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Earth Day 2008: Reduce, Sustain, Prepare

Well, it's that time of year again: Earth Day. This will be my 2nd annual Earth Day post (last year's post is here). For this year, I thought I'd just list a bunch of random stuff that I think may be useful. Mainly, the focus, in my mind, should be in a few key areas: reduce, sustain, prepare. Let me explain what I mean.

The very first thing we can do on this Earth Day is to look at ways to reduce our consumption. Whether it be by driving less, eating less, using less electricity, or reducing the amount of water we use. The economic reality of life today is helping motivate many of us to cut back on our consumption. If the current trend holds, those luxuries in life, such as new clothing and entertainment, will begin to take a hit. But why wait? Why not preempt the problem now?

What I'm not talking about here are the old ideas, like low-flow bathroom fixtures. These are all good and fine, but they're mostly mainstream. Instead, we need to establish new trends in consumption. Using perfume/cologne instead of bathing daily might be an option for some people. There's always the "mellow yellow" rule with flushing. Also, how many times to you re-wear outer layers of clothing before washing them?

Ok, so this sounds gross, but let's think about other ways to reduce. Do you really need to drive to the store? If you spend $250 on a bike, how quickly can you recoup that cost by not driving at $4/gal? And what about luxury items? Is dessert really necessary? It's time to make these seemingly difficult decisions to reduce our overall impact on our surroundings.

Perhaps one of the most challenging concepts within the green movement is sustainability. Power generation is where we oftentimes see a lot of the focus, such as in the emphasis on renewable sources like wind and solar generators. What about other areas, though? What chemicals do you introduce into the environment through your dish detergent, shampoo, or fertilizers? Have you considered capturing rain water to use for watering your lawn and plants, or for washing your car? Simple sustainability efforts like these could go a long way toward a happier, more cost-effective future.

We hear a lot of flap over carbon emissions, but those messages are watered down and misdirected. The global warming debate falsely frames solutions as if they'll stop or reverse warming, but nothing is farther from the truth. The political organization in the UN on climate change - the IPCC - is advocating an approach that will slow global warming, but it won't stop it, and the effect will be over 50-100 years. As such, we need to face the facts and begin preparing for the worst.

Additionally, there is something illogical in the current conclusions. The peak-valley-peak-valley pattern seems well established over the 400,000 years of data from ice core samples. To believe that the next peak - possible a super-peak - will be followed by apocalpyse and not a valley (possible a super-valley) boggles the mind. As such, we should be considering and preparing for extreme weather of all types, including a new ice age.

To top it all off, it appears that we will be experiencing a major shift in magnetic poles in the next few years. NASA and NOAA reports suggest that the next major pole flip could be as soon as 2012. It is suspected that such a change could bring with it a dramatic change in climatic patterns, not to mention the effect that such a change in polarization could have on the dynamics of plate tectonics. We must be prepared for major changes in the reasonably near future.

I do not say this to alarm people, but to alert them to possible realities that are not covered in the least by the mainstream media. The environmental extremists with their generational mantra on reducing carbon emissions drown out all other climate science, to the great detriment of society. We should not be surprised if these politicians are wrong in the end, but we should be prepared to do what is necessary to survive.

Ideas to Ponder
Following are some ideas that you may consider on this Earth Day toward the goal of living a "reduce, sustain, prepare" lifestyle.

convert to CFLs
One of the easiest ways to help with conservation is to convert as many of your incandescent bulbs as possible to compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). The anecdote is that if every household in America changed one bulb to a CFL, then the equivalent would be to removing millions of cars from the road. That's pretty good for air quality, and even better if you think about how much less energy that would consume. LEDs are a potential alternative, especially for areas where cold temps make use of CFLs outdoors a bit more challenging.

A good reference is the one billion bulbs project.

buy in bulk (saves pkg'ing and gas)
Something that we perhaps don't think about these days is the value of buying in bulk. However, with gas prices soaring to the $4/gal mark in the US, maybe it's time to give it serious thought. There are 2 good reasons to seriously consider this approach, even if you're a single person.

