Carbon Footprint product labeling

Not one for surveys, but when I saw this article that 44% Of UK Shoppers Would Buy Brand With Smaller Carbon Footprint, I wondered if a carbon-footprint-label would be something shoppers in the US would pay attention to and that would influence their shopping choices. Would love to think about a 7th Gen product’s footprint-label for all of our products. Would this make a difference in your shopping choices? thoughts? Thanks. WR

Feeling the Heat

White Rhino forwarded me the latest CSR Newswire in which there is much crowing about all the climate crisis action that’s happening this week from theU.N. to Bill Clinton’s Global Initiative to WalMart to New York State. (The only black mark on the week comes, as always (* heavy sigh*), from our country’s own point man, who just can’t seem to learn how to play well with others.)

This week’s news is all well and fine and good and wonderful and warms me like a happily bubbling fireside fondue pot full of dark chocolate body paint on a snowblown night in February when the kids are with Grandma and my wife is breaking out the good stuff. People are talking. Discussing. Communicating. Cooperating. Let me hear you say Hallelulah, people. Salut! We’re getting past that awkward early stage in the relationship where those of us who who’ve been blinded by science have to incessantly argue the clear and present danger to those keeping one blood-rimmed eye on denial and the other on the Dow. The weather forecast has come in. Cloudy and hot with a chance of the apocalypse. And suddenly, it seems, everybody is sitting up, taking notice, and feeling heat. “Oh holy crap! We’re about to turn the planet in a smoking cinder. That can’t be good.”

Uh… no. It can’t. Which is kinda sorta pretty much exactly what anyone who’s been paying attention has been screaming for a whole bunch of years now.

Which is the point. We’ve been hollering, y’all been fiddling, and I know it’s a big bummer and it’s going to cut into lunch and mess with the quarterlies, but time’s up on talk. Clock’s run out. Your session has expired. The mouth meter has clicked over to zero and it’s all hands on deck. You don’t have to look any further than Joseph’s post from earlier today to see that the climate crisis isn’t coming. It’s here. So really, while the week’s conversations are great and I know talk is the step that must come first and it’s nice to finally have you here at the party (please pass the solutions), I’m somewhat rather altogether feeling like this is all a day late and a dollar short. See, in the 90s we were supposed to be talking. That was our chat period. The warm and fuzzy let’s-put-all-our-climate-crisis-feelings-on-the-table-and-share time. You remember the 90s, right? That was when you guys were misdirecting and obfuscating and conspiring and truth-twisting and funding phony “think” tanks and full page ads in the New York Times that called climate scientists total wack-jobs who wanted to steal everyone’s Hummer and also maybe even their Cuisinart and make us all live in barely lit caves with nothing but straw mats and bearskins and the wild boar we had to kill with our teeth for dinner and oh what we wouldn’t do for some oregano and a decent bottle of cabernet.

But that’s okay. I forgive you. I think we all do. Really. No joke. Your nurture and your nature left you all myopic and crimp-brained about how all this would all affect your portfolios and you were pretty much unable to see or think or act beyond your own private kingdoms and that’s okay. It happens to the best of us, and I am all about Redemption. What’s done is done and we live in the here and now and that’s where the present moment is and that’s the moment that’s all that matters. So, it’s good to have you on the bus at last. We saved you a seat up front where you can see real good and don’t have to strain to hear the tour guide point out all the things to see in the rapidly immolating countryside. (Yes, that was Greece we just passed. Remember when things could live there? Gosh, those were the days…)

But here’s the deal: we ain’t driving this motorcoach to no conference. We aren’t headed for the table so we can all drink San Pellegrino and pat ourselves on the back for recognizing a problem and sitting down to deal with it like the leaders that we’ve been wishing you were. We aren’t aiming for a summit or a meeting or a focus group. From town halls and community gardens to backyards and basements from coast to carbonated coast, we’re driving this bad boy straight into the heart of action, baby. Because that’s what it’s time for. That’s where we gotta go. That’s what has to happen. That’s what needs to go down if we’re going to cut our collective carbonization 90% by next Thursday, which is pretty much what anyone with a Ph.D. after their name says we have to do or this little thing we like to call human civilization is going to roast faster than the Turkey you tried to deep fry that Thanksgiving you ended up in the burn unit.

