding, is that people either don't try to learn, and therefore just don't know. If the case is that people just don't know, I would be sooo frikin happy! It implies that if the people knew, they would care. Teaching someone who doesn't know seems a lot easier than trying to get someone who already knows to care. It would relieve my stress so much, because there is a clear-cut answer that just needs a little action.
He also thought that perhaps people "know in their heads, but not in their hearts". This is a revelation for me. My case is exactly the opposite. For as long as I can remember, I "knew in my heart", meaning, my instincts told me that something isn't right... yet, knowing in my heart was not enough. When I started to research it though, I began to get more concrete information and facts. The more I began to "know in my head", the more difficult it became to live contradictory to logic. It just doesn't make sense.
The point being of course, that I am reminded that different people need to be approached in a different manner. While I need to "know in my head" before I do anything, some people need to "know in their hearts" before they take action. just something for me to think about... small, but very helpful.
Every night, Tomoe comes back from her day out in the real world, and tells me all the unbelievable stories about the waste and apathy she witnesses. I like to believe (though I fear that I am wrong) that people who are good, and want to do the right thing, and when armed with knowledge, will make good choices. Hearing her stories though, I just get sick and depressed and my brain hurts trying to understand what she is telling me. I mean, she is working with well educated people! So, why do they act so contrary to what I would expect from an educated person?
It's like when I look around at the world around me, my brain gets stuck in an infinite loop, trying to rationalize a series of true statements, that seem impossible to be true together, yet they are... "That person is not an evil person. He is educated and informed. He knows the consequences of his actions. He doesn't seem to be considering the consequences when me makes daily decisions. He must be ill-informed or evil... but... that person is not evil. He is educated and ......" And the loop plays on forever in my head.
I know I have a problem empathizing with others, I can't get inside their heads, and their feelings. I don't know how their rational works. The thing that really gets me down, is that there is no-place I can just go for the answer. So, I have made a looongg survey below that lists the questions, which, if I knew how people answered these, I might be more equipped to understand their actions. If you have a minute or two, I would love it if anyone would answer a few. If you have more time, answer them all, and leave some comments letting me know what variable I am missing that is keeping me up at night.
Wow. I don't usually post about this or that great photo site I found, but this is great Check out this series "Fun" at Hakan Photography. It makes me a little mad though that I didn't think of this... what a simple, great (simply great) idea.
Just a couple of themeless photos to wrap my latest set of uploads to the gallery.
Although, they do all look really happy...
New Alternative-Fuel SUV Will Deplete World's Hydrogen By 2070DETROIT—Ford announced a Sept. 3 rollout date for its new Ford Foresight, a hydrogen-powered SUV that, if it reaches sales projections, will deplete the earth's supply of hydrogen by 2070. "America has asked for a car that does not use fossil fuels, and we've delivered," Ford CEO William Ford Jr. said Monday. "With an engine nearly 20 times as powerful as that of our gas-burning SUV, the 11-ton Foresight will be unaffected by the price-gouging whims of OPEC, as it uses water electrolysis to gather fuel from the oceans and the fresh mountain air." Ford acknowledged that, when hydrogen supplies are depleted, the usefulness of the Foresight, as well as life on earth as we know it, will end.
via The Oninon (which I can barely read anymore because it brings my poor 800mhz iBook to it's knees.)
I know I have an over-abundance of bird / Tomoe photos on this site. i can't resist just one more though. One thing I am really happy about with the new camera are the portrait shots. I can't really say what is different, but it seems that my people-pictures have been better lately.
I really like this shot of Tomoe, although I may be biased.
The other guy is James from consumptive, who taught my how to use my fancy new camera over beers a while back. He seems happy to stick with the simpler pin-hole... maybe I should upgrade.
I wonder if I'm supposed to ask permission first... If anyone pictured above objects to this, please let me know and I will remove it.
Frightening? Adorable? Frighteningly adorable?
Don't worry mom, seifuku isn't a dirty word... it means uniform (as in school uniform).
I have a lot of photos of the birds that I have been neglecting. I'm just going to post them all at once, so I don't have to bother any bird-haters with them for another two weeks.
In other news, I don't usually do a lot of "check out this great article!" type posts, but This American Life's radio program last week was exceptionally interesting. I'm From the Private Sector and I'm Here to Help The narrator follows US civilian workers around Iraq, documenting their daily life.
I'm not sure if everyone has noticed, but quite a while ago I made a minor improvement to the site. If you click on the front page image, you are now taken directly to a much bigger version (750px wide). In the past, you would have been taken to a photo not much bigger than what you see here, and then click one more time to see the bigger version.
