Friday, June 27, 2008

Highways blow.

Spent the last week in San Diego visiting a friend. It was warm and beachy and sunny, but DAMN if we didn't spend half the time in the car! To go anywhere, even Chipotle for lunch required freeway time. Filling up the tank of my friend's car is an 80 dollar proposition with gas prices what they are, and that has to happen once every three days given how much she drives.

How terribly we designed cities when fossil fuels were cheap! The best a San Diegan (San Diego-an?) can do is ride a motorcycle. Scooters and bikes don't cut it because they won't fair well on highways where the speed of traffic is around 75mph.

I pity the fools who live there and pray I never have to.

Perhaps the craziest thing about it to me was how normal this seemed to everyone there. Ofcourse we have to drive 30 minutes to the mall! I didn't want to preach, but I found it hard to hide my disdain.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Some Thoughts

Yes yes, I know I've been an absent blogger. But I was reading this book about "flipping the switch on technology" called Better Off by Eric Brende. I sort of stopped checking e-mail or using the computer for a while. Not because of the book persay, but because it's Summer and all I really do is eat, read, and take care of other people's progeny for pay. I was tired of the computer, and reading about Eric's adventures on a farm in an anabaptist community was so riveting that I didn't WANT to see what was happening out there in the modern world.

I've been considering other eco-thinkers as well. Barbara Kingsolver, Daniel Quinn, various and sundry bloggers...

It occurs to me that among those of us in the environmentalist camp, there are many different points of view. Some think technology will save us, others think technology is our big problem. Some think the most important thing is eating locally while others are more concerned with consumption or oil or mass transit. As I've written before, I'm most worried that environmental responsibility will become only an upper-middle class progressive issue - a way to gain social capital in chic circles while average Americans roll their eyes and continue to buy meat for their kids contained growth hormones. Also: shit. The way I see this happening is by making green living affordable and (fairly) easy. I think it's key we not market it as a luxury, or greenwash the public into buying new stuff just because it's "natural."

What's a good name for those who buy at Big Box stores exclusively and eat mealy watermelons in Winter and go through two rolls of paper towels a week? If I'm progressive are they regressive? If I'm radical are they reactionary? Maybe complacent is a better label. Complacies? Not as good a dismissal as hippie is for me. I'll work on it...

But I digress. Here are some things I should mention quickly that have occured to me/just occured in the last two weeks:

1) Barbara Kingsolver makes a point in her Animal Vegetable Miracle Book that caused me to think: We (and by we, I mean me) get our underwear in a bunch over the price of organic food. I had a whole rant about how the farmer's market was too expensive. Still think it is. But Kingsolver points out that US citizens spend a far smaller percentage of their income on food than any other nation does. She claims that we're buying substandard food because it's cheaper and argues that it's worth an extra dollar or two to eat organic foods: you're helping out the small farmer, the local economy, getting more nutrients, a better taste, and you can rest assured there are no poisons in the food. Yep, she has a point.

2) But then, so does ZeFrank when he damns farmer's markets as the playgrounds of silly vacationers (this is all tongue in cheek, but still spot on):

3) Someone has stolen my composting worms off the porch! The shovel as well! I'm flabbergasted and quite sad. Think of all that good garden compost I lost, not to mention the wormies themselves. A pox on the thief!

4) My veggie plants are kicking butt! I still need to take pics of the garden, but my friend and I will be feasting come August!

More soon. I have recipes to share and rants to impose. I have a funny plumbing story and some haircare/armpit maintenance thoughts. I also have a good list of green bloggy news, but right now my book is calling to me...

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Gardening Progress / A Local Food Rant

Three weeks ago I helped a good friend plant a veggie garden at her new rented house. We split the cost of seeds (I spent less than 30 bucks), the weeding chores, and the planting. We really haven't a clue what we're doing, but I went over today and sure enough a bunch of lovely seedlings are popping out of the ground:

sugar snap peas
purple carrots
orange carrots
broccoli rabe

Pictures of the garden forthcoming!

Then in my little containers at my apartment I've planted basil, tomatoes, and tomatillos! It's so fun to watch things grow, and i've been fertilizing the potted plants with the "tea" from my compost bin (a.k.a. trash juice.) We weren't sophisticated enough this grow season to space out our plantings so they'd mature at different times. Oh well. Next time.

This week I've been reading Barbara Kingsolver's book about eating local for a year: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. It's great! She has some excellent points about the ethics of eating. We don't find it impolite for vegetarians to request non-meat items at dinner, but it's percieved as preachy or nitpicky in our society to ask that our food not travel around the globe to get to us. Eating seasonally is seen as deprivation (I see it that way sometimes, certainly!) Kingsolver writes, "The conspicuous consumption of limited resources has yet to be accepted widely as spiritual error, or even bad manners."

Isn't it more of a deprivation to eat crappy asparagus that's bitter and grimmy outside the 4 weeks (That's IT!) each year it's in season? Or munch on tasteless, mealy apples and tomatoes? Isn't it deprivation that we loose many varieties of seeds each year because of factory farming practice and modification of plant species so that they travel well? Don't get me wrong: I'm not an extremist! I won't stop using spices from Asia. I won't grow wheat on the roof to make my own bread. There are some very real advantages to living in the 21st century. But I will try when it comes to vegetables and fruits to do a better job. Growing my own is a great start, as is supporting local farmers. Dairy is easy to get locally as well. And even if my grains and legumes come from elsewhere, it's still MUCH more environmentally (and economically) sound to purchase and eat whole foods than it is to buy multi-ingredient foods of the processed and boxed variety, which have HUGE footprints. It's cheaper too. And healthier. It's not faster, but I'm not sure what I'd be doing with the time I saved by eating Easy-Mac.

It annoys the HELL out of me when people roll their eyes at me and call me a hippie. Americans have this sense of entitlement. We think we're sophisticated for eating blackberries in the dead of Winter, without regard for what those choices are doing to the rest of the planet and future generations. Catch me in the right mood and I feel this way too. It's irresponsible and sickening. My views aren't radical. They aren't original or groundbreaking; why are things so ass-backward that they're frequently percieved as such?


I was out of town last weekend in Seattle for an academic conference. It's a pretty great town: bike lanes, electronic buses, and a monorail makes it a well thought out city for public transit lovers. I especially enjoyed the bus tunnels that took us under intersections so red lights weren't an issue!

In my own green transit life: I've been getting rides from friends WAY too much lately. It has to do with shoe choices. I wear big shoes, and then don't want to walk more than a quarter mile. Ahh, vanity! I've been investigating bike possibilities but I want a used one and haven't found one I like just yet.

Maybe one of the best things about Seattle though, is that it's extremely walkable. Sure, there are a ton of neighboring suburbs that I couldn't walk to, but it's not a huge town at all.