Monday, January 29, 2007

Carbon continues!

Kt, your comments are so great! They just make me want to think!

About third world countries: I think there's a lot of evidence out there that suggests the US has heavily "encouraged" third world countries to be so dependent on their exports. Think about all the nasty stuff England did to the Colonies to keep us an export-based economy--we are doing all that and more. Our fellow American nations (okay, I mostly mean Latin American nations) are in a situation that goes far beyond my ability to make a prescription for their betterment. But I do know that they are not going to be able to help themselves until we stop trying to control their governments and their economies. We need to treat our neighbors like equals and not like ... well, the way we do.

I think that refocusing our efforts towards local production of EVERYTHING (as much as feasible) is the most important step to creating transparency in the production system and breaking down the crippling grip of corporations. To make a fresh stab at my analogy to the American Revolution, England's control of the Colonies was eroded by the efforts of the citizenry (and by that, I pretty much mean women!) who mobilized to create and source colonial produced goods. Groups like the Daughters of Liberty worked together to make the Colonies self-sufficient.

Right now, we give up the production of everything we consume to manufacturers and mega-corporations who manipulate us though advertising and who work against us to make a profit. Things like protecting our resources are not a priority for these companies. The only way to be sure that your money is not conspiring against you, your values and your best interests is to source your goods from people you can really trust, that can show you where your stuff came from. Make it easy for yourself: do it yourself!

Also, if all this posting about food production seems a little theme-y, it's because I'm reading a book called "This Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader," by Joan Dye Gussow. She is a seventy-year old lady who grows all the vegetables (and a lot of fruit) that she and her husband eat all year long in her own New York State backyard. That's right, when she goes to the grocery store, she's stocking up on grain products and milk, and that's about it. It is incredibly inspiring, and I hope that everybody out there can take a page (or even just a paragraph) from her book and start growing even a little bit of their own food. It will connect you the earth; it will please your tastebuds, and it really will help the environment. And it's fun. And it's good exercise!

Thursday, January 25, 2007


And yes, before any wiseacres get on here and scold me for driving to Freddie's, let me just say that my family is working to use alternative travel resources. I use mass transit to get to work, John rides his bike 3 times a week, and Fiona and I have started carpooling home from school on Mondays. And all last minute trips to the grocery store are done on foot, at the food co-op. Some weeks I do our real shopping there, too.

See? We're working on it!

Internal combustion power

So my friend Kt pointed out that the biggest producer of greenhouse gases, the biggest contributor to the carbon load, is the internal combustion engine. I think she was trying to draw my attention to things like driving habits and the need for mass transportation, but I of course saw it as the perfect way to simplify all my talk about food. (Yes, I really do think about food 98% of the time. Okay, that might be an exaggeration--but not much of one!)

You see, pretty much anything you buy was produced, processed and shipped to you using an internal combustion engine. The wheat in my sprouted wheat bread today was harvested using a (probably diesel-fueled) combine, which shot the wheat berries into the back of an idling truck (also probably diesel-fueled--if anybody needs biodiesel, it's a wheat farmer). The truck takes the wheat to the farmer's grain co-op or grain buyer, which probably sells the bulk of its grain to an international food conglomerate, like Archer Daniels. They're the middleman. My wheat somehow went from the grain co-op to Bob's Red Mill, who probably doesn't shop from Archer Daniels. In fact, my wheat was very likely magically loaded by a mysterious middleman, trucked from the middleman to a barge on the Columbia River (because my wheat is probably from Eastern Washington), and then barged down to Portland. The barge was also probably diesel-powered. From Port of Portland, it was trucked to Milwaukie (this is the best possible scenario; there is a good chance this stuff wasn't sent directly to Bob), where it was put into barrels for the bulk bins at Fred Meyer. Then Bob's loaded the barrels onto a truck, which probably went to the central Fred Meyer werehouse, was sorted into orders for the various stores and finally trucked to my Fred Meyer, 1 mile from my house. John drove me to Freddie's, and I bought it, drove it 1 mile home, and began sprouting it 2 days ago.

[Sidenote: This whole process, with a little planning could have gone like this:
ME, on the phone: Dad, could you buy 10 lbs of wheat berries from your neighbor when you help him with his harvest? I'll give him $.89/lb, plus $6 for Priority mail.
DAD: (choking on his coffee): $.89/lb? Are you crazy? I'm going to start growing wheat and selling it to you crazy cityslickers! I'll be a millionaire!]

