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March 23, 2008


Arlene Fairfield

I may not make a big dent in the 70 green books coming out in the next few months (I've found that if recent history is any indication, they tend to say the same thing) but I'm encouraged by the attention the environment's still getting. Not to mention the potentially prime real estate space on the shelves and tables of Barnes & Noble and priority placement on digital booksellers' sites. I'm still waiting though, for the green People, US Weekly or OK. I'm sort of kidding but the point is that I don't think green books will take us a whole lot further towards mass mainstream behavior change.

Judy Plapinger

I'm one of those "helpers" who worked on this book with John Javna. The difference between this book and the other titles you mention, is they are talking about individual actions to be "green." The new 50 Simple Things is trying to get people involved as activists. As you say, there are about half a dozen "big" environmental issues that are too overwhelming to do anything about. What this book does is to break those "big" issues into 50 distinct issues, and then provide both information about each one, and offer ways for us to get involved. Instead of just saying: "global warming is bad, we should stop it; change your lightbulbs," this book explains about Wetlands, and landfills, and pesticide runoff that goes down our drains right into local streams and rivers. And then, in addition to changing our lightbulbs or bringing a cloth bag to the market, it shows us which environmental groups (local and national) are working to protect Wetlands, to stop pesticide runoff, and shows us ways we can get involved in that effort.

It's easy to be cynical; I'm cynical. But there's a difference between cynicism and hopelessness. So I hope folks will take a look at the book, and join us on the website www.50simplethings.com after April 1st.



Number 11 - don't use these brands

Guy Champniss

To go out on a limb a little, I am really unsure that what we all need is another slew of manuals on how to be green, chic and generally a better person.

I am not knocking anyone's efforts to reduce their environmental impact - I recognise we all have a responsibility to act. And I also recognise that individuals cannot solve the problem alone.

But there is something worse than this. We continue to feed the argument that when people - consumers - are aware, then corporates have to take notice and we'll see significant changes that help reduce our impact on the environment. The problem with this argument is that it reduces the climate change issue to something like a Lowest Consumer Denominator rhetoric. In other words, it has a tendency to turn into a simplistic, shallow discussion, which detracts from what really needs to be done. It's a bit like watching a telethon here in the UK.

In some ways though, the argument holds true - corporates are indeed reacting, but for all the wrong reasons and in predominantly in the wrong ways. I have been to more climate change conferences than I care to remember where I have seen someone from P&G, Unilever or another mega-band owner, stand up and tell me how smaller packages of more concentrated washing powder has reduced the number of trucks on the road and so helped the environment. It has also helped their financial bottom line as an effective cost-saving exercise regardless of climate change. And as long as we keep trying to empower the consumer to take action, this sort of 'initiative' by the most powerful brands in our lives will feel pretty OK. But it isn't, for the reason that it presents its actions as a solution and suggests we can motor on with business as usual.

In short, we of course all have to do our bit. But we've all only got so much green space in our brain and I'd rather keep some of it clear for the bigger stuff, that doesn't come as a Top 10 or is listed alphabetically.


Bob Difley

I think the whole idea of green awareness and how that is perceived by the general populace is the key. We have all tried to "set a good example" with our kids by doing ourselves what we tell then is the right thing to do. If people accept that "the right thing to do" is the green alternative, and they feel guilty when they don't follow that example, ultimately it will spread to the point where we are electing green officials, goading companies into green practices, and setting an example to those around us. All of that, taken together, is far more important than a single act like taking a cloth bag into a supermarket--the example is far more potent.

Brian H

This is all drivial. ;)

Check out the efforts of a smallish non-profit and allied for-profit organizations, focusfusion.org and LawrencevillePlasmaPhysics.com .

If their progress continues on its present course (and it appears to be doing, technically, better than hoped so far), a very cheap (~1-2% of current costs), waste-free, radiation-free, highly efficient (~85% overall, so very little waste heat, see 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, etc.) power source will begin coming on-line within the decade. The source generators will be small (housed in home garage-sized buildings) and almost trivial in capital outlay (~$¼M ea.), and able to generate ~5-25MW each. That's about $50M/GW, as opposed to ~$1-2B/GW for current plants. Power will sell at $0.001-2 / kwh. Yes, 1/10 to 1/5 of one cent.

