Kids these days.

June 24, 2009

Up to my elbows again in a brambly subject, via the Daily Score, the blogging arm of my hometown enviro-thinktank, the Sightline Institute. The topic? Population overdrive, and, more specifically, reproduction control.

Daily Score blogger Lisa Stiffler takes a look at Robert Engelman’s fascinating article in Scientific American, which pitches broad-based education as a means to slow population growth:

Worldwide, according to a calculation provided for this article by demographers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, women with no schooling have an average of 4.5 children, whereas those with a few years of primary school have just three. Women who complete one or two years of secondary school have an average of 1.9 children apiece — a figure that over time leads to a decreasing population. With one or two years of college, the average childbearing rate falls even further, to 1.7. And when women enter the workforce, start businesses, inherit assets and otherwise interact with men on an equal footing, their desire for more than a couple of children fades even more dramatically.

It makes simple sense that, if we reduce population, we’ll reduce greenhouse gas emissions (fewer people = less consumption), and thereby slow climate change. And, according to Engelman and his stats, “Women left to their own devices, contraceptive or otherwise, would collectively ‘control’ population while acting on their own intentions.”

High-five, Bob, for putting your faith in us girls. But is it reasonable? If we round up the ladies and send them through college, will baby booms be a thing of the past? Can education and family planning services trump religion, economics, ethnicity, tradition? How about instinct? What’s your take on this hot-potato topic?

Image via amy_b.


From the Ethicurean, a recap and review of a carbon emissions study conducted by Christopher L. Weber and H. Scott Matthews, professors in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. The subject: The impact of agriculture on the environment. The upshot: Looks like locavores, whose diets are derived from proximal sources, are outpaced by vegan warriors, who win the battle on carbon consumption, no matter from whom they nab their grub. Turns out that food production, as opposed to food transportation, accounts for obscene amounts of greenhouse gas emissions.

Here are the metrics, as compared to the carbon output of a 25/mpg car, quoted from the Ethi article:

  • An “all local” diet is equivalent to driving 1,000 fewer miles per year
  • Shifting one day per week’s calories from red meat to chicken/fish/eggs is equivalent to driving 760 fewer miles per year
  • Shifting one day per week’s calories from red meat to a vegetable-based diet is equivalent to driving 1,160 fewer miles per year
  • Giving up red meat and dairy in favor of chicken/fish/eggs is equivalent to driving 5,340 fewer miles per year
  • Switching to a completely vegan diet is equivalent to driving 8,100 fewer miles per year

Yikes. I’m a vegetarian who strives to buy as much local food as is possible, but now my green guilt is setting in. Should I be shoveling seitan and soy cheese down me gullet to help stave off global warming? What’s a semi-conscious and fairly conscientious Living Smaller to do? Eat less Whidbey Island ice cream from the farmers market? Eat more spinach from California? Oh, Popeye.

For me, eating ethically = the Lernaean Hydra. Every time I slay one issue, another two pop up in its place. To wit, a simple situation, designed for your ethical scrutiny: I need sweet peppers for a dish I am preparing. Issue One: non-organic or organic? Non is much easier on the pocketbook, but not on the Earth, or on my body. Organic, on the other hand, is good for the land in which it is grown, the planet, me, etc. Issue One decided. Organic it is.

I go to the co-op. Here’s where Issue Two rears that proverbial ugly (Hydra) head. For my approval are two sets of organic peppers: one, a loose pepper grown in and shipped from Mexico. The other, a shrink-wrapped sister-pepper grown in Yakima, an ag-center in Washington state. For the first pepper, I’m paying to support farmers more than 2,000 miles away, as well as the cost of flying or trucking a load of peppers to Seattle. For the second, I’m supporting a (relatively) local farmer, but I’m also inadvertently forwarding that farmers use of shrink wrap, which is wholly unnecessary.

Which pepper do I purchase? One of each? Neither? See what I mean by Hydra? And that’s just the first head, folks; there are, like, 30 billion more to uncover.

Sometimes I stagnate. I want to do well. And then I buy a bag of Yogurt & Green Onion Kettle Chips, ’cause I love that flavor.

I think I need to go Stoic.