Talk is cheap when that’s all there is, and we just can’t afford that anymore. So while I’m glad to see you talk, while I’m very happy you woke up and smelled the carbon and dashed off a memo and booked a hotel room in New York so you could get a place at the table, while I’m all for awareness and conversation and questions and suggestions and sitting up on the dais with the ex-president and making a few brief remarks before the big video presentation, what you really need to do is to Do. Something. Now. Make it big. Make it bold. Make it happen. Do the thing that is so audacious, so brave, so valiant, so uncompromising, so selfless that it makes good men weep and strong women gasp in open admiration as they bow before your suddenly self-evident greatness. Whatever it is. Whatever you can imagine. Whatever you can dream. Go for it. Because we can’t wait. We can’t waste time. We can’t talk anymore. We gotta get going or we’re all gonna be gone.

Charting Tomorrow

This interesting chart floated my way the other day from an equally intriguing website called Permatopia.

Here’s what its creators have to say about it:

Permatopia Patterns is a new way of thinking about permaculture. Historically, most permaculture guides and analyses have been focused on individual properties, often rural homesteads. Zones and sectors are key concepts in permaculture analysis, examining how to locate components of a permaculture system based on distance from the house and ecological factors. These are incredibly powerful tools for the personal level, but are far too limited in their scale for a society wide transformation to cope with Peak Oil and climate change.This page shows how the concept of zones can be extended to the goal of “permaculture for nine billion people.” Learning skills at the more local levels can help with efforts to extend to bigger levels, since effective solutions at the biggest levels depend on understanding how the solutions work at smaller levels.

The sectors concept reflects how there are many paths needed to move away from overshoot and collapse. Different people have different skills and interest, no individual or group could possibly address all of the various facets that are needed. The concept of interdependence between these issues (and levels) is one not normally promoted in our hyper-individualized society, but it is the type of path most likely to accomplish common goals.

Whether you are expanding a local community garden, installing utility scale wind power, teaching environmental education to second graders, starting up a community currency barter system, operating a bicycle shop, creating manufacturing cooperatives, campaigning for accountable elections, or any of thousands of other positive things is irrelevant – the key point is that you are doing something that is a piece of the puzzle.

Me likes. It lets you see the ripples flowing outward in the pond and understand how they all come together to create a wave of change from top to bottom or vice versa (pick your own pyramid) that washes away the unpleasantries and leaves us a nice clean beach upon which to build that utopia we’re always talking about. It’s a nice visual representation of the various levels there are to things and how they all tie together. Because isn’t that really all there is to it? Isn’t it really that simple? If I mind my house and you mind yours and the government promotes and funds and legislates the right ideas and technologies and changes and corrections, and the corporations wise up and get in line, (which, really, they should because you make a whole lot more money if you act smart than if you act like some simian human wanna-be sitting in a tree and flinging your poo around the planet as if all the bananas were yours and it was all some big funny monkey game), if we all each do our bit, whatever that bit might be, we’ll all get where we need to go in an official jiffy. Or thereabouts. Roughly, of course.

In fact, a chart like this points out how simple it all really is, how easy it would be to change everything everywhere now and for all time. We just do it. That’s all. We each take care of whatever piece of the pie we’re in charge of, or have influence over or can affect, whether it’s a home or a company or a Congress, and all those things come together in one great big grand unified field theory of eco-regenerative enviro-sustainarenewability, and we’re done. Pretty much anyway. For the most part. It’s like building a house only this one has cork flooring, VOC-free paint, double-paned triple-glazed windows, a closet full of spare compact fluorescent bulbs, and an organic garden out back. You know… the concrete team lays a foundation, the carpenters come in and do their thing. Then the plumbers. Then the electricians. Then the wall board crew and the mud guys. A couple of finishing touches by the fixture installers of your choice and before you know it, you’re serving Great Aunt Edna’s Famous Poppyseed Cake with Lemon Cream Frosting at the housewarming, the organic version, naturally.