Now these are raw wheatberries. The flour in the bread went from Eastern Washington on a diesel-powered train to the Midwest, where it was processed into flour, then shipped back to Oregon ... etc, etc.

We're talking about food with mileage, and that's not even food that was grown in another country. I shudder to think about the trip a banana takes, or how much gasoline was used up in its journey. BTW, non-food items really get nailed. My laptop, for example, when you take into account the trips the original raw materials took to the US to be made into components, then the trip the components took to China or the Phillipines to be assembled, then the trip from China to the US port, from the port to the regional werehouse, from the werehouse to the store, to my house, has more mileage on it than your average second-hand Honda Civic.

So what I'm saying is, you don't even have to own a car to use gallons and gallons of gas just about every day. Everything you buy is guzzling the stuff like crazy. You have to remember that it matters where things come from. It matters who sells it. It matters how much it's been processed.

So this summer, when I turn my back porch into a vegetable garden, you'll know why. I like knowing my tomato only had to travel 5 feet before I ate it.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


So my New Year's resolution this year is to reduce my carbon load. Amazing, isn't it? I mean, I remember hearing that term at OMSI eight (ten?) years ago and thinking "Carbon load? Who comes up with these names?," but now everybody uses that term, and everybody's got it on their mind. [Okay, maybe I should clarify: everybody worth knowing, that is.]

Anyway, it's amazing how many different things you can think of that jack up your C.L. This morning, I was thinking about our pancake syrup, which is organic goodness brewed up from maple and corn syrups. Tasty. But it takes a lot of energy to turn tree sap into syrup. They cook down something like 16 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon syrup. And I shudder to think how much energy it takes to make sugar cane juice into sugar crystals for my coffee.

Speaking of coffee, how much fuel was wasted shipping that stuff here from South America? And then on roasting and grinding and brewing? Yikes, I've got to stop drinking the stuff!

Showers. Travelling. Watching TV. Farting. Breathing! It all adds up. And every single choice you make, every single day--it adds up. What am I going to do about it? And what are you?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


So my family is out playing in the snow right now, and I'm snugly at home, drinking tea and looking up recipes for digestive biscuits. I can't say there's anything more wonderful in the world!

I was just reading The Fat Free Vegan, who was discussing how much has changed in both her world and the online vegan world in the last year, and I definitely agree. I feel like in the last year or so, more and more people have become accepting of vegan eating. Here in Portland, we have vegan restaurants and grocery stores and even raw-food options--all over the place. They have exploded this year. And that is great. That means that the world is becoming more accepting of a beautiful, loving, healthy lifestyle. If people can do that on the visceral level food, what can they do if they open up at other levels?

We saw people take these thoughts to the polls this year. I hope we see them take these thoughts and values into their families and their shopping habits and their hearts, because if they do, the world is going to get a lot more beautiful.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Terminal Airhead

I tend to do a little "New Year's thinking" around this time of the year, and I usually find my best insights have come from the January thoughts that I stir up out of the winter mud. And this year, I think I've come up with a doozy.

I am going to give up being smart.

Let me explain that one. You see, being "smart" has been a big part of my identity for as long as I can remember, and the last few years, it's been a serious weight around my neck. Yes, I have a fine mind. It can do a lot. But I am also an airhead. A serious head-in-the-clouds, floating around in outer space, at-one-with-the-birdsong-and-rainbow, airhead. And when the airhead and the "I know everything, damn it" parts of my life come together, the result is not pretty.

I feel dumb a lot.

You see, while I do know a lot about a lot of stuff, I also don't know a lot about a lot of stuff, and I often don't like to admit it. And then when I've half spaced out what's going on and then try to pull a "I know everything" off, I just wind up looking like an asshole.

There are a lot of other good reasons to let the know-it-all go. You see, knowing everything gets in the way of learning new things. It gets in the way of being open. It gets in the way of letting the universe sweep you along its glorious plan, and that creates a lot of suffering. Being a know-it-all has really kept me down.

Being an airhead, however, has done nothing but bring me joy, a fresh and happy mind, lots of friends and the gift of magical insights that take me to new and glorious situations. That's pretty good in my book!

Friday, January 05, 2007

The mold, the mayhem

Another delightful day spent combating the onslaught of mold around our windows. Ahh, the scent of rotting wood trim in the air. I just love aluminum frame windows that no one has taken care of in 40 years!

I did think of one cool idea: the condensation that collects on the windowsill is essentially distilled water. If I could just run it straight from the window frame to a clean jug, I could be generating my own drinking water WHILE I SLEEP.

Jeez, I think even Martha would be impressed.