Archive for the ‘global warming’ Category

Hillary, give it up

March 31, 2008

Now, I’m neither the youngest nor the brightest lightbulb in the fixture, but I do want to make it clear that I know my subject line isn’t the same as “Give it up for Hillary.” Nor do I mean it to be.

There’s a terrific Jimmy Margulies cartoon in today’s “Week In Review,” the op-ed section of the Sunday NY Times. The interviewer/commentator says: “The math is against you in delegates needed for the nomination. . .” and Hillary responds: “I didn’t give up at Valley Forge. . .I didn’t give up at Gettysburg. . .I didn’t give up at D-Day. . .and I’m not giving up now.”

Hillary, you have proven yourself a prevaricator without even the sense to understand when your untruths have been detected. I know you haven’t claimed to have invented the Internet or saved the free world single-handedly. But you have demonstrated the one characteristic that sends me running to the bathroom in case of projectile vomiting. You are the ultimate politician.

Sweetie, I’m your target demographic, an over-50 woman with a couple of college degrees, a lifetime in business, and a strong belief that a woman in the Presidency would bring something that’s badly needed.

But not you. Not now, not ever.

I’m old enough to have voted for both John Anderson and Ross Perot, knowing in each case that I was probably wasting my vote but hoping for something other than business-as-usual. I can honestly say I never even contemplated voting for Ralph Nader, however.

I’m of that rare breed called the “truly independent.” I was a registered Democrat for an extended period of time until I decided that the Democratic Party had lost its marbles. So then I became a registered Republican. Ditto with that party. For some time now, I’ve been registered without party affiliation.

I pay a price for that. I can’t vote (in Oregon, anyway) in any of the party primaries. I contemplated registering again as a Democrat just so I could vote against you in May, but then I realized how many fund-raising and ideological mailings I’d get and decided against it. I think my fellow Oregonians will take care of you here. Many of them actually have some sense.

But if you are banking on calling in chits with the “superdelegates” (and what a crock that is–a group of party “elite” in place to override the will of the voters in case they aren’t smart enough to choose the right candidate–this is democracy?), I hope you will think again. A candidate who gets there by such means will have no more credibility than a President elected by the Supreme Court, to quote someone else’s recent example.

So give it up. Now. Let’s get on with a race between two people who arguably are outsiders from the political establishment, let them present their views, and let the people choose. At this point you are merely a spoiler.

And while I’m busy ranting on this topic I almost never comment on, I have a few words for the other major candidates in this race:

Barack: The Jeremiah Wright thing told me a great deal more about your character than almost anything else you’ve done. I congratulate you for being forthright. I have lots of “sparring partners” with whom I don’t agree (otherwise, we wouldn’t be sparring now, would we?). In fact, if people evaluated my character by the folks that I tolerate and even like to argue with, they’d be way off the mark. Your response to these attacks told me you are really a grownup with a well-developed sense of a diverse world.

I don’t have the background to know the things that you “know” about racism. But I congratulate you on your ability to articulate your position without blowing in the wind.

John: I’m a long-time admirer of yours, but I frankly liked you a great deal better before the GOP apparently started coaching you on what was required to get elected. You’re sounding like a politician, and that isn’t one of your strengths.

I have a certain amount of faith in your common sense and straight talk. Don’t waffle now. Stay who you are, and I might even vote for you. Unlike many of my acquaintance, I don’t think foreign policy is going to be made in the campaign speeches. I just want to elect someone I feel comfortable can make it. No matter who is President, we don’t be out of Iraq tomorrow. But you buy yourself nothing by being so belligerent about it.

Now a few words for “my fellow Americans”: Hey, guys, if you haven’t noticed, the world is changing. It’s not just global warming, the sub-prime mortgage crisis, the devalued dollar, and the globalized economy. It’s a comeuppance to the sort of economic colonialization that the U.S.A., as an economically powerful superpower, has been able to indulge in for decades.

If one definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and hoping for different results, then go toe your favorite party line and vote accordingly.

But if you are concerned about a viable (not necessarily wealthy or over-consuming, just viable) future for yourself and your childen, then take some time to look beyond the heirs apparent for a leader who can actually think. And vote accordingly.

Whoever is elected this fall steps into a mess. He/she will need all of our good wishes and help, so vote for someone you want to help advance “in the direction of your dreams” (to paraphrase Thoreau), not someone you think can fix all your problems.

