Archive for May, 2009

Let’s Go Out to the Movies

Specifically, check out these time-lapse videos on the impacts people are having on the Earth’s surface.  Nothing like satillite photos to bring it home, eh?

Hm maybe I should have saved such a catchy post title for a more substantive post.

Gestation

So, I took a vacation from the blogging, then I forgot to come back.  And I’m all rejuvenated from it, but that mostly means I have five huge posts simmering, but it’s already an hour past my bedtime.  So have some pictures of my garden!  Then let’s all meet back here in a couple days for new stuff.

IMG_1063

IMG_1058IMG_1060

Poppies are coming up in that empty-looking thing in the bottom picture.  I need to spend some time this weekend staking things.

Progress: Growth

In April, I was focusing on gardening, and negotiating with the apartment complex for unlame recycling facilities.  Now May is half over, and they’re both going very well.  My garden is growing, up and out.  Dad gave me tomatoes and a pepper, and Mom gave me a flower and some oregano this weekend, so my deck is pretty cluttered.  I’ll take a picture for you if it ever stops raining.

I’m growing spinach (and/or baby’s breath- I thought I planted both but everything looks the same, and this might be weird because I might have planted spinach with the morning glories), morning glories, peas the vegetable, sweet peas the flower, and I think that’s it.  Compared to last year, it was painless- I dumped some seeds in and forgot about them, it rained for two weeks, and now everything is green.  I’ve either gained garden perspective, or I’m more easily distracted.

Next steps:  Ascertain what I did plant, repot and stake the tomatoes.  Stick trays under the pots, since they’re peeing on the deck underneath me, and it’s just too soon to alienate my neighbors.

I was also bugging the office.  I determined they are violating a law!  I’m not sure I properly expressed how thrilling that day was for me.  Felt like a citizen hero, became David to Goliath, etc.  I did talk to the property manager about that last Friday, actually, and she said the city never enforces those laws so it’s cool for now.  It was a fascinating interview- I learned a lot about her personal life- but the management position is, the law isn’t enforced, and we residents are uncooperative, so they aren’t going to push it.  She wasn’t aware until I pointed it out that they were in violation, though, and she said she’d send out another notice.  Which is required anyway twice a year.  She did mention that, if more people recycle, they’ll save money on trash pick-up, since recycling pick-up is basically free, and the trash is changed by weight.  So, I see a two-fold path on this:  figuring out who enforces this for the city, and why they don’t, and cajoling the management to take some recycling baby steps.  Proper container labeling, for one.  No progress on the bike racks so far.

I’m going to follow up on the apartment agitation, so let’s count that as something for ‘half-May’.

For a legitimate new challenge, though, I’m going to work out my travel offset plans.  I finished my classes this Tuesday, so I can let myself read my guidebooks and do the fun research for New Zealand with a clear conscience now.  I’ve been vegetarian for a couple weeks now, as part of that project.  I did eat some pepperoni, and I had shrimp on Mother’s Day, but otherwise awesome.  Except for when I tried a peanut butter and banana sandwich, which is seriously gross and how did Elvis eat those?  That was a rough morning, gastronomically.  It sounded like such a delicious idea.  I’m pretty sure I’m getting enough protein- eggs, tofu, chickpeas, those are protein right?- and I’ve done a little online searching for recipes, which worked well.  Though they did lead me to the pb and banana combo.  Mixed bag, I guess.

More of that for the rest of the month, then, plus some research on carbon offset programs, and commenter bullmooser made a great point that some sort of activism to reduce emissions in the long term would be another great way to offset my carbon guilt.  Stay tuned.

Green Makes My Life Complicated: Pants Edition

I’ve discussed finding pants on this blog before, but I feel it needs to be addressed again in light of my recent failures at clothing myself adequately.

I took a Wardrobe Refashion pledge at some point (actually my six months is probably up by now, but I’m still doing it) wherein I don’t buy new everyday clothing, but instead buy second-hand or make my own clothing.  And since I remain a sewing machine failure, I’ve been getting everything at the SA.  And I’ve been doing pretty well finding stuff I like, for everything but pantsing applications.

