Spoonfuls of an Elephant

Very slowly (since somewhere around early December), I’ve been absorbing Elizabeth Royte’s book Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash. This is a wonderful book that makes me think a lot about my freshman year in college, when I did, in fact, follow the trail of my own trash. But that’s another post.

There’s a part of the book where Royte is talking to the manager of a New York scrap yard, and when describing the amount of scrap metal the author was seeing versus the amount of metal processed by the yard in a single year, the manager, Steve Shinn, said that it was "spoonfuls of an elephant". What a wonderful, wonderful turn of phrase that applies to this nation and its approach to energy conservation and environmentalism perfectly, with one minor tweak: we tackle the issue in spoonfuls of a white elephant.

Continue reading

Long life? Eh.. not so much.

The local news rag, aptly named The Olympian, republished a story from the Associated Press wires this morning entitled “Report finds prison an answer to long life“.  However, we’re apparently admitting corpses to prison, so it seems like this may not be an answer after all.  The article states:

Eight percent were murdered or killed themselves, 2 percent died of alcohol, drugs or accidental injuries, and 1 percent of the deaths could not be explained, the report said.

The rest of the deaths – 89 percent – were due to medical reasons. Of those, two-thirds of inmates had the medical problem they died of before they were admitted to prison.” [emphasis mine]

Now, this sentence can actually be correctly read – I presume they meant that the rest of the deaths were attributable to previously existing medical problems – but as written, this is hilarious.  Someone ought to write a letter to the editor on how corpses can come back to haunt us and thus should be tried for their sins.  I suggest that perhaps the reality is that the maggots that feed off the corpse become guilty by association, so therefore, they need to be jailed.  Or perhaps the Thurston County Coroner just got tired of all the dead bodies.

It’s either that or we’ve discovered the fountain of youth – die and be imprisoned, live forever!

Where we’ve been…

2006 was a banner year in increasing awareness about sustainability, the importance and significant impact of energy policy, and increasing governmental support for sustainable approaches to living. Actually, Thomas Friedman of the New York Times beat me to calling 2006 the year of green:

“. . . I think the most important thing to happen this past year was that living and thinking ‘green’ – that is, mobilizing for the environmental/energy challenge we now face – hit Main Street.

“No more. We reached a tipping point this year – where living, acting, designing, investing and manufacturing green came to be understood by a critical mass of citizens, entrepreneurs and officials as the most patriotic, capitalistic, geopolitical, healthy, and competitive thing they could do. Hence my own motto: ‘Green is the new red, white, and blue.'”

– “And the Color of the Year Is…”, The New York Times, Friday, December 22, 2006, Page A31

2006 was the year when biodiesel saw drastic increases in popularity; when Wal-Mart began to sell compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs); when the Environmental Protection Agency, for the first time in years, rethought the way it assessed automobile fuel efficiency; when awareness no longer confined itself to a select group.

Up to this point, issues of how we spent our energy resources were on the back burner and not widely understood. No longer can this remain true after the spotlight has focused so squarely on what sustainability means and what still needs to be done.