Category Archives: conservation

On Fire or the Dinosaurs Died So That We Can Drive SUVs

Prometheus stole the sacred fire for mankind and we can’t live without it.

The Industrial Revolution replaced the ancient external fires with the internal fires of machines. The dirty desire for energy increased. The world’s insatiable demand for fire pollutes, which is good for making machines chug along, but bad for living things.

Some essential fires we have become addicted to:

  • Wood → Early mankind kindled open fires for warmth, protection, and food. All this, depending on who you consult, was a primary cause of global warming. The emissions from burning wood contain carbon monoxide and soot. The EPA says wood burning stoves are responsible for 5% of the smallest, deadliest particles emitted into the air in the U.S.
  • Coal → One of fossil fuels that powered the Industrial Revolution, it is the leading cause of pollutants such as smog, acid rain, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, mercury, arsenic, and lead. Coal mining disrupts the ecology and endangers the lives of miners daily.
  • Oil → Another fossil fuel that fueled the Industrial Revolution is a non-renewable, energy rich hydrocarbon. Burning oil pollutes with carbon dioxide, sulfates, and nitrates. Oil drilling and extraction disturbs the water and land. Accidental spills at the drill site or during land and water transport disrupts ecology. The disposal of products made from oil, such as plastics, creates more waste problems.
  • Water → Fire from water, one of the oldest ways to produce energy. Water wheels, mills, and dams alter the habitats of fish and restricts water passage. Water power pollutes less, but to be effective,  great quantities of water and land are necessary and that comes at a great financial cost.
  • Geothermal → While drilling for geothermal energy, harmful gas can escape from deep within the earth. Also after the expense that comes with building a geothermal plant, the heat within the earth can stop providing heated water for years at a time, making this an undependable form of energy.
  • Natural Gas → Natural gas is odorless and colorless and mostly consists of methane. It burns cleaner than coal and oil. It releases 45% less carbon dioxide than coal and 30% less than oil. It burns with no soot or sulfur dioxide and is widely available. It is lighter than air so when leaks occur it can dissipate with a lower chance of explosion. Still it is a non-renewable fossil fuel. Other drawbacks are transportation problems whether through pipelines, tankers, or barges. If used in cars and trucks, the mileage is lower than gasoline.
  • Nuclear → The newest and possibly most controversial of all energy sources. Will it provide safe, abundant energy for years to come or kill us all? Patrick Moor, an early member of Greenpeace, protested against U.S. nuclear testing in 1971. After 15 years with Greenpeace he left and became an advocate for some of his prior environmental targets. He now believes that nuclear energy is the only technology besides fossil fuels that is a reliable energy source. Nuclear energy proponents tout the safety record of the industry. They say Chernobyl was an anomaly and the rest of the would uses safer methods. Natural disasters care nothing for risk management methods as Japan came to understand. Besides, some nuclear waste lives practically forever. We can barely handle landfill toxins, how will nuclear waste play out?
  • Solar → Gathering solar energy with solar panels creates little pollution in itself aside from the manufacture and shipping of the panels. It is a quiet source of energy and can be used easier and cheaper in remote locations. The installation of solar panels can cost thousands or tens of thousands of dollars for a house.  The energy savings payback can take years. Cloudy weather and pollution can hinder solar cell efficiency. In the deserts of the American west, people oppose solar energy farms since they spoil the desert scenery.
  • Wind → At last, windmills must be our salvation. Yet people complain that they too spoil the scenery of the land and sea where they take root. People living near windmills claim that the turbines are a visual and auditory threat. Some people insist that the noisy whirling blades cause them great stress. A wind farm on the horizon reduces tourism and lowers home values in the areas they go up.  Wind turbines must exist in areas with the strongest winds which are often the same places that birds migrate and nest. The eagle that tore into the liver of Prometheus each day, now gets torn apart by the blades of our modern-day windmills.

The fires we need for basic survival and to feed the machinery that we love come with destructive forces. Perhaps Prometheus and not Pandora unleashed the real evils in this world.

Without fire and the technology it unleashed, humankind may have failed to thrive and died with a very different history. Certainly the planet would be cleaner today.

I know a 24-year-old nurse that gives her time to Doctors Without Borders and cares about the health of the planet. One time she surprised me with an offhand comment. She mentioned that she is tired of her human legs and arms which are so weak. She wants the strength of a machine, a bionic women of sorts I guess.

Science fiction and reality fuse people with machines. What human/machine ratio would cease to view energy-driven pollution as a crisis? Today the ubiquitous phone/computer may as well be embedded within the bodies of my friends and relatives. At some point, no one may care to look out a window to enjoy a Goldfinch perched on a tree branch. The windows to the soul are owned by Microsoft.