Or in this case, you’re living in the world painted at the bottom of this page. It’s all about the threads and the connections and everyone making them wherever they can and joining individual strands of change together and suddenly there’s a beautiful tapestry you wrap around the world as we all ride into the golden dawn together. It’s so easy, so simple, so perfect and hopeful and peaceful and positive, that I spend whole days wondering what we’re waiting for.

Stand Up & Be Counted (Or, In My Case, Arrested)

On the list of critical issues facing the human race and the planet we call home, global warming is at or near the top of my list. Yet, as Al says, the facts surrounding the climate crisis present us with a host of inconvenient truths. Many of us (me included) are unwilling to give up air travel, commit to the exclusive use of public transportation when we’re on the ground, eat an exclusively local diet or do the hundreds of other things necessary to dramatically reduce our CO2 footprint.

There is a strange disconnect between what we know and what we do. Changing a few light bulbs unfortunately isn’t going to save the world. US policy to prevent the construction of new coal plants, dramatically raise auto mileage standards and invest heavily in alternative energy would go a long way toward helping solve the problems that we as individuals can’t do on our own — exactly the type of policies that President Bush has pledged to ensure we never adopt.

So when presented with the opportunity to join a Greenpeace protest against the Bush Administration’s meeting on Energy Security and Climate Change last Thursday and Friday, I decided that I had to be there.

This conference was much too little and way too late. The President was staging it only to stall the progress already made by the United Nations and create the appearance that he actually understood and cared about the issue. The conference was a fraud.

Wednesday evening about 20 members of our staff had gathered for dinner before the beginning of the Expo East in Baltimore, the most important trade show for our business and industry. After I announced that I would be absent from the show the following day to attend the demonstration, almost two hours of impassioned debate ensued. Some felt the whole company should join me, and that we should shut down our trade show booth for the day with communication to explain why we would all be missing the meetings and appointments we had set up. Others argued passionately that we needed to let everyone decide for themselves. Still others felt we should tie a ribbon around the booth to close it off from visitors, and have some staff standing in the aisle to explain that we decided to not conduct business that day in honor of our fellow staff members who attended the demonstration.

In the end, a small contingent left with me at 5:45am to take the train down to DC for the protest. We posted a letter from me at the entrance of the booth explaining what some of us had gone to do. I went with no hope of changing Bush’s mind. Instead I wentto communicate to anyone who would listen that this issue is much more dangerous and important than many people know or understand, a point I was more than willing to be arrested for in order to make.

I hoped that some would react with a “Wow, imagine that! The CEO of this cool company thinks this issue is so important he was willing to go to jail. Maybe I should reconsider what I’m willing to do.”

 

Well, I did end up in jail, along with 50 other protestors including John Passacantando, the Executive Director of Greenpeace. It had been a long time since I’d felt the cold concrete of a jail cell. Greenpeace had us out in about 6 hours. My record will reflect only a misdemeanor charge.

Sometimes we have to stand up and be counted.

Unnerved

Here are some words you really don’t ever want to see put together in a single sentence:

“Arctic Melt Unnerves the Experts”
They go particularly unlooked for as a newspaper headline, which is how they unfortunately presented themselves to me during yesterday’s ritual morning rummage through the New York Times, that laughably absurd exercise in ambulatory unconsciousness in which my desperately sleep-impaired visual cortex sees all the pretty pictures and fun little words swimming around on the page but can make zero sense of them until I fill the 5-gallon sap bucket that passes for my coffee mug full of high-test fair-trade shade-grown organic java and slam its contents into my bloodstream like a howling freight train from Stimulant Hell that makes my nerve endings scream for mercy like the chemically electrified victims of hyper-caffeination they’ve quite thankfully suddenly become.