That person doesn’t exist.

Storm watch

December 1, 2007

I can hardly believe I’m about to write about the weather again. The simple fact is, this time of year we get a lot of it.

Whether it’s global warming, 20-year cycles, or other strange phenomena, this forecast is just plain weird. Possibility of snow tonight. We generally get a little each winter, but this seems very early. But it’s Sunday’s forecast that really boggled my mind.

The weather scrutinizers are predicting that the first ever cyclone/hurricane warning is about to be issued for the forest where I live.

It seems the two recent typhoons in Asia have combined to send a monster storm headed right at Oregon–sustained winds in the 90-100 mph range with pelting rains and flooding. So we can anticipate power out, trees down, roads impassable, and other fine stuff. None of this affects us too much (except I’ll probably lose my DSL until they get the emergency generator up and running at the repeater). We’ve always got a couple of weeks worth of food around, plenty of gas for the generator (and chain saws), and today Ben refilled all the firewood racks in various places in and around the house.

Also, I got about nine new books today, a new New Yorker, and two newspapers. I also replenished the wine and Scotch supply, so I think we’re set. We could run a little short on meat and milk, but I’ve plenty of beans, rice, nuts, flour, and yeast, a fair amount of butter and evaporated milk, some fresh and dried fruits and vegetables, and almost all of last summers canned goods, onions, and winter squash.

Let it snow, rain, blast away, I say. With a loaf of bread, a jug of wine, a good book, and hours of indoor stuff that needs doing, it’s probably a good thing.

I’m supposed to go to Portland Monday morning for a series of medical appointments–nothing serious, just the annual routine. It took great effort to get them all booked on the same day, then they had to be changed once, and now this.

So, if the storm materializes, I may just declare myself healthy this year and put all this off a bit longer. I’m very good at that.

Besides, we’ve got three new Wii games that need playing.

Some reasons to like trees that have nothing to do with global warming

May 1, 2007

Let me begin this post with an apology to Jenny. She has waited so patiently for pictures of my trees, and I know she’d really rather see the exotics I purchased recently.

But Jenny, by the time you asked for pictures, most of them were already planted, and being a foot or so tall in their great big anti-beaver wire cages, there isn’t much to see. I tried to take some pictures, and even I went “ho hum” at the results.

However, I am going to post some pictures of a few more mundane varieties and hope they aren’t as mundane in New Zealand. And what these trees have in common is that they were each basically sticks a foot or less tall when I planted them. So I have great hopes for my new ones.

 This Western Red Cedar was my first “rescue” effort. I rescued it from an office building landscaped lot. It was a volunteer from God knows where. There weren’t any cedar trees in the immediate area. I looked at it and realized that the maintenance crew was just going to yank it out next time through, called the management company and asked their permission to dig it up. Granted. It’s now about 14′ tall and very pretty just off my back deck.

Western Red Cedar

Western Red Cedar is what is known as a “climax” species. It will grow in virtually total shade and eventually take over the forest. Before the big fires of the 19th and 20th centuries, much of western Oregon was covered with giant cedar trees.

This mountain ash was a seedling from a tree in a house we once owned. It is now nearly 20″ tall and has beautiful white flowers in the spring followed by brilliant red berries.

Mountain Ash

This is a redbud tree (actually two planted in close proximity). The Arbor Day Society sent me this one when I sent them a teeny bit of money.


Here’s a closeup of the blossoms:

Redbud blossoms

This Japanese red maple is a very slow grower. I took three seedlings from a house we lived in. The tree there had been planted when the house was built about 90 years ago and was nearly as big as the house. A friend called it “the sort of tree you would buy a house just to get.” That’s pretty much how we felt about it, too.

Japanese red maple with rhododendron

This tree opens a purple red, gradually becomes green and bronze, and in the fall turns neon red. It is truly spectacular most times of the year.

There are lots of reasons I’m feeling very friendly toward trees today. Not the least of them is that I’ve spent most of the last three days gardening. Ben tilled about half the load of BS into the garden. I got all that stuff I bought planted, and it’s supposed to rain tomorrow, so I actually put some seed in the ground, too, so nature can water it for me.

