Archive for March, 2010

Spring has Sprung

Cold and soggy, but it’s here.  Behold!

Possibilites of Cycling

Not right now for me, since my bike is still stuck on my balcony.  It will be unstuck soon- has to be, I’m moving in a month- and I’ll be riding it.  There have been many new cycling developments in the last few weeks.  For instance, Biking Person, my new landlord, has already shown me (threatened me with) the best cycling route to our current workplace.  This was aided by Google maps, which now has a filter to show you the best biking path from place to place.  It’s not right as often as driving directions and I find that “bikable path” is a highly subjective term so grain of salt and double-check.  I’d die on the path he showed me though.  I’m terrible at cycling on real streets.  I don’t know what to look or listen for, and I’m constantly nervous.  But he also pointed me to a free class by the Washington Area Bicycle Association, on exactly that- beginner and intermediate cycling on real streets.  The next one is Saturday at 1, and then again April 15th at 6.

Great idea, hunh?  And I’m finding out just in time.  But DC is trying to make it easier for cyclists in the city by opening larger bike lanes soon, on some major thoroughfares.  Check it- the link gives you maps and some renderings. The first one down Pennsylvania Ave.’s median should be done in May.

Biggest news, though- the Secretary of Transportation announced last week that walking and biking are just as important kinds of transportation as driving a car, and that his department will treat them as such, from now on.

Take a minute to consider that.  Some people just live too far from their destinations to have the option of foot or bike transport.  But most of the time, it’s just not safe to get on the roads where cars have all the power and space, even if the grocery or work aren’t that far away.

According to that Wired article, it means that federally funded projects- with stimulus money, that’s lots- have to include many modes of transportation.  That’s bike access and crossing points, safe spaces for pedestrians, new bikeways…

Where would you not drive if you could walk or bike safely and conveniently? I’d like to be able to bike to the metro.  Right now it involves several rough intersections, crossing under a highway, and no bike lanes on any available road.  It’s much easier (though with the bike path assaults, not safer) to bike to the metro 40 minutes away than the one that should be 10 minutes away.

All these changes aren’t getting my bike off the balcony, though.  Dah.

Items of Note: Life, Choices, Life Choices

Remember how Planet Earth was/still is completely amazing?  Discovery/BBC (the same people who did Planet Earth) is doing another series in the same vein, with incredible nature footage, impressive feats of film-making, ants catching a fungus that explodes their heads (or at least I hope- That’s my favorite episode, hands-down.  That and the shark that eats the seal in mid-air).  It’s Life, and you can watch clips and an explanation here (after a commercial). Oprah is narrating, and it’s a pleasure to hear her calm voiceover as this Komodo dragon tries to eat a water buffalo.

If that clip didn’t make you hungry enough to stop reading and go get a snack, check out this article from the NYT’s Green Inc column.  It summarizes a study of the behavior of consumers who are given green shopping choices, and who buy environmentally-friendly things.  The gist is, viewing ecofriendly shopping options makes us more altruistic.  But actually buying green stuff makes us smug, thieving jerks:

“People do not make decisions in a vacuum,” the researchers concluded, adding that “while mere exposure to green products can have a positive societal effect by inducing pro-social and ethical acts, purchasing green products may license indulgence in self-interested and unethical behaviors.”

The experimenters attribute this to a “single-action bias”, which leads people facing big problems to rationalize making one small responsive action as ‘enough’ to then consider those problems solved.  I’m not sure how that progresses to petty theft (read the article) but perhaps green consumers feel they deserve a little extra for their troubles?  I recognize myself in the single action bias description, for sure. I’ll check for the other part later this week (I need to stock up on recycled TP- will it cause me to cut off an old lady in the parking lot?  Stay tuned!)

Third noted item is also scholarly. I’ve got all the responses I want from graduate programs, and I’m deciding between the University of Washington and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  I welcome opinions to flavor my other research.

My Failure Trumped By Our Success

So I’ve messed up the every other day thing technically twice now, but this weekend was most egregious.  In my defense, the weather was so mind-blowingly gorgeous Saturday that I could not possibly sit inside long enough to blog.  Instead I picnic-ed up and art-ed out, then had a party.  And today, I had to sleep and start moving.  Yes, I am moving again,  but it’ll be great:  I’m moving in with my friends, Biking Person/EcoCheap and his wife, and we will live a happy green life together for several months until I have to move again.  I’m excited to blog about our household environmental efforts- they have a real compost pile, and a rain barrel! Think I’ll be able to convince them to try my AC-less summer?  (Actually I’m not sure I could convince me to do that again).

But I was not moving all day.  I spent tonight at the Capitol building, waiting to hear news on passing the health care reform.   The crowds of protestors were small (maybe a hundred?  but I am terrible at crowd estimation, and it was dark and they milled around), and supporters even smaller, but a friend and I found some nice people with a radio playing the CSPAN coverage and we listened to the speeches and chatted through the vote and rejoiced at the passage!  and caught the metro home.  It was a wonderful day, and I am sure you will excuse my posting lateness in your excitement at our first national efforts to protect our right to health care.

Photo is of our group gathered around the radio, waiting for the voting outcome.

Doesn’t the Capital look gorgeous tonight?