But you know, you see a headline like that and suddenly you don’t need your body-weight in Costa Rican Reserve to get within a striking distance of competent mental functioning. No sir. Words like that all put together in a neat little row are like a defibrillator for your head. Clear! Gzzzzzt! Good morning, overheated world…

“Arctic Melt.” Well, gee. Gosh. Hello. That’s sort of troubling. Wouldn’t you say? Don’t you think? “Arctic,” after all, is Human for “profound cold beyond all imagining punctuated by snow and wind and ice and scary frigid blue glacial chunks the size of small South American countries all forever frozen like that ten year-old popsicle of a now indeterminate flavor sitting in the bottom of your freezer pretending it’s some disturbingly mummified member of the Franklin Expedition. And what ever happened to those guys anyway?” The Arctic happened to them, that’s what. An unholy ice cube of permanently cryogenic biblical proportions and then some so deep and dark and deathly frostbitten at all times that it swallowed up entire fleets of mighty ships sent to find (ha!) an ice-free passage to the Pacific that actually hadn’t existed for a least a thousand centuries.

Until this year, that is. When lo, it opened up like a big white lotus flower floating on a suddenly no longer frozen sea. And apparently the polar bears aren’t the only ones quite completely freaked out by the inexplicable appearance of water where there used to be an eternal blanket of never-ending ice thick enough to park a continent on.

No. The experts are unnerved as well. And quite frankly that’s a little unnerving. Because the experts are the Ones Who Know. Only now they don’t. At all. They’re sitting there just as wide-eyed as the rest of us are upon finding out that the mythical Northwest Passage isn’t nearly as mythical as it used to be. Beats us, they say scratching their heads and looking quizzically and very much confusedly at their gorgeous full-colored graphs and futuristic satellite photos that could see the hair on the head of a badly frightened sea lion searching frantically for an ice floe. Nope, they say. Never saw it coming. Quite the surprise, really.

Which is the thing to take home from that little headline. The thing to wrap up in purple velveteen, tie with a nice raffia bow, carry to the gate, and present to Momma on the occasion of her much anticipated release from the federal penal system. The experts are unnerved.

And so am I. Because Unnerved Experts are the official indicator that we have entered wholly uncharted territory. That every day is about to become a who-knows-what adventure and not in a good way that comes with its own crumpled bag full of souvenir snow globes and goofy foam rubber lobster claws and the kids napping in the back of the jalopy as you pull over for some Tums at the truck stop before hitting the beach because those boysenberry pancakes you woke up to at HoJos are coming back to haunt like the gastrointestinal ghost of breakfast past. No. Unnerved Experts are the sign that we need to get real serious real fast. They are the commercial break that says “we’ll be right back with more from the Four Horsemen…”

If there was ever a case to be made for Precaution, this is it. Because we have powered up the Frialator and are now dropping the planet in for supper. It might float. Sure. It might. It could. Maybe. Or it might sink and blister and warp and peel and turn all black and smoking crispy and become entirely incapable of supporting even so much as a single cockroach. Or maybe something in between. The Unnerved Experts have no idea. They are clueless and lining up at the MIT bursars office to ask for their money back. So nobody knows. But we do know that either way the stakes are so big we can label them the Fate of All Life on Earth and call it a day and isn’t that really what the Precautionary Principle is all about? Backing away from the deep fryer when it’s not entirely clear whether you’re gonna come up with a delicious plate of haddock and chips or a smoldering platter of uh-oh and oops.

Which is why it was good to see Jeffrey in handcuffs the other day. Because it appears we have to make some noise on this one. A big racket and real soon, too. Because c’mon… even the Experts are now Officially Unnerved, and I am unnerved and concerned by the fact that not enough people are as unnerved and concerned about the Experts being unnerved and concerned as I am. There is a very clear message here and it does not seem to be penetrating the collective cranial cavity as quickly as it needs to. I was foolishly thinking quite hopefully and innocently in what was apparently an overwhelming miasma of stunning naiveté that once it became clear the Experts were unnerved that we would all sort of come to our senses and act like we had a survival instinct and cared about our kids and, you know, tomorrow and all, and so would quite naturally and willingly ask what can we do to hit the breaks quick on this whole wacky carbon thing that we can’t be completely sure about but have a sneaking suspicion is gonna suck like a shop-vac on steroids. Silly me. I thought that we would cool our collective jets once we all saw the Goracle’s movie and the pictures of the weirdly thawing un-permafrost and watched the weather forecast calling for sunscreen in January and heard all the scientists who weren’t on Exxon-Mobil’s payroll screaming in unprecedented unison that the atmosphere was going haywire and they were quickly becoming Quite Unnerved. That’s what I thought anyway. But boy was I wrong.

