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Color

The images in my recent posts have been quite dismal and grey, so I thought I would brighten up the page with a little color. :|

Tomorrow we head off for the north for aweek. I don't think I will be adding anything to the site, but I will be back with a lot of dark photos (no sunlight). If we're lucky though, maybe some of the northern lights. It sounds like most of the time will be spent in a bus (several over-night trips). Sweden is a very tall country, much taller than I thought. Perhaps this trip will cause me to rethink my current plans to kayak from here to the northern most part of the Baltic sea once this program is over (assuming I can get my visa renewed).

Body of Evidence


Day by day the body of evidence is growing to support the oil companies claims that global warming is a myth. Yesterday there was a thin layer of ice over our little portion of the Baltic, today is -3 degrees, and all the forcasts seem to indicate that it will get even colder of the coming months. Even I, who sleeps in the winter with my window open, am cold. I can't imagine what this must be like for some of my warmer climate classmates.

I have been sitting in my room workin all day, looking out at the clear blue sky in anticipation of the sunset, for which I was planning to go for a short paddle. When I got down to the pier, I gave up my dreams when I saw the choppy waters. It would be impossible to stay dry, as cold as I was just standing there dry... I can't imagine how the original kayakers ever did it.

Next week we will all be heading up to the northern reaches of Sweden to visit some eco-villages. It will be dark, and it will be cold. What were we thinking to plan such a trip in November?

Bridge
More Stupidity

A few days ago I wrote about how one of the reasons I am here, is that I don't want to be on the "stupid" team, and that I feel angry at myself for having been stupid for so long before waking up. I later felt bad about that remark, as if I was calling everyone who is not moving toward a sustainable lifestyle "stupid". The other day Manfred Max-Neef helped me to put the word "stupid" into perspective.

He told a story of how when he was a child, he wondered what made him different from animals. When he was five, his teacher told him it was because people had souls, and animals didn't. He didn't accept this answer because he could not understand how God would be so cruel as to not give animals souls. Later, he was told it is because people have intelligence. This too made no sense, as he can look at his dog and see that even dogs make choices. Next came the idea that humans have a sense of humor, but then he read a study of a species of bird that plays tricks on and laughs at each other... What could it be that makes humans different from animals? Then one day, as he was eating breakfast with his father, his father told him "Try stupidity."

This, of corse, was the answer he was looking for. Only humans have stupidity. But just what is stupidity?

"The stupid act is the act you commit against all evidences"
"Stupidity is the most democratic force that exists. It does not discriminate... Nobody is innocent, we are all guilty of stupidity."
Leading vs. Convincing

Everyone despairs at the enormous task of building awareness among people who don't "get it", yet, there are hundreds of thousands of people who "get it" already, desperately asking every day "but what can I do ?". Is it naive to think that the tipping point now lies not in convincing the laggards, but rather in the rest of us helping each other to discover just what we can do now, within our current sphere of influence? And am I crazy to think that spending some more resources on teaching those who want to learn, and less on convincing those who don't, will have a larger impact?

Last night we had another speaker session open to the public where Manfred Max-Neef, Per Carsted, and Karlhenrik Robert (three of the big-wigs) spoke and answered questions in a round-table fashion. From talking with the audience and listening to their questions, it was easy to see that the task is not convincing them that there is a problem, but rather helping them to understand what they can do. Each one of them was there because they know that we are in trouble. The most asked question was "what can I do?". Then, this morning in class, when talking about the role of business in sustainability, there was so much anxiety and despair among the class about how we can convince the leaders of business to open their eyes and understand .

I think we tend to have a dream in which one person convinces five, and those five in turn convince five others, and so on and so forth, until the entire world realizes shares the sense of urgency. In our own urgency we miss the fact that while they may be able to create a sense of urgency in a few, this urgency comes with a need for help in making sense of this new-found awareness. By then of course, the prophet is already off trying to convert new disciples, and eventually the earlier converts pack that sense of urgency away under unanswered questions, returning to life as normal.

But what if we remove barriers to understanding and wait for people to come to the realization on their own (as so many already have!). What if we are there, offering to help them and coach them, provide vision, make sure that they have what they need to deepen their own understanding (as so many long for!). These people can then remove barriers for others who are slowly coming to the same conclusion, because they understand, they can coach, they can lead . The growth may take longer, because understanding takes time, but would it not be much more powerful to have a small but growing number of people who accept, know, and live the change than a large number of people who have an incomplete understanding, and do not know how to apply it to their lives? Who has more influence? One person in the lowest position of a company with a firm vision and moving strategically toward it with regards to their own life, or the executive who kind-of-understands, but has no motivation to act on that understanding.

Last night Max-Neef told a story in response to the question "But what can I do?" It was a story that he came up with while on the campaign trail for president of Chile. He was an independent candidate, he had no money, he didn't even want to be the president, he simply wanted to put the taboo issues on the table. He received 7% of the vote. At one stop, one of his supporters, overwhelmed by the odds, asked him "But what can we do compared to such a great power and momentum?" His answer was:

Imagine you are in a field. In front of you is a mad rhino getting ready to charge. The most stupid thing you can do is to think that you are a rhino too. But what can defeat a rhino? The answer is the mosquito cloud, The mosquito cloud is more powerful than the rhinoceros. It has no leader, so it can not be beheaded. It sticks together. It grows and grows, buzzes and buzzes, driving the rhino mad.

Now my question is twofold: How can we be mosquitos? How can we remove the nets that block others who want to be mosquitos as well?

Economy is to serve people

Does anyone out there disagree with this?

  1. Economy is there to serve people, not to be served by people.
  2. Development is about people, not about objects.
  3. Growth is not the same as development. Development does not necessarily require growth.
  4. No economic process is possible in the absence of ecosystem services.
  5. Economy is a sub-system of a larger finite system making perpetual growth impossible.

Why do we hang so tightly to our precious GNP and the idea that growth is the answer to everything?

