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Who Cares About Global Warming?

I do adore The Onion.

I'm as guilty of this as anyone - they took away the recycling bins at my apartment, so I no longer recycle the paper, plastic, and cans I use.  I live on soda, and, I'm afraid, plastic bottles of water (though I'm trying to remember to use my aluminum bottle, it still makes the water taste funny 'cause it's new), usually mixed with Crystal Light or some such thing that causes a little more garbage (because I can't stand the taste of most water, let alone tap water in suburban Maryland), I turn the heat up when I'm cold, I turn the air conditioning up when I'm hot (this is much more egregious), and I like having the lights on.

Somehow, the fact that I recycle the cans and paper at the farm and have switched all my bulbs to compact flourescent is supposed to make up for everything else, even though each act is unrelated to the other, like saying "I paid the water bill, so now I can use all the electricity I want".  Things don't cancel each other out, and you can't make the great Pacific Garbage Patch shrink by buying carbon offset credits.  My energy-efficient bulbs don't make the plastic bottles disappear.

I can't even be smug about the fact that we own 60+ acres of trees that we will leave wild; my carbon footprint may be small, but my garbage pile still poisons sea turtles and cute, cute octopongles*.

The trouble with being responsible about the environment is that it takes effort.  US Americans (and I count myself among you, having picked up the US lifestyle in the 20+ years I've lived here) have built a life around convenience, and I must admit, it's awesome.  It's much nicer to take a shower than it is to wash oneself with a bucket of water, and the same goes for washing dishes and doing laundry, even though the bucket (or small tub) method is much more water-conscious.  We use energy like it's going out of style, and we built giant swathes of housing developments that actively discourage walking from one place to another.  We honestly live like we need to use up as much fossil fuel as quickly as possible, because Jack Bauer will kill us unless we consume all the oil right now.

(I always laugh when the Natural Gas ad comes on TV - "they say we have 100 years of natural gas in the US alone".  100 years is less than two lifetimes, who are they trying to kid?  Congress, I'm guessing.  They'll believe anything.)

When I lived in England, I didn't have any money, not really.  I was lucky, and didn't have to pay rent, but the other bills were mine, and food took precedence over hot water, phone, and any kind of vehicle.  Fortunately, all UK cities and most of the towns and villages have excellent public transportation, and I like walking.  I washed my hair once a week or so in about six inches of lukewarm water, and watched TV on an old black and white set a previous renter had left behind at my mother's house.  For entertainment, I took old crusts and went and fed the ducks.

My mother is much more thrifty than me, having lived through WWII and rationing - she has the money to have all sorts of nice appliances, but she doesn't bother, because she can get on just fine with the little tiny washer she has, and while she has updated the water heater so that it's more energy efficient (it used to heat the entire closet it was housed in; we'd put laundry in there to dry), it isn't any bigger.

I'm very Americanized now - I adore my appliances of convenience, and even though I love the thought of growing my own food and garden, I still have a huge refrigerator and a great dishwasher at the farm.  We'll be getting a big washer and dryer, too - though at least I always wait for a full load before I wash anything.  They may all be Energy Star [tm, copyright, etc.] rated, but they're still a lot more resource-consuming than a root cellar, a small fridge, and a plastic tub in the sink to wash dishes.

(I refuse to boil my laundry.  I'll wait until the collapse of civilization before I do my laundry by hand.)

My grandmother had a tiny dorm-sized fridge, but she had a pantry that was so cold the mice donned parkas and gloves** before venturing in.  In fact my grandmother's entire house was so damn cold, there'd be ice on the windows inside in the winter, and my mother once left a covered pan of sausages out on the cooktop for two days, and they were fine.

It's hard, changing a lifestyle built on the idea that resources are unlimited - like any bad but seductive habit, it's worse having lived richly and wastefully and going back to being careful than it would be having never had the lifestyle at all.  It's hard to get us to go back to the farm after we've seen the big city.  This is one of the reasons why China and India aren't really interested in the environment - we had our turn to use up resources and get rich, now it's their chance, and they're not going to be nagged by a country that thinks it's their older, wiser sibling, who got rich and is now telling everyone else they can't do the same, since it would be bad for the Earth.

"We don't really care about the environment while 1/3 of us are living in poverty"*** is India's reasoning, and who can blame them? 