First, buying in bulk generally means less packaging is required for the product. Less packaging means that you're reducing the amount of materials wasted on product protection, and thus you're increasing your overall positive effect on the environment and the economy. Why the economy? Because the supplier won't have to take the hit on packaging costs associated with individual packaging.

Second, buying in bulk can help reduce the amount of fuel you burn on shopping. One trip to Costco and you may have enough durable goods to last you a couple months, as opposed to buying goods a couple weeks at a time. If only this were possible with perishables, like fresh fruits and vegetables! :) At any rate, every time you can cut out an extra trip in your car/truck/SUV to the store, the better off you'll be financially, and you'll just have happened to reduced consumption in another area.

buy a hybrid (or, better, a Tesla!)
It boggles my mind that it's 2008 and yet not every car on the road is a hybrid. One would think that by 2010 there would only be hybrids and clean diesels on the road, but this seems highly unlikely. If you can afford to make the change to a hybrid, then I encourage you to do so now. Increasing demand will help spur automakers to produce more hybrid vehicles, with the net result of lower costs over time.

If you're a sports car fan, and thus hesitant about moving away from petrol, then I have good news for you. Check out the all-electric sports car from Tesla Motors. They're looking to change the landscape in the muscle car arena.

There is a myth, particularly among baby boomer aged management, that telecommuting is not a good thing; that it decreases productivity. Earth to curmudgeons: it's a lie that you're perpetuating because of your own personal biases. Given the extreme increases in fuels, and the terrible waste of energy that is commuting, I submit that it is fiscally and socially irresponsible to require workers to come into a central location for the purpose of sitting at a desk to perform work. It is time to set a new trend, where it is unusual for workers to be in the office, and it is expected that they can and will work flexibly from the location of their choice.

The problem is ultimately one of trust and bad management. Poor managers live under the delusion that work is only accomplished under their watchful eye. Moreover, bad managers are not able to manage by objective, so instead have to micromanage, in person, many of the activities underneath them. This must change, and now.

If a task can be completed without wasting fuel on a commute, it should be encouraged. If I can do all or most of my work from a remote location (no matter how remote), at the level of quality required, within the timeframes established, then let me do that. The benefits in health, health care costs, commuting time and costs, and overall stress levels will benefit the productivity of the company. But only if bad managers get out of the way and let their people work creatively and flexibly.

get off the grid (solar, wind, geothermal)
Since we're talking about working from home, let's also talk about how we can do so while minimizing our impact on the environment. Improvements in solar, wind, and geothermal power generation are making it increasingly possible to get off the grid, at least as our main power source. If HOAs will only now fall in step, we'll be able to see a new trend in consumer off-gridding that will have an even greater effect than converting to CFLs. BTW, if you've converted to CFLs and otherwise worked to reduce your electricity consumption, then you are well-positioned to make this change.

Remember: don't look at the cost savings in the short-term, but rather look at them over time. If going off the grid saves you $50-150/month in electricity, then make sure you're spending that much or less over a reasonable period of time for the replacement hardware and associated up-keep.

become an activist
One of the best areas where you can make a difference is in becoming an activist. No, this does not necessarily mean marching in a rally or egging your mayor's house (don't do that - it's illegal, destructive, and doesn't really accomplish anything). That being said, here are a few ideas for bringing attention to some of our challenges today.

lobby for alternative energy research
One of the great failures of our country seems to be the atrophy in energy research. While it is a gross misstatement to suggest that no research has occurred over the past 50 years, it is also rather distressing that we've not made significant breakthroughs, particularly in the areas of propulsion. Our cars run on 100-year-old technology, no matter how many computers you couple with the most advanced internal combustion engine. We all need to call Congress and demand that the country make serious investments in research in these areas. Perhaps Big Oil can forfeit some of its record profits toward that end.

lobby against biofuels that steal food
We have a serious problem with the development of biofuels. They're stealing food from society, driving up costs that are already inflated from the spike in fuel costs. This is not a good thing, and we need to express our concern to our duly elected officials.

