While dastardly adversaries can be a pain, what we really need to do is get more people talking and thinking about the issues that matter most. After all, as the saying goes, it takes a village to combat an apocalypse.
Grist readers, as any climate realist knows, procrastination will get us nowhere. We only have one more day to reach our goal and just 1,000 more donations to go. Make a donation today to help us reach our goal of 2,500 donations by Dec. 11 so we can continue making progress towards a better, brighter future.
David Roberts Grist Department of Reality Checks
Cizik's latest campaign is sure to push right-wingers' buttons: He is advocating contraception as a means to combat climate change (as well as achieve lots of other worthy goals). "Family planning is a green technology," he told me during a recent conversation.
But though some conservative Christians will surely recoil in horror, Cizik believes he can convince open-minded evangelicals and other Christians of the rightness of his cause.
I work in a film-related business in Los Angeles, and we have lots of old tape and film materials to dispose of. We recycle what we can, but much of this material cannot be recycled. Is there anybody making useful stuff out of old magnetic tape, like people do with old juice pouches and soda bottles? I wonder if there is any way to turn this waste stream into raw materials for other products.
Los Angeles, Calif.
A. Dearest CB,
Before I answer your question, a note to all my dearest readers: Grist needs 2,500 donations by tomorrow to meet our winter fundraising goal -- could you give $5, $25, or even more to support my work? I would be ever so grateful, and even jocund.
Asking if anyone is making useful stuff out of a particular type of material is like asking if anyone is breathing. You name it, someone is doing something creative with it. While I must admit I am not much of a DIY-er, this craft fetish we are experiencing is good news for America’s waste problem.
The DIY craze is particularly welcome during the holidays, as it helps us reduce our consumption and buy less stuff. In fact, Grist is somewhat consumed by this theme at the moment -- read all about Greg Hanscom’s no-stuff adventures on prime-time TV, follow Claire Thompson as she avoids buying corporate for Christmas, and see how our resident Greenie Pig, Elizabeth Kwak-Hefferan, is making all her own gifts.
In the case of film, I am seeing evidence of all sorts of interesting projects. I’m not sure any of them are occurring at a scale that’s going to ease the solid-waste burden of your industry, which generates an estimated 18 million pounds of trash each year, and we’ll discuss the scale issue in a moment. But first let’s take a look at some of the creative things people are making:
But even a city on the cutting edge has its share of difficult realities to face. The city has the second-most expensive housing market in the U.S. and middle-class families are being priced out. California could see a 16-inch sea-level rise by mid-century and 55 inches by 2100, according to one estimate [PDF]. Surrounded by water on three sides, the city is particularly vulnerable.
Still, San Francisco Department of the Environment Director Melanie Nutter is optimistic. “Cities are so well-poised to take action and make a collective impact,” she says. “That’s one of the reasons I love working on the local level. You can really see that movement and that change.”
Nutter has tried the alternative: She was working for then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi when national climate bills seemed attainable. “It takes so much to try to move policy at the federal level,” she says. “Waxman-Markey was very disappointing to see fall apart.”
I talked to Nutter for Knope and change, our series on the women working hard to green our cities. Here’s an edited version of our conversation:
A. This is very much on our minds in light of Sandy and the extreme weather events that we are starting to see. Just in the past two weeks, we’ve had torrential downpours in San Francisco. Rain is common this time of year, but there’s been a number of atmospheric conditions that created a [Pineapple Express], which was basically a complete dumping. There are pictures of places in San Francisco where it’s up to people’s knees on certain streets where the storm drains got flooded from what we thought was going to be a simple rainshower. We are reminded again and again how vulnerable we are.
Trying to think more, um, sustainably about the holidays this year? So, it seems, is everyone else. It's hardly an innovation that 2012 can claim to own -- in fact, it has become a holiday tradition in its own right.
It's what was on the mind of Grist Senior Editor Greg Hanscom, when, confronted with the prospect of another Black Friday post-turkey shopping spree, he penned an open letter to his family and friends. "Please get my kids nothing for Christmas," he begged. Posted here at Grist, Greg's plea for a saner approach to a less stuff-y holiday fired up many of our readers' imaginations, caught the eye of some of our friends in TV-land, and led us to declare it, officially, our Grist theme for December: For the holidays this year, make it anything but stuff. Shift the gift!
Of course we can't claim that any of this is truly new. Long before someone had the bright idea of transmuting "gift" into a verb, many of us were scratching our heads looking for ways to dematerialize the annual solstice celebrations. I'm sure we're eventually going to discover a cave-wall drawing recording the moment at which some hapless neolithic family, surveying the dwindling space in its communal burrow, let out the cry of "TOO MUCH STUFF!"
Still: Ideas have moments, and surely this is this year's merry meme. We are years into a grueling recession that has only improved around the edges. We are reeling from a storm that battered large chunks of the East Coast. We see with deepening clarity that our system hasn't yet embraced the changes needed to deflect the curve of climate change.
We won't let that stop us from enjoying the holidays. But the last thing we need is to do so by gathering piles of stuff that we don't really need and may not even want.