(China just wants to get rich so it can dominate the world.  I'm not sure what their plans are after world domination, and I'm not sure they know either.  I'd make an analogy of a dog chasing a car, but that would be stupid and insulting.  Let's say it's like the pursuit of fame - the day after you've made it, what do you do?  No-one ever plans ahead.)

But.  But, but, but - either way, we're going to have to give stuff up, whether by choice or because there's no resources left. 

I'll get on it.  We'll get on it.  Maybe tomorrow.

...the world will be okay until then, right?


*Fuck the dolphins.  Flipper is a member of the Illuminati.  You heard it here first.  Octopus rules!

**teeny tiny little mittens, actually.

***I made this statistic up.  I am too lazy to Google it, but feel free to do so yourself.


( 22 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )
Jan. 25th, 2010 01:42 pm (UTC)
Doing the research for ya!
According to Wikipedia:

"According to a 2005 World Bank estimate, 42% of India's population falls below the internatinal poverty line of $8.75 a day; having reduced from 60% back in 1980."

One of the reasons why I enjoy reenacting is because it reminds me of both the blessings that I enjoy, and helps me to avoid the modern conveniences that I really don't need. For example, I save AC for those days that are over 90 degrees (living in the basement helps with this, as my condo is usually pretty cool in the summer).

Edited at 2010-01-25 01:43 pm (UTC)
Jan. 25th, 2010 02:18 pm (UTC)
I lived in Birmingham and Stratford 3 1/2 years and those teeny fridges never ceased to boggle my Canadian mind. It was no fun having one when I was a student living in a house with three other people! What shocked me more, however, was going back a few years ago and visiting friends in Wimbledon -- fab house but NO DRYER! I guess you don't need one when it's not -35 C half the year -- LOL.
Jan. 25th, 2010 02:32 pm (UTC)
Oh goodness. I have 2 fridges and a freezer in a small house inhabited by 2 people.

In my defence, the freezer is full of delicious organic meats and veggies, because it's cheaper to buy bulk meat and freeze seasonal veggies. The small fridge is for my assorted meads and ciders which need a stable environment which I can't otherwise provide. The big fridge-freezer holds more mead and the current week or so's groceries.

But yea, I grew up in England. Lived in cheap rental accomodation with minimal appliances and a shared bathroom. I'd wash myself in the kitchen in the winter -- running the gas stove for heat -- as the bathrooms were unheated. I like having lots of hot water for showers. Not having to schlepp laundry down the street to the laundromat is a wonderful thing.

Gas-fired central heating is so much less work than keeping a stove running.

But the SCA does keep me in touch with a less resource-hungry lifestyle. I'm not sure how much less polluting it is to cook over a fire than it is to use a gas stove. The air quality at Pennsic is nothing to write home about.
Jan. 25th, 2010 04:48 pm (UTC)
The air quality at Pennsic is nothing to write home about.

Boy ain't that the truth. Although I hold that if we banned tiki torches and cheap fuels/oils at war we'd be better off. There are certain camps with "smoke pot" lighting, as I call it, that I won't even go into if I don't have to.
Jan. 25th, 2010 02:39 pm (UTC)
The places that aren't pedestrian-friendly drive me batshit crazy. It's one reason I vastly prefer to live in the city. Right now, we live less than a mile from stores and a restaurant, but it's actually unsafe to walk to them--they are down a busy state highway with no shoulder and no sidewalks. Ditches on both sides; no option of walking off the road. When we first moved here, we had only one car and I was actually trapped in the house during the day. I'll never let us make this mistake again. But houses with decent yards on quiet streets that are also walking distance from essential services command a very high premium in this part of the country. City planning fail.

The worst thing, to me, is that it took us half a century to get into this mess, so I don't see us getting out of it in time for me to enjoy it.
Jan. 25th, 2010 03:20 pm (UTC)
One thing that I've noticed in my addiction to the show Househunters, International, is that those tiny fridges are possible in larger cities with a food culture, like Paris, or even other smaller French towns. I think it's more possible to live with less in your personal space when there's more public infrastructure around you. If you live in a city with numerous markets, you can pick up the fresh food that you need for just the day, or the next two days, as opposed to shopping for the week. Essentially, cities and town provide amenities that people can share (like sidewalks and public transportation and markets), as opposed to everybody having their own (like two or three cars and a large garage and a chest freezer).

