I finally got around to viewing the DVD, which I purchased from the Field Museum’s shop – they have an entire section of their very large shop devoted to fair trade items and environmentally-sensitive gifts. In spite of my pre-2000 dismissal of former Vice President Al Gore Jr. as a slightly dorky wonk, I was very moved by his presentation and the lifelong passion he’s had for learning about the environment, and for raising the alarm about climatic change. Yes, it’s annoying that he uses buzzwords and talking points, just like the Republicans, but also it’s incredibly frustrating and sobering to think “what might have been.”
Especially since I had recently viewed Dan Rather’s HD.net expose of iVotronic electronic voting machines, and later on touches on the notorious “hanging chads” paper ballots in the Florida election of 2000, that probably cost Gore the Presidency. I won’t hare off after the latest conspiracy theory, but there may be something in the idea that the electronic voting industry needed a boost, and that making sure paper ballots were discredited was one way to get money flowing to electronic voting manufacturers for the next round of elections. And it’s always troubled me that industry executives were so cozy with the Bush campaign. The interviews from the former paper plant employees, and their demonstration of how the poor quality card stock they were stuck with before the 2000 election contributed to “bad” ballot cards was pretty eye-opening. Why was the company’s upper management so bent on using the crappy stock that they kept having it re-delivered to the plant after it was rejected by the workers? Why was quality control so questionable in the months leading up to the national election? Was it cost-cutting gone horribly wrong, or was some other entity screwing around with their paper deliveries, ensuring poor quality product? It’s a little troubling.
What might have been? Hard to say, but I think the world would be a better place if Gore had been President for 4 years, or 8 years. I doubt we’d be at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I seriously doubt whether 9/11 would have happened quite as it did, or when it did. I also think the response to 9/11 would have been vastly different, and we wouldn’t be completely and totally politically polarized as a nation as a result.
Oh, well (and what a completely useless and fatuous statement that is).
I was very deeply moved by the presentation of “An Inconvenient Truth” in spite of myself, and liked and respected Gore for his committment to environmental concern more by the end. Also, I laughed out loud more than a few times – he’s much funnier than I remember him being while in office. He covers a lot of ground in his presentation, and in the more introspective linking sections. There’s quite a bit about Katrina and the aftermath, and some tasteful yet hearty smacks at the present administration, and also quite a bit about world poverty, the clean water issue, and more.
We do a few things around here at Chez Gique to be environmentally sensitive and save energy – especially when it’s a savings of money, but also just because it’s the right thing to do, and it’s not inconvenient at all. It turns out we’re doing quite a bit if measured by the standards laid out in the promo materials for An Inconvenient Truth.
- change a light
- drive less
- recycle more
- check your tires
- use less hot water
- avoid products with a lot of packaging
- adjust your thermostat
- plant a tree
- turn off electronic devices
- be part of the solution
At this moment, there are a couple of fluorescent bulbs in use – one in the hall light, and one in the retro lamp on my desk. We have quite a few.
I haven’t been able to make good on my threat to ride my bike to work this summer; it’s just too hot and gummy and there’s no way to shower and clean up at work, plus the route is not that safe or pleasant a ride.
We recycle a large amount of paper products, cans, and whatever plastics are marked with the triangular recycle-sort label, mostly because the village makes it worth our while.
I haven’t checked my tires and should probably do that this weekend, but David keeps on top of that on his car. We do own one hybrid car, however, and my car is only driven about 50 miles a week or less.
We could conserve more hot water by showering together more often – now there’s an incentive! But we don’t use that much to begin with.
We sometimes can’t avoid packaging, but when possible we like to purchase non-perishables in bulk, which often come in larger packages instead of lots of little packages.
We have a programmable thermostat which works summer and winter to regulate the temperature during the day so that we save money on power bills.
We could certainly plant a tree, or three – I’ve been thinking about doing just that in the very sloppy wet back corner, which might like a nice river ash or something – and the neighbor guy just cut down the little spruce that was on the edge of his lot, which is a shame.
