Saturday, November 03, 2007

Truth is Inconvenient

Pardon me while I run my hands through my newly eco-friendly haircut while I enjoy the photos of my niece who went Trick or Treating as Mother Nature.

I thought I was paying attention before, but since Son of Mando and I watched "An Inconvenient Truth" a couple of weeks ago, I realize, damn, I still waste a lot, do a lot of things that aren't necessary, consume more than I need. I am also feeling really irritated by the enormous effort people will go to in order to conceal things from the rest of us. Lying is so easy; truth is entirely inconvenient.

Now it's true that Al Gore's Nobel, which I hasten to point out he shares with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has riled a lot of people against his celebrity. But sitting there watching all this science in plain English so that even my 13 year old son understands made me realize that the world would be an entirely different place if Al Gore had been allowed to take office. After all, he was elected. But through a series of miraculous and unexplained conveniences, he didn't become president.

What a mindfuck, really. And now, it's a clusterfuck -- we have not only a shitty president but a war, a tumbling economy, and towns in the South that can only have water service for three hours a day, thanks to President You Can't Make Me.

I used to get so mad when people would ignore simple red flags, but I don't anymore. I've learned that, by and large, people are stupid, and they like it that way. They're not stupid because they're really naturally that dumb (the current President of the United States excepted), they're just lazy or afraid, and that's just sad. It's much easier to ignore the truth about something when it doesn't agree with the direction your life is going or support your consumptive, self-absorbed, or uber-capitalist habits. It's far harder to do the right thing which sometimes means putting something or someone ahead of yourself, like your kids or your community, or your country's water supply. The scientific evidence is there, but most people just ignore it because it's too silly or inconvenient or expensive to try to change their habits, even when it benefits them directly. Certainly I need certain things to be convenient, but not to the point that it's ridiculous. (Even my own X, someone I consider generally to be pretty smart, would rather pay five dollars to pay an invoice online for a class trip our son is taking, instead of mail a check with a .41 stamp. Five dollars. Where does that money go, and why? I pointed out that's half a week of school lunches for our daughter and I offered to send him a stamped envelope with my share.)


Tonight I watched the movie "Over the Hedge" with my kids. It's a hilariously pointed stab at Suburban America. The lead critter, R.J., proclaims, "For humans, enough is never enough!" That's the damn truth. The loads of other people's crap I see on tree lawns every Tuesday proves this. But meanwhile we can take simple steps to act on the real and serious consequences the world is facing. Even my kids have learned to connect the dots and recognize that the things they do now will have an impact beyond them, and consequences for people they might never even meet.

Don't let anyone bullshit you with a bunch of counter baloney. They're just embarrassed or insecure. You can...
  • Turn out the lights in the rooms you're not using. "It takes more energy to turn a light back on" -- bullshit! Oh, and use a compact flourescent in any lamps that will take them. They're no more dangerous than the half-empty cans of paint you have in your garage or the batteries you threw out yesterday. I tell my children that it's not just about saving a few pennies on our electric bill. Energy we don't use can be used by hospitals and schools and nursing homes.
  • Don't idle your car. I can't tell you how angry it makes me when people let their cars run while they drop their kids off at daycare. I'm tempted to take their goddamn keys. Turn the car OFF. If it's too much trouble to turn it off and on, or takes too much time, get up five minutes earlier, or wear less makeup. Your skin will thank you.
  • Use reusable bags at the grocery store. Keep them in your car. Plastic is nasty to make and never goes away. You probably have enough unused plastic bags to scoop up dog poop and line waste cans for the next five years. I also find I buy only what we need and sometimes even buy less when I think about carrying it.
  • Don't get the reusable bag thing? Ask for paper. It biodegrades. Plastic never will.
  • Before you buy something, ask yourself three times on three different occasions whether you really need it. Never make a special trip for anything unless it really is an emergency.
  • Do bigger loads of laundry.
  • Don't water your grass. If you and your neighbors all quit watering your lawns and instead use it to water your vegetables, you can all have a big party with healthy homegrown food and it won't matter that your lawn is brown because you're all having a good time.
  • Eat food in as natural a state as possible, and eat less meat. Think about the grocery industry. Sure, it might be really cool to think you are saving a lot of money buying those big honkin burger packs at the Greedy Eagle. But first the meat has to be fed, then killed and butchered -- did you really want the statistics on groundwater contamination here or do you want to wait until you have an empty stomach? -- then it's processed beyond recognition, frozen by some sort of crazy energy-consumptive process, packaged, loaded onto a diesel truck where it is carbon-fuel delivered to your grocery store. I have news for you. That ain't no fitty-cent burger on your plate. By the time you lift that nasty thing to your mouth, it's been around the block more times than you have, and cost us some serious climate wattage. Gotta have a burger? Find a local butcher, or kill it yourself. If more people had to bust their asses like they did in the old days to get the food they eat now, there would be a lot more vegetarians.
  • Plant things. Grow some food. Grow anything. And don't slather it with pesticides. Grow plants that are compatible with one another and naturally repel pests. You can even plant things that deer don't like. Really. All you have to do is learn how to do it.
  • Recycle. Really. And, if you don't like recycling, buy stuff with less packaging -- or don't buy it at all.
  • Drive a car with a higher gas mileage. This is one I am guilty of violating, but I can't afford a car payment right now. But I am seriously considering, once I turn my present car over to my son, getting a much smaller, much more efficient automobile. Fiddles and mandolins don't take up much room, and I don't have dogs (yet). Meanwhile, just drive less.
My kids and I do a lot of these things at my house. Sometimes it's really hard and we make more convenient choices. And I know it's easy to make excuses. But we just can't anymore. And really, neither can you.