Junk Around the House

Daily Prompt: Clean House
Is there “junk” in your life? What kind? How do you get rid of it?

The junk in my life has few places to hide. I set forth on junk-finding and purging missions constantly. The more stuff I have, the more I feel it controls me somehow. A crowded house is a crowded mind and heart in my viewpoint. I edit at every turn.

The ways I eliminate junk:

Donate
I make a short trip to my local Salvation Army drop off center to donate usable stuff I don’t want. The Vietnam Veterans or Purple Heart trucks also frequently pick up donations in my neighborhood.

Repurpose
I use worn out cotton t-shirts or towels for cleaning rags. I’ve sewn tote bags from old but still useable fabric. Old sheets or shower curtains make a great floor covering during cleaning or painting. That old shower curtain protects the trunk of my car during flower and vegetable planting season.

Throw Out
My city recycling center gets some of the junk. The rest gets thrown out for the garbage men to pick up. Even the trash on the curb attracts garbage pickers that I guess repurpose the junk or try to sell the metal parts off of it.

Sell
The few garage sales I’ve taken part in never seem to make it worthwhile for me. Maybe I can’t talk up the value of the junk on display. It’s a good thing I didn’t have to make my living as a salesman. Although I’ve sold a few things on Craigslist. When all else fails, a posting for anything free on Craigslist is extremely effective. From an ancient 300 pound TV; hundreds of pounds of dead mother-in-law fabric; a pile of rocks, yes, there is a person out there willing to come by and pick up just about anything for free.

Stop Buying Crap
When cute stuff on the store shelves speak to me (like the TV commercials imply they do), I think twice about buying it. Usually that speaking object stays in the store for another consumer. When objects speak, I ask myself: Do I want it, do I need it, and where will I put it? That last question usually kills the desire to buy since I can’t stand the thought of clutter.

Growing up, my mother’s house was an unorganized mess. She never put anything away, in fact nothing had a place of its own. Once she used a pair of scissors, roll of tape, whatever, it got tossed someplace indiscriminately and could not be found the next time she needed it. At that point, the house got torn apart, more disorder, and I was often blamed for losing her stuff. I equate junk in my life as junk from my past that I don’t want to get buried in.

Clearing out junk and, more importantly, never bringing junk into the house, liberates me. I feel more peaceful and happy. The Asian Feng Shui idea suits me better than the one-who-dies-with-the-most-toys-wins idea.

With people like me, the economy will never take off again. Consume less, enjoy life more. Not a catchy slogan for a TV commercial.

Half-Baked Ramblings on Abortion

The Zero Population Growth (ZPG) meeting I attended, circa 1972, had all participants agreeing that the United States needed to control its population growth before natural resources become depleted. Birth control was imperative to this goal. Abortion remained controversial when it was brought up.

This was before abortion became legalized. The people at the ZPG meeting had strong opinions on abortion; some for and some against. It wasn’t a violent division at this point. They decided to talk about it again at another meeting since no resolution could be reached.

ZPG bumper stickers were handed out at this meeting and I plastered one on my old car. I saw one person rant and rave a little when he saw the sticker on my parked car. Maybe others were unaware of the acronym’s meaning.

I owned a copy of Paul Ehrlich’s popular book, The Population Bomb. I wrote a high school report on the subject for a teacher that was strongly in favor of population control and refused to have children. He bickered with another teacher of mine that had five children. I got an A on the pro-Ehrlich report, more due to the subject matter, I believe, than the quality of the paper.

I spent a day volunteering at the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) booth at the State Fair. People from the anti-abortion booth came by to try to convince us of the error of our ways. I was unfazed by the dialog and pictures.

Yet later on, when I tried to imagine what I would do if I needed an abortion for whatever reason, it was heart-wrenching to think of it.

The pro-life movement believes that abortion is murder. Viewed this way, I empathize with their inability to condone it. Yet the inability to obtain a legal abortion, will not stop abortion.

If history can be trusted, women will continue to seek abortions no matter what its legal status is. I don’t want women to die or become injured due to a return of dangerous, back-alley abortions. That, too, is heart-wrenching.

Women comedians joke about wishing they were pregnant just so they could piss off pro-lifers by getting an abortion. Behind the dark humor lies the fear that all abortions will be outlawed by pro-life groups if given a chance. Jokes don’t take the pain out of the issue.

Doctor Kermit Gosnell performed legal abortions in dangerous conditions. Can’t we put safeguards on legal abortions without fear of closing down all abortions?

When pressed, even the most pro-life people are often willing to see the necessity of abortion in some cases. And I can’t believe that pro-choice people truly celebrate partial-birth abortions across the board.

Abortion remains controversial. So far, no number of meetings have reached a resolution.