Friday, May 18, 2007

Suddenly on my radar...

I'd been planning to support Obama, but his stance on global warming has been absolutely underwhelming. Then John Edwards seemed like the guy. But check out Bill Richardson's kick-ass energy plan:

* Cut oil demand: 50% by 2020
We must reduce oil imports from around 65% to 10%. We can reach these goals in part by getting the 100 mile per gallon (mpg) car into the marketplace, pushing fuel economy standards to 50 mpg by 2020, and setting a life-cycle low-carbon fuel standard that reduces the carbon impact of our liquid fuels by 30% by 2020, including increasing use of alternative fuels.
* Change to renewable sources for electricity: 50% by 2040
I am calling for a national renewable electricity source portfolio standard of 30% by 2020 – which will rise to 50% by 2040. This is aggressive, but necessary as we start using more electricity for automobiles. I will push for an energy productivity law requiring a 20% improvement in energy productivity by 2020. We could easily save customers $21 billion a year by 2020. Also, my market-based cap and trade program for greenhouse gas emissions will create incentives for the electric and industrial sectors to make significant reductions in their carbon emissions.
* Dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions: 90% by 2050
20% by 2020, and 80% by 2040 -- ten years faster than scientists say is necessary, because we must lead the world, and we can’t afford the possibility of backsliding and inaction. We will start with a market-based cap and trade system. Economists say the world can protect itself from drastic climate change at a cost of 1-3% of our economic activity. We can afford to protect the climate. Given the risks of catastrophic climate change, we can’t afford not to.
* Lead by example and restore America as the world’s leader
We must return to the international negotiating table and support mandatory world-wide limits on global warming pollution. We will work closely with fast-growing nations and, as President, I will cooperate with the European Union, the World Bank, and other allies to help finance the incremental cost of “doing it right.” I will create a North American Energy Council with Mexico and Canada, which supply about 20% of our oil, and make sure our relations with these neighbors are firm and friendly. As we reduce our demand for foreign oil, we should work with the Persian Gulf nations, and our partners in consuming nations and the United Nations Security Council, to try to create a multilateral system for protecting the Gulf so that within ten years the U.S. presence there could be sharply and safely reduced.
* Get it all done without breaking the bank
We will raise some revenue from the sales of carbon permits, for example. Further, I will get out the “green scissors” to cut back on wrongly-placed tax subsidies. Over time, this program will yield huge productivity increases in our economy, as well as significant budget savings and revenues. We will create more than 10 times as much value in the American economy by reducing our oil imports as we spend to make this program happen.

I think I'm ready to make my first campaign donation of the year.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Who to Woohoo Wednesday: Chris Jordan

We spent part of Mother's Day having a good debate about responsibility in the media, specifically conservative talk radio's attitude toward climate change. Based on the facts we have today, it feels criminal to me that those in a position of power and influence are actively discouraging change with the same ol' "only leftist hippies worry about carbon emissions" crapola. The time for scepticism is over. In my opinion, treating climate change like a "hoax" (in the words of one of their allies) is far more deserving of censure than calling a few basketball players names. Really, the stakes could not be any higher. Spreading misinformation like they do is, at best, criminal negligence. I don't feel I'm exaggerating when I say those guys are threatening my life... hell, they're threatening LIFE. Yep, I got a little worked up about it. Sorry, Mom.

It's just that we are strong believers in the superhero creed: Use your powers for good. They don't. However, Sara over at Walk Slowly, Live Wildly introduced me to Chris Jordan, specifically his series "Running the Numbers: An American Self-Portrait":

This new series looks at contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics. Each image portrays a specific quantity of something: fifteen million sheets of office paper (five minutes of paper use); 106,000 aluminum cans (thirty seconds of can consumption) and so on. My hope is that images representing these quantities might have a different effect than the raw numbers alone, such as we find daily in articles and books. Statistics can feel abstract and anesthetizing, making it difficult to connect with and make meaning of 3.6 million SUV sales in one year, for example, or 2.3 million Americans in prison, or 426,000 cell phones retired every day. This project visually examines these vast and bizarre measures of our society, in large intricately detailed prints assembled from thousands of smaller photographs.

So, hooray! So good to see someone using his powers for good! Woohoo, Chris Jordan! Take a look at his site--it was a little slow to load on my computer, but worth it.

And belated Happy First Mother's Day to Noelle Aguayo. Woohoo Moms!

Amen, brother.

The distinguished gentleman at Big Table sets a place for Paul Hawken.

Well said, Patrick. More about Paul Hawken on Grist today...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Miles to go before we sleep.

