Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

I’m at a point where I’m about ready to surrender to the circumstances that be and leave my growing menagerie of houseplants to their fate (which is to say, to an aggressive white mold, swarming fungus gnats, and possibly some type of mite). If it were up to me, I might just scrap it, toss everything and maybe eventually think about getting something new. Of course, it really isn’t up to me, because they aren’t solely my plants, and people who care about me have been generous to support my habit to its current point. Which leaves me with the option of dealing with it.

I first decided I wanted a plant in my dorm room (or I think this is why I wanted the first one) because I had enjoyed growing things in an outdoor garden, I had heard that certain types of plants could purify the air, and I liked the idea of adding some life to my dorm room (beside my roommate).

While I was at school, I’d say this remained the general idea, and it was relatively healthy. When I came home for the summer, though, the space available to me exploded, and my mom provided just enough tentative encouragement to push me to doing it more.

Buying plants, though, has become a replacement for buying stuff, which is not such a healthy habit. I’ve been doing my best to ignore the occasional bouts of gadget envy in the hope of saving money. However, because I had a plausible excuse – plants are beneficial, after all, right? – I was okay with buying more plants. If there’s any doubt that I’ve switched into a consuming mode, I needed only stop and actually listen to my thoughts. “If I could just have this plant and this one, I’ll be happy with my little collection.” And after I bought those plants, “If I could just get that new plant, then I will be happy.”

I recognize this line of thinking; it’s the reason I have an iPod I don’t use.

Now, the problem has been compounded (since otherwise, I could simply reign in my new habit and do my best to enjoy the plants I have) by the health problems of the plants themselves. The mold is, I’m fairly sure, not healthy for us to be around any more then it can be healthy for the plants. But there it is, on the surface of all the soil and now even on the terracotta pots after every watering.

So, fungicides are used, and I try to get the plants on some sort of watering schedule that lets them dry out more between waterings.

The fungus gnats, wherever they came from, buzz around our house, never in a swarm, but gnats will be gnats, and they are annoying as hell. Not to mention the list of potential damage they (or their larva) can do to the plants themselves (including, but not limited to, eating new roots or delaying the creation of roots in young plants).

Pesticide naturally follows, in increasing doses that correlate to just how frustrated I am feeling (and how many gnats I saw) the day I apply it.

Which leaves me, where, exactly? With a number of moldy, bug infested, and now also highly toxic plants (did I mention one of our oldest plants is a trusty basil plant, now soundly rendered inedible) and still the nagging feeling that a Fisiulera would make it all better.

You can see why I am frustrated.

However, as I said, surrender is no option. So what is? Well, for the time being, more fungicide and pesticide, plus any and all other semi-mythical cures we can concoct. Also, accepting the abandonment of any side projects (like our silent avocado pits), and the salvage of any of those project’s materials as possible (meaning, if the pots, but probably not the soil, can be considered anything but hazardous waste), all on the premise that less dirt should mean less problems.

I think the plants can probably pull through. I hope they can, because I am starting to get back to my original mindset, plants as pets, and (when I’m done feeling bad for myself) I feel awful for what I’ve let happen to them. Make no mistake, there is a decent chance still that we’ll lose more plants. I’ll have to hope thats not the case and look forward to the day (say in about three or four months) when the various toxic chemicals have been sufficiently flushed from the soil that I can once again play in the dirt, which was the whole point in the first place.


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I’d say I fall squarely in the Global-Climate-Change-is-real-and-we-need-to-do-something-about-it camp. I’m probably more of a pragmatic environmentalist, but I worry over wasting water, drive a tiny, gas-sipping Aveo, and want to make my garden bigger every year. I support renewable power, conservation, etc. I’m also smart enough to realize I could be wrong.

The climate change we’re experiencing (I do believe it’s real, but could be wrong there too) could be caused by any number of factors. Some might be beyond our control, some might reverse themselves shortly.

Who knows? Maybe its the end times, in which case I have bigger problems then my carbon footprint.

So what if I’m wrong?

The truth is, I wouldn’t feel too horrible about the things I’m changing.

Using less energy, or renewable energy, lessens our dependence on foreign oil and saves me money. Both, i think, are pretty well good without qualification.