I found a lot of inspiration in this song by the original Country Gentlemen. It's actually the first song that introduced me to them, and I fell in love with it right away. It's just got their signature sound -- and message. They've just always been different, and I'm so pleased that Randy Waller is carrying the tradition forward now. Please take a listen. It's a good soundtrack for gathering up your compost or breaking down cardboard. Too inconvenient? Tell that to your grandkids.

Redwood Hill

15 Comments:

At November 04, 2007 12:56 PM, Anonymous quantum environmentalist said...

This is a great post! thankyou for doing all you are doing to be part of the solution!

Some additional information:

A question comes to mind

"how can you truly call yourself an environmentalist if you are still eating animals?"

This question has been asked of AL GORE, with no reply from Al[as far i hear.]

AL is doing a great job, yes. Still, as many serious and intelligent environmentalists point out, we can always learn more, do more [which really might amount to doing less], and continue to go further in the direction of taking responsibility for our existence here on Earth. If one is truly serious, one will put forth the effort, which might amount to a little more work and sacrifice. That might mean, for example not using trash bags anymore, but putting the trash into the can, and maybe washing out the can sometimes. Or it could be hang drying clothes instead of owning and using a dryer.[think of how much energy you can avoid usign in a lifetime with that practice alone] Or living without air conditioning.[Until the middle of the last century we all lived without them and got by just fine.]
Or participating in eating animal products. If you want to get serious, stop using animal products.Don't just cut back on consumption, stop. The use of animal products by society contributes GREATLY to the destruction of the environment.

I could go on, but if you are intersted in learning more visit

myspace.com/quantum_environmentalists

a website devoted to elevating environmental consciousness. There are many useful practices listed there that are easy and will help you to reduce your impact on the environment.

Too inconvenient?

Here is some helpful info:

Many leading environmental organizations, including the National Audubon Society, the WorldWatch Institute, the Sierra Club, and the Union of Concerned Scientists, have recognized that raising animals for food damages the environment more than just about anything else that we do.

Fortunately there is something you can do -- switch to a plant-based diet!


The meat industry causes more water pollution in the US than all other industries combined because the animals raised for food produce 130 times more excrement than the entire human population--86,000 lbs per second. A typical pig factory farm generates a quantity of raw waste equal to that of a city of 12,000 people.


1
The livestock population of the US consumes enough grain and soybeans to feed more than 5 times its human population. 90% of all corn and 80% of all grains and beans grown in the US are used to feed livestock animals.


2
According to the nonprofit group Greenpeace, all the wild animals and trees in more than 2.9 million acres of rainforest were destroyed in the 2004-2005 crop season in order to grow crops that are used to feed chickens and other animals in factory farms.

3
According to a 2006 UN report, the livestock sector causes more greenhouse gases worldwide than the entire transportation sector.

4
Nitrous oxide is about 300 times more potent as a global warming gas than carbon dioxide. According to the U.N., the meat, egg, and dairy industries account for a staggering 65 percent of worldwide nitrous oxide emissions.

5
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the run-off from factory farms pollutes our waterways more than all other industrial sources combined. The EPA reports that chicken, hog, and cattle excrement have polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states and contaminated groundwater in 17 states.