Raw input materials are hydrogen and Boron11; the latter is the limiting element -- it is estimated that supplies for ~10X total current global power production would deplete supplies in about 1,000,000,000 years.

Just to be explicit about the effects, the Oil Economy would shrink to a minute fraction of current volume and value (especially in conjunction with ZEV developments, etc.; see teslamotors.com, and new nanowire battery developments with 10X the capacity of current LiIon versions), global warming and pollution would become non-issues (the economics would force rapid mothballing of every other power plant type on the planet), and eliminating poverty and shortages of almost any kind would be easy (given almost unlimited access to ultra-cheap energy.)

But composting makes for great gardens.

Steve Salmony

Dear Dr. L. B.,

I am imagining that your questions are rhetorical ones.

You ask,

“Why are politicians and skeptics so willing to risk their future and everyone else’s future on blindly clinging to a course of action that has a high probability of leading to a seriously crippled future? If you even suspect that global warming represents a serious risk to your survival (and we have far more than suspicion these days), why wouldn’t you do everything protect and conserve your planet?”

It would please me to hear from others; but from my humble perspective the “answers” to your questions are all-too-obvious.

First, the leaders in my generation of elders wish to live without having to accept limits to growth of seemingly endless economic globalization, of increasing per capita consumption and skyrocketing human population numbers; our desires are evidently insatiable. We choose to believe anything that is politically convenient, economically expedient and socially agreeable; our way of life is not negotiable. We dare anyone to question our values or behaviors.

We religiously promote our shared fantasies of endless economic growth and soon to be unsustainable overconsumption, overproduction oand overpopulation activities, and in so doing deny that Earth has limited resources upon which the survival of life as we know it depends.

Second, my not-so-great generation appears to be doing a disservice to everything and everyone but ourselves. We are the “what’s in it for me?” generation. We demonstrate precious little regard for the maintenance of the integrity of Earth; shallow willingness to actually protect the environment from crippling degradation; lack of serious consideration for the preservation of biodiversity, wilderness, and a good enough future for our children and coming generations; and no appreciation of the understanding that we are no more or less than human beings with “feet of clay.”

We live in a soon to be unsustainable way in our planetary home and are proud of it, thank you very much. Certainly, we will “have our cake and eat it, too.” We will fly around in thousands of private jets and live in McMansions, go to our secret clubs and distant hideouts, and risk nothing of value to us. Please do not bother us with the problems of the world. We choose not to hear, see or speak of them. We are the economic powerbrokers, their bought-and-paid-for politicians and the many minions in the mass media. We hold the much of the wealth and the power it purchases. If left to our own devices, we will continue in the exercise of our ‘rights’ to ravenously consume Earth’s limited resources; to expand economic globalization unto every corner of our natural world and, guess what, beyond; to encourage the unbridled growth of the human species so that where there are now 6+ billion people, by 2050 we will have 9+ billion members of the human community and, guess what, even more people, perhaps billions more in the distant future, if that is what we desire.

We are the reigning, self-proclaimed masters of the universe. We have no regard for human limits or Earth’s limitations, thank you very much. Please understand that we do not want anyone to present us with scientific evidence that we could be living unsustainably in an artificially designed, temporary world of our own making…… a manmade world filling up with distinctly human enterprises which appear the be approaching a point in human history when global consumption, production and propagation activities of the human species become unsustainable on the tiny planet God has blessed us to inhabit….. and not to overwhelm, I suppose.

Third, even our top rank scientists have not found adequate ways of communicating to the family of humanity what people somehow need to hear, see and understand: the reckless dissipation of Earth’s limited resources, the relentless degradation of the planet’s frangible environment, and the approaching destruction of the Earth as a fit place for human habitation by the human species, when taken together, appear to be proceeding at a breakneck pace toward the precipitation of a catastrophic ecological wreckage of some sort unless, of course, the world’s colossal, ever expanding, artificially designed, manmade global economy continues to speed headlong toward the monolithic ‘wall’ called “unsustainability” at which point the runaway economy crashes before Earth’s ecology is collapsed.



La Fayetteville

Great reference, i'll definitely look into it. Some people don't realize it's just little things to help, even if you don't believe in global warming you don't have to go out of your way to contribute.

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