Last time, I posted some of my reaction to Dave Pollard's list of answers to the question: What Can I Do Now? to save the world. Actually, I had more that I wanted to say, but that post was already getting too long. I hope Dave appreciates the fact that I am writing this all on my own site this time, instead of the usual long rambling comments on his site. ;)
My first comment is actually related to yesterday's voluntary consumption tax. One of Dave's to-dos is:
Volunteer: Rather than sending guilt money, go out and spend time helping those suffering or in need. Pick a charity that you really care about -- the soup kitchen, the animal shelter, whatever. Get involved, and talk to the people you're helping. Don't get talked into fundraising activities -- really get out there and do something with your own two hands. You'll learn a lot, you'll feel better, you'll make a difference, and you just might find out something important about yourself.
And he's right of course. I noticed that I actually wrote before that the percentage of consumption tax actually goes up relative to the social and ecological destruction each item I buy can do. While the purpose is more to get me to pay more attention to the true cost of what I buy, in effect, it is acting as guilt money.
So, after dwelling on this a bit, I came up with another layer to the consumption tax scheme, making it that much more complex and subjective. While I still keep track of the monetary amount of consumption tax, part of this can now be paid off not with cash, but through my imaginary hourly wage as a volunteer. Since I don't have a proper job requiring me to go in from 9-5, and can for the most part pick and choose my projects, why not give up some of those that pay me in hard cash, which will be used to pay the consumption tax anyway, and start spending those hours volunteering? For every hour I volunteer, I get an XX yen voluntary consumption tax break. Not only would I be able to financially justify spending less time on "work" and more time doing something that matters, but I would also be contributing less to a broken system which worships unsustainable growth above all else.
The only problem now is finding something to volunteer at. I've never done anything like that in Tokyo, and to tell you the truth, have never even heard of any organizations where I could put in time. Part of it I guess is because I haven't looked, and part of it is because as a foreigner I am not "in the loop". Basically though, I think it's because I am an "in-activist". Do any of you gaijin in Tokyo do any volunteer work other than that organized by your work-place? If so, what? and where did you learn about the opportunity?
Of course, I'm leaving Tokyo in two months, so not much time to work off my consumption debt left here, but if all else fails, I can always donate some of my web-developing time, and server space to some organization with more noble goals than the average e-commerce site. Which is what Dave mentions as well
Share Your Expertise If you have talents, specialized know-how, or technical or scientific skills and knowledge that could be useful in solving birth control, clean energy, disease prevention, conservation, animal cruelty, pollution and waste, local self-sufficiency, non-animal foods, 'more-with-less' product streamlining, self-organization, collaboration, consumer and citizen awareness and activism, animal communication, conflict resolution, mental illness, and other issues contributing to environmental deterioration, create 'open source' spaces where others can access what you know, contact you, and collaborate with you and with others to solve these problems.
Maybe that would lead to some very welcome changes in my for-pay work as well. As Dave points out, and I ranted about a while back, one thing we can do (and I think this is HUGE... second to Use less stuff) is:
Find or Create a Meaningful Job: Each of us has talents, interests, and time. It's amazing how many of us spend all our time doing work that we find uninteresting, and which doesn't effectively use our talents. We become wage slaves, underemployed and bored because we're convinced or afraid that a better job doesn't exist. And we work so hard at it we have no time left to challenge that conviction or fear. That's what the corporatists are counting on. Don't give them the satisfaction. Find the time to figure out what you really would like to do with your life, how you'd really like to make a living. Then research the possibilities, talk to people who are doing it, find out what's possible, learn what's involved in creating your own business (and don't listen to accountants or MBAs). If we were all doing jobs we loved, with people we love, and in charge of our own careers, the corporatists would have no staff, and their environmentally devastating empires would crumble.
Dave Pollard from How to Save the World, lists his answers to the question: What Can I Do Now?. Of course you should go there and read all of his and what he says about them, but there is one, I think, which is the key. If everyone did this, so much suffering and grief could be prevented.
Use Less Stuff: Consumerism is doubly addictive -- you get the fleeting pleasure of acquiring something, and then you have to work harder and earn more money for The Man so you can pay off the debt you incurred to buy it. Learn to live a Radically Simple life -- buy better quality stuff that lasts longer, make your own meals instead of using processed foods, think before you buy, don't get into debt (only buy when you have the cash in your account), buy local rather than imported goods (especially stuff from countries that have poor social and environmental standards), complain about excessive packaging, recycle, reuse, buy used, share tools with neighbours, turn off the lights, cover the pool, use energy-efficient lighting, keep your tires inflated, carpool, walk or bike instead of driving -- you know what to do. Make a list, draw up a schedule, and do it.