But that is not what the point of this post is about... It is easy to list examples on a macro scale of how our current system is contrary to every one of these ideas which Max-Neef brought together as five postulates that form the basis of what he believes economics should be.

All of these are points that we have all contemplated in one form or another, and I think you would have a hard time finding someone to disagree on. I think that is why I was left not fully satisfied by today's lecture. These are great ideas that reenforce my own thinking, but by simply "knowing" them we are no closer to anything better. Sure, it makes me feel smart to see that we share the same views, and I may, armed with these five points so nicely packaged feel more confident to argue with someone at the pub, but I am not a policy maker, and these points do not inform my life.

Or do they? I am a policy maker in my own life, within my own sphere of influence, so how do these macro ideas help me to make better choices on a personal level? What are some examples in which my life could contradict these seemingly obvious points?

Economy (or my personal finances) are there to serve me, not to be served by me.

  1. Ignoring my health in favor of greater financial gain by foregoing a healthy, enjoyable, homemade meal, in favor of pre-packaged meals from the 7-11... because my work time encroached into my meal preparation time.
  2. Ignoring my health in favor of greater financial gain by buying fruits and vegetables inundated with deadly toxins because I was too late or tired from work to get to the organic market.
  3. Ignoring my relationships in favor of greater financial gain by pretending to, or only half listening to Tomoe as I work overtime on a client's project.
  4. Ignoring my mind and understanding in favor of greater financial gain by giving up reading and study time in favor of an extra paid project.
  5. Ignoring my happiness in favor of greater financial gain by choosing to live in environments which I almost despise (Tokyo), simply because it is easier to get more work there.
  6. Ignoring my leisure and need for idleness in favor of greater financial gain by skipping yet another sketch club session because I just had to finish that last few lines of code tonight.
  7. Ignoring my goals in favor of greater financial gain by continuing to work on paid projects that have no relation to what I am studying, taking time that could be better used to more deeply explore course materials and ideas.

Development is about people, not about objects.

  1. Thinking that I am helping myself to develop my abilities by buying a used TV so I can listen to Swedish, without first making a serious effort to learn from the resources I already have.
  2. Thinking that I am helping myself to develop my abilities by buying a new state-of-the-art camera, rather than first attempting to learn the very basics of photography.
  3. Thinking that I am helping myself to develop my intellect by buying yet another book for my bookshelf of unread books.
  4. Thinking that I am developing relationships by going out to the bar, or some other activity requiring money, instead of sitting at home and simply having a discussion.

Growth is not the same as development. Development does not necessarily require growth.

  1. Telling myself that I am much better off because my bank account is growing now, despite having less time to study and discuss with classmates.
  2. Telling myself that Tomoe and I will have a better relationship if we have jobs paying more than we need, and have opportunities to move up some ladder to even better paying jobs, than if we spend time with each other in an environment we enjoy.

No economic process is possible in the absence of ecosystem services.

  1. Believing that somehow, working on projects now, which we know are contributing to an adverse effect on the natural environment, will give us the financial means to protect our children... even after we have deprived them of needed ecosystem services.

Economy is a sub-system of a larger finite system making perpetual growth impossible.

  1. Continuing to contribute to the system that believes in perpetual growth, both through purchases, investments, and labor.

I may be stretching it a bit on some of these, but I only spent five minutes thinking about it for now... I will definitely be coming back to it later, and definatly be more aware of it as I make future decisions. I am pleased though to notice that many of the things I thought of but did not write were in regards to my actions and lifestyle three years ago. It never seems like it, and I always feel that I have so far to go, but this exercise helped me to realize that I have also come a long way in just three years, and the fact that I didn't even realize it must mean that it was not that hard.

The Day After Tomorrow

What does sustainability mean?: Yeah, that question again. Today I began to see another interpretation of what "sustainability", and "working toward sustainability" might mean. I'm sure it is not a popular one, but somehow seems much more realistic, and I will have a hard time to forget it.

Most people, including myself, seem to view moving toward sustainability in terms of a shift from our current insane economic and political systems, into a more enlightened system that takes into account the true (immeasurable) costs of nature, and uses economy as a means to achieving a goal of well-being, as opposed to an end in itself.

Today, a series of chats with different people led me to see that perhaps responsibly working toward sustainability is not solely about trying to change that system, not even about simply providing a vision of the final goal, but also (or rather?), about setting up alternate systems so that when the insane one we are currently following crashes, there is something soft there to break the fall for at least enough people to start rebuilding the world.

The challenge, and the object of our effort, would then be to streangthen that alternative system, not with the expectation of overcoming the dominant system, but rather, with the hopes that it is strong enough not to get sucked down the crapper when everything else goes.

A lot of people are anxious for the tipping point to happen now. But I wonder now if the soft spot is soft enough, or strong enough. I was never under the impression that we can correct our course painlessly, despite the "no sacrifice, as long as it takes" idea that seems to dominate here. In fact, I never really thought about how contradictory the desire for a "tipping point" is with the desire to change without sacrifice. To make such a shift implies a slow gradual change in which we have time to adapt. There is no tipping "point" in such a shift, it's more of a rolling hill. If we want a tipping point however, we have to be prepared for what is on the other side (as Jo said today). I have never really planned for ways to alleviate the hardship where the system to collapse tomorrow. Perhaps this is something to think about. Not only what should the end vision look like, but also ways to soften the fall when the tipping point does come. Because there will be a a tipping point, and there will be a fall. The only question is what will trigger it, how soon, and how far will be the fall?

Is "Happy" A Dirty Word?

Today was the first day of a week of lectures by Manfred Max-Neef, a Chilean economist, winner of alternate Nobel Prize, former Chilean Presidential candidate, and all kinds of other impressive stuff.

For me, his lecture was very timely, touching on what I have just been writing these last few days. We spent a long time trying to get at just what we mean when we say "sustainability", and what should be sustained.