We’re not very good about turning off electronic devices, though – computers in every room, fans, home entertainment system, and lots of other things on standby with little red, green, or blue LEDs glowing away merrily.
But I’m trying to be part of the solution.
Here’s the deal: I decided to start composting everything I could from home, and also from work. About a month and a half ago I made up some little plastic snap-lid containers with a label explaining that I was collecting used coffee grounds for use in my garden, and that tomatoes grown in the garden would help feed the hungry through my church’s food pantry. All was good – I started getting a fair volume of compost from my little activity, and then I ran across this.
Well, okay, if Starbucks want to give it away for free, I’ll be happy to take it off their hands. And give it away they do – when I stopped a couple of nights ago on a whim, the local caffeinery handed me NINE large bags of espresso grounds through the drive through window, which look like gigantic pipe dottles when I dump them out. Sadly, the bags are not recyclable; they’re these silvery plastic things that were originally full of coffee beans, but at least they get reused by Starbucks for the compost program, with little stickers to seal them up.
I’d recently bought a second compost bin, because I’m actually gearing up for next year’s garden, which will probably be expanding next year both at church and at home. The second one is almost half full already, mostly with grounds but also with discarded kitchen cuttings and anything else “brown” to improve the carbon/nitrogen balance of “brown” versus “green.” Oddly enough, grounds are considered “green” in the composting world. But I must say, it smells wonderful – especially the batches that I get from the one break room at work where somebody always brings in hazelnut coffee. One weird thing is that the grounds seem to be the ideal habitat for a bright salmon-pink mold of some kind for the first week or so, but it breaks down pretty quickly. Sometimes the Starbucks bags have it, too.
Here are some photos showing the rather shabby state of my garden, with its one sprawling monster tomato plant, 2 pepper plants, and assorted herbs. Next year, I plan to cage up the tomato plant(s) as I never really got around to that, and also I didn’t nip off the “suckers” as I should have. We’ve gotten some nice tomatoes and peppers, and I donated quite a lot to the Elk Grove Village food pantry, with additional tomatoes from the Holy Moly garden. We’ve also eaten some, yum yum! Great flavor.
Also: my compost bins, let me show you them!
Oooh! Compost be warmz. Note pink mold on fresh dottles of espresso coffee grounds (just since yesterday). This is the newer bin, manufactured from recycled plastic by Miracle-Gro. It was literally a snap to put together – no tools. The lid is hinged, and it’s made in 3 stacking sections so that when ready to grab compost, you just lift up the sections to where you can dig it comfortably. I added some “greenz” yesterday – leaves only, no weedz. Need more brownz, but autumn comes soon. One of the ash trees on the side of the house dropped a lot of leaves before all the rain started, so that helped.
This is the original bin, one I’ve had for a couple of years. It had to be screwed together, and the lid has to be unlatched and completely off, but it has 2 sliding access doors so that finished compost can be raked or shoveled out of the bottom left and front sides. It’s got a fair number of chunks of rock mulch, so I’m thinking of getting or making a compost screen.
Note pink mold peeking out of the sides. I am reasonably sure this stuff isn’t harmful, but make sure to compost it thoroughly to kill it off (the heat of the process eventually does this, I think).
Detail showing 3 stages of coffee compost: bean, grounds with dottles, and rot setting in. Doesn’t happent to show the “work” coffee grounds, as they’re buried at the moment (filters and all).
And here’s the garden at church:
And here’s “Farmer Bill” with some of the harvest he took to the local food bank – he’s the “master gardener” at church this year, having finished out his term on the Bishop’s Committee with panache:
For more information on global warming (at least from the reality-based, scientifically grounded point of view) visit climatecrisis.org.
One last note: see how green the grass and gardens are? We’ve had a LOT of rain this summer, and it seems like it’s rained heavily every day, or every other day for 2 weeks. Nobody’s talking drought in our area this year. This probably means we’ll have a heavy winter snowfall, too.
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