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Big Think

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Author: the Inkslinger

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.

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Thinking Outside the Tube

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Author: the Inkslinger

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” --Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

When it comes to the big global environment problems like the climate crisis, I’m pretty much in the camp that believes we can think our way out of it. That human ingenuity is going to beat the problem. Certainly some personal changes are required, some level of action, and a good amount of making do with less is going to be a part of the solution, but I think that the collective hive mind is going to figure out a way for us to do that without really noticing much that we are.

It’s sort of like the front loading washing machines my wife and I have been looking at. They use a whole lot less water and energy, but you don’t really notice they do. Your clothes are apparently just as clean. The only difference that’s felt is in your utility bills and your carbon footprint.

So it’s not like we can’t have appliances doing the dirty work for us. We just have to invent really smart ones so that we can enjoy these and other things without generating any negative environmental impacts in the process, and then we have to share these efficiencies with the rest of the world so that the have-nots can enjoy the good life, too. We don’t have to all go off and live in caves to beat climate disruption. We don’t have stop driving cars. We don’t have forgo mangos at the supermarket in January. We just have to get super smart about how we do all these things and figure out how to live well while also living intelligently and regeneratively.

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Dethroning King Coal

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Author: the Inkslinger

Welcome to Thursday and this inspired guest post from global protagonist Veronica Bach

Watching with horror the latest in the series of fatal mine worker deaths, I was thinking that we should be able to provide these wonderful people alternative jobs that would produce energy, but would allow them to work above ground in a safer environment. Stopping the use of coal in our energy systems would save many lives in every area of the production of it, including the final result of a coal plant. My idea is to begin with the states where coal mining is the predominant part of the economy, and start recruiting their workers to be retrained for solar panel making and wind power jobs. We could begin in our country, and then take it global, including China and Australia.

For what it's worth.

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Energy Changes

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Author: the Inkslinger

Almost three weeks ago, my family moved to a new home. As much as I love it here, I’m finding that I’m missing our old home’s energy systems, which were fairly sustainable from a climate crisis perspective. Over the course of our decade-long occupancy, we had gradually replaced all the existing appliances with new EnergyStar models, and all the lighting with CF sources. We phased out our furnace and learned how to heat entirely with wood, a renewable local resource we burned in a catalytic stove. Our hot water came from electricity, which in Vermont comes largely from our one nuke plant and from Hydro-Quebec. (I know both of those sources have some serious environmental problems associated with them, problems for which I’ve actually been arrested protesting, but from a carbon POV, they’re alright.).

Now we do it all with oil. And because the new place has no basement, the furnace sits in a utility room directly behind my home office. Whenever anyone runs the hot water longer than 15 seconds or so, I hear it kick it in and burn, burn, burn. The carbon counter in my head starts spinning. It’s driving me completely nuts, and the heat’s not even on yet. Combine that with old appliances, too much track lighting, and a wood stove so ancient it looks like Ben Franklin himself built it, and I’ve suddenly got an energy problem.

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Yesterday’s News

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Author: the Inkslinger

And now as public service of the Inspired Protagonist, we bring you yesterday’s news today. Because, well… I’m so completely behind the curve that from where I sit the curve appears on the very distant horizon only as the faintest suggestion of something not flat. And really, from here, even that could be an atmospheric trick. The reason for my lateness, as everyone who knows me knows, is a recent relocation to a new abode that has reduced my home office to rubble and triggered a week’s worth of connectivity problems that have left me wandering alone in the terrifying e-darkness. Still, better late than never with these tidbits I’ve been meaning to share…

US News and World Report had a good article earlier this month about avoiding bisphenol-A, the toxin currently number one with a bullet at the top of the toxicological charts. Good advice about keeping this bad boy out of your bloodstream.

A new study says that emerging “carbon markets” are unwittingly encouraging the clearcutting of virgin forests, an act which would release one official massive ton ‘o carbon into our beleagured atmosphere. Oops. Maybe we better rethink this one. (I still don’t get the whole let’s-trade-carbon-pollution credits thing. How about we just all agree not to make anymore rather than just treat what is a rather pressing situation like it was a couple of packs of baseball cards in a schoolyard?)

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The Financial Dividends of Environmental Responsibility

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Every once in awhile an idea comes down the pike that has the potential to revolutionize the world. This one from Jim Rogers, the chairman and chief executive of Duke Energy, is just such a stroke of genius. Rogers suggests replacing the current electric regulatory system, which encourages electric utilities to generate more energy usage, with one that rewards power companies for increasing their customers' energy efficiency. This is exactly the kind of leadership we need from the business community. Three cheers for Jim Rogers, the chairman and chief executive of Duke Energy and for Tom Friedman for covering this important story!!