Although it was a lot of food for thought, I am not sure that I fully agree with all of his conclusions just yet. While I am sure he simplified his ideas in order to fit them into a few hours, and I am aware that I am simplifying them even further, the gist of what he was saying seemed to be:

What we want to sustain is "life" because it is such a miracle that it could even happen.

I guess I can agree with this to some extent, but if that is the case, then I really see no need to even study ecological sustainability. Even after we kill ourselves off (along with many other species), there will still be life in some form, in the form of ants and cockroaches, and other things that are stronger than us. Besides, I guess I am not expecting that the human race would die of completely, but those humans left living would be living in miserable surroundings. If what we are fighting to sustain is simply "life" then there is really no need to fight.

Some doubts similar to this were raised, and in answer, he basically seemed to say that without us humans here, the universe has no meaning, because there are no living creatures besides us that can attempt to understand it. I would have to disagree in that even things we don't understand, nor have any inkling of there existence have a very real meaning and purpose. Take the o-zone layer... simply because we did not know of it's existence, and therefore could not contemplate it, until recently does not mean that it was meaningless.

The talk turned then to happiness, though I am not sure exactly how it is connected with the idea that the goal of sustainability should be to sustain life. To me, it fits in with what I have been writing these past few days. My goal is not to sustain human existence, but rather to sustain a system that can allow people to be happy, be they myself, my family, or my children. Of course, part of my happiness is dependent on the people around me (i.e. the people of the world) also being happy, so therefore, I am trying to create and sustain a system that is integral to happiness and contentment of people. It can be taken further of course, because I love my birds, to say that I can also not be happy to watch the atrocities we perpetrate against animals.

So where does ecological sustainability fit into this? The way it seems to be shaping up for is:

  1. We have to take care of the natural systems of the earth (i.e. don't break them) because they provide the resources we need to lead a happy and fulfilled life.
  2. We have to take care of those people around us (to the extent that simply having a healthy ecosystem does not allow them to take care of themselves) because when we see or are aware of unneeded suffering, it detracts from our own happiness.
  3. We (at least I) have to take care of other living creatures because the willful destruction and torture of them detracts from my ability to be happy.

This still does not lead me to believe that the goal should be indefinite sustainability of the human race, but on the other hand, I see no way around it. If we continue on the path we are on now, at some point, more and more people will feel the pinch that billions of people are already feeling today. Working toward the happiness of myself, includes the happiness of other people, and it includes the non-destruction of the ecosystem, which in turn would theoretically lead to a sustainable ecosystem.

There followed much more talk of happiness. One of the most interesting things was about how our society actually devalues happiness, and places much more merit on suffering. Why do we have much more respect for someone who has suffered a lot, than we do for someone who has led a relatively happy life? Why are there no paintings of a smiling baby Jesus? Or smiling saints? Or a smiling virgin Mary? Why is seriousness and suffering so highly valued?

Why is it that I feel somehow flaky to write about how I want to be happy, and I want other people to be happy? Why do I feel that I must back that up with some logical, scientific, realistic goal? Why is it that during the recent campaign period, I never heard the word "happiness" once, but I heard "economic growth" more times that it would make me happy to recall? What is it that we have against happiness?

So, I'll just say it, flake or not, I want to be HAPPY. I want other people to be HAPPY. I think HAPPINESS is a good thing. I am not ashamed of the times when I feel HAPPY. HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY. My goal is to make people HAPPY.

Undoubtedly, I have just alienated a few of my more "realistic" readers who view happiness as a goal to be childish and unrealistic. For those of you who feel like that... does it help to restore my image, to make you happy, if I say that you feeling that way makes me unhappy?

By the way, some of the happy people in the photos for today are from the wedding I attended in France back in October. You can see part 1, and part 2, part 3 is yet to come. The rest of the happy people are my happy classmates.

Fantasizing

Again, I just read my post form yesterday, and I feel that I was a little too.... well, I don't know, but I was too something. It was not meant to imply that everyone who isn't working toward sustainability is stupid, I wasn't even really trying to say that I was stupid (although that is exactly what I said). Basically, I am angry at myself for not taking a broader view of my sphere of influence, and I feel that I should have been smart enough to see through what I was taught growing up by the main-stream consumer society, be it on TV, at home, or at school. I don't know how to describe the feeling in English. In Japanese it is close to "kuyashii".

Anyway, the reason I posted those last two posts is that I am trying to figure out just what I am doing here. What's in it for me? What will this accomplish? As foolish as breaking our life-support system is, is it even more foolish to consider working toward something that the majority of the world is against ,or, at best, couldn't care less about?

I've also been wondering what "sustainability" means to people. Of course, if I don't know what it means to me, there is little chance that I could ever know what it means to other people. Unless of course other people tell me...

What does "sustainability" mean to you? Do you care? If so why? If not, why not? How would you rephrase such an overused word as "sustainability" into something more meaningful to you?

* * *

These pictures are again from the nearby nature reserve. I have to admit that I have been having some pretty crazy thoughts about that place lately. There is a lot of work that could be done there, and the guy in charge has some pretty lofty plans, such as converting one of the old barns into a youth-hostel so that people could find cheap accommodations to enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

I have been having this crazy idea that, after this one year program is over, I just may like to volunteer my help for some of that work in return for a room in an empty house on their property and an internet connection. I don't know how serious that idea is, but considering that Tomoe will be back in Tokyo for at least another year, and I really hate to think of living in Tokyo again after being here...

My unrealistic(?) day-dream generator is working overtime... Living in the place you see in those pictures, kayaking all the time in the islands you see in my pictures, still being able to do some web-work to pay any bills (although, I saved up for this year at school and ended up actually making more money than I use, so I still have those savings untouched and waiting), being able to learn a bit about farming, being able to perhaps teach a bit to visitors about not breaking the earth, being able to improve my Swedish (which is not easy when you spend all day with native English speakers)... it really is ticking my fantasy bone. The majority of it is actually nothing I have not fantasized about before, but in those previous fantasies Tomoe was there as well. Her absence is obviously the major (only) reason not to do this, but she will be working too many hours anyway, so even if I was in Tokyo I would not really see her that much, and of course there will be a new batch of sustainability freaks at the school which could give me a little company to keep me from going stir-crazy.