Sick, but so worldly.

May 22, 2008

Emperor penguins from Planet Earth

I’ve been out of commission for the past few days with the stomach flu (gross), but, in between naps, I’ve been able to take in a few episodes of the BBC’s Planet Earth, a multi-part series chronicling all kinds of natural phenomena. My dear husband picked up the whole set at the library, and not a moment too soon, sick-speaking.

For those who haven’t seen PE, it’s not only a feat of natural history photography, it’s also a great encouragement for those of us who strive to live Small: loads of the plants and animals featured — from coral reefs to krill, Arctic polar bears to snow leopards — are being depleted at alarming rates, and many, it is speculated, by human-caused climate change.

So, I suppose if I want the baby who lives next door to see timberwolves outside of an extinct species chart, I’d better keep downing my footprint.

Photo above: From the “Ice Worlds” episode of Planet Earth. Those are Emperor penguins getting ready to wait out the triple-freezing Antarctic winter. They are incubating their eggs in special “pouches” just above their feet and just below their blubber-line. Cool. Literally.

Real Simple

Just finished flipping through my March issue of Real Simple magazine. Tomorrow, I plan to wash that down with the Green issue of domino. Normally, I also would be paging House & Garden and Blueprint, but both of those rags got the boot during the annual post-holiday magazine cull. (Note: H & G is now the purview of domino. Go fig.) That’s four mags, people. Four.

Now, tuck that in your bonnet and back-step with me to approximately 8:30 p.m., PST:

Tonight, my husband and I got into it re: planetary decay. He pulled out all the stops: rising temperatures and ocean levels, population displacement, steroidal storms, drought + famine, dessicated water sources, epidemics and super-bacteria, and cloud seeding. (He didn’t mention the dead zones, or oxygen sinks, recently found off the Oregon coastline, but I suppose those could fall under the rising temps category. Oh, and he also didn’t address the uncontrolled toxic spy satellite hell-bent on hitting the Earth, but we’re counting on NASA to deal with that.)

Following this overwhelming and teary discussion, I made a decision. A small one, but a Small one, too.

Three weeks ago, I received my Real Simple renewal notice. Because I’m such a VALUED SUBSCRIBER, the folks at RS offered to sell me two years of their publication for only $30. That’s nearly 50% off the cover price! The notice had been languishing in my newly organized keepable-files drawer, waiting for me to pop my 30 smackers in the mail in return for monthly updates on how to speed up my beauty routine, keep my nonexistent kids safe from mashers, and use a toilet paper roll to store extension cords. It had been languishing because the Living Smaller had been waffling.

Should I resubscribe? Should I give up the quiet pleasure of riffling the pages packed with tasty recipes and sartorial suggestions — naturally, I’m a big fan of the sweater features (troves of knitting notions) and the “week’s wardrobe” features, sadly not available online, which take nine articles of clothing and create a week’s worth of different looks, not unlike mine-heart, Polyvore. This, of course, is to say nothing of the occasionally enjoyable essays and life checklists (why, yes! I would like to keep track of birthdays and appliance serial nos. and emergency supplies and my favorite St. Patty’s Day recipes on one giant, removable spreadsheet!).

On the other hand, should I let all that paper go to waste, all those chemically inks ooze all over the place? Should I help pay the bills that float the company that supports minivan ads?

Folks, I did what I had to do. I ripped up the notice and tossed in the recycling bin. At the demise of my RS subscription this year, I’ll be reading up on simple solutions either online or at la bibliothèque. That leaves me with a single pub sub: domino.

And then there was one.

Special thanks to Mr. Living Small for his brimstone and his bodaciousness.

Go Carbon-Less for Lent

February 5, 2008

While many Christians will swear off chocolate or television at tomorrow’s outset of Lent, some will opt to cut back on something else: carbon.

Two Church of England bishops are encouraging God-fearing folks to reduce their carbon footprint for this year’s 40-day period of fasting and prayer, reports The Guardian Unlimited‘s Jessica Aldred. The bishops of Liverpool and London have united with Tearfund, a Christian relief and development charity, to promote a “carbon fast,” which asks Lent observers to bring down their carbon emissions through simple daily acts.
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