The usual sizing issues in woman’s clothing apply at the Salvation Army, but they are multiplied fifty-fold by the random selection at the store, and the fact that my typical size range is pretty typical, so the pickings are slim (literally) toward the end of the day.  What it comes down to is, for the last six months, the only pair of jeans I had was over a size too large for me in all directions.  Would have fit great with a second pair of pants underneath, but not so much alone.  Especially since I don’t have a belt.

Yeah, I fail pretty hard at clothing sometimes.

Point is, I looked for jeans at the SA three times with no success.  Absolutely nothing in my size, nothing that came anywhere close to fitting.  But last week, I hit the jackpot.  Or rather, I found one pair of jeans that fits (rather nicely, thanks!).  And then the top button fell off when I was trying them on.

I sewed on another one- can’t pass up mostly-decent denim- but what this boils down to, is applying green scruples to my pants-buying only frustrates me,  wastes time, and makes my everyday existance awkward and droopy.  To the point where I might need to consider going to real stores for jeans.  *gasp*.

Apartment Agitation: The Plot Thickens

My apartment complex might be in violation of a civil ordinance!

This morning I got an email from the property manager apologizing for the lateness of her reply to my email- apparently it went right to spam.  In brief, she agrees that the recycling program is small, but she has sent out a few notices to tenants and doesn’t think the larger management company will sponsor more recycling facilities, but she’ll check with them again and send out another notice, since she hasn’t in a while.  She reiterated that she’s contacting the parent management company about bike storage, and said she’d likely know more about the potential for that by the end of the week.

So, that’s an update with not much of an update.  I’m going to reply to her and suggest some more proactive, simple methods to encourage recycling than just sending out notices to tenants- like posting notices in the common areas of all the buildings, and recycling notices and location on all the dumpsters- but I decided to actually read the local recycling statues first, to see just how far I can expect to push these people.

Alexandria has a link from the main recycling page to the Recycling Guidelines for Condos, Apartments, and Homeowners Associations.  In turn, they link to the Ordinance, Article H of Title 5 (pdf).  The pertinent section of that is this:

(b) The responsible party of any property management company or homeowners association,
business, federal, state, or local government agency, or multiple-family dwelling shall notify, in
writing, its tenants, employees and/or clients, as applicable, that recycling participation is
mandatory. Written notification (i.e., letter, newsletter, email notice, etc.) shall be provided
within fifteen (15) days to all new tenants and employees and no less frequently than bi-annually
thereafter to all existing tenants and employees. The written notification shall set forth the
requirements of this article and include at a minimum:
1. Source separation of recyclable materials from the waste stream is mandatory
for all tenants and employees;

2. What materials will be recycled;
3. How the recyclables are to be prepared;
4. Any set-out requirements;
5. Location of the recycling containers;
6. Prohibitions against contamination of source separated recyclable material;
7. The collection schedule for recyclable material
8. Name and telephone number of a representative of the business or multiple family
dwelling whom the tenant or employee should contact with any
questions.(c) The responsible party shall include the City’s Commercial Recycling Specialist or such
other City representative(s) as may be designated by the City on their notification distribution
list.
(d) The responsible party of any property management company or homeowners association,
business, federal, state, or local government agency, or multiple-family dwelling shall ensure that
all recycling signs and instructions are displayed prominently in public areas and directional
signs are used to direct tenants to the recycling collection area
.

I’ve bolded what I feel are the important parts.

I should note that I wasn’t informed that recycling was mandatory within 15 days of move-in, and there are no directional notices, signs, or instructions for recycling posted anywhere.

Later in the ordinance, they say not doing that is a class 4 civil violation.  They also tell you what department to contact if you find a violation.

I’m printing this out and taking it to the office in the morning, to give my well-meaning property manager a better reason to get a move on.

Also finding this out makes me feel pretty powerful as a citizen, and almost makes me feel better for not voting in the City Council elections yesterday.  Actually, no, it makes me feel worse, because now I have a good reason to appreciate the efforts of the local government.  Argh.

A Crisis By Any Other Name

Sounds a lot nicer!