Bahh... the manager of the nature reserve probably doesn't even want me...

Chain Gang

I just read my post from yesterday for the first time. Some thoughts and reactions:

" If what I do negatively effects other people, that negativity will inevitably come back to harm me, or my children."

I just want to clarify that by this I was not talking about negative karma or negative vibes or anything new-agey like that I am talking strictly real-life, physical world cause and effects.

I'd also like to add one more reason why I am here studying this.

I don't like to be on the stupid team, and I'm angry that I have been for so much of my life.

I don't mind being on the loosing team so much, so long as I am not on the stupid team. Sure, us new-age-hippy-communists are probably wasting our time on a loosing battle, but at least we aren't stupid. Related to this is the anger I feel at being duped for so many years of my life by a stupid society, and manipulative companies (mostly made up of good people who are stuck in a bad situation, or being duped themselves) tricking me into buying their crap, stupidly shooting myself in the foot (actually I would rather shoot myself in the foot than give myself cancer). I am angry that I bought into the whole dumb-arse idea that economic growth through marketing and selling crap is good. I am angry that I never questioned how my actions effect other people, my future, and even my own health. I'm angry that I was stupid for most of my life.

* * *

Today a group of us headed over to the nearby nature reserve / organic farm / organic foods shop to help out with some of the yard work. Apart from a great chance to get outside on a beautiful day, a chance to flex our muscles in a non-health-club situation, and a great chance for me to hop in my kayak for a great sunset on the way back, it was also a great chance for me to pay back Henrik (the guy in the funny hat) for letting us camp in the nature reserve for the past two weekend kayak trips.

We were supposed to be digging a simple ditch around the barn housing the organic market, but I got preoccupied with a big rock that was kind-of in the way. The more I tried to remove it, the more I became obsessed, despite the fact that we really didn't need to get rid of it. Eventually, after reinforcements showed up, we were able to move it. My mission was accomplished, and I forgot about the real goal, so was free to pick up my camera.

Why Care? / Wedding


Why do I even care about sustainability? C'mon Kevin, be honest with yourself.

First, I have to say that I am sick of the word "sustainability". Partly, because I don't know that I really care about true "sustainability". I don't care if the human race wipes itself out in the future. What I do care about is what life will be like before we put ourselves out of our misery (which there will certainly be much of before humanity drives itself to extinction ). I guess what I care about is not so much "sustainability", as human quality of life. I care about it for me, and I care about it for my kids (assuming I ever have any). Oddly enough, I also care about it for people I don't even know. Although, I must admit that it has taken me many years to be able to empathize even the tiniest amount with them.

I am hesitant to even admit that I care about other people because it somehow seems cheesy, as if I am declaring that I am some kind of ultra-moral saint. But it is nothing like that. Instead, I think it is:

1. An involuntary product of my upbringing and faith. Although I realize that not all Christians have such a sense of responsibility to *everyone* on the world, I think that the root of my feeling now is my interpretation of what I was taught. Likewise, although my parents never told me explicitly to care about how the people who make my shoes are treated, they somehow instilled in me a sense of caring for other people, and I have translated that to mean *all* people.

2. Totally selfish. We are all connected. Everything on earth is connected. What we do today has far ranging effects on everyone's life, and our unborn children's life. If what I do negatively effects other people, that negativity will inevitably come back to harm me, or my children. It is a very abstract thing to say here, but I would welcome any challenges to this way of thinking. It is always helpful to try to connect the dots between what we do, how it effects others, and then how that effects us right back.

So, if what I care about is people, why the obsession with environmental "sustainability"? To tell the truth, I had never really thought about it, it just seemed "right" ( intuition? Instinct? ). If I do think about it though, I think it becomes relatively obvious. We all depend on the earth's resources, and are all influenced greatly by our environment. If someone's needs for resources or a healthy environment are not met, it will, in the long run, effect me and my children. Perhaps I have enough money to stave off the most obvious negative effects, but as things get worse, who can say with certainty that their children will be so lucky? Then of course, there is the fact that having the money to stave off the obvious negative effects actually puts us at risk if we are not careful. The ease with which I am able to go to the store and buy a slab of mackerel is the same thing that drives our irresponsible use of mercury in other products. That mercury ends up in the mackerel that I eat, and I put my health at risk.

So, in this sense, sustainability is not about "saving the world" or making sure that the human race can live forever. It is all about creating a healthy, safe, enjoyable world for me, my family, my friends, and my future children. The main goal is not to make the system sustainable, but rather, not to break the system. Sustainability is just a secondary benefit of not breaking the system.

Being totally honest with myself though, I have to admit that this is not the only reason that I am here, studying "how not to break the system" ( sustainability ).

I am also here because everyone wants a cause. I want to feel that my life is worth something. I want my life to have some meaning. Working on a web-site for a client whose practices I don't agree with does not do much to give me satisfaction in that area. Although what I am doing has "value" to them, it has not value to me. I need something that I values as well. And working to better the world, instead of better my financial status so that I can protect myself from the very damage I am working to promote, does not really have that appeal.

In this respect, I think that the whole sustainability thing is very much like a religion. It is something that gives us purpose. I used to feel uncomfortable about sustainability as a religion, thinking that that somehow weakened the whole argument for creating a better world. But thinking about it logically, I can really see no fault in it. Perhaps it is not giving me purpose so much as it is the most logical purpose I could find. I have no appologies about the fact that I feel more fulfilled working toward something I believe in as opposed to something I believe is harmful, regardless od how "religous" it may be.

So, I have written this in one sitting. I have not re-read it. I have not thought about it in it's entirety. This post is really the first time I have put all these thoughts together. I will most assuredly change my views somewhat, but for now...