Or, in other words:
So simple, and yet for some reason they never teach it in school. Why is that?
Now, I'm not saying everyone should live in a tent, only own three pairs of underwear, and sell their CD collection, but doesn't it make sence to think about what you buy before you buy it and consider a few things:
If, after thinking about all of these things, you still buy it, I promise I wont complain. I still buy sometimes even though I know the conciqunces. I have a nine-month old computer, and a brand-spanking new digital camera added to my list of environmental crimes. Sometimes we're weak, but when you think about these things, more often than not, it is much easier to be strong.
One method I have started to get me to think more about it, is my voluntary consumption tax. Since politicians don't seem interested in taxing consumption (because they would be crucified by all of us if they did), I have decided to take it upon myself.
For everything I buy, I set aside a certain percentage of the price to donate to some organization or cause that will help to clean-up after the damage I have done.
My system is very imperfect, and quite subjective in many cases, but I am trying to figure out some good guidelines. Basically, there are two main categories.
Those things in the need category get taxed less, if anything. What percentage is based on how much damage the item does. I need soap, but I don't need soap with toxic chemicals in it. If I buy the environmentally friendly soap, I pay less tax. If I am in a hurry, or just lazy, and I buy my soap at the 7-11 (never happens), I pay more tax, because I am contributing more to problems that someone has to clean up, and I am pretty sure it aint going to be the manufacturer.
The things in the want category are taxed higher, based mostly on how much damage I think it is doing. My new camera is terrible, and is taxed accordingly. 100%. A sweet treat from the local co-op is a want, but they are generally good about stocking things that have less impact, and buying from the co-op is doing less damage than buying from Seiyu, the Wal-Mart subsidiary down the street. Therefore, I tax myself less on that, but more than I would if it was something I need to keep myself from starving to death, and less than I would if I had bought the same thing at the Seiyu.
Some things may be needs, but they are only needs because I have been irresponsible. A taxi ride home because I missed the last train? I need it, but if I would have paid more attention to the clock, I could have saved my self the $30 taxi-fare, and the $30 consumption tax to be donated to some worthy agency providing relief to Iraqi citizens whose lives are screwed because of my dependance on their crazy ex-leader's oil supply.
Like I say, it is a very imperfect system, and I have been more or less playing it by ear. I also have not even begun to figure out which are the best organizations to file these "taxes" with. The piggy-bank is getting stuffed up, but more importantly, it forces me to think about everything I buy, and consider not just the sale price on the sticker, but the true cost to the environment. This in turn translates to less consumption, and that's how I can afford to raise my own consumption taxes, and why I have so much time to think this up in the first place.
A while back I was stopped outside my sleepy little neighborhood train station for being a suspected terrorist. It's strange how some activities, such as unlocking your bike, seem suspicious, but a stranger lurking outside the barbwired fence of the train-yard, snapping photos for fifteen minutes didn't even raise an eyebrow.
I've been running around like a cockatiel who just got their toe slammed in the cage door (I imagine it's similar to a chicken with it's head cut off). On top of a fast approaching programming deadline, getting my visa and housing arangements in order for Sweden, and getting ready to move out of here, I am faced with the paralizing idea of having my photos in real-life flesh-and-blood prints on display. What should be as simple as burning a CD, and taking it to the corner camera shop to get the photos printed, has taken hours of my time. When the CD gets burned right, the photos are too large and the prints are terrible quality. When I figure out the right size to make the photos so they fit on the paper, the images can't be read from the CD. When they can be read, the "one hour developing" takes over-night... Then I thought the photos looked a little small, so I decided to go bigger, which took another couple hours to figure out frame sizes and print sizes (because every place I call gives a different answer- I thought these things were standardized).
Anyway, it looks like I am going with the small prints since they fit best at the exhibition space, so that saves me some time, and I found a place (far away) that made prints I was satisfied with. I thought I had found a shop closer to home that I could try, but after dropping the CD off, and asking him to make sure that the CD is readable, he walked down the street to the place with the terrible quality prints from the other day!
Anyway, now I just have to find a theme, and some pictures that fit that theme.
It's interesting how I am so much more stressed out about this than I am about presenting photos on my site, despite the fact that probably more people see the photos on my site than will see them live. What's more, a poorly presented photo on the site is more permanent than the exhibition, which will only run for a week or so. Maybe I should start stressing out about the site too... clean up the design, only post photos that I think are "my best"...
Photo Exhibition Details (lifted from asbCreative)
Date - 6th June ~
Location - Antena Cafe, 2-14-2 Shimokitazawa JOW Building 4F
Map - http://www.sundown.jp/
Time - 5pm to 10pm