As I was cleaning up, Ben showed up with some dahlia tubers that a neighbor sent down, so I had another 45 minutes or so of planting and digging to do. I’m dog-tired, and I can’t help but contrast the amount of work the garden takes to get a great reward with the teeny amount of effort it takes to grow fine trees here in my sub-tropical rain forest.

But now I read that planting trees in the northern latitudes actually contributes to global warming because they absorb sunlight. I’m going to ignore that little piece of information and keep planting them.

Oh, and one more reason to like trees: Last winter we had to take down some of the fir trees Ben planted more than 30 years ago. They had taken out the power lines (we don’t care, but the rest of the valley sure did) and were threatening the little cabin across the river. A logger friend came down and cut them for us. The power company repair crew offered to knight him.

Today the company that bought them picked them up to take to a mill. These are the first trees Ben has logged that he actually planted. It was a full truckload.

Log load

Unboxing, global warming, and environmental damage

April 27, 2007

This may seem like a weird collection, but it’s what’s on my mind at the moment.

Several posts ago, I wrote about my new toy, a Toshiba SD-1900 DVD player (it plays a bunch of other things, too, but who cares). Here’s what came out of the box when I opened it:


In addition to the player itself, I found a lithium battery pack (top right), an assortment of manuals in English and French (including the necessary legal statements for both the U.S. and Canada),  a sexy little remote control (pale gray) with its battery packed separately (just below it), A/V cables, and both AC and DC power adapters. The one disappointment so far: a note in the the documentation saying that I shouldn’t recharge the battery pack using the DC adapater (I had planned to recharge it when I drove to town, etc., etc.).

Here’s what the packaging looked like:


Everything on the right side of the picture was packed around the battery pack–a static shield, a box, and a spacer box to make the pack fit tightly in the big box. The little brown box just below the outside container had a bunch of stuff–the adapters and A/C cables, the remote. Each had its own little plastic envelope.

The big puffy piece (more about that in a minute) held the DVD player itself. The envelopes below it had the manuals and, in its separate little piece of plastic, the battery for the remote.

This is obscene.

The most interesting piece of packaging I hadn’t seen before. I’m sure I just don’t buy enough stuff. But here’s a closeup of the puffy piece:


I see I forgot to mention the special little styrofoamish sort of wrapper that was around the DVD player before it was inserted into the puffy thing. When you have to protect what you’re shipping from what you’re shipping it in, red flags should be going up somewhere.

This piece of bubble packing was so stiff it was hard to get the player out of it. I’m sure it was effective, and I have to admit that my player was intact with all parts working. But what is the cost?

For the moment, I’ve saved all of the packaging in the original box. The four pages of warnings scared me, and if it sets fire to my house (or my lap), I want to ship it back to Toshiba with everything intact. But some day I will send them all to recycling (the cardboard) or to a landfill somewhere. (Aside: The most interesting warning was one that appeared at least twice, and if I’m not mistaken, three times–don’t set a container with liquid “such as a vase” on the player/battery pack. Clearly this product has been purchased by some real ditzes who don’t want vase marks on their furniture.)

But this is where our landfill problem originates. For the most part (although there are, thank God, some exceptions if I’m willing to drive three hours), you can’t go into a hardware store and buy three bolts and the nuts that go with them. You have to go to a Freddie’s or a WalMart (not this gal) and buy four or five that are nicely packed in indestructible plastic and held by an unopenable cardboard label. This phenomenon is why there are pairs of industrial strength shears in darned near every room of my house.

Then you use the three you need, put the remainder in one of those “everything spare” drawers or a nut and bolt storage unit. The next time you need three, you have only one or two left, so you go buy another package and the requisite wrappings. Craziness. And garbage galore.

I may have written elsewhere about being concerned that I had permanently offended someone whom I really care about. My former brother-in-law is one of the smartest guys I know, and he is currently on an education campaign about global warming. But it seems to me that the problem is this: Most of our discussion around global warming focuses on how to do things the way we have become used to doing them but with less environmental cost to the generation of power.

To me this is like the garbage problem. The solution lies, at least in part, by not creating it in the first place.

Look around your house. Do you really need an electric can opener? An electric knife sharpener? An instant-on TV that consumes power 24 hours a day whether you’re watching it or not? I don’t.

We live most of the day here without power, and I get along just fine. The only thing I miss (and I really do miss it) is my cordless phone, the really good one with the headset jack (I’ve got a conference call scheduled in a couple of weeks and I’m going to have to sit and hold the phone to my shoulder–bummer).

