Posts tagged ‘Ecology’

Kenneth Conrad Frey

    Kenneth Frey

 

(Re climate change.) “If it’s not the flavor of the day, elected officials can’t be bothered. Guess it’s up to us to make it the flavor of the day.”

Kenneth Conrad Frey

toilet paper public domain image

 

By Elizabeth Anne Hull

Elizabeth Anne Hull. Photo by Barb Knoff.


Elizabeth
Anne Hull

An article I read some time ago in The Week (my favorite print replacement for the now online-only World Press Review) reassures me that “No, paper isn’t dead.”

As I’m buried in paper in various forms — greeting cards (ones received as well as those not yet sent), photographs, wills, old and new contracts, spanking new passport, officially notarized documents, old correspondence, even junk mail, and yes, books and magazines and newspapers — I looked at the facts mentioned in the longish essay with more than a little interest. A theory says that we learn more thoroughly by reading print than we do from electronic media. I’d like to believe that, but don’t know if I do. More research, please.

Coming at the question of paper’s obsolescence from another angle: Most retail stores no longer offer much choice of how to protect our food and other purchases on the way home. Upscale department stores seem to favor paper bags with handles, tony boutiques sometimes use a light-weight cotton bag, discount department stores use mostly plastic; Costco provides optional repurposed cardboard boxes with the tops razored off; outside California, most grocery stores offer only flimsy plastic, while Trader Joe provide paper for those who don’t bring their own bags.

But we give very little thought to the real costs of old sources of carbon (oil, coal, natural gas and fracked gas) versus new, renewable carbon (trees, plants, animal furs and hides, etc.), and the unintended consequences of our choices. We have yet to make a good realistic assessment of the overall cost of producing energy and plastics by consuming fossil fuels that took many millennia to form.

I don’t doubt the potential and immediate benefits to the planet from preserving the dwindling forests of the globe, but there also may be sustainable ways to farm trees and other raw materials, like cotton and hemp, etc. that make pretty good paper. The earth is certainly making new oil; the problem is, it takes such a long lead time in human perspectives.

Another consideration in sustainability might be the petrochemical products involved in creating electronic devices. I know I prefer writing on a computer to writing on paper. Much easier to revise. But nothing does as well for me as paper for jotting down a daily to-do list. Easier to triage and prioritize and let my daughter add to as she thinks of suitable stuff. And of course, we still need women’s sanitary supplies and American toilet paper!

So I’m quite convinced that paper is not dead — yet.

Geese oiled by Enbridge spill.

These Canada geese and some 200 other migratory birds, along with countless fish, mussels, turtles and mammals, were coated in oil when a pipeline owned by Enbridge Energy ruptured near Marshall, Mich., on July 26, 2010. The break spilled at least 843,444 gallons of crude oil into a wetland and nearby Talmadge Creek, and flowed into the Kalamazoo River and downriver for 38 miles to Morrow Lake.

When 840,000 gallons of unclearable, ultrasticky Canadian crude comes to take up residence in your little town — while you yourself can’t live there anymore — is that what you want?

Kzoo River sign

Thirty-five miles of the Kalamazoo River were closed to public use after the oil spill. Some portions remain closed.

Three years ago, the Enbridge Energy pipeline carrying heavy Canadian crude ruptured and spilled almost a million gallons of ultra-polluting tar-sands crude into the Kalamazoo River in western Michigan. In spite of tens of millions spent on recovery and cleanup efforts — similar to the practices that will be employed when a similar rupture occurs in the proposed Keystone XL pipeline — most of that is still there.

This stuff is not normal crude. It doesn’t float to the surface to be sucked away. It dives to the bottom, where removal equipment can’t pull it out — with as much as 180,000 gallons lingering there.

Is this what we want? Vast programs of permanently despoiling America’s pristine lakes, rivers and woodlands? And all for the sake of mining vast quantities of tar sands for fossil fuels that we dare not go on burning, anyway, for fear of what its released carbon compounds will do to our country’s rapidly worsening climate?

 

Fred wrote this in August of last year, shortly before his death. We present it now, with fresh links, because little has changed since then. Supporters continue to press for the stalled expansion of the Keystone pipeline owned by TransCanada, which saw 12 breaks in 2011, spilling more than 21,000 gallons of oil. Enbridge, meanwhile, failed to meet a Dec. 31 deadline for government-ordered cleanup of the mess its pipeline made in the Kalamazoo River in 2010.

The blog team

homophones
 

By Elizabeth Anne Hull

Elizabeth Anne Hull. Photo by Barb Knoff.


Elizabeth
Anne Hull

An important shibboleth of literacy when I was much younger was whether people could properly use, spell, and punctuate the common words to, two, and too. Likewise there, their and they’re, and it’s and its, and dozens of other often confused sets of words.

While a colleague and I were judging advanced-placement credit writing samples, she commented on how damaging spelling mistakes could be to the success of a short piece of writing, the kind on which we were making decisions of whether a student received credit and passed or faced the frustration of failure.

