18 November 2008

Some more stuff other people wrote

  • Nov 18, 2008

Some more stuff other people wrote

I'll write something of my own soon, promise.
Until then, here are two articles, with some steps you can take in your own daily personal life which will ultimately benefit everyone (not to mention your own wallet and health!).


Because every time you buy gas, the terrorists win:
(Original artwork by Bakari Kafele)

"Wayne's driving obsession began after 9/11. Before then, he drove "75 miles per hour in the left-hand lane," but in the wake of the attacks he vowed to minimize his personal consumption of Mideast oil. As he sees it, Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda received their operating funds from all the U.S. consumers who bought Saudi oil. That money paid for the construction work that made bin Laden's family rich. "If Osama bin Laden didn't have the money to burn," Wayne says, "he wouldn't have been able to do what he did. There was a direct relationship between our addiction to oil and the World Trade Center coming down."
Less consumption of Mideast oil would also make our economy less susceptible to spikes in the price of opec oil, which have triggered U.S. recessions. More than half the gas we pour into our vehicles in America is imported, and we send more than $4 billion a week abroad to buy oil. If we all got a 25 percent improvement in fuel economy (far less than the 50 percent improvement that Wayne and his hypermilers routinely get), we could reduce by half the oil we import from the Mideast for our cars. And then there's global warming. "I'm not just doing this for myself," Wayne told me before we met. "I'm doing this for my country and the world."
in 2002, Wayne bought a Toyota Corolla to replace the 1999 Nissan truck he had been using for his daily commute to the power plant. Online, he saw that "guys in Priuses were bragging about 44 mpg, and I was doing better in a Corolla." But it was driving his wife's Acura mdx that moved Wayne up to the next rung of hypermiler driving. That's because the suv came with a fuel consumption display (fcd), which shows mpg in real time. As he drove, he began to see how little things—slight movements of his foot, accelerations up hills, even a cold day—influenced his fuel efficiency. He learned to wring as many as 638 miles from a single 19-gallon tank in the mdx; he rarely gets less than 30 mpg when he drives it. "Most people get 18 in them," he says."
(Summary: You don't need a hybrid.  Just slow down.)
But wait, there's more:

Our collective diet uses as much energy as our driving.  Eating vegetarian, local, and organic, isn't just about health or the poor little animals.  Its also about our environment and energy independence.  Energy independence is also a matter of national security, so eating low on the food chain should be a priority for both the left and the right.
Excerpted from: http://www.motherjones.com/news/feature/2008/11/diet-for-a-warm-planet.html:

"Our migration from the Profligate to the Sustainable Hemisphere requires us to trim atmospheric CO2 concentrations from 385 to 350 ppm, which we can do by cutting emissions by the same 10 percent. Right? Not quite. Atmospheric CO2
concentrations are rife with long-term feedbacks, both positive and negative, and our current saturation level reflects 250 years of anthropogenic emissions, not just last year's.
So how do we come up with a goal? I'm not a PhD in atmospheric sciences, and neither are you, probably, so this is more in the realm of the hypothetical diet, designed to make a qualitative difference while convincing the world's leaders that we're serious about forcing them to join us in the fight. The United States emits 13.1 trillion pounds of CO2 a year, 22 percent of the total annual global emissions—about 43,000 pounds per American. But before we start deconstructing the merits of fluorescent lightbulbs, let's consider the bigger picture. Yes, China is catching up and by some estimates has already surpassed us. Yet the vast majority of the 385 ppm clogging the atmosphere was emitted by us.
Since America is responsible for 22 percent of annual emissions, I suggest we set a target of shrinking our personal carbon footprint by 22 percent, or 9,606 pounds. If Americans all did this, it would mean we'd take a disproportionate chunk out of that 385 ppm—which China and India would fairly argue that we should. Twenty-two is a hefty number with an alliterative ring to it and is indicative of serious intentions. If enough of us pull it off, 22 percent has the power to fuel a movement our leaders will follow.
So what would a 22 percent diet look like? Step Two is all about losing weight.
Seriously. Body fat. My personal flab is not just a private matter between me and my coronary arteries. Nineteen percent of US energy usage—about as much as is used to fuel our cars—is spent growing and delivering food to the average American who consumes 2,200 pounds of food a year. That's a whopping 3,747 calories a day—or 1,200 to 1,700 more than needed for personal or planetary health. The skinny truth is that as much as 7.6 percent of total energy in the United States today is used to grow human fat, fat that translates to 3,300 pounds of carbon per person.
Sure, liposuction is an untapped fuel source—and New Zealander Pete Bethune extracted 3.38 ounces of his own fat to add to the biofuel powering his carbon-neutral boat, Earthrace. But a more sustainable strategy would be to avoid growing the fat in the first place. A comprehensive Cornell University study found that we could cut our food energy usage in half by simply eating less, cutting back on meat and junk food, and considering the source of our food.
For starters, half of our food energy use comes from producing and delivering meat and dairy. If we gave up just meat, we could maintain that hefty 3,747-calorie intake but consume 33 percent less in fossil fuels doing it. If Americans cut just one serving of meat a week, it would equal taking 5 million cars off the road.
One-third of those 3,747 daily calories comes from junk food—potato chips, soda, etc. We can save on fossil fuel costs in this area by installing more efficient lighting, heating, and cooling in the plants that make the stuff and by using less packaging materials. But we'd save a lot more if you and I simply bought less of it. A can of diet soda, for instance, delivers only 1 calorie of food energy at a cost of 2,100 calories to make the drink and the can. Transporting the components and the finished product costs even more, and shipping processed food and its packaging accounts for much of the problem of America's food averaging 1,500 travel miles before it's eaten.
Ideally, we'd eat our recommended 2,000 to 2,500 daily calories from food grown on smaller, traditional, and organic farms—particularly for dairy and meat, which are extremely energy intensive in their nonorganic forms. To make this work, though, we also need to buy locally, since organic can be grown halfway around the world, and that's hardly sustainable. True, local produce could find its way to your table via too many polluting pickup trucks, but buying locally from sustainable farms generally produces a smaller carbon footprint than factory farms with their fuel-heavy pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and travel miles.
But wait, you say, it's too expensive to buy all that local, organic, boutique food. Well, demand drives the market toward affordability. Today nearly 5,000 farmers markets across the US provide fresh neighborhood food to cities, suburbs, and rural areas. The number is growing (up 18 percent between 2004 and 2006) and the farmers are profiting ($1 billion in sales in 2005). The Agriculture Department now provides farmers market vouchers to low-income mothers and seniors—though not yet enough. The next big step in trimming fossil fuel costs is community-sponsored agriculture (csa), where paid subscriptions support a local small farmer, who supplies his subscribers with weekly deliveries of fresh, neighborhood food. There are now 2,000 csas nationwide. What begins as an elite market eventually becomes something common. But it only happens if you and I make it happen.
Our best friend in making it happen is higher fuel costs, which will eventually make some local food cheaper than distant food. Higher gas prices have already prompted Americans to cut back on driving over the last year by just under 5 percent. That's a bigger decline than during the gas crisis of the 1970s, and it was accomplished without too much pain.
To get to our goal we need more like a 25 percent decline in driving. That and one less 1,100-mile plane trip per person would save us each an estimated 2,365 pounds of carbon. Assuming we've saved 3,300 pounds of carbon by going on an actual diet, we've already gotten halfway to that 22 percent reduction in our carbon footprint without sweating. Closing the gap is easy. Even a middling hot water heater produces 3,000 lbs of carbon a year. So when the time comes to replace it, get an on-demand model that doesn't labor to keep 40 gallons of water hot round the clock. Until then, turn down the temperature to 120° F (carbon saved: 500 lbs). While you're at it, turn your thermostat down in winter and up in summer (2,000 lbs) and compensate with sweaters and solar shades or glazes. Hang your clothes to dry; you'll cut 1,440 pounds of carbon, plus gain a few meditative moments with your laundry. My personal favorite: Shop thrift stores. You get to be more of a recycler, less of a consumer, especially if you donate your stuff back when you're done with it. With almost every decision we make, there's a carbon way to look at it. (See "Where Carbon Comes From.") So do an audit. And share your goals with others. Diets work when we support each other. Just as no bar-tailed godwit can make it to New Zealand and back again on its own, neither can we. The secret to Step Two is to learn to flock. Any one of us changing out our lightbulbs is helpful. Many of us acting together becomes a force."

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