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June 02, 2010


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Thanks Barry. Your lists have helped me donate, think about my consumption and now be more aware than ever about local foods. You made it a little bit easier to get my arms around this.

David Schraer

The math on local food is dicey when people drive small amounts of food to a market and other people drive to pick it up. The math on reducing meat consumption equals reduced energy consumption is clear and has a heightened impact against global warming. Same for eggs and dairy.

John Small

Last week my car window was broken. I have two vehicles, but the other one isn't practical for driving to work (it's too tall to fit in the garages). I finally got the ORCA card, set it up to auto-recharge, and suddenly was confronted with how stupid driving ten miles round trip every day is when I have a very convenient, inexpensive, easy to use public transit system.

I'm not telling people this story to show them how smart I am, but how unconscious I have been. It took a slap to wake up. Would I have done any of this if someone hadn't broken my window? While I'd like to claim it's my horror over the oil spill, in reality, I was inconvenienced to the point that I had to choose something different.

But doing the math:
I drove my van once this week to run an errand. Down from driving every day to one day, reduction of oil consumption 85%!

AND saving money on gas and parking. The 1% is nice, but isn't it time for some bamboo whacking, "What the fuck are we doing?!"

It's pouring rain, ten blocks to home. I sure wish I had my warm, dry, comfortable car here. Gee, it sure is rainy for June. Weather's been different lately. I wonder what that's about...

Think maybe this somehow this relates to your entries on your injury ;-)

Willie R

Hello Barry. It is apparent that any sort of deliberate change starts with individual human beings - inasmuch as "willful" actions are the province of our species (endless equivocation is possible with regard to that assertion).
If I knew of a certain method of collecting on the bet, I would unhesitatingly wager that not enough individuals will ever be persuaded to be proactive enough in energy conservation for we as a society to be able to declare that our destiny is in our own hands. It isn't. I never was. And it can never be.
Life itself has it's own agenda.

Did you know that the nickel-based alloys used to manufacture the batteries in a Toyota Prius are mined in Canada in one of the filthiest mining operations on the planet? And then the materials are sent to Japan to get smelted, refined and formed into the battery feedstock? And then the feedstock is sent back to the USA for manufacture into batteries? And that the total hydrocarbon expenditure used to just create the batteries far exceeds the savings realized in fuel efficiency over the life of the vehicle? For a net savings to the planet of exactly less than zero. The carbon footprint of a Hummer H2 is about the same as a Prius over the long term, and it's cheaper, too. Plus none of those irksome sticking accelerator problems. (!)

I hate to be a Gloomy Gus about this oil spill thing going on, but, as John Maynard Keynes is alleged to have spoken: "in the long run, we're all dead".

Barry Briggs

Thanks, everyone, for your comments.

David, good point about the kinds of food we consume.

John, thank you for sharing this story - and also for the whack yesterday! (In my mind, everything relates to my entries on that old injury.)

Willie, thank you very much for your comments. Your comment to an earlier post is what generated the rest of this week's writing. I think we have to be extraordinarily cautious about trying to "shop our way out" of any mess. If someone is driving a 15 year old guzzler and decides to purchase a Prius, more power to them. But if a car is less than 5-10 years old, the better solution is probably to drive less. (I haven't run the math on this, but it makes intuitive sense.)

I don't share your pessimism about the potential for social change, perhaps because I'm a child of the anti-war movement from the mid/late-1960s. One "relic" of that period is the entire environmental movement, including a number of federal statutes, that were the direct result of the Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969. This spill (totally insignificant in comparison to the Deepwater Horizon spill) produced an enormous upswelling of concern and concerted action.

Will we see such unified action today? Frankly, I'm somewhat pessimistic. Times have changed and our culture is perhaps more fragmented than it was even in the late 1960s. I fear that it will take an extraordinary loss of life and livelihood from Deepwater Horizon to produce meaningful change.

But - I do think it's important to motivate change in any way that we can.

Of course we'll all die in the long or short run. But the real question, for me, is "how do we use our precious human life?"

Thanks again for your generous comments.


Interesting. This might actually be doable which is the problem with most plans and goals of action.

I don't suppose you have ever read End of Nature by Bill McKibben.

If you grow your own food, you might be able to save even more gas going to the store because you already have all your vegetables at home. Saving even more gas to get to the market.

Barry Briggs

Hi Cheveldi - Thanks for your comment. Yes, I hope that people will see a clear path to action through this kind of analysis. I was just checking the lettuce - which is tiny, thanks to our drizzly spring. Send some of that Oklahoma sunshine up to the Pacific Northwest!


Once the kids get a little older I'll save a hell of a lot more than 1%!


Hi, yes, David is right.... the very best thing you can do for the environment, and your own personal health, and to reduce the suffering other other sentient beings on a daily basis is.... don't eat meat.

Eating meat is THE main contributor to the world's environmental problems, a major source (along with smoking) of bad health, and, for the animals involved, a bloody and torturous holocaust on an unimaginable scale.

Wishing peace and happiness to all beings,



Excellent insights Barry. I think a small change like this is realistic and people can actually imagine doing it and seeing it make a difference - both very important for people to be motivated to take action.


jill i

Thanks for these inspiring posts,
Ha, Willie's comment reminded me of a Deep Ecology discussion group I was in with a bunch of scientists. One of the hydrogeologists said, "well, the sun will burn out in a few billion years anyway."

But then there's that strawberry right in front of you to enjoy right now!

The nasty oil situation in the Gulf of Mexico has me thinking about my use of my car, and how, as someone said, in a way we are all responsible for the spill, for the opportunity of the spill to even happen we represent with our use of oil. (sorry for the long, convoluted sentence!).

So do I really need to drive my car to the farmer's market? I'll try hopping on my bike this weekend instead, even if I trow my bike on the bus for the ride home back up to the top of Crown Hill.

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