All purposeful for once.

Can the Tuna

The UN’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species rejected a proposal to completely ban the fishing of Bluefin Tuna today.  It’s been overfished for years, and populations are down to about 15 or 20% of the population in 1970.  But even if the ban had gone through, Japan said they’d opt out of it, which, yes, seems to indicate they don’t understand the meaning of a complete ban.  Instead they successfully argued that someone else should regulate the fish catch, not the UN, which seems to me to skirt the point of collapsing fish stocks and completely unsustainable fishing practices (red herring kills the bluefin tuna!), but it worked.

CITES also rejected a ban on trade in polar bear parts.  Their meeting continues until the 25th of March, and they’re due to address ivory sales and endangered sharks, too.  I feel like with all this important decision-making about the future of some very endangered species, their should have mug shots on their website with important updates about what they’re going to allow to die out more this year, but it’s mostly information about their meeting’s hotel selection.  There is a poignant animal slideshow deeper into the site, though.

How depressing this all is!  I need to stop imaging a group of bears voting on how many humans to harvest and think of anything else.

Environmental Film Festival

There is one.  It’s going on starting tonight or possibly last week at places all around DC.  Website is here, and the list of movies (over 150 of them!) is here.  They have a lot on food this year, plus some on Bhutan and water and dirt, and some are documentaries and some have characters and plots and elements of fiction.  You can search what’s playing by day, and so many play each day that if you have an evening to kill you will likely find something interesting.  I’m rather interested in “Last Call For Planet Earth“, which appears to be a series of interviews with architects and planners about how their work relates to the environment.  It’s playing the same day as the Kite Festival on the Mall.  Which is also going on the same time as the Cherry Festival.  DC is going to be crowded, but as long as I get to see hundreds of kites in a blue sky, I don’t care.

March of Time

Hello!  I have been selfish with my time lately, and away from here too often.  Perhaps I have been living alone too long, and my communication skills have deteriorated past the point of blogging.  I’m only taking one easy class this semester, my graduate school applications are all in (I’ll hear back anytime between now and early April), and work is busy, but not that busy.  It’s really just the selfish-about-my-time-thing.  Since I have so much of it back after the stress of last semester, I’m piddling it away on silly things for the sheer joy of having it to waste.

But, I am a month overdue on whatever challenge I was working on, and I’ll have some big life changes soon (this blog possibly won’t be partly Alexandria-related for much longer), and I do like the blogging life, and it has been a nice round two and a half years since I started this, so I have some nostalgia and plans and a few general thoughts to work through.  So!  Onward!

The January Challenge:  Eat all my food.  This was mostly a success.  I learned lots, anyway, like how I should just never, ever, ever buy milk.  No matter how small the carton, it’s not going to be drunk.  I’ve gotten the hang of finishing large bags of greenery, and looking in my fridge and pantry to finish fresh fruit and veggies before I just have cheese and crackers for dinner.  It’s been a good practice to integrate with trying to spend less on food, eat healthier, and prepare more meals for myself.  Not “cook” mind you, just “prepare meals”.

I’ve documented what I learned by creating a chart of “Foods I Eat” and listing foods that I can trust myself to finish all of.  This is helping me edit my grocery lists. For instance, buying avocados and peppers and apples are good, useful choices, but I shouldn’t buy potatoes or onions without a pressing reason, since I’ll probably forget to use them in time.

Forget a February challenge with the snow and such, my challenge was not going insane all alone in my apartment, and that pretty much worked except for a few days in the middle of the snowpocalypse week that were touch-and-go.

March is halfway over, and the challenge for the rest of the month is posting regularly.  Regularly will be defined as posting every other day at least.  This blog keeps me honest about my attempts to live more sustainably, and when I ignore it, my resolve slips.

As for the nostalgia part:  I’ve been writing this blog for two and a half years, during which time I’ve moved thrice (soon to be, er, fource?), switched jobs, begun a career change, and ended a relationship.  The blog is not responsible for all of that, but it helped me organize some thoughts on the career switch.  Following the Eco City Alexandria project got me thinking about planning more seriously.  This blog has changed the way I eat.  I’ve cut meat out almost entirely (though if I am a guest I eat what’s prepared for me, since my vegetarianism is not anyone else’s problem).  (And also sometimes I just want to eat a lamb.)  But I can go weeks happily avoiding meat, and this was inconceivable for me just a year ago.  I’m eating healthier because of it- just paying attention to what I eat causes me to consume more vegetables, which is a thing.

Typing through my environmental worries has also made me much more comfortable about setting my personal goals and boundaries.  There’s still plenty I need to work on- my relationship with water, some of the trash I create, my transportation methods- but I know now what’s easy for me to change, and I’ve changed most of that.  I don’t get a sense of paralyzing environmental guilt in grocery stores anymore when I see plastic packaging.  I’m happy trading off warmer, longer showers in winter for turning the heat lower.  I’m comfortable with my failures at gardening and composting- though I’m ready to try again, with time and hopefully help.  Also charts.

This comfort with my efforts and failures also leads me into ruts, yes, but I can work out of those.  By blogging more.  Starting now.


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virescent.blog (at ) gmail.com

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