I think the idea of owning enough trees to offset your carbon footprint is a nice idea, and laudable, but there’s also the flip side that by owning enough land you’re putting yourself in a situation where you need to drive places for everything. It’s nice to be able to grow some of your own food, but after doing a little research into it, I’ve realized that the amount that I’d be able to grow without going full time and very intensive would only put a small dent in the amount that we buy. Unless you drive to a market every day for fresh food (using fossil fuels), you’ll need a larger fridge space to keep fresh food fresh. Otherwise, you end up having canned and boxed goods that have a longer shelf life, but are ultimately produced using more fossil fuels than fresh fruits and veggies.

I can’t find it now, because wamu.org is blocked at work today, but there was a piece on sometime last night about how the food choices that are healthiest for us are also the healthiest for the environment. If that’s an interesting topic to you, Michael Pollan also has numerous articles to that effect.

In the interest of full disclosure, we live out in the woods, but only own three acres, but still have to drive everywhere. But, we live about as close to our two jobs that we can, so our commutes are short. Just can’t win, I guess. :-)
Jan. 25th, 2010 04:46 pm (UTC)
I think it's more possible to live with less in your personal space when there's more public infrastructure around you.

Very true- I live in Toronto and tend to do most of my shopping once a week or so on my way home from work. It made living with an apartment-sized fridge MUCH easier. (and even now with a full-sized one, I rarely stock it full like my parents do, who live in a smaller city with no grocery stores in walking distance)
Jan. 25th, 2010 05:14 pm (UTC)
We had 2 fridges for 5 people in the flat in Edinburgh - one normal and one dorm sized. It was fine, because we had plenty of cabinet for the dry goods, and I tended to pick up what I needed from the grocery on my way home from work/classes/research. There were 4 groceries within a 10 minute walk. I ate a lot of lovely fresh foods.

I still do something similar, only now it's stopping at the grocery on the way home from work to get something for dinner. I had no idea if this is more or less healthy than stocking up once a week, but it means that I don't have to fight with my housemate for fridgespace.
Jan. 25th, 2010 03:29 pm (UTC)
We've gotten in the habit of bringing all the GS recyclables back to LS for proper disposal. Could you do the same thing in reverse for your apartment, and take the empties with you to the Farm? A couple of cheap, lidded plastic bins should do the job.
Jan. 25th, 2010 04:17 pm (UTC)
Totally. :) The point of my post today is that I'm lazy.
Jan. 25th, 2010 07:39 pm (UTC)
I know. That's why I suggested a cheap and easy fix.
Jan. 26th, 2010 10:49 am (UTC)
Jan. 25th, 2010 03:53 pm (UTC)
A couple of years ago I bought an older home (a 2 family with the folks down stairs). This year she turns 10o, not old by many standards, but the kitchen's only update since the 50s is a new stove, and a new plug that will handle the stove and another for a microwave. Many people keep telling me that I should remortgage to make a better, bigger kitchen, but this is simple and works. Even when the economy gets better I think I will do is get a new stove and take the tiles of the wall. One has to clean those huge kitchens. Making due here lets me splurge elsewhere too.
Jan. 25th, 2010 04:19 pm (UTC)
Doing the kitchen up big is only worth it if you plan to sell the house soon - kitchens and baths are the two biggest value-added renovations to make. If you plan to stay and are happy with the kitchen, then there's no need to turn it into a replica of a restaurant.
Jan. 25th, 2010 04:30 pm (UTC)
My mother-in-law's house is in a neighborhood that still has a corner deli and bakery... made me want to move into that house even though I love my little tudor cottage in the nicer (but lacking in conveniences) neighborhood up the hill. What is sad is that there used to be a lot more walking-distance shopping, but a lot of it has been out-competed by big chain stores with large parking lots *sigh*

A lot of people ignore the Reduce and Reuse part of "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle", packaging is a big offender. Seriously, do you really need a new bag for every purchase? And a box to put that box in? We tend to purchase things in big shiny packages, unfortunately.

