Monthly Archives: May 2013

The Blogosphere

Taking a pause...

Taking a pause…

It’s been about twenty days since I started the blog, and I thought I would pause briefly and reflect. And in the spirit of blogging, I suppose I’ll just reflect publicly.

It’s been truly enjoyable, and I’ve learned a lot in twenty days. I’ve learned about web hosting companies, registering domains, WordPress, and how to modify my code to install Analytics. I’ve learned about blog spam, about plug-ins and backup services and RSS feeds, and about self-hosting. I’ve learned about stock photos, and image rights, and royalty fees, and some nuances of copyright law.

And, I’ve learned a lot about the “blogosphere”, too. I’d certainly read blogs before, but there is much to the blog culture that I didn’t understand. It’s actually quite incestuous, with a huge number of bloggers, all reading and quoting and referencing each other, and scrambling for traffic, scrambling to monetize that traffic, scrambling to sell services, and bending over backwards to get their name or site mentioned somewhere on the web.

So I feel a bit out of place with my non-profit blog, and I can tell that most people, when first exposed to it, just automatically assume that I’m trying to sell them something. But to be honest, I am to some degree—I’m trying to sell an idea that I think is important. So I pay attention to traffic, too, and seem to alternate between the fear of way too many people reading and judging what I’ve written, and the fear of writing for an audience of zero. So far I am happy with what appears to be a bit of middle ground; in the twenty days I’ve had nearly 600 page-views, and it appears that a good many readers return. I’m sure some big web sites do that in an hour, but for me I suppose this is good. Continue reading

One Tough Row: Agriculture

Not my fields but this looks familiar.

Soil erosion.

I called my very first post “A Tough Row to Hoe”. Unfortunately, we’ve got more than one tough row; we’ve got a whole passel of them. A big one is perhaps how to solve the energy and greenhouse gasses equation. Another might be population growth and the related problem of habitat destruction. A third tough row might just be agriculture. This has been on my mind this past week, as here in Vermont we’ve had about ten days of nearly constant rain. Oddly enough, we really needed it before it started. But, just like the old saying, “When it rains it pours”, we may have gotten too much, too fast. Just prior to the rain, the farm I lease my fields to had spent a great deal of time turning fifty or so acres from corn production into grass, and had just finished seeding. Unfortunately, the rains have been heavy enough that a disturbing amount of that finely-harrowed topsoil has been washed either down the hills or right off the edge of the fields and into the streams and ditches. And the truly unfortunate part—there is nothing uncommon or new about this; I see it all the time, as I drive around. And I’ve seen a related problem in other parts of the country with wind blowing soil away. Soil can be created or built, but it’s a slow process, and it’s self-evident that current farming practices are far from “sustainable”. Worse, as the world adds that million more mouths every three days, the pressure on the land will only increase. Not growing food isn’t an option. (We might be able to grow less by changing our eating habits with regard to meat, and our energy habits with regard to ethanol, but those are topics for separate posts.)

The soil conservation issue is just one of a host that are centered around agriculture; there are pesticide, herbicide, and fertilizer water runoff issues, there’s groundwater contamination, there’s the decreasing amount of organic materials in soils as they are treated with chemical fertilizers and constantly tilled. There’s the frightening drop in groundwater levels worldwide, due to agricultural irrigation. Then there’s other problems caused by irrigation, such as the salinization of soils.

Then, there’s the problem of how to power farm equipment without using fossil fuels. Batteries and electric motors work fairly well for some applications, but there are no 350-horsepower electric John Deere tractors out there, and there’s not going to be for a good long time, if I had to guess.

There are glimmers of hope. First, a controversial one—GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) crops. Like nuclear power, I might have to put GMOs into the “I don’t love it but it might be necessary” category. If perennial grains could be developed, or rust-resistant wheat, or rice that can grow with much less paddy-flooding, or crops that are drought tolerant or tolerant of saline soils, etc, then they might be a necessary part of the solution to feeding the worlds’ teeming billions. The Monsanto’s of the world can go too far at times, but the difference between what they do and what plant breeders have done for millennia is mostly (but not completely) a matter of degree.

Another glimmer of hope might be “permaculture”. A Vermonter in Waitsfield has just published a book about his experiences; I’ll have to read it. Their website is at this link- http://www.wholesystemsdesign.com/resilient-farm-homestead-book/ . The author, Ben Falk, could probably provide a great deal of insight into the issues in this post; I might ask him if he would consider contributing a short guest post.