Celebration without accumulation! Or, as we intend to chant, with our human mics cranked up as loud as we know how, "Shift the gift!"
Oh help. I've really done it this time, guys. I wrote a column for Black Friday asking my friends and relations to get my kids nothing for Christmas. Now I know what you’re thinking: What a noble request! A father trying to introduce his children to the joys of a simple holiday! What could possibly go wrong? Well, let me tell you.
First, let me say that, contrary to what you may have read in the comment section below that column, I was not scarred by horrible holidays as a child. I grew up in a mountain town. My Christmas memories are made of snow crystals and red plastic sleds, ski days and spruce boughs. Yes, Santa came to our house, and we exchanged gifts, but the highlight of the holiday season was the time we spent outdoors.
Let me also say that my wife, Tara, and I have some rich holiday traditions of our own. We celebrate Santa Lucia Day, a solstice tradition that is strong in Scandinavia. (Our eldest daughter is named for the saint, whose surrogate appeared in my bedroom late one wintry night when I was in college, bearing candles, mugs of hot chocolate, and a tray of saffron buns.) Each year, we have a solstice fire in our backyard and host a feast for family and friends. One of my favorite traditions involves an annual running race around Baltimore’s Druid Hill Park, which we follow with a great wassail-drinking fest and an off-kilter run home through the snowy streets, exchanging greetings with the local denizens as we pass.
On Christmas, Tara and I always get the whole family outside for some frolicking in the snow (or mud, which is almost as much fun) -- and yes, Santa does come to our house. Tara is amazing at whipping up holiday magic for Lucia, who is 8, and her 4-year-old sister, Chloe. The trouble, as I said in my oh-so-tactful "nothing for Christmas" column, is the sheer volume of gifts that spill from the UPS truck, er, St. Nick’s sleigh, from the far corners of the country.
To cut down on the clutter and send a message of simplicity, I have always opted against getting my kids things for Christmas. Instead, I give them experiences -- a sleep-out in a snow cave or a day on the ski hill. But come to find out, my holiday cheer leaves something to be desired. Like, a lot to be desired. Apparently, I’m a total Scrooge McDuck.
A few years back I was given some homemade granola and it changed my relationship with this cliché hippie food once and for all. Since then I’ve made it for myself and for friends and it’s always unique; sometimes I go really simple with nothing but oats, coconut, and pumpkin seeds. Sometimes I go for ginger and macadamias. And have you seen the cost of artisan granola these days? (I saw a jar for sale for $20 just last week. I kid you not.) Be warned: Once you get really good at making your own granola, you might find yourself craving it at odd hours and opting out of other meals.
Feeling frazzled? Wondering how to sort the important from the trivial from the non-recycable? 'Tis the season. Umbra's Consumption Manifesto is the perfect guide to slowing down, consuming wisely, and taking stock of what matters -- and what really isn't worth worrying so much about. It's too lovely to not republish in its entirety:
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. This brilliant triad says it all. Reduce: Avoid buying what you don’t need -- and when you do get that dishwasher/lawnmower/toilet, spend the money up front for an efficient model. Reuse: Buy used stuff, and wring the last drop of usefulness out of most everything you own. Recycle: Do it, but know that it’s the last and least effective leg of the triad. (Ultimately, recycling simply results in the manufacture of more things.)
Stay close to home. Work close to home to shorten your commute; eat food grown nearby; patronize local businesses; join local organizations. All of these will improve the look, shape, smell, and feel of your community.
Internal combustion engines are polluting and their use should be minimized. Period.
This holiday season, talk of having a “minimalist Christmas” or participating in Buy Nothing Christmas seems to be all over the place (maybe it’s the economy? An attempted Scrooge coup?). And I’m happy to report that my family continues to be on-trend. Last year, we were all about un-wrapping gifts, a practice just poised on the brink of widespread adoption. And months ago, we decided to switch up our usual store-bought grab-bag presents for all homemade goodies instead.
Usually, our extended-family grab bag works thusly: Each participant brings a crowd-pleasing gift, typically under a predetermined price cap, to place ’neath the Christmas tree. We draw numbers, then, when your number is up, you choose between unwrapping a new present or stealing an opened one from a cousin or uncle (how festive!). If your present is stolen, you get to open or steal another, so in the end, everyone has something -- and incidentally, you don’t age into this grab bag until you graduate from college, so the kids still get their toys.
This is a fun system, and we’ve always been able to count on a good haul of wine glasses, board games, tree ornaments, and kitchen gizmos. Last year, I got a salad bowl that looks like an alien.
This year will be a little different. In one small way, we decided to reduce the glut of Christmas consumerism -- by making everything ourselves. This, we thought, would result in more thoughtful, meaningful gifts, gifts that have been labored over and loved, gifts that will mean so much more than a mini-blender ever could.
That, or we’ll all just get a shitload of Christmas cookies.
Grist is more than just a colorful green news agency -- we're a well of inspiration for people who want to take action. And when words alone won't do, special agents like me can drop in a comic to tell the whole story.