NYT article on more effective terminology for environmental issues.  A group called EcoAmerica is trying to figure out how to talk about it to make more people care:

The answer, Mr. Perkowitz said in his presentation at the briefing, is to reframe the issue using different language. “Energy efficiency” makes people think of shivering in the dark. Instead, it is more effective to speak of “saving money for a more prosperous future.” In fact, the group’s surveys and focus groups found, it is time to drop the term “the environment” and talk about “the air we breathe, the water our children drink.”

“Another key finding: remember to speak in TALKING POINTS aspirational language about shared American ideals, like freedom, prosperity, independence and self-sufficiency while avoiding jargon and details about policy, science, economics or technology,” said the e-mail account of the group’s study.

I’ve been interested in how to relate what good science is, and what it means, to the general public for a very long time.  Back in school, I was in a whole student group dedicated to the problem- Student Pugwash.  The nature of hypothesis and observation and testable results- that’s fun for me.  And ambiguous, which I also find kind of fun, but I get it’s not for everybody.

Facts are a lot more marketable when you can say they’re absolutes, and those are pretty rare if you’re doing science right.  Experts aren’t supposed to be reasonably sure, they’re supposed to absolutely know- or at least act like it on CNN.  But honest scientists will only tell you how certain they are about their facts, and under what conditions.  And when we get to something as big and weird as climate change, which is inconvenient to deal with anyway, talking about the levels of certainty of your results makes the results too easy to dismiss.

I do think scientists should explain their work in terms that the public can understand, after they publish all those fancy papers to impress their peers.  I think that’s a basic responsibility that everyone involved in expanding knowledge has: dissemination, communication.  But that’s not what EcoAmerica is pushing- they want communication without the sticky science.

Ah, but as a dedicated climate warrior, does it matter how EcoAmerica convinces people to believe, as long as they do believe?

Yes.  It fundamentally does.  Because if your only argument is one of feeeeeelings, then it’s easily broken by other feelings.  Like laziness and hunger and boredom.  And frustration-especially frustration.  Galvanizing whatever “undecideds” with patriotic verbage goes nowhere when they face the difficult realities of what the science actually means, how we solve the associated technical problems, and how we structure a political solution to this mess. Then we’re back where we started, only now the folks are frustrated.  We have to give people the reasons and facts they need to make informed and principled decisions- whether they want to make those decisions or not.

EcoAmerica, I applaud your intention of talking effectively to the public about this.  And I get that you feel  handicapped by the abysmal lack of science education in this country.  But give the public some credit- treat them like idiots, and you’ll lose them.  Convince them on a slippery “American ideals” basis (some of us are apparently ok with torture, so maybe that’s not the firmest foundation right now), and they’ll follow you nowhere past the sentiment.  You’ll do better by translating the difficult issues you plan to avoid to those idiots- put it in clear terms, explain what the science means, explain the problems both technological and political that we face- and the idiots will hopefully surprise you.

Easier said than done!  Always sounded that way at Pugwash, too.  But if you in the know don’t try, who will?

Apartment Agitation: Lost Emails?

So I sent that email about getting bike racks and better recycling facilities a couple weeks ago, and then checked with the office a couple days later.  The office lady said she didn’t get it, and the manager probably didn’t either.  So I sent the email again last week, and still no reply.  I’ve double-checked the emails, and they’re the ones on the card I was given, and the domain they answered when I was applying for the apartment, soooo.  Hrm.

So no direct response, but this morning we got a message under our doors about “balcony inspections” wherein they make sure our balconies are respectable, and mentioned that they are “asking corporate” about getting bike racks for the complex.  Until then, we are welcome to keep them in our apartments (gee, thanks!) or in a maintenance facility storage room open M-F, from 9am to 3pm (what?).

So, the bike’s still on the balcony, which works because it’s raining all the time anyway, and I’m gonna hook up my printer to make some paper copies of the letter tonight and hand them in in person tomorrow.


Email Me @

virescent.blog (at ) gmail.com

Blog Stats

  • 46,883 hits

Unless otherwise indicated, all content and photos posted on this site are generated by me. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.