Proper grazing and poly-culture might be part of the solution. I’ve been to Joel Saladin’s Polyface Farm in Virginia (the farm mentioned in Michael Pollan’s An Omnivore’s Dilemma), and seen his approach to solving some of these problems, as he combines agricultural efforts in innovative ways, for example, integrating rotational grazing with poultry production. I’ve read about similar approaches in Asia with rice production and ducks. There currently seems to be some substantial controversy about how much carbon could be removed from the atmosphere by improving soils instead of letting them degrade, but two things are clear—1) Some amount, and perhaps a sizable amount, of carbon can definitely be captured and stored in improved soils, and 2), it’s not going to matter what that rate is if we don’t quit cranking carbon into the air at ever-faster rates. I saw a page online today of a counter spinning, representing tons of CO2 released into the air. The ones, tens, and hundreds digits were almost a blur. What we’re doing to the atmosphere is probably madness, and we just don’t appreciate the magnitude of it yet.

So, I’m not sure I have any good answers for this one. My feeling is that it’s something that’s going to be solved, like nearly everything else, a little piece at a time. Agriculture might be something that needs to be more labor intensive in the future, which would go against the general trends in productivity. We can buy organic. We can support Fair Trade. We can buy local, so that we can see where our food comes from, and support farmers who try and use sustainable practices. We can participate in CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) and perhaps be involved in its production. We can grow a good deal of food in gardens (during WWII about 40% of all U.S. produce was grown in “Victory Gardens”), and such efforts can double as quality family time, outdoor time, and exercise, along with providing truly fresh and delicious food. (In the last ten days of rain, I saw zero runoff from my mulched garden beds). We can plant nut and fruit trees.

And we can all pay attention, and maybe find more answers together.

Image credit: funniefarm5 / 123RF Stock Photo

The Amish Question

Amish girls

Or a title that won’t quite fit as neatly into the blog menu–

“On How Even the Amish Don’t Live Like the Amish”.

Many, myself included, admire the Amish. They seem to have found a way to coexist with nature, to blunt the most intrusive aspects of technology, to keep their focus on their families and their social communities. They live simpler lives, far from the rat race. They do plenty of work, as they preserve their peaches and attend to their draft horses, split firewood, or sew their own clothes, but it’s honest, wholesome, meaningful work, and they often do it together with others, in social situations, whether that be a family shelling beans together by the fire at night, or a whole community coming together to raise a barn. Their kids don’t sit around in a stupor with their senses dulled by electronic gizmos. They eat their meals as families. We drive through their communities in our non-Amish pell-mell fashions at 65 miles per hour, and find ourselves wondering whether they have gotten something right that the rest of us have missed. The images we see of the Amish are telling; well-tended wooden barns, fields of crops, horse and buggy transportation, families together.

Why, we think, couldn’t we all just live like the Amish? If the whole world lived like they do, this host of modern problems we have would disappear. In this vision, we wouldn’t have giant chemical factories in New Jersey, or huge factory fishing ships, or huge congested cities, or gyres of floating plastics in the oceans. The cities would actually just shrink up, as people moved to the countryside. Not everyone wants to live exactly like the Amish, of course, but the back-to-the-land version of where we should be heading is a common one. It was the idea behind the rural hippie communes of the 60’s, and plays a part in the decisions of families like mine, as we move to beautiful rural places like Vermont, grow large gardens, and get some chickens. And there is no harm in the impulse—done right, such moves can result in lower carbon footprints, less ecological damage, and more fulfilling lifestyles.

Unfortunately, it just can’t happen on a large scale, for everyone. The whole world can’t live like the Amish. It just wouldn’t work. And here’s my point—not even the Amish “live like the Amish”. I don’t mean to denigrate the Amish in any way, but only to point out that they do not live self-sufficient lifestyles. Their lifestyles are certainly more self-sufficient, and have dramatically smaller environmental impacts, than the typical American’s, but they don’t exist in a bubble. They sew their own clothes, but they don’t raise the cotton and spin their own thread and weave their own cloth. So their clothes are made from cotton grown with tractors and pesticides in places like Texas, and then that cotton is ginned and shipped with power that comes from fossil fuels, and then likely woven in factories overseas by poorly paid workers, and then shipped back to the U.S. on massive container ships, and then moved by truck to be sold in stores, where the bolts of cloth are perused and purchased by Amish families as their horses wait patiently outside with the buggies. The same is true with, say, the iron equipment that the Amish use, or the steel hinges on their barn doors. These metals were likely mined in a huge industrial operation halfway around the world, and smelted, manufactured, and shipped with prodigious amounts of fossil fuel. This is true of virtually all of the physical items that they purchase. These items, in turn, were demanded, produced, and distributed by markets, many of them very efficient ones. Again—I’m not disparaging the Amish. But the impulse to live smaller, simpler, and more rural comes with economic realities that can’t be ignored. Imagine, in a hypothetical Amish-community-writ-large, how ALL of these items would be made in an Amish fashion.  Iron ore might be dug from the ground by humans with picks, then pulled along in carts on wooden rails by horses, to smelters run by Continue reading