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Things Worth Knowing

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Author: the Inkslinger

They say we live in the age of information. Wireless internet, satellite TV, digital radio, ThisTube, ThatTube, a zillion channels and everything’s on. Information is everywhere. People traffic in it. Profit from it. Spread it. Share it. Find it. Know it. We cram our tired heads with trivia and ephemera and worse, but to what end?

Because the fact is, information is only as useful as the things we can do with it. If we can’t do anything personally constructive or publicly useful with a specific piece of information, that’s the tip-off that we should ignore it and move on. There’s nothing to see here.

Slap that kind of filter over your private inputs and watch the static and the noise drop like a stone. Listen to how quiet it gets. See how very little useful necessary vital information there actually is swirling around out there in the i-storm we call the modern world. 99.99% of it just goes poof. Still, there is always information we can use in some way. There are always some things worth knowing. Here’s a few that are…

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This and That From Here and There

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Author: the Inkslinger

Things are moving. Ideas are raining through the biosphere, percolating through the substrata, reaching down into the cultural aquifer where everyone can tap them and take a good long drink. Some days it’s hard to keep up with all these emergent memes. Feels like being in one of those game show money booths where high speed fans whip up a storm of $100 bills and you try to grab as many as you can. But do these embryonic notions represent lasting trends or only ephemeral fads? Me thinks the former because each one seems to be building itself in some way on those that have come before. Then it turns into a foundation for something that follows, and in this way a new vision is evolving faster than hope would previously allow. Grabbed like snowflakes from the building gale, here are some recent portents that a storm of change is coming just in time…

Great moments in pure genius: How does a simple three inch lump of black wax slash carbon dioxide emissions from one of humanity’s biggest sources? Like this.

Nice house. Nice car. Nice life. No power bills. No carbon footprint. No atmospheric impact.. We can do this
It is possible.

Now imagine this: No garbage. No trash. No waste. Anywhere. Ever.
We can do that, too.

Out in the woods, we’re losing less than we used to. And slowing the pendulum is the first thing that happens before it swings in the other better direction.

There’s even a much-needed breath of fresh air in the marbled halls, where we’re beginning to remember what it looks like when common sense and leadership replace delusional self-interested hackery.

As the poet said… The answers, my friends, are blowing in the wind.

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The Answers Are Blowing in the Wind…

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Author: the Inkslinger

Here are some words from intern Sophie, who asked me to post them here for her...

John Abrams (my father) is the founder and CEO of South Mountain Company, an employee-owned design/build firm on the island of Martha's Vineyard. South Mountain has a commitment to social and environmental responsibility. They do a lot of affordable housing work, renewable energy, and community work. John recently wrote the book The Company We Keep: Reinventing Small Business for People, Community, and Place , about his adventures in business, and when he’s not in the office you can find him traveling the country doing talks and workshops or hanging out at Island Co-housing where he lives with his wife, Chris. He has two children, Sophie (that's me!!) and Pinto, and three grandchildren, Kalib, Silas and Axel Leroy.

Here’s his recounting of the the raising of a wind turbine on Martha’s Vineyard.

Yesterday, we raised the ARE 442 wind turbine, which was donated to the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School by a wonderful woman who succumbed to cancer before she could see it turn (see plaque). Sophie bore witness to the raising. She knows that it really did happen, even though all known forces conspired to prevent it.

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Getting Real About Global Warming or What Al Gore Hasn't Told You

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“Fly from New York to California and back and you will generate as much greenhouse gas emissions as you will by driving your Prius all year.”

Oh my god… I’m reading this 35,000 feet in the air en route from New York to California, a trip I will make again this month. Next month I will go all the way to India.

We have a window of opportunity to do something about all this as the new Democratic majority floats bills that take tiny bites out of a gigantic problem. But what is really required? Back in November, I recommended the new book Heat: How to Stop the Planet From Burning
by George Monbiot. Recently, David Morris made a much more compelling argument for the urgency of reading the book in his AlterNet column.

Morris writes,

“By claiming we can solve the problem of climate change painlessly, environmentalists confuse us. They offer stark and rigorous presentations terrifying us about the near-term, dire consequences of global warming. And then they offer generalized, almost blithe assurances about how we can avoid these dire consequences without great sacrifice. We are horrified and soothed at the same time. It's a dangerous strategy. Many who focus on the catastrophic present-day images of An Inconvenient Truth believe we have gone beyond the point of no return, which leads to cynicism and passivity. Those who are spurred to action believe that buying a hybrid car or taking an eco-vacation will address the problem…
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