Laziness is a big thing too... drove me bonkers at a work party where folks were tossing their cans into the trash can when there was a recycling bin 20 yards down the hall! OMG!! I barely contained my rage and got a bag for recycling.
Jan. 25th, 2010 04:50 pm (UTC)
Heh- reminds me of a trip to the Kalamazoo conference a year or two ago when others kept giggling at my laurel and I wandering around looking for blue bins for recycling. ;) It's so ingrained for many of us up here in Toronto (where our property taxes get raised if we throw out too much garbage rather than recycle), that it's just second nature for a lot of us now.
Jan. 25th, 2010 05:09 pm (UTC)
Well, you know me. I recycle like a fiend, even taking bottles and cans home with me from non-recycling places. But then I also drive my gas guzzling truck. Every now and then I think I should compost Alan's used coffee grounds, but that's work and I don't garden, so what's the point? Hmm.. maybe I can see if Theo composts and take our organic ick over to her...

BTW, if you want to be un-lazy about home recycling, our bins go out on the curb Wed. night/Thursday mornings, if you wanted to drop your recyclables off at our place on your way into work I can't see that we'd mind.
Jan. 25th, 2010 05:11 pm (UTC)
You aren't kidding about convience. Amy showed us the new place and while we have a very large, screened in back deck, it has fans with lights! I was like, WTF?

Of course, meanwhile I have moved into the upstairs loft (warmer) of our NC place with the inflato-matress and using tea lights for lighting and some heat (plus I always like candle light), and killed power to the rest of the place. It's cozy, and warm, and the fuzzies and I can hang.
Jan. 25th, 2010 05:23 pm (UTC)
I agree with the other re-enactors - I think it's a good thing to remind ourselves that life was not always this easy or wasteful as it is now. Even watching Victorian Farm and Tales From the Green Valley helps. Well, it helps me at any rate! :D

There were a couple of times at uni when we had the tiny little fridges, and I hated it. I much preferred it when we had two of the big fridge-freezers in the kitchen, but that was between six of us, so we had a shelf and a drawer each which meant I actually had a place to put my food and freeze some for later...

Thankfully our council recycles most things these days, but there was an item on the news a while back when several people had seen their dustman (or whatever the PC term now is) taking their carefully sorted recycling and dumping it in one big bin, before dumping the contents of that into the rubbish truck which goes straight to the landfill. And then there are other councils that won't take your recycling if there's one item in there that doesn't fit. As well as rules like 'only one bag of garden waste per week, and only in these special bags that you have to buy from us'.
Jan. 25th, 2010 06:48 pm (UTC)
Well, I am living in England right now! The fridges are still teeny, but I go to Castle Market a couple of times a week.

Back in Canada, I decided I'd had enough of the packaging thing, and would leave the excess at the checkout once it had gone through. People thought the check-out staff would be annoyed, but (being mainly young, and I guess sorta idealistic) they actually mostly approved, once they realized what/why I was doing it. One girl used to make her supervisor come pick it up(so as to cause a little higher-level annoyance and attention), and one of the packing boys saved it up for awhile and took it to staff meeting and asked if there wasn't something the chain could do about it, like ask the manufacturer to cut down on the amount of useless packaging they used. (No dice, but nice effort)

Someone did report that other people had started doing the same thing, actually, but I can't verify it. The fact is I hit my limit when I bought a bar of soap that was in an oversized plastic-sealed box, containing a cardboard insert to prevent the plastic-vaccuum-sealed actual bar of soap from rattling around inside. Together, the packaging likely cost the manufacturer at least triple what the soap did to produce, and for what? It was simple, generic soap (you know, no-name, yellow with black lettering type stuff, no 'brand' to be loyal to).

But I don't recycle much. OTOH, I walk everywhere, and mostly don't buy packaged foods (at least not a bunch) and NEVER use the store bags. Water, well, I recycle my plastic bottles most of the time.

But it is true: I flew here which likely used up a Bangla Deshi lifetime of fossil fuel in one go. So the planet and I probably have a an issue.
Jan. 25th, 2010 07:29 pm (UTC)
When I worked in the People's Repulic of Berkeley (CA), granoliest of the green cities, I was boggled that they didn't have plastic recycling pickup. Paper - yes. Glass - yes. Aluminum - yes. Plastic - no.

As far as I could tell, the reasoning ran that plastic isn't good for the environment, therefore you shouldn't use plastic. Since you shouldn't use plastic, we won't pick it up with the other recyclables.

Don't try to understand it. It'll hurt your brain.
Jan. 26th, 2010 01:25 pm (UTC)
When I was a mere lad in elementary school, we watched films on nuclear power that asserted that electricity would become so cheap and plentiful it would be too cheap to meter. Unfortunately, that sort of propaganda stuck.
( 22 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )

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