Leaf Charging

Nissan leaf charging

Nissan Leaf charging with Level 3

(Slightly technical post but potential EV buyers (everyone!!??) might be curious.)

I was pondering exactly how we will charge the new Leaf when we get it, and I realized that I didn’t quite understand how the charging and chargers work. You can charge at home with a standard 110v wall outlet, and we will be able to do this in the summer with extra solar power. But for the rest of the year I’m going to need to augment this by charging at work, or my wife will have to take it and charge at her work. The easiest way to do this would be with regular 110v wall power, a “Level 1” charge.

The Level 1 charge is somewhat slow, though, I could expect about 4 or 5 miles of range for each hour I charged. Not bad; 40 miles worth of charge in an 8-hour work day, but not enough for me to drive 40 miles each way. I suspect that most people don’t drive 80 miles a day, and do have access to grid power. For them, I’m pretty sure the Level 1 might be all they would need at their house or work.

But I might need Level 2 charging, or a 220v charger, due to my unusual combination of solar power and longish commute. Here’s where the questions begin—the chargers cost about $900, and need to be hard-wired to a wall (vs. using a 220v plug into a clothes dryer socket). So what do the chargers DO that makes them cost that much? So, I’ll just cut to the end of the story—they don’t do that much; they’re essentially glorified extension cords. The AC power in both Level 1 and 2 charging is delivered straight to the car, to the same charge port.

So I’ll come back to the wall “chargers” in a second, but first—the car senses how much AC voltage is present at the charge port/plug, and automatically uses it to charge the batteries, by converting it to DC with an inverter, and using a computer to track charge rates, etc. But how fast it can charge the batteries depends on whether 110v or 220v is coming in, but ALSO on the size of the onboard (built-in/car) charger. The base model 2013 Leaf has a 3.3 kw onboard charger. This is what gives you the 5 miles of range per hour of charging with 110v, and it gives you about 12 miles of range per hour of charging with 220v. In our situation, where for part of the year we might be making heavy use of public charge stations while we shop in one town or the other, 12 miles of range per hour of charging might not quite be practical enough. So, the base model Leaf, the S, does have an option for the bigger on-board charger, the 6.6 kw version. This seems to be somewhat of the industry standard right now; it’ll give you about 20 miles of range for each hour on the charger with 220v coming in (Level 2). If you own a Leaf, it will fill it up in Continue reading

Mr. X on Lawn Care

lawn sprinkler

Ha, Mr. X acually seems to (almost) agree with me fully about my “Leave it a Lawn” post. Somewhat unusual. To celebrate, I’ll actually “let him speak” today, because his reply has a certain humor that will be lost if I paraphrase. So, Mr. X on lawns, in his own words–