6
It takes 16 pounds of grain and 2,500 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of meat. One average meat eater could consume that pound of meat during a meal, while 16 people could have been fed on the grain it takes to produce that pound of meat.

7
Every 2 seconds, a child starves to death somewhere in the world. Countries such as Ethiopia and some Central American countries use their farmland to supply the United States with cheap burgers instead of growing healthful grain foods for their own starving people.

8
The livestock population of the US consumes enough grain and soybeans to feed more than 5 times its human population. 90% of all corn and 80% of all grains and beans grown in the US are used to feed livestock animals.

9
Factory farms produce massive amounts of dust and other contamination that pollutes our air. A study in Texas found that animal feedlots in the state produce more than 14 million pounds of particulate dust every year and that the dust “contains biologically active organisms such as bacteria, mold, and fungi from the feces and the feed."

10
75 percent of U.S. topsoil has been lost to date, 85 percent of that loss is due to livestock rearing.


And that is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.

 
At November 05, 2007 5:14 PM, Anonymous You said...

Oh yes, and play acoustic instruments, they don't use electricity! SMILES!

Wanna save a tree? Buy a vintage instrument instead of a new one.

 
At November 05, 2007 6:33 PM, Blogger Blueberry said...

Eating meat really is just about the worst thing EVER for the planet. I'm not protesting Al Gore because he eats meat. We are all a work in progress. We can all do more, and he has done plenty to wisen us up, and wake us up. Yes, he can improve as can we all.

One step at a time makes the road easier. I gave up meat several years ago, but I am working on trying to always remember to take a canvas bag with me when I go in a store. I am a work in progress too. Watch "Living With Ed" (http://livingwithed.net/) on HGTV Monday nights. Gotta love Ed Begley Jr.

 
At November 05, 2007 7:41 PM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

When I do go to the store and forget my bags, I ask for paper (usually I don't have a big cartful if the bags are at home). It's only recently that the checkout kids have stopped looking at me like I was crackers. The Heinen's kids are more hip. And heck, that bag discount adds up!

I don't get HGTV but I'll check Ed out on the Net.

"The EPA reports that chicken, hog, and cattle excrement have polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states and contaminated groundwater in 17 states."

EWWWWW. My second least favorite statistic and yet one that is often on my mind.

"The livestock population of the US consumes enough grain and soybeans to feed more than 5 times its human population. 90% of all corn and 80% of all grains and beans grown in the US are used to feed livestock animals."

My least favorite statistic. So sad.

 
At November 05, 2007 10:16 PM, Blogger DrDon said...

Mando - This is a great post and it's clear that you're passionate about this issue. That being said, cynic that I am, nothing would be different if Al Gore was President. He's having success now because he doesn't have to pander to big money lobbys. If he were President, he wouldn't be able to get anything done without making promises and concessions that would weaken whatever good he was trying to do. Still, I give you credit for being an optimist and thinking that there's still some politician or political party that could make a difference.

And not to disagree with Quantum but I think turning your post into a vegetarian advertisement is off the mark. For the last time, humans are physiologically designed to ingest meat and vegetation. Anyone who doesn't know this has not studied biology. The problem is not domesticated livestock. It's that there are too many damn humans on the planet. We cannot breed without control. Every other species has natural limits on its population.

Still, I don't get too upset about all this anymore. It is the height of human conceit to think we can destroy the planet. The planet may become inhospitable to us but it will survive long after we're gone.

Nice post.

 
At November 06, 2007 8:21 AM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Hello Doc,
Thanks for chiming in. I have to say though that I think some things actually might be different. The hijackers might not have been successful on 9/11. If they were, we probably would have gone into Afghanistan, but not Iraq. I wonder if gas prices would have been allowed to skyrocket. While it is true that Al would have had the same general fights on his hands, the Supreme Court appointments probably would have been different, certain bills might have passed or failed. And I don't think the US would be the world's No. 1 Enemy. Maybe still in the top five, but not number one.

All this to say, and it will sound conceited, but, my concern about the planet and overall distribution of resources is what's the world going to be like for my kids? Population control notwithstanding -- I believe families should never have more kids than they can afford to educate and I may already be over my personal limit on that -- there are other things we can do to reverse some of the damage and take better care of the humans we have. I suspect that the access to health care for women in third world countries, including family planning services and the protection to use them, might also be one of the things that would be different had Gore been able to take office. It was Bush who wiped out funding for international family planning services. Moron.

Only one was elected, but there are actually two Dicks in the White House.

