Sometimes being anal pays off. I’ve been using Quicken since 1996 to track all my expenses, and I see here that I’ve spent $6,178.56 on gasoline over the past seven years. Of that total, $1,339.41 went to Mobil, $747.09 went to Exxon, and the rest to BP, Shell, and assorted other gas companies.
In late 2001, I decided to stop buying gasoline from Mobil and Exxon due to their efforts to derail action on climate change and to hamper the effectiveness of key research bodies such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the U.S. Global Change Research Program.
Assuming I live another 30 years, my records suggest that my decision will deprive ExxonMobil of about $10,000 that it would otherwise have earned from me. That’s barely a drop in a very big bucket, but if just 1,000 other people with similar driving habits did the same, we’d divert $10.2 million from ExxonMobil over the next 30 years. Maybe boycotts really can have an effect.
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
I just read the Ask Umbra piece on transportation and I was disappointed that she missed the opportunity to remind readers that driving slower uses less fuel; that’s why Congress reduced the national speed limit during the oil crisis of the 1970s. Nor was there any mention of maintaining your car properly, which keeps fuel consumption near the design specifications.
My girlfriend’s Honda Insight gets markedly better gas mileage at 55 miles per hour than at 65 — a difference of about 10 miles per gallon, and that’s an efficient vehicle. According to the Canadian government, you can expect fuel economy to drop about 20 percent going from 60 to 70 mpg.
I just bought a TECC electric cycle. One word about it: fantastic.
Supporters of personal freedoms might take note that if Umbra’s correspondent wishes to continue to smoke (despite adding to the medical burden of our society), it is possible to do so without contributing to the environmental burden of commercial tobacco. If she were willing to expend the effort (and had land and lots of time), she could grow her own tobacco, dealing with the blue molds and other ills the crop is prone to, then cure and process it for her own use. Redwood City Seed Company in California carries tobacco seed.
Re: Dairy Godmother
Please allow me to commend Umbra on her refreshing, loquacious, learned, witty, and most pleasant style of eco-journalism. Fact is, since I discovered her on the web, she has (figuratively speaking, of course) charmed the pants off me, and without the slightest inkling as to how old she is or what she looks like, I have developed a maddening crush on her.
In regards to the letter from Jessica, as a practicing macrobiotic, please allow me to say that the human body has no need whatsoever to consume milk from a cow. As you well know, such milk contains hormones destined for a 500-pound animal that carry a biological message the human body really doesn’t want to hear. Jessica would do much better to drink soy drippings, sans Solae; her bod and the sod would be eternally grateful.
Louis J. de Deaux
I hope you’ll keep in mind that there are more than two political parties in this country, including the Green Party. When “both parties” are referred to, especially without prior reference to at least one of them (in this case the Democrats), you are not keeping your readers well informed. I suggest you try using “the two major parties” or something more descriptive that distinguishes them from other parties while still acknowledging the existence of those others.
Thanks for all you do.
Ann Arbor, Mich.
No news in the Julia Bonds article.
I entered this world in the mid-morning hours of Oct. 23, 1936. Location of the event was a four-room house next to a coal tipple and the main line C&O railroad tracks. Coal dust was everywhere, on everyone and everything. Both houses of the West Virginia legislature were controlled by Democrats. When I left for the Marine Corps in 1953, there had been no change in the state legislature for 17 years. When I returned to West Virginia after 23 years in the corps and three years in Michigan, there had been no change in the legislature: still controlled by Democrats.
Most people in this state have lived under the control of one political party. How can anyone expect change? How can anyone expect progress?
Julia’s dog is sleeping under the porch instead of following the scent to Charleston and inside the gold dome to the chambers of nest-feathering politicians.
Camden, W. Va.
Re: Right On
I was struck by the fact that there don’t seem to be any Republicans who sent in letters in response to Martha Marks’ piece about Republicans for Environmental Protection. Perhaps Republicans were simply unmoved by her view that conservation is a fundamentally conservative issue, that preserving our natural resources fits neatly into the conservative ideal of preserving institutions and customs that have made this country a special place on the planet.
I think, however, it’s more likely that there just aren’t many Republicans out there who read Grist. This points to a fundamental problem with the conservation movement: It has become to the Democrats what the “family values” movement is to Republicans — a loyal source of party activism and, ultimately, votes. Is this reality thanks to Southern and interior-Western GOP ideologues or vote-grabbing Dems in search of a base? Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
One of your letter-writers correctly asserts that most Americans are environmentalists. This is because most Americans — donkey, elephant, blue state, red state — care about the health of their communities and children. If I were a leader in the environmental movement, I’d be desperately trying to reach out to that deafeningly silent majority of people who care about water and air quality and enjoy going for hikes with their kids. And yet, despite the kind words from your letter-writers, the movement is so totally and unabashedly leftist that it alienates a huge group of potential supporters like myself. I’m an independent, by the way.
Re: White Flight, Green Fright?
It’s interesting to me that environmentalists seem to be consistently and perhaps unconsciously putting themselves at odds with the need for affordable housing. The number one agenda of Green America ought to be to find a way to build sustainable housing in a fashion that meets the financial needs of middle-class working people. Trashing suburbia is great, until you’re the one who’s been priced out of the market in your hometown.
I think the flight to the intermountain West is fueled by the economics of real estate in the coastal states. The reason it’s mostly white, heterosexual Republicans has more to do with perceptions about backwardness and prejudices in the Rockies than about desire to flee more diverse communities.
Re: Jeff Lahl, Solar Electric Light Fund
I am enjoying the opportunity to experience the solar flair of Jeff Lahl’s journaling, as he shares his experiences with his project, the Solar Electric Light Fund. I have also heard rumor that he has been a solar detective in Maui. It is not surprising to see him going more global with his gift and knowledge.
Thank you, Grist Magazine, for this reading enjoyment. I look forward to Dear Me and what the next adventure will bring us.
Re: Jeff Lahl, Solar Electric Light Fund
Thank you for this story. I have lived in southern Africa and returned to the U.S. with plans to devote the rest of my career to laying the foundation for a sustainable civilization at peace with ourselves and the planet. I have told many friends how Africa is going to leapfrog the U.S. with renewable energy this century. Although Lahl seems to be off to a bumpy start, I believe that he is an emissary of light (pun intended) at this critical crossroads in the history of the human family. I just wanted to say thank you for publishing the account of his work in Nigeria.
San Diego, Calif.