Saturday, April 19, 2008

Your Name is Earth Day?

At the local earth day fest in the park, one of the booths was a chiropractor soliciting for new clients by offering an assessment and a 5 minute massage for free, after filling out a form. I put "Earth Day" for the date and my name under it and handed it over. Then his assistant uttered the question in my title before she managed to figure out that I hadn't put the date down with numbers. At any rate, he seemed shocked that my shoulders were aligned but not shocked that like most computer users I have "head thrust" meaning my ears aren't over my shoulders, but lead a little. He seemed decent and Ester gave me a fabulous 5 minute massage that hit everything in my neck that's been sore for the last 3 days, so I signed up for a discount and go on tuesday.

Then I ran into the guy who rents me glassblowing space and we chatted at the booth of his friend who does slumped glass. She pointed out the irony of having several vendors selling international imports at the Earth Day celebration promoting local buying. I didn't buy her stuff even though she had a fun lime green earth necklace because I deliberately only took $30 in cash which I had just handed over. $20 went to the doc and I paid $5.37 to get my name and employer on a tiny dog tag for my exercise key chain so I don't have to keep stuffing my old college ID in my jog bra in case I get hit by a car or bit by a rattlesnake and die alone in the gutter or the park. I also got some lit from the "open spaces" group that leads local hikes so in the snakebite case, I will at least expire in company.

At my last booth stop of the day I stopped to chat with someone about green building and he's literally one of the first people who volunteered a viewpoint that I've been thinking about for a while, which is that there are tradeoffs when switching from one product to another, and since no energy or product is built from nothing, it's worth considering cradle to grave production and use in determining whether or not one product is more green than another. And that a particular application may require something thats ostensibly less green up front in order for long term green benefits. One of his examples is polyurethane. You can use polyu on something once and it will last nearly forever, but will off-gas chemicals a little. Or you can use milk-paint (or something I can't remember the name of exactly) but it has to be reapplied annually or more and tends to encourage mold growth. So if your goal is low indoor pollutants, you're still better off with polyu because it prevents mold which is a much bigger source of indoor pollution than most any manufactured product these days. If your goal is low environmental impact, is it better to have pros over to apply polyu once, or this other product annually? Is it better to use something a little toxic sparingly or something less toxic abundantly? If you can split the difference and get a good product that is neither toxic nor wasteful, hey, bonus! Electric cars that just switch the pollution from where you live to someone else's back yard at least led to hybrids, the first real boost in mileage we've had in decades. The point is that thinking the whole lifecycle through before making a "green" decision is a good idea.

Kind of like the people who want animals to be "free and happy" rather than used to make my dinner and leather shoes. There's a point to be made about humane (wish there were a better word for it) treatment of for-profit animals. Healthy, well fed, well exercised animals are better for everyone including the animal. But for those people who think we should just stop eating animals and making their skins into sofas and handbags, please consider that if we didn't consume them, these animals would be extinct. We are predator, they are prey, and there's nothing unnatural about that relationship. Besides, big animals that get in our way get killed. Remorselessly. (Little animals only get killed until they go out of sight and thus stop being annoying, then we forget and a while later they bounce back, like rats.)

One could argue for free-range cows, but how is that working for the buffalo? I hear the neighbors are killing them off again for getting off the nature preserves. Besides, cows are at the point where they require a lot of human intervention and wouldn't do well if "set free". You want to see a lot of miserable cows? Set them free. Either we need vastly enlarged nature preserves tailored to supporting the species we want to keep around (like we even have a clue how to not fuck that up) or just keep with our farms and badger the biggest industrial plants and reasearch facilities into treating the animals as nicely as possible up to where they die for the cause. (And paying for all the costs of their business rather than leaving environmental clean up for the the property tax payers. I'm thinking of the un-remediated sewage pits near some of the worst offenders.) And if we're raising things for food, is it better to hunt hundreds of thousands of chickens in the wild? Really?

This brings me to my real point. I kinda hate nature. I'm greatly allergic to it. Nature makes me miserable seasonally and monthly. I like and metal and ceramic and plastic and drugs to keep nature at bay. I also don't care much for unnecessary pollution because as much as I hate some of nature, I really like to breathe and drink and eat. Even more, I like to breathe and drink and eat things that have minimal poison levels. So for self preservation, I think we should strike a balance with nature: don't clear cut unless there's no other option and it's not too extensive; get the damned mercury out of the coal power plant emissions already; reduce personal and industrial water waste; build commercial buildings with more sustainable practices; and reduce emissions from industrial transportation by using trains instead of trucks and where trucks and ships are used, reduce the emitted pollutants. That's all I ask, and me a nature hater. Is that really so hard?


P.S. Leave my water bottles alone. I hear in Seattle they're banning them. The problem is that there are good reasons for them and I don't hear that they're banning Dr. Pepper bottles. I love Dr. Pepper, but I keep water in the car in a flat of 16oz bottles so I can always keep a couple in the passenger compartment. If I keep 2-liters in the car, they're not convenient for drinking while driving, 16 oz bottles are. Once you drink from the container, it gets contaminated with bacteria. Considering how hot it gets in my car - hot enough to grow bacteria - it's healthier to use several small bottles that I have a hope of finishing in one to two uses. And I don't like the water from my place, so it requires filtering and all sorts of processing. Cheaper and more convenient is to buy little bottles than to waste 3X the water cleaning a weekly supply of still non-sterile refills from home. So hands off my water in little bottles.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

While I am pro being more conscious of our tendencies towards waste and over-consumerism...I think calling everything *green* will either give people a false sense of security or there will be a backlash because people are set in their ways and don't want to be called out on them (ie. I still see brand new/paper license plates giant SUVs/Hummers and think WTF, you'd buy one of those when regular gas is 3.89???? I guess it's an idiot tax)

the cradle to the grave approach is paramount, just look at ethanol and the possible corn shortage...