Umbra on water conservation

Dear Umbra, We are doing a NW Earth Institute discussion course on sustainability here at work, and someone asked, “Is it necessary for us to conserve water here in Portland despite seeming abundance and replenishment? If so, why?” My response was not as strong or compelling as I would like. Can you help? Rick ReberPortland, Ore. Dearest Rick, What was your response? It’s hard to be more compelling if I don’t know the compellingness standard. I will still make an effort, despite having incomplete information, because I know it is important to be compelling. Likewise, it is important to try …


Wired magazine bursts a blood vessel doing its contrarian thing

To your right, you’ll see the cover of this month’s Wired magazine. The premise of the issue is that climate change is now the only eco-problem that matters, but to solve it, we’ll have to slaughter the sacred cows of environmentalism. (2001 called. It wants its framing device back.) So what are these heresies that Wired‘s Strawman Enviro so clings to? The Tired: Yes, yes, nuclear power is the only way to stop climate change and enviros who don’t embrace nukes are like silly children. So counterintuitive! (See also: Prius not the end-all be-all!) The Ill-informed: Carbon offsets are a …

Town meeting fun

Small-town politics meets big-time energy crisis

Last night I went to the town meeting where I live, which — well, if you’ve never lived anywhere podunk enough to have a town meeting, you’re missing out. This one was just as I remember them from my childhood, though PowerPoint has replaced mimeographed pages: ambition, exhaustion, confusion, and the one crusty, bearded guy who has to argue every point. After a presentation by the head of the municipally owned utility, a tall, thin audience member in a tan suit and lavender tie approached the microphone. “Can you tell me what your short- and long-term plans are for incorporating …

Strangers in disguise

Coming to terms with the reality of a world of refugees

There's definitely a survivalist streak building in the environmental movement. Mainstream newspapers are starting to run stories about survivalism. There are quite a few people who hear that the energy peak or climate change is coming and believe that building up their stocks of ammo and heading for the hills is the way to go. I recognize, even if I do not share, that impulse: It is the impulse to protect your own, the panic you feel when you realize that your society, which on some level is supposed to protect you, hasn't planned ahead for this one. And so there's a tendency of people to get into discussions about what happens when refugees or hungry folk come around, and a lot of times the answer is that you have to protect your own again. Protect your own means "shoot people," in many cases.

A dozen men’s shaving creams get put to the blade

The best a man can get? For men, shaving surely ranks as one of our most bizarre daily rituals: We take a razor-sharp blade, scald it hot with water, and scrape the hair off of our faces and necks — even the regions over our jugular veins. Yikes. And to complicate matters yet more, we tend to lubricate the process with gels and foams full of all sorts of dodgy and toxic chemicals. Like the hard slap that greets the hapless shaver’s face in the ’70s-era aftershave commercial, perusing the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep cosmetic database is a bracing …

Mazzocchi, Speth, and capitalism's future

Ted Glick on two new books that address capitalism and the environment

I don't know if Gus Speth and Tony Mazzocchi knew each other personally. But as two fascinating books make clear, their distinct life experiences led them both to believe that the capitalist system which now dominates most of the world is the ultimate problem humanity must face up to and deal with if we are to survive.

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