Sunday, March 25, 2012

barely a post

SO... a friend posted this video on FB a while back and I reposted immediately, prompting some interesting discussion about finite resources and pessimism etc. For my part, I felt strongly that this video said in 30mins what I have been trying on this blog to say for almost 3 years. so ... enjoy!

Friday, March 9, 2012

of course I'm a hypocrite!

hello 561ba890-682d-11e1-9664-000f20980440 (if that even is your real name)...!

Today I am replying to a thoughtful commentator (commenter?). My character has been called into question, and that's fair. In a round about way I have been called a hypocrite, and I don't actually deny it. I drive a car, I wash my clothes in a machine, I own a house which requires heat and light, I have a baby for whom we buy (P.C. Green, but still) disposable diapers, I'm not a raw-food vegan, I drink coffee and tea, I own all kinds of factory-made resource-based instruments... etc. etc. etc. So yes, I'm a hypocrite, but I think that's part and parcel of being a human being. We are flawed and we are broken and we can't do anything right. We screw up. But we try, and we learn, and in fact I have found that the more mistakes we make the faster we learn. So I'm fast-tracking it, apparently.

In what is part-digression and part-related-illustration, one of the things that drives me the craziest about politicians these days is their unwillingness to accept failure, or to be seen as having ever made a mistake. It is completely insane and inhuman to think that anyone, particularly anyone tasked with leading and running a country, is infallible. The bigger the responsibility, the bigger the job, and presumably the bigger the mistakes that are made along the way which, when addressed and dealt with openly, can lead to greater wisdom in both decision-making and policy-enacting. People! Soilent Green is made of PEOPLE! wake up. Government is made of people just like you and me whose capacity for perfection in anything is NIL. Anyone who pretends otherwise thinks you're an idiot.

But back to the question at hand: am I, Ben Bowen, environmental blogger, a hypocrite? But of course! It's one of the reasons I drink. ha ha. I think, unless I live squatting in a grass hut on Crown Land and only eat bugs and berries, that I will always be so. It is one of the unfortunate consequences of living in 21st-century North America. But that doesn't mean I don't want to try to defend my position. Not being capable of a complete quaquaversal should not mean that I decide to throw in the towel, buy a Hummer and an AC unit for every room, and water my lawn 24/7 all summer. I still think striving to make small differences in my lifestyle is worthwhile.

I thought it might be useful or me to detail some of those differences in one post, given that a good many of them are spread out all over the blog:
  • we put our laundry on the line outside from late March to early October
  • Among many dietary choices I've made, I don't eat red meat, since ruminants (primarily cows in N.America, but sheep on the opposite side of the world) produce methane, which harms the atmosphere
  • I try, when I drive, not to exceed about 110km/hr since anything over that (or, in fact, under about 80k) burns more gas in my car, and I walk to the grocery store as often as I can, though carrying home a full load of groceries hurts my back, so I mostly do drive.
  • I don't shower as often as a normal person should. On average every 5 or 6 days, and then as quickly as possible. I hope this saves water.
  • I drink tap water, not bottled.
  • we have window AC units we put in maybe 5 or 6 nights a summer when it's either that or sleep in your own juices. Otherwise, just fans.
  • I turn lights off whenever I can, and try to be conscientious about electricity use.
  • I agonize at the grocery store over my food purchases, trying to weigh cost against local food against free-range against organic. It's a horror show. ugh. I always leave feeling like a failure. I want to live in the Stone Age again? Well, if we could still have medicines and civil society, yes. I'd be happy to find my own food through foraging and hunting, and I could make do without running water or electric amenities. I often dream heartachingly about picking up and moving to a remote plot of land somewhere on the east coast just so I didn't feel so conflicted and co-opted.

So I guess my bottom line is, I feel I'm doing my almost-best in what is an interminable uphill battle. I want to do the right thing. I want to build a better, more sustainable, more beautiful, more natural world for my children and my descendants, but I'm not getting it right very much. I know that. It sucks. It makes me sad. But my children give me the motivation to keep on keepin' on, so I do, even though I'm aware that just by living in North America I'm part of the problem. There are so many forces working against me that I bend and break under them all the time.

Friday, March 2, 2012

I ate bacon for lunch

So I have finally made what I hope is another sustainable decision about my diet: I am cutting my dairy consumption by at least half — less cheese by far, soy milk in my coffee, very little yoghourt or sour or cream or what-have-you — but I have also decided to start eating pig products again.

I get asked often enough whether I'm a veg, and my response is always that I'm n "environmental vegetarian," by which I mean I'm trying to do my best by the environment by the food choices I make. So beef has been an obvious choice to leave out because of the effect of methane, a powerful "greenhouse gas," on the atmosphere and the fact that cows, which ruminate, produce a lot of it. But I miss meat. So last week I did a little digging around about exactly which animals were ruminants, hoping to discover that maybe there were some animals I hadn't thought of that I could sink my teeth into. Well, in fact, in large part the answer was no, BUT, it turns out according to a report by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board of Kenilworth, Warwickshire, pigs are better than cows emissions-wise because they don't ruminate (to oversimplify, chew their cud).

So my thought is this: if I cut my dairy by more than half but eat a little pork or bacon now and then, I am in fact decreasing the emissions for which I'm responsible. Granted, cutting the dairy and not eating the pork would be better again, but I'm not ready for that yet. I love cheese. I had even begun having a new recipe for savoury oatmeal for my breakfast most mornings... as a digression, here is the recipe:

1 cup vegetable stock
1/2 cup rolled oats
...stir oats into stock in a microwave-safe bowl. cook 3 minutes.
grate in 1/2 a cup of cheese (I used cheddar but anything will do) and stir until melted.
best served with Louisiana hot sauce. giving up this amazing creation is no fun, but if I console myself with a little pig now and then — we ate 7 strips between 3 of us this morning — I won't just break and slide back into heavier-emissions consumption. It's not perfect, but it's something I think I can probably manage long-term, which veganism really wasn't.