But all power has an environmental cost. Just as the trick to reducing landfill requirements is not generating materials for a landfill in the first place, part of the trick to solving the global warming dilemma is looking at how we use power. I love Josh B. dearly, but the photo he posted on his blog of his office at night with the dozens of little lights charging his gadgets gave me nightmares for a week. ;^}

How to control the weather

April 18, 2007

I may have an answer to global warming. I’ve discovered what seems to be an absolutely infallible way to control the weather, at least where I live.

If I want it to rain, I just plan on working outside. If I want it to be sunny, all I need to do is make plans that will keep me away from home during daylight. Simple, what?

Yesterday I went on an absolute shopping binge–hit Bi-Mart, several nurseries, and my favorite kitchen store. Came home with the truck loaded up with seeds, plants, and kitchen stuff that I have no place to store. I have a huge kitched with mega-cupboards. But since I’ve already condensed two full kitchens into one, they’re pretty well full.

The plan for today was to get a bunch of stuff in the ground. As a result, we’ve had nearly an inch of rain today. This puts us farther from the goal of being able to till the garden one more time. But I’m going to be away all day tomorrow, so maybe it will get dry enough I can at least work some small sections with a hoe on Friday. Cross your fingers for me.

I satisfied the gardening urge by starting some more stuff in pots. This summer I want to grow enough pickling cucumbers and dill to make my own organic dill pickles (a personal favorite; as a kid I could eat a whole jar in one sitting and only get moderately ill). I made some a couple of years ago with store cucumbers, and they were delicious.

So if the garden ever dries out a little, I need to get the cucumbers planted, dill and cilantro in a corner where I hope I can control the seeds a bit, radishes and more lettuce in the ground (butter and romaine are my favorites), and probably a few peas. It’s still too cold to plant the warm weather stuff like beans and corn and carrots, but I’m ready for them when the garden is.

But I also bought an andromeda (very nice species called “Mountain Fire” that has amazing brilliant red new growth), several violets and ferns for my violet bed, some winter savory for my herb planter, an Oriental poppy (my grandfather’s favorite, although I confess I went for the rose with black center type instead of his beloved orange), a pink ruffled fragrant peony (the deer should love that), and a bunch of brassicas (cauliflower and several varieties of cabbage that can go in the garden as soon as I can walk in the garden without hearing a sucking sound every time I take a step).

I also need to get the summer savory planted somewhere. It will make all of those summer squash taste absolutely divine.

I’ve been late with my cabbage the last few years, and I want it in early this year so my sauerkraut will actually be ready in September for an Ocktoberfest celebration. I found a simple chemical free sauerkraut recipe that’s really delicious. It bears no resemblance whatsoever to the acidy tasting stuff you get in cans at the market. But it takes about 8 weeks to cure, so there’s no time to waste.

Now that I have given up all thoughts of gardening today, the sun is out. This only proves the western Oregon motto–“If you don’t like the weather, wait ten minutesw and it will change.”

Part 3: Globalization, global warming, Toqueville, and democracy as we know it

March 29, 2007

I’m changing the header a little here for those of you who don’t seem to have realized these are different posts. I’ve lumped a bunch of stuff together, because in my mind it’s all connected, but it’s way too much for me to expect anyone to read in one sitting. So I’m trying to break it up a little.

Today I want to expand a little on the topic of global warming.

Earlier this week, I received a presentation from a former brother-in-law about global warming. If I’d liked my former husband as much as I like most of his family, we’d probably still be married. But that’s a story for some other time.

It’s a good presentation. It addresses a lot of the facts and a lot of the possible mitigations. But even though Allan is one of the smartest people I ever met,  I think his approach falls short in this regard: It doesn’t put the issue in the larger context.

“What?” I hear you asking. “There’s a larger context than global warming?” A good question to be sure. But the key of the matter here is in the word “global.”

So much has been written on this topic. Some of it is science; some of it is pseudo-science; some of it is just plain fear-mongering. Like so much of our information-overloaded communications today, it becomes very difficult to sort out wheat and chaff. So, here’s what I believe.

Global warming is real. It has happened before and it’s happening now. Some part of it is undoubtedly driven by the things people do. Some part of it may be natural. Our best guesses about the consequences over the long term indicate that the result won’t be pretty. I wouldn’t be buying a house on the Waldport spit or even a condo in Manhattan right now if I were buying it with the idea that many generations of my descendants will be enjoying it in the future.

