Choices: Drive? or Bike?

This is the first post of an ongoing feature here at 21st Century Citizen. It’s called ‘Choices’ and it’s purpose is to present a simple, values-based choice and generate discussion.

It’s also intended to make you think a bit and examine the reasons why you make the choices you make. Here we go with our first installment.

[Note: I'm using pictures from flickr below -- clicking on them will take you to the image's page in Flickr.]

Choice: Drive? Or Bike?



Drive?



Or Bike?

This question may not be as simple as it seems.For example, if you have a long commute from your home and need to drive, well — you could use a bike if you changed jobs and worked closer to home.

So, then what if you could find a job close enough to home? Then would you use a bike?

If it seems impossible to get a job close to home, then how about a job where you work from home?

If you got a job where you worked from home, then you wouldn’t need to drive to commute. Then would you switch to using a bike?

I know it’s impossible for a lot of people to work from home — if you’re a Fireman or a Nurse, fires and sick people don’t usually come to you, so it’s impractical. But for many jobs, it would be possible. In fact, if gas were $10 a gallon, it might turn into a necessity — many people just wouldn’t be able to afford to drive to work and back.

Now what about buying groceries? Would you be willing to ride the bike to get food? Why not?

Again, for some it’s impractical — but maybe not as impractical as you’d think. For example, many people in large cities — like New York City — don’t own cars. They shop a little bit at a time or take a cab. You could do that on a bike in many towns.

In some cases, the roads may not be safe for bikes — for example, here in New Hampshire there aren’t bike lanes everywhere.

Also, for many of us the large grocery stores we shop at are too far to ride a bike.

But what if bike lanes were required by law on all busy roads? Would that make a difference? If so — then shouldn’t we be asking our local governments to adopt rules that require bike lanes? We don’t do this now because we’re used to driving cars.

And if more people road bikes, I’ll bet that local people would open stores up to serve them. Local stores used to be everywhere, in fact, until the big chains put them out of business. If there were local shoppers for them, they’d open back up. Probably pretty quickly too.

So — what do you choose here? Don’t mke the choice you think is ‘appropriate’, tell the truth. And tell us what would have to change to make you use a bike — maybe if we talk about the reasons why we don’t use bikes, it will give us ideas as to what we need to change so more people do.

And if you use a bike now, then tell us how you do it and how practical it is. What problems do you run into? What works well?

Feel free to comment. And thanks for reading!

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8 Great Global Warming Podcast Episodes / Series

I’ve been looking for Podcasts that discuss Global Warming and that aren’t a waste of time. After doing all my research, here is a set of podcasts that I believe are the best around.

Please leave a comment here on this post if you have other favorites to add — or if you disagree about one of the podcasts linked here.

1. Global Warming podcast from PRI’s “The World”

Special Tech Podcast #146 [MP3]

This is a podcast from the radio show The World.

The World is a well known radio program from Public Radio International. Here is the description from their program guide:

“A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change looks at the impacts of global warming. This podcast explores how climate change is affecting our world: from Africa, to South America, to Europe. And what global warming could mean in your neck of the woods.”

2. Are Americans ready to believe in global warming?

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Beef Belches Be Big, Big Broblem

The About Simple Ways blog notes a recent Japanese study which says eating a pound of beef is worse for the environment than “driving your car for three hours while leaving all the lights on back home.”

This study was also pointed to by the NewScientist.com news service:

A kilogram of beef is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution than driving for 3 hours while leaving all the lights on back home.

This is among the conclusions of a study by Akifumi Ogino of the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Tsukuba, Japan, and colleagues, which has assessed the effects of beef production on global warming, water acidification and eutrophication, and energy consumption.

In other words, a kilogram of beef is responsible for the equivalent of the amount of CO2 emitted by the average European car every 250 kilometres, and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days.

NewScientist goes on to say, “Most of the greenhouse gas emissions are in the form of methane released from the animals’ digestive systems, while the acid and fertilising substances come primarily from their waste. Over two-thirds of the energy goes towards producing and transporting the animals’ feed.”