‘Cause they be fiddling like the suicidal mad men we have no choice but to now assume they are down there D.C. And that’s where it counts. Because you can change all the light bulbs in the world but if your government thinks global warming is a badly written piece of pulp fiction from Michael Crichton and has its head stuck in some kind of intellectual Jurassic dark, the change you were hoping to achieve ain’t gonna come and the Experts will remain all very much Unnerved. Like I am myself sitting here in Vermont on October 3rd and the forecast is calling for 80 degrees by Friday and the basil is still growing and the tomatoes haven’t stopped and there isn’t a frost in sight and that’s great if you want a fresh salad but maybe not so wonderful if you want to live on a planet whose meteorology hasn’t been tossed along with 600 million years of irreplaceable natural history into a blender set on “Pulverize.” Hey Jeffrey! Save me a place on the front lines. I’ll be there just as soon as I can finish putting all my screens back in…

Big Think

See…this is what I’m talking about. This is what I meant in my post of the other day. We gotta think big and we gotta think outside the box. That’s how we’re going to get where we need to go with this whole wacky climate crisis thing. Screwing in a couple of compact fluorescents and making our next car a Prius, while good and necessary and satisfying and righteous, aren’t going to cut the melt-down mustard. Not meaningfully. Not ultimately. Not when anybody who knows anything about climate and atmospheric science says we need a 90% reduction in global carbon output in the next 20 years tops or we’re toast. For that we need to dream and scheme and not just think outside the box but take the box out behind the barn, smash it to splinters, and torch whatever’s left.

We need big thinking. Huge ideas. Like Ausra’s. Think of it. Ohmigod it’s glorious. It shines and beckons like a heated swimming pool in January surrounded by scantily-clad supermodels in the gender of your choice and filled with 25-year old single malt scotch. It makes me quiver in ways and places that are illegal if not at least frowned upon in certain jurisdictions below the Mason-Dixon line. Virtually every single kilowatt hour every single man, woman and child in the entire U.S. of A could possibly need to do every single thing they want to do from watch Admiral Adama find Earth on 60″ of pure plasma glory to make blueberry scones for breakfast, all produced without emitting so much as a single atom of carbon using little more than bunch of mirrors on a forsaken slice of desert scrub just 92 miles square, a plot of land that represents a mere 10% of all the Bureau of Land Management holdings in just Nevada, upon which would happily and sustainably sit (and this is the best and most uncontrollable giggle-inducing part) technology we’ve got today.

What? Are we dreaming? You bet. And this is what happens when we do. We find solutions. We open the bottomless well of human ingenuity and use the limitless creativity we find there to invent cool stuff that does good things that need to be done. We solve problems, like how to store solar heat efficiently enough to power the entire freakin’ country pollution-free on a forsaken slice of desert scrub just 92 miles square. Make it a few miles more square and we can all drive electric cars that we plug into our garage sockets at night. Whoppee! Let’s all go for a nice long drive to wherever whenever. All of us. You, me, and that schmuck driving a Hummer to get his morning cup of bad corporate coffee. Now we’re cooking with gas. Or not, as the case may of course be.

What are we waiting for? Are we stoopid? Insane? Suicidal lemmings being led by the oil cartels and the Exxon-Mobils at their teats over the edge of the onrushing petro-soaked cliffs of doom? Just what is the deal here? Sure, it’s gonna cost a little dough. What that is worthwhile doesn’t? But we can afford it. Or maybe it’s that we can’t afford not to. Either way, if we can find the cash to fund a sad and senseless misbegotten war launched for no reasons whatsoever except maybe some weird pathology a White House psychiatric team could uncover if they had a few years and weren’t afraid to be left alone at the Naval Observatory with Darth Vader, surely we can all chip in to save the entire world and the future of humanity itself. What’s that worth to you, Mr President?