* * *

In other news, some of the wedding photos from France are finally done (there are more to come). I feel a little bad that there is an obvious bias toward the brides side of the guest list. If you are one of the French folks looking for your photo, please note that I did not leave you out because of your French heritage and what my president tells me I should think about that. It's just an unconcious bias towards people I already knew. Please note that there are three sizes. If you click on the small thumbnail, a medium sized photo will appear. If you click on the medium sized photo, a larger sized photo will appear. If you want a full sized (bigger than your screen) photo, or you want to print it, please let me know. I will send you the high-quality version.

The Bush Energy Bill


With President Bush reinstated for another four years and a wider Republican majority in both houses of Congress, what’s in store for the environment?

The other day I posted some transcripts of the latest Living on Earth, one of the most interesting programs I have heard in a long time. Not because it is giving us any groundbreaking new ideas, but rather because it gives me a glimpse of how some other people view the environment and environmental policy, where I can actually hear it straight from "bad guy's" mouth.

There were quite a few interesting topics covered. I am looking at them one at a time in a series of posts. ( The first time I transcribed it myself, because I didn't realize the web site already had the full transcripts. This time I just copy-pasted. )

Kim Strasel: Senior editorial writer for The Wall Street Journal
Bill McKibben: a visiting scholar in environmental studies at Middlebury College and author of “The End of Nature.”
Curwood: Announcer of Life on Earth

On The Bush Energy Bill In the Senate

CURWOOD: So, the White House now has a bigger margin in the Senate to work with, a somewhat bigger margin in the House to work with. Wasn’t able to get a comprehensive energy bill passed through Congress in the first four years of the president’s administration. So what’s likely to happen now on the broader picture of getting an energy bill through? Kim?

STRASSEL: I don’t think they’re going to have a difficulty getting an energy bill through anymore. And, in fact, I think the worry should be – and this is probably something maybe Bill and I would agree on--I think the worry will be that it will be so easy to get it through that they will just stuff through a whole bunch of incentives for their various companies. And subsidies, that it may be very subsidy-laden bill rather than a smart energy bill that is about sort of smart production. That would be my worry.

I don’t think that they’ll have a difficulty getting it through. One of the reasons they didn’t before was because of ANWR I think it’s just going to be easier to break that hump this time. And ANWR aside, a vast number of Senators want an energy bill because an energy bill is one of those things that actually brings home benefits for just about everyone's state.

CURWOOD: Yeah, I want to turn to Bill but, for a moment, Kim, explain to me – what do you mean by subsidies here?

STRASSEL: You know, the worry I think from some people, myself included, is that you throw a lot of perks in there for a whole bunch of different companies that really aren't about letting the market decide what's best for -- what is actually our smartest or best energy sources? Where best to get them? And, you know, what is most economical?

We need a more market-based energy policy. Rather than kind of going back to the 1970s, when it was all about saying, well, this type of oil drilling is good so we’re going to give a lot of companies a whole bunch of government money to do that kind of drilling. And sort of centrally directing where we get our resources from.

My own preference if we had an energy bill would be more about sort of going back through, looking at certain regulations that don’t make a lot of sense. And sort of making sure that we have as much of an open market as we could for letting the market decide which sort of resources were best for us to be using.

CURWOOD: And certainly subsidies cost money at a time when we’re facing a sizable federal deficit.

STRASSEL: Oh, absolutely. The bill they had last time around was billions and billions of dollars, and the editorial page here certainly was not a fan of it.

CURWOOD: Bill, she says that you are going to go along with her on this one.

STRASSEL: I don’t know! (LAUGHS)

MCKIBBEN: Well, the last energy bill that the president put forward was, she’s right, absolutely laden with special favors for every possible fossil fuel interest that there was. It will reappear probably in more egregious form this time and it’ll be passed. All of this comes from the fact that the U.S., under Vice President Cheney’s energy plan committee, has no real vision for the future of energy in this country other than, basically, more drilling, more production, more refining. They're not grappling in a serious way with the necessary transition away from fossil fuel and towards renewable energy in the relatively near future. That leaves us alone among industrialized nations in that condition. And I don’t think that that’s likely to change much over the next four years. I think it’ll basically be a time-out for anything really innovative in energy policy.

My reactions.

"I think the worry will be that it will be so easy to get it through that they will just stuff through a whole bunch of incentives for their various companies. And subsidies, that it may be very subsidy-laden bill rather than a smart energy bill that is about sort of smart production. That would be my worry. "

If Kim is worried about that, it really is worrisome. The thing I don't get is how she could support such a corrupt administration. She knows their main concern is not about the environment, but rather stuffing their pockets, and yet... but then what do I know, maybe she (Senior editorial writer for The Wall Street Journal) voted for Kerry. But that's not really fair of me. To tell the truth, I didn't really see much hope for a real leader in Kerry either, just a little smarter than Bush, and wouldn't make as big of a mess out of the environment.

a vast number of Senators want an energy bill because an energy bill is one of those things that actually brings home benefits for just about everyone’s state.

I have to plead ignorance here. I don't know exactly what she is talking about by "benefits", but I assume they are short-sighted benefits. If the senators were really anxious to bring home real long-term benefits... well, I guess they would be hot and heavy into renewable resources.

really aren't about letting the market decide what's best for -- what is actually our smartest or best energy sources? Where best to get them? And, you know, what is most economical? ... My own preference [is] sort of making sure that we have as much of an open market as we could for letting the market decide which sort of resources were best for us to be using.

Is that something that the market can really decide? I mean, the market decided that DDT wad grrrrreeat!. The market decided that pumping the atmosphere full of CO2 is great. The market decides lots of things that science knows to be wrong. I realize there is a dilemma here. Do we trust science, or do we trust the market? Eventually the science will be understood and embraced by the market, but at what cost? How much damage must we do in the mean time? What are leaders for if not to actually lead ?

Of course, she is arguing against Bush's support to the oil companies, and I applaud that, but I don't agree with her reasoning that the market knows best in real time . There is always a time-lag between when "the market" decides something is good, and the time that it realizes that what it has decided is good is actually screwing up the world. Is there any mechanism in there that ensures that that time lag is not too long, and that no permanent damage will be done?