 
At November 06, 2007 8:56 AM, Anonymous Q.E. said...

flesh begins to putrefy almost instantly upon death.

Once it has been swallowed, meat requires digestive juices high in hydrochloric acid to break it down. The stomachs of humans and other herbivores produce less than 1/20 of the acid produces by carnivores.


When flesh is consumed, this putrefaction poisions the body. That's why carnivores have to eliminate their meal quickly - why they have digestive tracts only three times the length of their bodies. Since humans, like non-flesh-eating animals, have digestive tracts twelve times the legnth of their bodies, the rapidly decaying flesh in a meat-based meal is retained for much longer, producing a number of toxic effects.

One organ adversely affected by these toxins is the kidney. This Vital organ, which extracts waist from the blood, is strained by the overload of poisions meat consuption introduces. the kidneys of even moderate meat-eaters must work three times harder than the kidneys of vegetarians.

Young people kidneys may be able to cope with this added stress, but as one grows older, the risk of kidney disease and finally kidney failure increases!

Even the pancreas is affected by these toxins. True meat eaters (cats, dogs, wolves, foxes) eat their meat raw, but humans prefere the taste of cooked meat.

Cooking destroys the natural enzymes, present in the meat that aid carnivore's digestion.

The pancreas must therefore produce more digestive enzymes, gradually stressing the organ, weakening it and inviting disease. which in turns becomes cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure,diabetes, etc and this is why in hospitals diseases and death caused by eating dead flesh far exceeds smoking.

 
At November 06, 2007 9:40 AM, Blogger DrDon said...

Q.E. - This "toxin" argument of meat is one I've heard for years and it is completely bogus. Most herbivores eliminate far more waste far more frequently than carnivores. Hence the reason livestock waste is such a problem. This happens because a purely vegetable diet is incredibly inefficient. Most herbivores need to consume an incredible amount of food just to sustain a largely sedentary life. They eat a much higher percentage of their body weight than carnivores and thus do much more damage to the environment.

Humans are primates. The majority of primates, though admitedly not all, are omnivores and hot herbivores. For every detail of our anatomy that you point out in favor of vegetarianism, I can put out one against it. Strict herbivores do not have pronounced incisors and canine teeth used to cutting and tearing flesh. Almost all herbivores have multi-chambered stomachs designed for the long digestion process of vegetation. Most herbovores use some sort of foreign material like stones that they ingest to aid in the breakdown of fiberous plant material. And on, and on, and on.

Again, I'm not going to continue arguing about this. It's as futile as arguing with people who believe in God. I'm not saying that humans are carnivores. I'm saying we're omnivores. Always have been, always will be. You can talk all you want about toxins and the evils of eating meat but vegetarians die too. There is no credible, peer-reviewed study that indicates that vegetarians live significantly longer or overall experience less illness than non-vegetarians. If this is the way you like to eat, that's terrific. I'm thrilled that you enjoy it. But stop trying to make others who choose to differ feel guilty and ashamed of what they are doing.

Mando - Sorry this comment page got hijacked. Didn't mean for that to happen. I don't disagree that some things might be different with Gore but I think the big things would be largely the same. Clinton had a chance to stop Bin Laden and didn't do it. Gore was Vice-President all those years and didn't have any glowing record of accomplishments either on foreign policy or on the environment. Granted, Bush has been a disaster so I suppose the country might have been in better shape simply by having anyone other than him in office. But this is somewhat a matter of opinion too. If you're wealthy or have a lot invested in the stock market, the Bush presidency has been a big success. And lest we forget, those are the people who really run the country.

 
At November 07, 2007 8:45 AM, Blogger My Boring Best said...

The comments here are a great demonstration of what happens to kill a great idea.

I'm not big on doing the things listed by Mando here, but she did list them and I did, therefore, give them some thought. I even started to consider doing some of them. Possibly. (I have feelings on that issue separate from what I'll say here for now.)

However, as soon as something gets mentioned, people have to chime in with taking simple but effective ideas to some crazy level. It's like Environmentalism gone Fundamental. The suggestions go from something the normal person might do during the course of a normal day, to outright sillyness.

I don't like meat. I'll eat it, but I don't really like it. And yet, I think the idea of stopping eating it to save the environment is so far off the mark it sickens me. People sure know how to kill a good idea.

Do you honestly think that that will further the environmental cause? I can think of nothing that will kill it quicker. Sure, you'll get the people on board who were vegetarians anyway, or those that were considering it, but what about the other? As soon as you take the simple ideas mentioned in the posting and turn them into "stop eating meat too" you are killing this fine idea.