Also, Action Today chips in its two cents

If every Canadian citizen ate just one meal a week that consisted of locally and organically raised meats and produce we would reduce our oil consumption by 5.7 million barrels of oil a year! Each food item in a typical meal has traveled an average of 1500 miles.

Farmers are working to reduce this as much as they can. For example, a recent article in New Zealand’s Farm News notes that “a Swedish study in 2003 suggested that organic beef, raised on grass rather than concentrated feed, emits 40 percent less greenhouse gases and consumes 85 per cent less energy.

But even with all this research on feeding practice, the simplest approach may be a bit more obvious:

“Everybody is trying to come up with different ways to reduce carbon footprints,” says Su Taylor of the Vegetarian Society in the UK: “But one of the easiest things you can do is to stop eating meat.”

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Simple changes in values can save energy

There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew. ~Marshall McLuhan, 1964″

Here’s an interesting post over on the Saving Energy blog.

The essence of the post is that that we have too many possessions that use too much energy and waste resources. For example, take the lowly label maker:

After looking around, I found several devices in my house and at my office that I could have easily done without. In fact the cost of having these devices around exceeds the benefit they offer.

For example, consider that label maker.

Agreed it saves you writing a few words. But you have to make sure it is filled with paper tape, ink, battery. If any of these is missing, you have to run to nearest Staples and get it. Isn’t it just way too much complication? Would things not be simple if you just had a few sheets of printed labels and use hand written labels instead?

This seems very fundamental to me.

I see this as a snapshot of someone’s values changing. Suddenly, the things that seemed important are less important. Suddenly, new things become more important.

Suddenly conserving energy and simplifying your life seem more important than having a label maker.

This is a simple example, but the impact can be profound. Because this isn’t just about the label maker — it’s about how we look at life and our consumption patterns. It’s about how we think and what decisions we make.

It’s about how we find a parking spot:

Instead of driving around to find parking spot, take the one you find quickest – hawl around the groceries. Make an exception if you are tired of course, but do this when you can. Slow driving is extremely fuel consuming.

Suddenly saving energy is more important to you than parking close to the store. These are the fundamental values we all need to change. One person at a time.

-Kevin

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Capitalist Climate Cola (with a side of global warming hockey stick info)

Capitalist climate cola, originally uploaded by oxpeaceart.

It’s the real thing.

This picture is superimposed over the now well-known ‘hockey stick’ graph showing temperature compared to CO2 concerntrations.

The hockey stick graph superimposed on the image here (here’s an original version of the chart) has been used by climatologists to underscore their claims that recent temperatures on earth are significantly higher than in past centuries. It’s among the most compeling arguments in support of global warming.

But it’s not without its detractors. Some have argued that the graph is faulty, phoney and misleading. Supporters of the research, in turn, have charged that those who are against it have been funded in part by oil compnies.

According to Michael Mann, one of the developers of the original research, “Ross Gelbspan—he’s a former editor of Boston Globe—has written two books on the connections between industry funding, in particular funding by ExxonMobil, and these climate contrarians. The vast majority of them appear to receive funding from industry sources.”

For background and to inform yourself on this debate, here are some sources for information on this debate:

1. The wikipedia entry discussing the issues surrounding the graph as it was published.

2. Ain interview on Mother Jones magazine with Michael Mann, on of the developers of this data and a founder of realclimate.org.

3. This article which questions the accuracy of the hockey stick graph

4. Another article questioning the hockey stick data

5. A detailed, annotated response to the criticism of this data posted on realclimate.org

FYI – Here’s the original hockey stick graph:

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Good non-U.S. Sources for Information on Climate Change

I don’t know about you, but I find myself being skeptical of any information published by the US Government when it comes to climate change. With all the evidence that scientists have been influenced to alter their publications by political appointees, it’s a shame to say — but I just don’t trust them anymore.