Deep Dive

My good friend Joe Laur from SoL sent me this quote today. Given the comment from Nigel on the Bitter Coal’d post below, thought it was appropriate tone to what we all could do to move from here to there…to create the needed frameworks to design the present state into a world where the well-being of all is considered… Thanks, Joe……………WR

The Way of Transformation

(From the book by the same title by Karlfried Graf von Durckheim)

The man who, being really on the Way, falls upon hard times in the world will not, as a consequence, turn to that friend who offers him refuge and comfort and encourages his old self to survive. Rather, he will seek out someone who will faithfully and inexorably help him to risk himself, so that he may endure the suffering and pass courageously through it, thus making of it a “raft that leads to the far shore.”Only to the extent that a man exposes himself over and over again to annihilation, can that which is indestructible arise within him. In this lies the dignity of daring. Thus, the aim of practice is not to develop an attitude which allows a man to acquire a state of harmony and peace wherein nothing can ever trouble him. On the contrary, practice should teach him to let himself be assaulted, perturbed, moved, insulted, broken and battered-that is to say, it should enable him to dare to let go his futile hankering after harmony, surcease from pain, and a comfortable life in order that he may discover, in doing battle with the forces that oppose him, that which awaits him beyond the world of opposites.

The first necessity is that we should have the courage to face life, and to encounter all that is most perilous in the world. When this is possible, meditation itself becomes the means by which we accept and welcome the demons which arise from the unconscious- a process very different from the practice of concentration on some object as a protection against such forces. Only if we venture repeatedly through zones of annihilation can our contact with Divine Being, which is beyond annihilation, become firm and stable. The more a man learns wholeheartedly to confront the world that threatens him with isolation, the more are the depths of the Ground of Being revealed and the possibilities of new life and Becoming opened.

 

Change It 2007 VIDEO!

I know it’s only just October, but it seems like ages since I was in DC this summer with Greenpeace and 200 inspired students who were fighting for their beliefs and for this precious earth that we all share.

I had nearly lost the spark that Change It had given me, the hope that I had gleaned from so many positive, passionate people. But then I saw this video, created by our good friend Rob at Black and Blue Productions, and it all came rushing back.

But forget about me! We created the video to share that spark of hope with YOU!

I could blog some more about the amazing experience of witnessing Change It 2007, but the images and voices included here speak for themselves. And what they will tell you is the story of an incredible group of young people who I know in my heart will lead their generation towards true and lasting change.

Enjoy.

 

Viva Vermont! and Yert (Your Environmental Road Trip)

Living in Vermont surrounded by Vermonters, it’s hard to know what the rest of the world thinks of our little state. My sense is that everyone else considers ours to be a kind of quaint little place, a somewhat odd anachronism in the modern world populated by slightly old-fashioned, slightly wacky, fairly far left-leaning folk just crazy enough to send socialists to Congress, endure unspeakable winters, and live miles from the nearest anything unless you count the farm down the road, the weekend chicken pie suppers, the general store, and, of course, the forests and mountains, which we here all definitely do.

Fair enough, I suppose. In Vermont we do often find ourselves a bit out of step with the rest of the world and quite contentedly so. You can drive for hours through nothing but bucolic scenes of pastoral paradise that seem like relics from a lost age. And it’s true that we Vermonters are, for the most part, quite happy living in relatively simple and traditional ways in a rare landscape where humanity and nature have learned to peacefully coexist. But if you pull off the highway and start poking around, you’ll find something else: people young and old forging the future for the rest of the world.

White Rhino sent me this very cool video link this morning. Made by YERT, it does a great job of summing up a very real spirit that many people don’t realize is a big part of the fabric of Vermont life, which is that as much we may keep the past alive up here in how we choose to live, we are also very much living in the future. In fact, I’d have to say that we probably put more hare-brained progressive ideas and crazy (r)evolutionary notions in play per day than the rest of the country combined. As YERT notes, we are indeed connected to each other and to the natural world we depend upon in ways that have gone missing in much of the rest of the country.

Calvin Coolidge once said that “if the spirit of liberty should vanish in other parts of the union and support of our institutions should languish, it could all be replenished from the generous store held by the people of this brave little state of Vermont.” To that I would add that when the nation wonders where we go from here, we in Vermont can supply the answers it needs. We’re ready whenever everyone else is…