Just WHAT exactly is an emission, I ask!

What does it actually mean, “cut emissions”.  I understand the words themselves, but how does that translate into something in my day to day life?  What is the nitty-gritty reality of how I need to emissionsreformulate my life, my lifestyle? Like normal human beings, I want my cake, and to eat it, too.

Not This OR That, but This AND That

It’s especially funny when you consider the dichotomy of today’s media that regurgitates non-stop messages that are in direct contradiction to what we are being told we need to do, to ‘save’ the world.

It’s like saying ‘breath, but don’t breath’… or’ eat but don’t eat’ via TV, radio, internet, billboards, almost anywhere you look.  Those “hidden messages” are there… CONSUME to grow the economy, else there goes someone’s job (and corporate/wall street profits)… but “cut emissions” to protect the environment/slow-reverse global warming.

The reality is, that this is more than just “carpool” or don’t BBQ on certain days, or don’t run small engines (lawnmowers, blowers).

Greenhouse-gas-emissions-by-economic-sector-IPCCWhere do those fantastical magic “emissions” come from?  Well let me tell you, not just from cars and small engines!

Try the clothes you wear, the couch you sit on, the computer you compute on, the books you read, the food you eat, etc., etc., etc. Just about everything produces emissions… somewhere.

Most of it elsewhere; out of sight, out of mind…. I don’t feel guilty because I don’t even connect the two.

CONNECTING THE DOTS

Buy a new top? Do you need it? ‘just love those colors, that style, Jane has one, I’ll look so cool’, etc.

But what if it translated to a death? or serious health issues?  Because mom, working in the 3rd world factory, to produce ‘your discretionary purchase’, gets sick from the fumes of the machinery she works on 12 hours/day. Or triggers asthma in the surrounding populations of children from the particulate matter so thick in the air, they have to wear a mask to go outside?

But it’s just a top…. just one.

Yep… some 1 million ‘just one’ do tend to add up, though. The reality is the particulate matter index that is objective, coldly, unflinchingly real.

OK, bring it closer to home. I love seafood. We’re loosing a dramatic portion of our seafood ecosystem: shellfish (oysters, clams, shrimp,etc) because they are having problems making their shells.  The ocean waters are becoming acidic at a rate 10 to 100 times faster than ever mapped. Ocean core samples tell us 65 million years ago was the last time the oceans were so acidic.  The ocean ecosystem needs a bit more than just a 50 years to adjust to such a dramatic change in their world. (By the way, the ocean plankton produce 50% of the O2 we breath!)

The oceans absorb and hold 50 times as much carbon (CO2) as the air.  Shellfish can’t make their shell’s in water that is too acidic. Those that already have shells, find that their shell is dissolving. In a human being, an acidic change like that in our bloodstream, would cause seizures and death. Such a simple little thing with some really, really long term consequences.

We have to reverse the trend,  but because the acidification has already been put in motion, it will take a while.  Think of a rock that goes over the edge. Once it goes over, it’s pretty dang hard to get it back. In fact, you don’t. You just wait till it get’s to the bottom and deal with the consequences.

MY BACKYARD

Let’s bring it really close to home.  Remember that top you purchased?  Now it comes time to wash & dry it.  Did you know there is NO SUCH THING as an energy efficient electric dryer?  That term is called an oxymoron; two words joined that mean the opposite of each other.

solar array countryWhen we lived off-grid for 4 years I had to learn to pay attention to some little details.  How many watts did it take to run something. Our advantage was that it was solar that powered our setup, so outside the production & transportation of the solar array, it was now emission neutral.

But we lived on a “budget” of watts that were available for use. A tiny inefficient college refrigerator “cost” almost as much to run as my super energy efficient french door fridge! Amazing.  It paid to look at the “details”.

A laptop.. 40.  Crockpot… 100. An iron… 1,000.  An electric dryer…4,000.

The real day-to-day choice is, do I hang that top up on the clothesline to dry or toss it in the dryer?  If I hang it up, will I need to iron it? Just how many watts am I using? (watts = emissions, generally, unless you have solar panels). And come to think of it, how often do I need to wash something, really.

Here in sunny California, with our ongoing drought, I suspect one of the most significant things we can do at this point (having already done the usual conservation measures) is to REDUCE the amount of laundry we do.  It consumes water and energy. Lots. Moving water creates emissions.

In our current society of plenty, we wear something once, toss in the laundry.  Washer & dryers were touted as labor saving devices when they first arrived on the scene.  But people increased the number of things that went into the laundry such that there was no ‘extra time saved’ because you had more to do. More to do = more emissions. More water used and more emissions to move the water, to get to you.

WHAT IF?

What if you did something wild and crazy… like purchased fewer items, picked more durable fabrics,energy cloth use wore them longer, wore them more frequently.

What is the net result? Any impact on emissions? Take the challenge… reduce your wardrobe, increase the wear time between washing, hang it on the line to dry.  Can you see the domino effect of that simple change in lifestyle?

Jim has two sets of jeans… one set for office work and one set for farm work. Now the office work jeans don’t ever really get what I call dirty. EVER. They get crinkled.

His farm jeans… OMG, they get so much dirt/crud on them, they could almost stand up by themselves. Wash something when it really does need it. Otherwise, air it out.

I remember as a kid, when I had 2 pairs of shoes. One pair for church, one pair of tennis shoes for everyday wear. If I needed something nice, it was the church shoes that got worn.