lobby for stronger air and water quality standards
If we can't breath, and we can't drink clean water, then we really don't have much, do we? It's outrageous that the Bush administration could decide to block a State's right to set more strict quality requirements. Moreover, our federal government should be leading the way in this area. Clean water is becoming an increasingly vital resource. We must do our best to save it.

lobby for stronger mpg requirements
Related to desiring strong air quality standards is the desire to have more efficient vehicles. The more we can reduce the consumption of fuels, the better off the world will be. Call your representatives.

lobby against greedy big oil
What else can I say? Exxon keeps setting global profit records, year after year. They can probably thank the Bush administration for all the love and support, but let's not forget that a good chunk of that money goes to lobbyists.

buy local
The best thing you can do, aside from buying goods and produce that are generated in an environmentally friendly manner (no harsh chemicals!), is to buy local. Local buying reduces the shipping costs, which have an overall reducing effect of fuel consumption on air quality. It may also save you money in the long run. And, frankly, what's better than helping out your neighbors?

ignore mainstream media, extremists, and Al Gore
Perhaps one of most damaging aspects of our society today is the combination of the idiot mainstream media, the flapping jaw extremists (both left and right), and the big name zeros who crank their broken records, deafening us to what needs to be heard (e.g. Al Gore). It's time that we universally shut off our televisions and instead find quality, diverse news sources that can be trusted. Moreover, we need to reject the doxology of each given fringe movement, and instead focus on the bigger pictures, such as helping sustain humanity, reducing our negative impact on the planet and others, and generally working toward an commonly improved future. We need to put politicians in their rightful places, and take back the dog that they've been wagging. It's in our power as a people to do this, but it means disengaging the idiot drive and seriously engaging our brains. Pick up a book instead of the remote.

prepare for rough weather ahead
Regardless of your view of the future in a globally changing climate, there is one constant: weather is going to get more extreme for the foreseeable future. Whether you believe, as I do, that there is a ice age coming, or simply acknowledge that warmer weather means bigger storms, it seems that we're all in agreement that the potential for damage is climbing.

From a standpoint of preparedness, then, we need to redouble our efforts to ensure that people can continue to live safely and securely. Whether it be improved housing standards that allocate for earthquakes, or alternative methods for heating and cooling, the overall point is the same: prepare for worse weather conditions in the not too distant future.

Adding to the mix is what NOAA and NASA have indicated will be a full polarity shift in the magnetic poles of the planet. North will become South, and South will become North. We already know that these poles meander over time, but it is now very likely that we will see the poles completely flip very soon. Historically, it is believed that these reasonably rare polarity shifts come with sudden and extreme changes in climate and tectonic plate movements. This makes sense, if you think about it, and should give you pause to think that perhaps the next 10 years could turn this world upside-down.

Now, I'm not suggesting that everyone build a bunker and stockpile foods (although we should all have unperishables to last a week, just in case). What I am saying is that we should be making sure that we know how to garden, how to purify water, and, perhaps more importantly, how to protect ourselves. If a major catastrophic event occurs, it could destabilize governments and cause anarchy. Be prepared.

buy a kettlebell and cancel your gym membership :)
Alright, enough apocalyptic thoughts. Here's a suggestion I'm sure you'll find amusing. Quit your gym membership and buy a kettlebell. Think of how much money you're wasting on a gym, and also think about how much energy those gyms waste. Combine the kettlebell with a bike and walking or jogging, and I think you can see my point. A reasonably sized kettlebell and training book or video can be purchased for less than I was paying for a year of gym membership. So, there are cost savings, and you can feel good about the environment, too. :)

A few references
* Earth's Inconstant Magnetic Field
* When North Becomes South: New Clues to Earth's Magnetic Flip-Flops
* Pole shift hypothesis
* True polar wander
* NOAA Earth Day site
* NOAA "Living Green" site
* NOAA: U.S. Temperatures Near Average in March as Global Land Temperature Sets Record

And now, for something wacky (seriously - this is not your normal science reference)...
* Pole Shift & Pole Reversal in 2012


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 22, 2008 7:05 PM.

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