“Speaking as a standard subdivision dweller with a well-tended, good-looking lawn, I can say without reservation that lawns are, well ….. stupid.  At the moment it would be difficult for me to think of a more futile, wasteful exercise than maintaining an attractive lawn.  The beautiful lawn has something for everyone to hate; wasted time, wasted money, wasted water, all with a strong dose of pollution thrown in.  Really, beyond weekly mowing, and possibly trimming, a lawn shouldn’t be such a resource-sucker in our lives.  But yet we spend untold time, dollars, and petrochemicals trying to defeat Darwin in our backyards.  We can’t be satisfied with the naturally hearty, drought resistant green things that automatically populate our yards.  No, we feel the need to make weak, loser species of plants flourish on our patches of dirt.  And to do this we have to supply them with copious amounts of a very precious resource (the stuff we drink), and then try to fight off regular nature with all manner of fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides.  Now, I personally feel that well-engineered (to degrade rapidly) pesticides and insecticides are an important — if unfortunate — and necessary part of feeding the world.  But that’s on a farm that produces a very important product, i.e., our sustenance.  So, putting them on a lawn?  Come on — exactly what part of humanity are we helping by making sure the Kentucky Bluegrass defeats the dreaded Chickweed?  One need only look at Las Vegas — home to some of the finest lawns in the world and also a rapidly disappearing water supply — to understand the absurdity.  Now, having said all that, my spouse and neighbors don’t exactly share my views — the Bluegrass must triumph — so a middle ground is necessary that keeps me married and not booted out of the neighborhood.  So here’s what I do — skip all pesticides, they just kill the earthworms and don’t help the lawn in any way that I can tell.  Don’t bag the grass — wastes time and effort and the lawn is better with it.  For fertilizer, I sparingly apply dried, bagged wastewater treatment biosolids (dried bacteria/sludge).  Admittedly, it doesn’t work quite as well as the engineered petroleum-based fertilizers, but it works well enough.  And I don’t water — even the wussy Bluegrass seems to have a good dormant/regrowth cycle.  Now, the interesting thing is that my closest neighbors seem to be following us — we have a decent-looking lawn without constantly spraying it with something (water or chemicals) and we don’t bag, so I see more of that around us.  But we’re still a long way from accepting a “weed lawn.”  Gotta start somewhere.  Just say “no” (slowly) to lawns.”    -Mr. X.

So, I have to say that I like the part about the neighbors following suit; changing cultural expectations is on my “to blog” list.

Image credit: mrtwister / 123RF Stock Photo

Leaf Economics

We're at least this good-looking.

We’re at least this good-looking.

Well, quite the interesting day with the Leaf test drive. Despite the cold and stormy weather, we crossed the lake at Crown Point on the new bridge, and drove up to Plattsburg and met Jason Mull, the Leaf salesman at Garrand Nissan. The trip was worth it.

My impression of the car—they only had one in stock, a silver SV model with leather seats and all the options. From the outside—a fairly normal looking car. Jason unlocked the car and handed me the key and told us to take it out for a spin. I was a bit surprised; I figured he would go with us to show us how to drive an all-electric car. As it turns out, I can see why he didn’t have to, as the only two parts that were different occurred in the first thirty seconds. Item #1—there’s no need for the key, that I could tell. It must be wireless of some sort, and Jason must have already pushed the right button—all I had to do was to put my foot on the brake and press a circular power button on the dash. I pressed it, and all the dash lights lit up and a short chime sounded. That was it. No whirring, no motor sounds, nothing. I didn’t know what to do with the key, so I set it in the console. Then, item #2—there’s a funny knob where the shifter normally would be, and if you pull it to one side and down, you’re in the equivalent of “drive”. Push it up for “reverse”, and press the button in the center for “Park”. Jason showed me this and I put it into drive. Still no noise, no sound. So Jason stepped back and off we went.

From this point on, this car was EXACTLY like driving any normal small car, say, a Toyota Camry. When I took my foot off the brake, it eased forward, just like a car with an automatic transmission would do. But completely silently. It was pretty nifty. We pulled out onto the highway, and it accelerated smoothly, silently, and briskly. Braking was normal, steering was normal. Really amazing. The most remarkable thing about the entire drive was how completely unremarkable it was. It seemed to be a totally normal, functional car.

Then, we came back and discussed the financial side. Buying vs. leasing, fees, residuals, etc. I’ll skip right to the bottom line. Continue reading

Leave it a Lawn

rain and cars

I was discussing the other day how buying an electric vehicle (EV) is “low-hanging fruit” with regard to making changes. Well, another piece of low-hanging fruit might be as close as our front doors—our lawns. Which are related to water-quality, which is also related to… EV’s, in a great big circle.

To back up a bit, the center of this particular story has to do with where storm water goes when it rains. Fifty years ago cities regularly built their wastewater treatment systems so that storm water from their streets would flow into their wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). These were called “Combined Sewer” systems. The reasons were obvious—all the oil and chemicals, and trash, for that matter, that ended up on the streets would get filtered and treated before it was dumped back into rivers and streams (or the ocean, in coastal areas). But, when all things were taken into account, these systems had more drawbacks than positives, because the volume of water that flows into them during heavy rains results in what water engineers refer to as CSO, or Combined System Overflow—the system can’t treat the water fast enough, and it all just flushes straight through into the environment—the storm water and the sewage.