REAL PRICE? 

Price, and having the ability to pay it, is not the only consideration anymore. What are the other costs that we are asking others to pay?

Is it something actually, definitively needed? or just “wanted”?

See… Wall Street, Public Relations, Media, Psychologist have gotten very, very, very good at their “business” of appealing to our wants, in order to fund their profits.  On the surface, it just seems to be about having the dollars to pay for something. But it is the “something” they are telling us we should want/have/desire/deserve to have regardless of the real price being paid. Never mind those other “costs”, they don’t concern you.

One of the best books I read in high school, was called, “The Hidden Persuaders”. Originally published in 1957, The Hidden hiddenPersuaders by Vance Packard, was the first book to show how the manipulation practices that have come to dominate today’s corporate-driven world began. It has been re-released, and now features an introduction by Mark Crispin Miller, revealing how advertisers use psychological methods to tap into our unconscious desires in order to “persuade” us to buy the products they are selling.

If you listen to a commercial today (we rarely do, thank you TiVo & the fast forward button on the remote control), there is seldom any real information; it’s all a sales pitch with little relationship to reality. “You deserve this”, “This will make you more appealing – people will like you”, etc. Even supposedly factual information is slanted to convince you that this will be good for you somehow.

They are never ever looking out for my interests, it’s only about profit. Period.

TAKING IT BACK

But I can take all that back.  I don’t have to buy into the ‘game’.

Some years back, we stopped (heaven forbid) celebrating Christmas, the commercial Xmas.  It was such a joy and relief. We had quiet time together.  We actually enjoyed visiting with family and friends.  It stopped being about the gifts and the crazy-making circus that went with that.  Now, we don’t have little ones, and we will buy gifts for the children. But limited in scope/dollars.  It no longer runs the show.

Media tells you, “you need this and that” but do you really? Or is it just so you can spend your life paying them their profits? at the expense of real connection; talking, sharing, working together, playing, etc.

IT IS POSSIBLE TO MAKE CHANGES

Our current lifestyle styles have created the long-term problems that will effect the whole world.  It’s time to reverse that process. A world based on consumption i.e. producing emissions, is headed toward extinction. The only real questions is do we want to go down that path. If not, then now is the time to make thoughtful choices. It all begins today.  I think it begins with the a simple question, “Do I really need this “fill in the blank” to live? Followed by, “And is it worth the price others might have to pay?”

Take a close look at how you define the word “NEED”, and is it a substitute for need for approval, need for status, need for competitive advantage, need for control”? It will tell you a lot about who you really are compared to who you “think” you are.

The best thing you can do is to try and lower how much carbon dioxide your lifestyle produces every day. You have heard the phrase, “Recycle, repurpose, reuse, reduce”. Begin to consciously integrate that into your lives and gently suggest & model it to those around you. Change in our culture starts from the ground up, in your home, inside our families.

You may well find a world more satisfying and real.

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Seductive Spring Garden Trap

I was seduced. Yes, definitely… against my will (i.e. my better judgment). The warm sunny days worked their magic on me.  I KNOW better than to plant a garden too early in the season.  It’s really an exercise in futility to try and outwit the “weather gods”!

Transplant starts

Spring Starts for the Garden

Yep, I went down to our local nursery (key word there is “local” nursery)… and perused among their garden starts.  Trays of tiny plants just waiting to be snapped up and placed into a warm nurturing environment so they could explode into growth, providing me with feeling of satisfaction of having something growing.

When I asked at the counter for some assistance in finding some “Sweet 100” tomato starts, they chuckled and said, “Don’t you think you are just a couple months to early!”  It’s too cold  at night and they will just shrivel up and die with the first frost.

Season extension

Simple Greenhouse- Hog Panel

But boy did that tune change when I said the magic words…. greenhouse. Lovely, lovely, warm, protected, sheltered greenhouse.

Now mind you… nothing fancy.

Just an ol’ hog panel (it’s 16 ft length arched over to form a tunnel) with some heavy-duty plastic over it and some coverings placed on each end.

Not fancy but definitely functional. We did build some raised beds (lined with chicken wire to protect those delicious roots from munching gophers) to plant into.  In a raised bed the soil warms a bit earlier which gives another advantage to planting in the greenhouse.

Inside a hog panel greenhouse

Simple Season Extension - inside

So, while I did “buy” transplants way too early, by the time I got home, my better judgement did kick in and instead of planting into the ground  I placed my starts in their temporary waiting place. And sure enough, that night for the first time in weeks, the nighttime temperatures dropped into the 20’s!

I’ll be watching the weather report closely.

But I did exercise some common sense, and MOST of the starts that I purchased, are for cool season. Peas, snow peas, spinach, kale… all things that can handle a light frost.

The warm season starts will need a longer stay in the greenhouse… but  if I do move them out a bit early there are some short-term solutions!

A gallon milk jug, with the bottom cut out, makes an excellent in place micro greenhouse.   They provide some protection from frost as well as a slightly warmer environment that is plant friendly. Just be careful to NOT cook the plant on days that get really warm.  Nice thing about the gallon milk jug… you can just take the cap off and presto! you are venting the extra heat. Talk about cheap and easy… instant success.

mini greenhouse - Milk Jugs

Gallon Milk Jugs for mini greenhouses

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