Bill Says:

They're not grappling in a serious way with the necessary transition away from fossil fuel and towards renewable energy in the relatively near future.

YES! And this is what I don't understand. How, in the most developed, self proclaimed "greatest nation on earth", can we not have a serious plan to transition between fossil fuel, which we all know is not sustainable, to renewable energy? I do understand how some people would rather sacrifice the future and their children's' future for a few bucks today, but what kind of leadership bows to that? It makes me sick. Again, my disclaimer, that I do not thing Kerry would have been that much better in leading us toward a realistic goal for the future. This is not an attack on Bush, so much as it is an attack on stupidity.

Ladan

Sedan jag förste kom hit, jag var en litten ängslig över min thesis project. Vi har bara fyra monader att göra det, och de flesta studienter pratar om hur de kan hitta på en kompani som vill hjelpa de. Jag tror inte att jag kan hitta på en kompani och göra en realistik plan i bara fyra monader. Om jag kan inte göra det bra, varför skulle jag slösa min tid och deras tid?

Jag tänkte att jag måste hitta på några tema att blir roligt, och interessant, och jag kan göra med bara fyra monder. Till sist har jag hittat på den. Och dessutom, det är vad jag ville gör även framför jag kom till sverige.

Jag skulle vilja forska om hur kan man tänke strategisk för sustainability. Ja, jag vet. det fins en massor av böker pä vad man kan göra att hjälpa miljö, men denna böker pratar, för den mest, inte om hur man kan avgöra vad är beste att göra, men de har bara en lista av saker som är bra. I klass, ve plugar om hur kompanier kan tänke strategisk, och jag vill göra det samma med individuell.

Först, jag vill leta efter vad hindra man att de kan inte tänke strategisk, och sedan, jag måste hitta på hur jag kan hjälpa de besegra vägspärrarna. Är inte om vad jag kan lära man, men det är om hur jag kan hjälpa man lära sig själv.

Om jag skriver min ide på Engelska, lät det tydligen inte så dum (om du även förstår vad jag har skrift). Snart, ska jag förklara den okså på Engelska, men nu är jag en liten trött.

Living on Earth
With President Bush reinstated for another four years and a wider Republican majority in both houses of Congress, what’s in store for the environment?

This is the topic of the latest Living on Earth, one of the most interesting programs I have heard in a long time. Not because it is giving us any groundbreaking new ideas, but rather because it gives me a glimpse of how some other people view the environment and environmental policy.

Not only that, but it also gives me hope. Assuming that many of the advocates of Bush's environmental policy are supporting it because they truly believe that it is in the best interest of the environment, it seems that the only thing needed is to some how show them a broader systems view of the earth.

Although I see no end to overall political divide, there is no reason that people can't stay Republican, and at the same time take care of the earth, after all, taking care of the earth is not a tree-hugging, new-age, hippy, liberal Democrat idea, it is practical and good for everyone. Without the earth we will die, and more importantly maybe, we will loose all our stuff, and we will not be able to fight for democracy and freedom 'or all the world.

There were quite a few interesting topics covered. Here I will look at them one at a time in a series of posts. For those of you too lazy to listen to the show, I have transcribed the portions I am writing about.


Kim Strasel: Senior editorial writer for The Wall Street Journal
Bill McKibben: a visiting scholar in environmental studies at Middlebury College and author of “The End of Nature.”

On Drilling for Oil in The Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWAR)

Announcer: The president has been a proponent of drilling in ANWAR, but has met with opposition in the senate. What do you see happening now? Kim, let's start with you.

Kim: I think what's important to note, I mean, what goes hand in hand with Bush being re-elected is the victory that Rebublicans won in the senate too, because, most of the things that have been stymied in Bush's environmental agenda were... were stopped because they couldn't overcome a filibuster in the senate. There's now fifty-five Republicans. That's certainly not enough to overcome a filibuster easily, but it's gonna make it easier. Especially on things such as ANWAR, where they got very close on previous votes. They may actually be able to do it, and I would imagine that since a first term priority of the President was passing an energy bill that included it, it will be one of the things that comes up right away in the new congress.

Announcer: Bill?

Bill: Yeah, I think all along that one of President Bush's symbolic goals has been to put some oil wells into the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. I mean it clearly doesn't really go to the point of any of our energy issues, but it's a symbolic victory for them to so that, and I would be very pleasantly surprised if they hadn't done it by thins time next year.

Announcer: What do you mean symbolically important?

Bill: I think they want to stake the claim that there's not really much importance to wilderness at all. That if there's resources in a place, then the most important thing to do is for people to go and get them. I don't think they've ever been comfortable with the wilderness idea that grew out of a very different political age, and I think we've seen a lot of that in the first term. Kim's absolutely right. With the change in the senate, it will make it all the more easier for them to do that in ANWAR and elsewhere.

Announcer: Kim, how fair is that analyses? It seems to me that President Bush has backed away from some drilling in sensitive areas, for example, uh... the uh.. he backed away from his proposal to lease lands for natural gas exploration in the Rocky Mountain front there in Montana after receiving pressure from conservationists there. So, what about Bill McKibben's statement that the administration doesn't really care that much about wilderness?

Kim: Oh I think (laughter) that's just not the case. I mean, a lot of people like to suggest that any Republican doesn't have any sort of care for nature, but you know, I've never met a Republican who's not a strong environmentalist. Um, you know, what always is overstated about ANWAR is that we're actually talking about a piece of land here that's about the size of Dullus Airport, and there's a very strange notion out there, I mean bill was saying that, you know, he doesn't think that Republicans are comfortable with the whole era where, uh, wilderness protection was out there. I on the other hand think that there is a generation of people who aren't comfortable with the concept that we *can* progress, we *can* actually do things like resource, uh, management and getting resources out of [illegible] without ruining our wilderness. This is one of the great things that America is good at. I mean, we put people on the moon, we can certainly figure out a way to extract a little oil from a very small piece of ground in Alaska without ruining American wilderness.