So cities have avoided this combined design, and very few or none have been built in the last 40 years (Only about a quarter of US cities have combined systems today, and most of those are trying to move away from this process). Which is good, because they can do a much better job treating sewage without dealing with storm water. BUT—the downside is that in the vast majority of places all across the U.S. (I’m not sure how Europe does it), anything on the street, or that washes into the street, goes directly into the environment when it rains.

Now, let’s go somewhere else for a second—the Gulf of Mexico. Where the Mississippi River flows into the Gulf, and up and down the coast in Texas and Louisiana, are huge areas where oxygen levels are so low that fish and other marine life have a very hard time surviving, if they can survive at all. It’s called the “Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone,” and can affect as many as 7,000 sq. miles of water (it’s worse in the summer). And the dead one is caused by, mainly, fertilizer runoff. So, this is all a topic for another day, but the short version—almost 2 million pounds of potassium and nitrogen fertilizers wash into the Gulf of Mexico each year. (And the same problem exists in coastal areas worldwide, but the Gulf of Mexico dead zone is one of the worst).

NASA image of polluted runoff at Mississippi River delta

NASA image of polluted runoff at Mississippi River delta

Which brings us back to lawns. When you look at it per unit of area, Americans put 40 times more chemicals on their lawns than U.S. farmers put on their fields. And when it rains, those chemicals and fertilizers, the second they hit pavement at the edge of a lawn (or drainage of any sort), are sluiced into the environment in a flash. And that 2 million pounds of fertilizer in the Mississippi River? A full ten percent of it comes from lawns and gardens (and my guess would be that the “garden” part of that figure is probably relatively small).

In the end, all those pretty lawns across America—they’re pretty disastrous in the big scheme of things. If you have a lawn—please quit spending your money buying bags and bags of “Weed and Feed” and such, and then dumping those chemicals straight into the outdoors. For that matter, quit bagging your clippings—if you quit taking the nutrients off of the lawn, you wouldn’t have to be trying to put them back with chemical fertilizers. If you just can’t stand not to bag your clippings, then start a good compost pile and spread the completed compost back on the yard. Upon reflection here, lawns are definitely some “low-hanging fruit”. We could save time, and we could save money, and we could use that saved money to redirect demand in some positive way, and we could help the bees, and we could have a huge effect on water quality, and we could help the shrimp, and the crabs, and the fish, all by “leaving it a lawn”.

And those EV’s? Well, they don’t drip oil onto streets, because they don’t have engines, or transmissions. Just like our environment, the solutions tie together in a great big web.

 Opening image credit: inganielsen / 123RF Stock Photo

Pondering Walmart

walmart sign

Is Walmart a “sustainable” company? They’re certainly efficient, and efficiency creates our wealth. But, my impression is that they can be relatively unfair to their employees and suppliers. And, they sell a lot of junk, and in some ways are a prime example of a key problem—excess consumerism. This reminds me of a bumper sticker that is stuck to the wall of the local pizza joint that says “Malwart—Your Home for Cheap Plastic Crap”. When you’re in the store, one look at the fuzzy slippers, Chia pets, and “As Advertised on TV” items in peoples’ carts gives evidence of this.

So to what extent is that Walmart’s fault? I would say, off the top of my head—not much. I’d put fault with 1) the customers, and 2) with advertising. Walmart exists to please their customers, and like all retailers, they strive to provide their customers with what they want. BUT, what their customers want is often a function of advertising. The market system is amoral—there is no natural inclination for growth or profit to be in directions that are necessarily good, or bad. The system is neutral in this way. Advertising reflects this, and tends to create or enhance demand in any legal (usually) direction. So, this could be anything from Toyota Priuses and organic spinach to cigarettes and fried Oreos. As such, advertising is also neither good nor bad, but can be seen as an amplification of human proclivities, tendencies, and inclinations.

In the end, all things taken together, I’d have to rank Walmart as neutral, or as a mirror of society. Their efficiency is admirable. Their record of corporate responsibility is spotty. They have improved their environmental impact in ways that also improve their bottom line—reduced packaging, solar panels on the roof of many stores in the Southwest where solar investments pay off. Again, I see this as neutral. A company can’t be blamed too much for doing what companies are designed to do—make profits.

