Wednesday, April 23, 2008

All things green

In the spirit of our Green Advisory Committee, ABC presented 6 ways to make your life more "green." I expected little tweaks like using compact fluorescents and recycling more - BUT

- They showed a man living in a 100 sq. ft. house and suggested that we sell our "McMansions" and downsize our living space!
- The report suggested that we move to a large city, citing New York as a green city due to the fact that most people use public transit and walk instead of owning/driving cars. The implication was that vertical development was better than suburban sprawl.

The Economist on newstands now, has an article on the politics of food for fuel called The Silent Tsunami: The Food Crisis and How to Solve it. I didn't like the proposal they have to expand aid or their nuclear bullet- enabling GMO frankenfoods; however in their defense in parallel they make an argument for enabling self sufficiency for small farmers. They can't seem to admit that we can't drive ourselves out of this pickle. Reduce driving with charged parking to reduce the need for biofuels which is raising food prices. The grain required to fill a 25-gallon SUV gas tank with ethanol will feed one person for a year said Lester Brown when he predicted this crisis two years ago.

By the way this article contains an alarming piece of data that analysts haven't picked on yet- namely that all the defense of exporting labor, with cheap fuel and manufacturing overseas, since Bush the Elder proclaimed the New World Order, was that the greater prosperity that resulted from the maquiladoras was raising living standards worldwide particularly for the poor. The Economist article, after arguing the problems for the deteriorating living standards in the middle class says "Roughly a billion people live on $1 a day. If, on a conservative estimate, the cost of their food rises 20% (and in some places, it has risen a lot more), 100m people could be forced back to this level, the common measure of absolute poverty. In some countries, that would undo all the gains in poverty reduction they have made during the past decade of growth."

And the current issue of Time has a rather weak article on How to win the war on Global Warming which essentially relies on new technology.

The last issue of Time had a great article on The Clean Energy Myth which captures the inability to think past consumption for our cars. Our cars are not only stealing our food and killing our seas, policy makers are hoping the next generation of ethanol will starve our soil.

All of which was neatly captured in Darkow's cartoon from 4/16/08
In the pull down menu pick 4/16/08

The consumerist source of green house gases are brilliantly summarized by Michael Pollan in 4/20/08 issue of the NY Times Magazine in a column titled Why Bother? He says for us to wait for technology to solve the problem means we are not serious about changing anything.

There were other good articles in this issue including Not-So-free ride by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner on using insurance to get people to drive less by correctly pricing the externalities of driving; and The Green Issue- Some Bold Steps, which left out the boldest step, which is that there is no way to drive and still get to the carbon production level that the biosphere can sustain (5lbs of co2/day) which concludes this excellent article by Seth Zuckerman in Sierra magazine, and matches a number 1.3 times higher of 1.2 tonnes of CO2 annually calculated by Monbiot. The average American produces 133 lbs of CO2 mostly from driving. Carbon emissions are expected to rise through 2020.

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