I would love to say that we dipped our toes into the Pacific before beginning our drive, and that three days later we dipped them in the Atlantic. In reality, we weren't thinking about symbolism and ritual as we left, and by the time we got to our destination, about 80 miles from the Atlantic, 80 miles seemed like a long way to drive for a metaphor. But we could have.

15 states in seven days. And not those teeny New England states, either: California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and back through Texas, New Mexico, Texas, New Mexico (yeah, the road loops around that way), Arizona, California.

We're more tired than a 22-wheeler, but we're back at the ranch. There's so much I want to write about: whacky weather, bat caves, cheap land, pentecostals, carbon offsets, recycling at truck stops, books on tape, billboards, gator ponds, walmarts, la migra... but it's enough right now to battle the ghost of the highway. Our bodies are so used to feeling that steady surge of the truck that now we're like sailors trying to get our land legs back.

On her recent trip, Amy found smashed pandas. Our drive was like a visit to Wes Craven's Natural History Museum, a gory display of North America fauna. It was especially sad and fascinating to see a puma by the side of road as the sun was rising in New Mexico. We also saw pronghorn antelope, white tailed deer, mule deer, badger, javelina, turtles, and one large creature that might have been a black bear. And of course a lot of little armadillos. Happily we didn't contribute to the mangled menagerie, and managed to make it home without snagging even a speeding ticket.

We are both tired and inspired.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Who to Woohoo Wednesday*: Paul Hawken

Who to Woohoo Wednesday is all about focusing on what's going right, at least one day a week. Paul Hawken (he wrote the "critical mass" article I linked to earlier this week) is an activist and writer who's been focusing on what's going right every day for over a decade. His forthcoming book Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming will be released May 10, and he'll be in Santa Barbara, at the Lobero Theater, on May 14. It's a free event—thanks UCSB Arts & Lectures!

To quote Bill McKibben (something I seem to do an awful lot lately):
This is the first full account of the real news of our time, and it's exactly the opposite of the official account. The movers and shakers on our planet aren't the billionaires and the generals--they are the incredible numbers of people around the world filled with love for neighbor and for the earth who are resisting, remaking, restoring, renewing, revitalizing. This powerful and lovely book is their story—our story—and it's high time someone's told it. Nothing you read for years to come will fill you with more hope and more determination.

We talk a lot about addressing the climate crisis in the blogsphere (and happy hour barsphere), often debating the responsibility of government vs. individuals and questioning the effectiveness of legislation vs. grassroots change. In addition to writing and teaching, Hawken's work has included consulting with governments and corporations on economic development, industrial ecology, and environmental policy, so I'm looking forward to his take on things... seems like he's spent time in both the government policy and grassroots worlds.

We'll be away from the ranch for a week or so, hopefully back in time to hear Paul Hawken in person on the 14th. While we're on the road, we hope to visit the folks at Greasel (I still want to call them Greasel, even if they've chosen to go with the new name Golden Fuel Systems) and learn more about running on WVO (Waste Vegetable Oil) and revisit Violet, a small town outside New Orleans where I did some cleanup work last year.

*Thanks to the miracle of the Internets, as you'll notice by the timestamp on this post, I'm writing this yesterday!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Critical mass

Maybe we're getting there...

Going too far

Until recently, if I thought at all about imported foods it was generally with a historian's sense of wonder, imagining how emperors once sent armies to gather spices I can buy for a few bucks at the grocery store, or how exotic chocolate seemed to Europeans just a few hundred years ago. I think about letters from the Pioneering Whackamoles, how they craved fresh fruit during the winter months, and how rare it was to taste an orange. Then I walk outside, and grab a fresh tangelo right off the tree, thinking, This one's for you, Laura Ingalls...

I never, never, ever thought about the drawbacks of imported food until we started looking at climate change and carbon emissions. Not that we need to give up imported foods entirely, but they should be accents to a local meal. A dash of Indian saffron is a luxury; buying tomatoes from Chili is just irresponsible.

The growing eater's reading list—Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilema: A Natural History of Four Meals, Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, and Alissa Smith and JB Mackinnon's Plenty, to name a few—is fueling the fire for ideas like the 100-mile harvest and the Eat Local Challenge. Go, Locavores!

There's tons of stuff about this on the web—I have links to a few local sites on the right side of this post. A cool one is The 100-mile Diet: Local Eating for Global Change, which includes a super cool mapping feature. I learned that 100 miles from the ranch includes more possibilities than I expected. Maybe even local wheat, rice, or dairy!

And why did the chicken cross the country? Another awesome site, The Ethicurean, pecked out Culinate's article on Metro Chickens.

Yum... time for some huevos rancheros!