What I really see when I look at Walmart is an example of an institution that exists to satisfy demand. Which in some ways proves the point I’ve had all along—if we could change demand, Walmart would be an asset, and could be used to leverage that change. (And that demand could be for fair treatment of employees as well as for sustainable practices and products). The market system is nimble and adept, but we have to keep ourselves in the driver’s seat, and not let Walmart (or any big business) drive us. Yet once again, demand matters.

Image credit: marquardt21 / 123RF Stock Photo

Low-Hanging Fruit

charging ev

Point #1—There are certainly many things to be concerned about in the world, besides CO2 levels.

Point #2—But, with regard to that particular concern, I find myself focusing on electric vehicles, or EV’s. I think this is because they are the “low-hanging fruit”. If your grid power comes from hydro or nuclear or wind/solar, or if you have the option to buy renewable power from your power company, then I can’t think of any single change that would have a greater carbon impact, for most people. The other day when I described broad-leaf herbicides as “exactly the wrong thing to do”, well, this might be exactly the right thing to do.

So I’ve learned a few things in my quest. Ford is releasing a new EV that is built on the Focus platform, but some websites seem to list it as a “compliance vehicle”, i.e., an EV that is being released in limited numbers mainly to comply with California requirements that a certain portion of a manufacturer’s sales be of zero-emission vehicles. I’m going to check on this.

The Nissan Leaf is by far the “standard”, (they’ve sold about 60,000 of them) though Tesla’s high-end cars could be considered as second. The Leaf comes in three “trim levels”, and prices after federal rebates are roughly 23k, 26k, 29k. Three-year lease rates start at $199 a month.  And I’ve learned a bit about charging EVs—in general, charging on 110v is called “Level 1” and takes about 12 hours or so. Charging with a “Level 2” charger is at 220v, and takes about 6 hours. Finally, there are new “Level 3” chargers that charge with 440v DC, and can bring an EV to about 80% full in just 30 minutes. You can completely charge a Leaf for about $2 in electricity, depending on your rates.

So, the Nissan dealer in Plattsburg, NY, has a Leaf in stock—I’m going to go drive it Saturday. I’ll let you know how that goes…

Image credit: packshot / 123RF Stock Photo

A Potential Path Forward

circle of hands

So, let me get back to Walmart. I was shopping there (I’m not sure exactly what to think about the company; I might ponder further) for dog food, and was close to shocked, yet again, by the, well, how should I put it—the general lack of health and education exhibited by a great many shoppers in the store. And I was struck by a pretty clear thought—that most people in the store, and by extension, a huge proportion of average Americans, probably don’t give a rat’s behind about the planet. Judging from their appearances, they clearly don’t even give a rat’s behind about their own health, arguably their greatest asset. So, for argument’s sake, let’s assume that 75% of people don’t care enough to act, and 25% do. How do we get the system to change? Voting has its limits—the majority will keep their candidates in office. (The unfortunate side-effect of democracy in this case is that it tends to work—which makes change difficult if the majority is resisting that change). So voting for carbon taxes or CAFE standards or limits on pesticides or incentives to install renewable power generation might not result in change.

The answer is both simple and daunting. What will work is for individuals to start switching. Change will be evolutionary, not revolutionary. We don’t need radical new political or economic systems, no radical communism or free-love communes or the abolishment of private property. Our systems are good ones, we just need to re-prioritize. So we need to start switching. Switching to renewable power, switching to organic food, switching to Fair Trade products, switching to more disciplined lifestyles with regard to exercise and consumption and spending, switching our investments to reward businesses who are also trying to switch, switching to more conservation and efficiency… The list goes on. We can’t completely “switch”, because we live and breathe and consume within an unsustainable system. But we can begin the apply pressure, in all these areas.

It’s daunting, because there is such incredible inertia in the system, and because the system is huge. It is like pushing an immobile Titanic and trying to get it to move. Or worse, pushing the Titanic with only two fingers. You push; nothing seems to change. But, when I push, and you push, and others push, and we all push together, and when we all keep pushing, something amazing starts to happen—the Titanic begins to move. It might be almost imperceptible at first. But pressure in the market produces more good options, and suddenly it’s easier to buy renewable power, or organic foods become a little cheaper, or more electric vehicles are on the road, or fewer cattle are raised in CAFO’s and more are grassfed. The changes begin to pop up in more and more places. Better recycling systems, changes in attitudes about consumption and McMansions, a better appreciation of the natural world, more networks of fair trade, more manufacturers using greener methods because it becomes a way to please their customers, more movement toward building walkable communities and stopping suburban sprawl. Continue reading