The good news is that the rest of the world isn’t sitting still when it comes to climate change. In fact, they’re moving ahead without us pretty quickly. That means there’s a lot of good information out there that — thanks to the Internet — when can tap into pretty easily.

After doing some research, I’ve identified these five sites as some of the best for information on climate change.

1. The UN: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

The IPCC is one of the most often quoted scientific sources when it comes to global climate change. It was established by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in 1988 — almost 20 years ago. Its publication Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis has been one of the most often referred to publications for the scientific basis for global climate change. (An updated version of this report for the year 2007 is soon to be released and a draft is on-line here.)

The IPCC, like any UN-established working group, is not without its detractors and its political problems. However, it still represents one of the largest scale efforts to understand and help mitigate the impacts of global climate change.

2. Canada: ecoACTION

Unlike the US, Canada has signed on to the Kyoto Protocol and is currently making an effort to comply. For example, here is an interesting article on how the Canadian government is attempting to force industry to reduce their output of the gases that cause global warming.

3. The EU: The European Environment Agency

The Executive Director of the European Environment Agency said recently: “While the worst effects of climate change may not hit Europe for many years we must prepare now. Climate change will have profound effects on our natural resources and will also change the way we go about our daily lives. We will not only lose biodiversity but also large parts of our territory, for example low-lying coastal areas and river basins as sea levels rise.”

Can you imagine a member of the Bush Administration saying something like that? I can’t.

Here’s a link to their efforts related to global climate change.

This site is the equivalent of the US Environmental Protection Agency — except that its job is to actually protect the environment instead of handling over control of natural resources to corporations.

4. The EU: Green Facts

This is a non-profit site based in Belgium that aims to provide independent, peer-reviewed data on a variety of environmental issues. Here’s a link to their digest Scientific Facts on Climate Change.

5. The UK: BBC | Climate Change

The BBC is one of the most trusted news organizations in the world. This site is a collection of all news and information collected from across the BBC’s news and information networks. The site features video programs, news and analysis pieces and other information. It’s a great resource for scientific information, informative videos and current, unbiased news.

PHOTOSET: Locally Grown Food / Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

This is a photoset on locally grown foods.

Eating locally grown foods has an impact far beyond the relatively little money you pay for it.

It’s an important step for the environment since it reduces the energy needed to grow the food and get it to you. It’s good for local farmers, because it helps them stay in business and thrive.

It’s also good for you spiritually. It feels good to take a step that so clearly helps both local people and the earth. It feels good knowing that your food is fresh and was brought straight from the farm to the market.

The Carbon Conscious Consumer is asking people to buy one pound of locally grown food a week this month. Here’s a banner that allows you to read more.

Carbon Conscious Consumer
We’re asking people to take part because it’s a small step that anyone can do. By taking part, people begin to think more about where their food comes from and how they can take small steps that could add up to something big if we all join in.

Share from a local organic farm in Sebastopol, CA


originally posted by brookelynn23

“kale, saladmix, cabbage, fingerlings, rainbowchard, strawberries, raspberries, artichoke, redonions, whiteonions, basic, cilantro, dandelionleaves, dill, parsley, zuchini, dill, floweringoregano, floweringthyme, sage, rosemary, nettlepesto”

This picture is of a share from a community supported farm in Sebastopol, CA. What a beautiful harvest of locally-grown, organic foods.

Locally grown organic food at a Portsmouth, NH farmer’s market


originally posted by jdickert

“Here’s Josh and Jean, the farmers from Meadow’s Mirth helping some customers. Fresh garlic, zucchini, flowers and other certified organic goodies.Taken at the Portsmouth, NH farmer’s market.”

There’s nothing like a Saturday morning trip to the farmer’s market in the Summertime. This local grower features what looks like all organic produce.

More locally grown food at the farmer’s market in Des Moines, IA


originally posted by jasoncross

Speaking of farmer’s markets, here’s a picture taken at the Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market. A great photo with beautiful colors — it looks like there’s a great supply of good food available.