And that's what I am fascinated by here, and in all cases where good ideas die a quick death; the rabid fundamentalist, spouting off shaky "facts" in order to affect a change that very few want, and, in turn, do nothing to further the agenda they claim to support.

Fundamentalist Environmentalists. Who knew?

(Sorry to sound so negative here, but this thread of comments really rubs me the wrong way. I do think the original post had merit and was full of good things to consider.)

 
At November 07, 2007 9:35 AM, Anonymous funamentally right said...

Plastics. it's the wave of the future! It's coming in waves, buy now.

invest in the EPA and the union of concerned scientists.Damn liars. THEY need all the help they can get.Eat greenpeace, damn right wing fundamentalisms. BUY more, we need more. smoke more ciggaretes, drink more liqor, hell boys, smoke more crack, it won't hurt ya none. Gawd gave ya two gud lungs, now put 'em to there proper use, ones fer breathin', the xtra ones fer smokin. How bout a new T.V? That one in the living room is SO last summer, we need a new one.

Hey. Kill. killin is gud.Kill animals and eat them.Want to save a little money? [Naw] Kill your pets and eat them. Eat to your health.Drink to heart disease. kill.It's gud for ya.Real gud. Huh haw boys, I think I got one! get the net!REAL GUD IDEAR, BUTCH.

anything for entertainment!!!!!!

 
At November 07, 2007 1:32 PM, Blogger DrDon said...

There's a song on Black Sabbath's album "Sabotage" where the guitar gets progressively more distorted as the song goes on, symbolizing Ozzy's descent into madness as the protagonist. I think the same thing has happened with these comments. And Boring Best tried his darndest to bring it back to reality.

I'm probably as guilty as anyone for getting us offtrack and I agree that Mando's post originally had some good, simple ideas. I also agree that anytime you try to take those ideas and then make a leap to some grand change in human behavior, it kills all the momentum. I think that was my original point in the couple sentences where I critiqued Q.E's comment. Unfortunately, my couple sentences result in the whole point of an original good post being lost. Sorry 'bout that Mando.

That being said, I have no idea what Fundamentalist is saying is his/her comment. Boring's got it right though. Let's try to at least do the little things first.

 
At November 07, 2007 6:18 PM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Terrific. Who's ready for pie?

;-)

 
At November 07, 2007 6:25 PM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Kidding.

All good points raised. I appreciate the passion on all sides.

It's important to appreciate what Joe Blow does out in Parma by recycling or driving less, as much as what an organic farmer does in Streetsboro. There are really basic things everyone can do to use less fuel, waste less, reduce water consumption. Every act of personal responsibility, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction and something we need far more of in this country right now.

 
At November 07, 2007 9:39 PM, Anonymous Q.E. said...

Hijacked again! Pirates...

I awoke early as I often did, just before
sunrise to walk by the ocean's edge and
greet the new day. As I moved through the
misty dawn, I focused on a faint, far away
motion. I saw a youth, bending and
reaching and flailing arms, dancing on the
beach, no doubt in celebration of the
perfect day soon to begin.
As I approached, I sadly realized that the
youth was not dancing to the bay, but
rather bending to sift through the debris left
by the night's tide, stopping now and then
to pick up a starfish and then standing, to
heave it back into the sea. I asked the youth
the purpose of the effort. "The tide has
washed the starfish onto the beach and they
cannot return to the sea by themselves," the
youth replied. "When the sun rises, they
will die, unless I throw them back to the
sea."
As the youth explained, I surveyed the vast
expanse of beach, strectching in both
directions beyond my sight. Starfish littered
the shore in numbers beyond calculation.
The hopelessness of the youth's plan
became clear to me and I countered, "But
there are more starfish on this beach than
you can ever save before the sun is up.
Surely you cannot expect to make a
difference."
The youth paused briefly to consider my
words, bent to pick up a starfish and threw
it as far as possible. Turning to me he
simply said, "I made a difference to that
one."
I left the boy and went home, deep in
thought of what the boy had said. I
returned to the beach and spent the rest of
the day helping the boy throw starfish into
the sea.

 
At November 08, 2007 8:25 AM, Blogger My Boring Best said...

"I made a difference to that one." ...needs less syrup!

I suppose I understand the point of inserting this cloying story here, but I still find it hard to stomach.

None the less, I'm leaving this thread now. No sense cluttering Mando's happy home with my mess. :-)

 

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