My reactions. First, I am so so disappointed in Bill for making such a stupid remark about how the Bush administration want's to stake a claim that there is not much value to wilderness at all. Regardless of how it may look, I am sure that they do value wilderness, though perhaps not as much as they value the support of oil companies. I think that for him to say something like this is totally irresponsible and counter-productive to achieving the goal of preserving what little intact portions of nature remain. Such statements will do little to further their cause, although, I also recognize that such extreme statements are a sign of true Diaspora and a feeling of helplessness, which I understand well.

The idea of being symbolically important is interesting however. Until now, I have been banging my head against a wall trying to figure out just why Bush would want to go against the wishes of so many Americans, destroy one of the last remaining wilderness areas on earth, and invest so heavily into a fossil-fuel dead-end, all for a few months worth of oil. It makes sense that he is trying to prove something. Perhaps a few months worth of oil, and the profits his supporters can gain from it are not as valuable to him as the wilderness is, but combine that with the message he would be sending to opponents, who are for sustainable development, and the political value might trump the value of wilderness in his mind.

It would be interesting however to hear a direct statement of what value wilderness and nature hold for him. Is it simply for recreation? i.e. if it is not accessible to snowmobiles and hunters, it has no value? Or, does he realize the value that intact ecosystems have to our very existence, and in the survival of our economy, and our ability to bring freedom to the rest of the world? Or is he somewhere in-between?

What is more interesting for me, however, are Kim's comments.

"I've never met a Republican who's not a strong environmentalist"

I do not doubt that there are many strong environmentalist Republicans. I know they are talking about the effects a Republican senate and presidency will have, but I would like to decouple her response from Republican vs. Democrat thinking. I wonder what "environmentalist" means. Obviously it means different things to different people, so I wonder what meaning she has in mind. Is it a view that nature is good for hunting and snowmobiling? Maybe she is talking about having a good environment to play golf in? Or, does she mean, as I imagine when I hear "environmentalist" that she has never met a Republican that has not taken into account how valuable the environment is, intact , to all living creatures, including people, that rely on it for their life? Whichever the case, I would venture to guess that she has met many republicans and democrats alike who do not fall into any of these categories. Then again, perhaps by "environmentalist" she is speaking of people who believe that there is great monetary gain to be made from exploiting the natural environment, and therefore, "like" nature.

"we're actually talking about a piece of land here that's about the size of Dullus Airport"

This disturbs me. What she sees, with her linear thinking, is a small piece of land that benefits only the trees that stand on it. What I see, with my systems thinking view, is a small piece of land which may play an intricate role in the complex ecosystem we depend on to live. There is no way to know just how valuable the last remaining patches of intact wilderness are to our survival, therefore, it is impossible to put a price on it.

What's more, we know that we can not rely on fossil fuels in the near future. What good is it then to invest money and effort into extracting a few months worth of oil from a priceless area of wilderness, when it does nothing to move us forward? Will it lessen our dependance on oil from the middle east? No. Will help to reduce the impact of global warming? Just the opposite. So what is the point? And why does she think that it is a good thing that it is only a small piece of land?

I on the other hand think that there is a generation of people who aren't comfortable with the concept that we *can* progress, we *can* actually do things like resource, uh, management and getting resources out of [illegible] without ruining our wilderness. This is one of the great things that America is good at.

Ahh. the famous last words, "Don't worry, I know what I'm doing". This is the comment that scares me the most. What does she mean by "ruin"? Is she talking about how it is possible to extract oil and still use the are for snowmobiling, or maybe a parking lot for snowmobilers to park their SUVs when they ? No matter how "low" impact current technology allows us to be, by building a oil well, you are destroying wilderness and opening it up to further, future destruction. Not to mention that there is no way they can know the full extent of the damage that may be caused. I see no way around it.

Where did she get the idea that America has ever been good at that? Just take a look at how much wilderness there was and how much there is now. To make it worse, wilderness can not be replaced.

I mean, we put people on the moon

To me, this is the exact argument for not opening the area for oil drilling. If we can put a man on the moon, we should be able to find alternatives to fossil-fuels, which we know we can not depend on in the near future. If we are so smart, why not make the change?

we can certainly figure out a way to extract a little oil from a very small piece of ground in Alaska without ruining American wilderness.

Again, there's that thinking that fails to understand that little changes have big impacts. We have seen it time and again, and the only thing we know with certainty about "not ruining" the ecosystem, is that we have to abide by it's rules.

1. Don't increase the amount of substances in the biosphere that are not naturally there (either from inside the earth, such as carbon dioxide, or man-made chemical compounds)
2. Don't degrade the existing systems.

This plan to drill for oil in ANWAR breaks both of these rules. Number one, it is pandering for our desire for fossil-fuels, leading to increases in CO2, and number two, it is destroying one of the few remaining intact ecosystems on earth.

Why not invest that money in renewable energy? No matter now hard I think about it, I can't understand. But maybe it's just because I am thinking too hard... Maybe understanding the case for more oil at the expense of the earth and everyone living on it requires us to stop thinking.

Part of it

I was off kayaking all day Saturday and Sunday. Both days started off clear and sunny, but both days degraded into cold and rainy. I enjoyed it all, but what really made the trip was the last hour of the last day. Just as we were getting ready to head for home, the photos you see above happened. The water grew mirror calm, and the final paddle home was another one of those "ahhhhhhhh" moments. Imagine just floating on a mirror and looking at this, no sounds but the ducks. Not simply looking at the sunset, but being a part of it. I think this is what is so awesome about kayaking. If I sit on land and look at the sunset, I am in awe, but I feel like a spectator. Somehow, when you are floating on the water, it feels as if you are actually inside the picture, rather than just looking at it. There is nothing like it.

As I said, the rest of the trip was also nice, despite the clouds and cold wind. I am grateful that those who were brave enough to come with me didn't seem to mind too much. Maybe they will still agree to go kayaking when the weather gets warmer.