I’m very lucky that spelling always came very easily to me as a child, but I soon realized that it’s not the most important part of writing. That is, it’s necessary but not sufficient to achieve success.

A casual reader of a correctly spelled essay written in standard English grammar with conventional punctuation rarely notices its mechanical perfection. It’s the flaws that grab attention. We notice mistakes even more when we’re looking for a reason to reject what a writer is trying to say — when we dislike or don’t believe the point being made.

There are other ways to go wrong, of course, but to write effectively, you need to do a great many things right. Why distract your reader from your point with needless stumbling blocks to communication? Not everyone will agree with your point, even if you do such things perfectly and reason clearly and provide supporting evidence, but why make it harder to understand what that point is?

Yet I doubt that there’s a foolproof rule that governs the grammar of English that doesn’t have an exception. Wouldn’t people be better off if we could understand what our opponents really meant, in spite of the lame way they said it?

I was making elevator conversation with a stranger the other day on the to, too, two confusion, and my fellow person-on-the-way-to the-fourth-floor mentioned that the debate brought up tutus in her mind, because she taught ballet. Context matters.

How do we ever expect mere human beings to understand one another well enough to reach solutions to the problems facing our nation and our planet, such as how to solve the health-care situation in the U.S. or what can we do to mitigate the damage scientists predict global warming will produce?

Mother Earth by Matthaeus Merian

Mother Earth, who nourishes all things, an engraving by Matthaeus Merian from alchemist Michael Maier’s Atalanta fugiens (1617).

By Elizabeth Anne Hull

Elizabeth Anne Hull. Photo by Barb Knoff.

Elizabeth
Anne Hull

Consider the substantial reality of an abstraction like love. We see the sacrifices people make for one another every day in the name of love as evidence of love’s existence. But what we mean by love varies a lot by context.

We all know that loving pizza and loving power are quite different, both in quality and magnitude; likewise, brotherly love and sexual love are quite different (unless your brother is your lover). Love doesn’t even have to be reciprocal, at least not to the same extent. I love my dog and cat, but not equally; they both love me, but not equally. Ain’t Love Grand?

Mother love is the sort of love we as a culture get most mushy and sentimental about, especially unconditional mother love. If you were lucky enough to experience this, you certainly miss it when it’s gone. My mother loved me unconditionally (my father, not so much). I consider myself very lucky. She’s been gone more than 13 years, but I still think of my mother every day.

We gush about mother love even though not all mothers seem to love their offspring instinctually. But we’ve made up our minds; don’t confuse us with the facts!

The love of a mother for her child and the love of a child for a mother are among the most powerful motivators we know, far stronger than even money, power, or prestige. Research has shown that when babies are not kissed, patted, and talked to as their diapers are changed and bottles of milk supplied, the lack of “mothering” can result in mental disorders, lowered intelligence and even death for the unfortunate child. Failure to thrive, in medical terms.

It works both ways. How many elderly mothers molder away in nursing homes neglected by their offspring? Such social isolation leads to death. Old people with regular interaction with their children and loved ones live longer and stay healthier in both mind and body.

To paraphrase Robert Frost, neglect and apathy can be as powerful as either fire or ice, and will suffice — to end the world. Ignoring what’s going on around us in the natural world as well as the political world won’t make it any less potentially deadly.

Why isn’t our love for Mother Earth strong enough?

Elizabeth Anne Hull

Elizabeth Anne Hull

By Elizabeth Anne Hull

I worry a lot, maybe more than other people, maybe more than is good for me, but I am what I am.

I worry about global warming, how much carbon our atmosphere and our oceans can hold and still sustain civilization of human beings, especially. I worry about fracking and petcoke (a threat to the waterways in Illinois and Indiana, as well as to the rest of the world). I worry about money, both personal finances and the economy of the U.S. and the whole globe, especially about the greed for money that drives some folks to want to have more money than they or their offspring for countless generations could possibly spend, even if spent frivolously.

I worry about human culture in general and particularly about music, theater, architecture, and the future of fiction as a phenomenon. I worry about our having so many atomic weapons stockpiled in the U.S. alone that we are the worst danger to world peace and we don’t seem to have any plan to let go of the tiger’s tail.

Who I am is the new avatar of FP — his widow and now writer for Frederik Pohl’s “The Way the Future Blogs.” Many of you already know me — I did a few guest posts in the early days of the blog. Some of you may have even met me, because Fred seldom traveled anywhere without me in the last thirty-some years.

I don’t have a lot of time to polish this to perfection (I am a perfectionist manqué). But I hope at least a few of you will be patient and continue reading to see what I’m going to say. I intend to add bits and pieces of other items that interest me, especially cooking for health and economy.

Our blogmeister, Leah Zeldes, assures me that I don’t have to post much each day, but it’s better to post frequently. So, just as Fred aimed to write four pages a day, I’m going to aim to say what’s on my mind as often as I can.