Locally grown peppers in Albany, NY


originally posted by landis.

Here’s a great, colorful shot of freshly picked peppers at the Albany, NY farmers market. That produce looks great — and it probably costs less than the supermarket as well.

Organic tomatos from a local, organic farm


originally posted by joannseyes.

We’ll close with these words from Michael Pollan that were posted with the above picture of some amazing looking fresh, locally grown tomatos.

“Ripe vegetables were magic to me. Unharvested, the garden bristled with possibility. I would quicken at the sight of a ripe tomato, sounding its redness from deep amidst the undifferentiated green. To lift a bean plant’s hood of heartshaped leaves and discover a clutch of long slender pods handing underneath could make me catch my breath.”
~ Michael Pollan

Carbon Conscious Consumer

Portrait of an Environmental Hack Job

As the world-wide response to global warming builds, it’s bound to happen. The entrentched interests trot out their lackeys to muddy up the debate.

Some companies and industries have huge investments in keeping things the way they are. They want to slow down government regulation or citizen action that could impact their profits. The oil and auto industries, for example, could lose billions if new regulations impact their operations.

More than that, the individual and corporate investors behind these industries stand to lose. These are millionaires and billionaires who have huge sums of money on the line. And what has worked for them over the last 20-30 years has been the funding of ‘think tanks’ to publish ‘research’, ‘reports’ and ‘studies’ to influence public opinion in their favor.

And so we have the case of Michael R. Fox, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Science, Climate and Environment for the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.

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Localcooling.com surpasses 1 Million kWH saved!

Local Cooling has just passed over 1 million kWH saved! That’s an amazing milestone. It translates to almost half a million gallons of oil or about 53,000 trees saved. Nice work for a simple, free application.

Here’s some background on the site/application:

localcooling.com is home to a windows-only utility that can be downloaded onto your computer to help you manage and reduce the amount of energy you use. Here are screenshots:



The application (again which only runs on Windows) analyzes the power consumption of your computer and automatically adjusts things so that you’re saving energy.It also reports back to the localcooling website eactly how much energy your computer has saved and even rolls that amount up into its ongoing total of how much energy has been saved worldwide. You can join teams or enroll as a whole company so that a competition of sorts builds up between groups trying to save the most energy.The controversy arises from the fact that many feel the application is, well, stupid. They say, “Gosh, anyone with half a brain can figure out that Windows itself has settings to let you reduce the amount of energy your computer uses. All you have to do is go into the control panel settings and you can find everything right there to do the same thing!”Ah, I remember back when I was a snooty windows geek too. Fortunately I’m past that now.

The truth is, this is exactly the reason why people buy Macs in the first place. Windows is too complicated — and worse, it’s so buggy that people are afraid to change any of the default settings for fear their whole computer will simply blow up anyway. So they never change anything they don’t have to.

This little application is simple, easy to install and use, and even gives you “feel good” feedback, like telling you how many trees you’ve saved.

When was the last time Windows help you save some trees and then told you about it?

The real problem I see is in the competitive nature of the teams vying for first place in energy savings. It seems like that would encourage you to keep all your computers running as much as possible in order to ‘rack up savings’. It’s a bit like telling someone ‘the more you spend, the more you save!’ at a 50% off sale.

So now we could have companies all over the world turning on all their computers and letting them run 24 hours a day so they can report their savings back to localcooling. Yeah, that’s smart.

The application should probably be modified to take into account how much of the time your computer is turned off as well. Then, we’d really see who is saving energy — that is, if you ever turned the computer back on so it could upload it’s savings data.

The New Values of the 21st Century Citizen

Values guide decision making

Values guide decision making. They provide a shorthand to help your mind figure out what actions to take when a decision has to be made.

If you were faced with a choice, for example, between buying a hybrid vehicle or buying an SUV, the decision would be based partly on how much they cost and how much room you needed for groceries, kids, etc. But at least part of the choice is also made based on your values — which is more important to you?

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