Eating locally, or growing my own food, in addition to saving the use of tons of pesticide and lots of fuel to bring me bananas from Chile, means I eat better tasting and more nutritious food. Besides, gardening is just fun. Have you ever grown your own tomato and eaten it fresh off the vine, warmed by the sun? Try it, and trust me, you’ll come out of it not only with a more enlightened relationship to life and food, but seriously considering tearing up part of your lawn to plant a garden.

Walking or biking more (which is actually a necessity on my campus for non-environmental reasons) makes me more fit. I know everyone says that, but it’s true, at least anecdotally. I lose a solid ten-fifteen pounds every fall when i get back to school and put away my car keys.

Protecting wild lands has plenty of benefits besides any related to climate change. For starters, there are alternatives to oil. Biodiversity is a one off product, and I for one don’t want to have to wait for the millions of years it would take new species to evolve (disregard that if you must, in respect of your religious beliefs – if anything, not believing in evolution makes biodiversity that much more significant, since once we lose one of God’s creations, it never comes back). Many of the plant and animal species potentially hold new medicines or other scientific discoveries; again, once they’re gone, they’re gone. Besides, I feel a rich natural world, and more of it, makes the world a more beautiful and interesting place. (Then again, I love the Rewilding Project, which once suggested releasing wild African elephants into the southwestern US to replace the recently [10,000 years before present, give or take] lost large herbivores and solve some invasive species problems. Is that not awesome? Okay, almost no one agrees with me.)

If nothing else, most things people tell you to do to help the planet also help our communities. They create (sustainable) jobs, encourage community, and foster learning.

Is any of that so bad? And what is there to lose?

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And I’m back!

Today, I’m here to help spread the word about 350.org. They’re message is simple but also surprisingly hard to get out: We need to reach and maintain an atmospheric carbon dioxide level of 350 parts per million in order to have a healthy and stable planet on which to live. Current, the level is 387 ppm. And rising. So we have some work to do.

They just released a great video to help spread the message. E-mail it, link it, whatever you like. With no text, it reaches pretty well across barriers of language.

And for anyone who is curious, I’m not sure what this means for the site, exactly. I’m feeling like I’ll probably be posting occasionally, but for now I am not committing to a schedule or a topic. If you want an easy way to keep up, we still have RSS and e-mail subscription on the right.


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For a while now one of my favorite blogs has been No Impact Man, the ongoing writings of a liberal environmentalist who got sick of waiting for the world to change and decided to change himself. He set out over a year to drop his net environmental impact to zero (very little negative impact plus some positive impact), in the middle of New York no less. His journey is instructive for those looking to lower their impact (or save some money), but now that his year long experiment is over, he’s been doing a lot of reflection, trying to decide what restrictions to keep and which to let slide.

Interestingly, he’s found that he doesn’t want to give up a lot of the rules. True, it was difficult (especially with a small child) to avoid buying anything new, to eat local food, to go without power. However, he repeatedly found that with less stuff in the way, he was closer to his family. He appreciated his life more. Some of his posts on this subject have been incredibly touching. One recent post in particular caught my eye.

I have to feel bad for his wife. (I should say, the spouses of immersion journalists in general.) She has put up with a lot of hardship for his experiment. Still, it’s interesting how it has rubbed off on her. He recently described his most amazing No Impact Man moment yet.

He’s been composting (vermiposting, actually, I think), using a cheap, second-hand plastic bucket to hold food scraps, because the project rules forbid them from buying anything new. The project is over, so she wanted to go splurge on a shiny new metal container for the scraps. No sooner had they left the store the she stopped them.

“I want you to take it back. We can just wash out the plastic bucket and use it until we find a better trash can on the street or at the flea market… I think the consumer brainwashing has worn off.”

I suppose I’ve always believed to a certain extent that consumption doesn’t make one happy, but I’ve been surprised reading the No Impact Man experiment by how much reducing consumption has improved his life. He repeatedly says that the experiment has taught him that most people don’t really want more stuff – rather, stuff is a consolation prize – but more and closer relationships with their friends and family. A cleaner conscience about the environment (as well as, by extension, a more beautiful environment and typically a healthier body and bank account) certainly can’t hurt with happiness.

I wouldn’t say the No Impact Man lifestyle is for everyone, but I’ve found it interesting and rewarding to read through and try some of the easier measures.

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