Of course, it helps to have a nice fire, lasting the seven hours from 4:00 (when the sun sets) until 11:00 when we finally went to sleep. It also helps that the heavy rain waited until 11:10 (just after we crawled into our tents) to start, and that it stopped at 7:20 (just before we got out of our tents in the morning.

I thought that that would be my last overnighter of the year, but seeing tonight's sunset from the city, made me wish I was back out there at the campsite.

På Svenksa

Hej, vad är det här??? Du måste tänke att jag har blevit en liten tokig. Har jag dunkat mitt huvud, så jag kan inte skriva ord som normala folkar kan förstår? Eller, har min hemsida varit övertagande? Eller, har jag bara drickat för mycket öl? Nej... det är bara för att jag har bot i Sverige nästa tre månader, och jag kan inta tala något svenska. Jag läsar den när jag har tid, men att läsa och att tala är mycket olik. Ävan om jag kan läsa en ord när jag ser den, om jag praktisera inte att använa den, när jag har chans jag måste tänke för lång, och svenskorna bytar snabt till engelska. Jag har ingen med som jag kan talar på svenska, därför jag måste skriv något varje dag. Men... jag tänker att om jag skriv tre dager på svenska är det en stora överraska. Vi ska se.

I alle fall... om do kan läsa skvenska, jag tänka att det är bästen om du läser inte och titta bara på bilderna.

Imorgon ska jag och fyra kvinnor padla kajakor hela dagen och sedan campa. Jag kan inte säga hur kall natten ska bli, men ävan om de snöar, är det inte en överraska. För tre dager ve letade efter tältor och sovsackar för alle (men jag vet inte varför vi kan inte alle använde min tält och sovsack). Men nu, har vi det. Min sovsack är en liten tunn, men jag komer från Michigan, så det ska inte blir en problem (jag hoppas).

.... Jag hade planerat att skriva mycket mer än jag har, men det är så svårt!. Jag har redan blevit trött, och jag har ännu min jobb att göra.

Vi ses Sändag efter kajakresan, med en massor av bilder.

Bug Bike
More Glasses

I don't know if the organizer of the program actually reads this site or not, but when presnting us with the outline for our next project, he made a point to show how the final paper portion will have value and meaning, as it will at least be compiled into a reference material for others to use in their thesis later next year. Either he read my mind, or he read my web-site. Either way, I'm happy about that.

Wineless Internet

I hate fizzy water , and I like these better when they are full.

* * *

Someone called me on my comments the other day about grades and the assignment I had to do. I'm glad about that, because this is basically where I just write crap that can't be backed up, and think about it later, wishing I hadn't written it exactly how I did. Being challenged gives me a chance to rethink and update my thoughts.

In this case I think I was a little overly ticked off about having to do the report, but I think my reasoning stands. The point was raised that grades are good for helping HR people decide who to hire.

I guess I was not aware that the Universities goal was to make life easier for HR people. My goal sure isn't. My goal is to learn and explore ideas and concepts. Anything that gets in the way of that is counter-productive.

Grades in and of themselves are not bad, but they have a tendency to become the goal, and more priority is placed on them than on learning.

Likewise, writing a paper is not bad either, so long as it is serving to facilitate learning, or some other real-life goal, rather than to facilitate a grade. In this recent case, we prepared a presentation, which was very learningful because we had an opportunity to try our ideas out in semi-real-life settings. We also presented these ideas to others so that they can benefit as well. All the time for the paper however was spent formating the already old ideas into a structure that will benefit no one. Even since the presentation, some of my ideas had changed, but there is no time to both explore them and format it and hand it in. I think the time would have been much more well spent exploring the new ideas rather than rehashing the old ones... which we all did, and only for a grade.

Fizzy Water

I hate this stuff.

Back To The Hood

I have had very few original thoughts lately... at least none that I am willing to share now, without further development, so I have nothing to write about. I have spent most of my time on Kayaking and our final report / presentation.

I feel a little bad for my group members in that I am not motivated in the least to do well on these. I see little value in them, for myself, or for anyone else. Given that we had only two weeks to work on it, there will be nothing ground breaking coming out of it, and therefore it has little value to the reader / viewer. For me, it has a little more value. Not because I am learning anything new (in fact, spending time on this is detracting from the time I could be using to explore new ideas) but it is valuable in that I have an opportunity to work with people in a non-critical setting. This means that I don't care about the outcome, and I am therefore free to explore new ways of working with people, (ways that I would not accept if the outcome actually had to be good). Of course, some of the group members may actually care about their grade, so I wish I could care more, but there is so much more that I prioritize above a grade... it's the biggest challenge of my life. I felt the same way when I was in school the first time, but then I thought I was just lazy. Now, I have a little more real-life experience so I can see that I was right then, and I am right now. Who developed this "grading" scheme, and what the hell were they thinking?

Anyway, we still did well on the presentation and the paper is looking nice as well, but it just feel likes such a stupid waste of time to me considering that there is no tangible output.

Anyway, these are some more photos taken from "The Hood". These are a little less flattering than those I posted a couple days ago, but still, it ain't that bad of a place.

Braving the Elements

Two classmates and I took a weekend kayak adventure, leaving yesterday, camping at a nearby nature reserve, and coming back today. It was supposed to rain, so we were happy that it was just cold and cloudy (no rain) all weekend, but as we pulled into the kayak club to return the rented kayaks, all of a sudden the sun came out, and the sky was blue.

Anyway, despite the grey skies, and the fact that we didn't really go very far (the place we camped was only about forty-five minutes from where we started if we were to make a bee-line there at a fast pace) it was a great trip, relaxing with mostly calm water. A beautiful campsite, a warm fire, and way too much food.

I have been criticized in the past for not having many photos of myself up, so this time I put up a bunch. (I'm in the green kayak... the guy with the bad case of bed-head)

recent galleries

2005.01.03
2004.12.18
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2004.12.24
2004.12.11
2004.11.30