Based on what we know about the impact of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, human activity contributes to global warming. The things we do in the pursuit of a better life are having a major impact on our planet. Notice that I didn’t say “negative impact,” although in truth I suspect that is the case. But I don’t know enough to assert that. I do know enough to believe that there is a “major” impact.

But these activities are the direct result of our efforts to chase a more sophisticated, full-of-variety-and-new-gadgets lifestyle. They are the result of our wanting to hop a plane, train, or automobile and be somewhere else whenever we want to. They are the result of the endless pursuit of more effective marketing to consumers. They are, in short, what Toqueville called “the American attention to the short-term gain without regard to the long-term consequence.”

Allan’s presentation is addressed to a sophisticated, environmentally aware audience. There’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s only a very small part of the whole story.

All around the world, “developing” countries are discovering some of the things that we Americans have taken for granted for decades, if not centuries. And they want them, too. I’m not sure I blame them.

It seems to me that every step that any of us can take to reduce our impact on the planet is a good step. But I don’t think this is going to happen as a result of any major campaign or quick fix. If it is to happen at all, it will happen by making each person aware of the costs associated with his decisions. It will happen by promoting what Toqueville called “the right habits of the heart.” And it will require major lifestyle changes.

It can’t be done by activating the already environmentally conscious folks in the U.S. It can’t be done by legislation even. It’s going to take a global effort and a global awakening. It’s going to take a major shift in how we think about the true costs of things.

Science tells us we are already too far down the path of “negative effects” to avert them completely. But there are things we can do to mitigate the damage. Allan’s presentation addresses these fairly well, I think.

But this is like globalization (see previous post): It’s here, it’s happening, and it will have an impact on you and upon all of your descendants unto generations. There is no quick fix. There is no easy answer. I’d consider it a major step forward if we all started asking some pretty tough questions.

Globalization, global warming, Toqueville, and democracy as we know it, part 1

March 27, 2007

Whig and I have been having a somewhat lively discussion over at Cannablog in his “caveman” post. I want to expand it a little bit, and it feels too lengthy for a comment, so I’ll do the expansion here. I know I’m going to run out of time because today is writers’ groups day, but if I don’t get it started, it will never get written. Hence the “part 1.”

A lot of stuff has come my way recently about the current state of chaos in our American world (not to mention, which I probably will anyway, the rest of the world). Globalization, global warming, and the state of politics in the U.S. are major topics.

We (citizens of the U.S. more so than anywhere else, I think) are conditioned to the “quick fix” for everything. Want to buy something? Borrow the money. What? I should save for it? What an old-fashioned idea. Need to lose weight? Take a pill. Got health issues? Medicine will fix them with some new drug. Unhappy with government? Throw the bastards out and replace them.

Sorry, folks, but this approach doesn’t work for things that are systemic. And most of our problems are just that.

I think I mentioned before that in studying Alexis de Toqueville’s Democracy in America, I’ve been stunned by the accuracy of his predictions about where our society would founder. I’m going to throw three things out on the table and head off for the first of my writers’ groups. I’m hoping when I get back this evening to find some of your thoughts on the topic. These things are worth examining closely.

Community: Toqueville believed that community and association with people of like interests was essential to the health of a “free” country. Unfortunately, he notes, one of the results of “equal conditions for all” is that people tend to withdraw into their own worlds, where they feel special.

“Habits of the heart”: This is Toqueville’s phrase for those things that we do almost without thinking because we have learned to do them. They can be healthy or unhealthy. Healthy habits of the heart are needed, IMNHO, to do anything at all about preserving the planet and preserving the people on it. I will write more about global warming later, because I think this is a current concern where this is so very true, but it applies across the board. How healthy are your “habils of the heart”?

“The tyranny of the majority”: Toqueville saw this as a real problem with the two-party political system. There is always a winner-take-all result, and whatever majority is in power tends to arrange things to suit themsleves. Then they are ousted, the other party takes over, and everything changes again. This creates, he says, an undesireable level of instability in the law, among other things.

Now I must run. Let me know what you want to talk about.

(Updated 3/27 to fix a couple of typos. Someone linked to this and now I’m embarassed.)