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This Moment On Earth

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Author: the Inkslinger

The day’s dawned bright and sharp here in the hinterlands of Vermont. In cloudless skies, winter’s own thin brand of blue telegraphs all we need to know. That the cold just beyond window etched in swirls of frost is deep and unmovable. And indeed the thermometer reads just 6° at morning’s first glance. It’s shiver-inducing fragment of briefest knowledge magnified by hard-edged north country sunlight rising frigid and unforgiving over the gleaming snowpack. A fine morning day to stoke the fire, uncork the informational bottle, and see what news of this moment on Earth pours out.

Let’s begin on the open seas where a coming U.N. report finds the world’s fast-growing shipping fleet is responsible for about 4.5% of global CO2 emissions, a figure that could rise 30% by 2030 because of zooming rates of international trade. It appears that when transportation-related environmental costs are factored in, goods from overseas aren’t so cheap after all. In fact, container ship ports have been identified as one of the biggest sources of pollution in the U.S. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the nation’s two largest, have recognized the problem and are taking steps like requiring all ships to shut-down their on-board power systems when docked and banning vessels built before 1989, the year pollution-controls became standard gear on freighters. This is the sort of stuff regular folk like us never think too much about, but it’s good to know someone is. For our part, the lesson here is that the farther away something was made, the more CO2 its shipping generated. As always, sourcing whatever we can as locally as possible is hugely important where the climate crisis is concerned. Buy local!

News like that is why I like this:

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Of Cabbages and Kings…

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Author: the Inkslinger

Continuing to wade through the accumulated digital clippings here at my perch in the Vermont clouds, where a foot and a half of snow over the last two days has made the task a bit easier by slowing life down considerably. So let’s continue with some more recent dispatches that have caught my eyes and ears of late…

You probably don’t know it (I sure didn’t) but our entire lifetimes and those of all other human beings throughout human history have been spent in the geological era called the Holocene, that period of time that followed the retreat of the ice age glaciers 12,000 years ago. Now, however, some geologists are suggesting that the Holocene Era is over and the Anthropocene Era has begun, a new geological age in which human activities not natural processes are the force responsible for shaping the surface of our world. It’s a semantic change, really, but it’s a very, very interesting notion, a bit of perhaps necessary symbolism if you will, that I think deserves some consideration if only for the attention it would bring to the tremendous impact people are having on the state of the Earth. We’ve now surpassed all of nature itself as the dominant force in the world. It’s the first time in billions of years of geological history that a single species has achieved such utter and overwhelming dominance. Truly we are as gods and surely that’s worth some discussion. Declaring the dawn of the Anthropocene Era would certainly be one way to start it.

Okay. This is just funny. And perfect. And brilliant. And you should watch it right now.

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E-Waste Phones Home

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Author: the Inkslinger

My wife and I got our first cell phone about eight years ago. Her commute in those days was a long one over lonely back roads and with another big bad Vermont winter coming and a toddler now often in the back seat, it seemed like a wise choice. So we got the cheapo plan, a bare bones phone and 500 free minutes of which we used maybe ten a month for quick can-you-pick-up-some-milk-on-the-way-home calls.

Four years later, a hinge on the phone snapped, and I went to Verizon to get it fixed. The phone guy kinda laughed and said they don’t really fix them. Every two years, it seems, we could get a free new phone and the old one would get thrown out. Who knew? But that’s how it works. Except that it really doesn’t work for a whole lot of reasons that are outlined in this great new video from INFORM.

It is completely crazy that we live so disposably. That it’s cheaper to replace things than to fix them. That we simply throw away so much without thinking about it. Profligacy has replaced frugality, and that may not even be the deepest sadness. What, after all, are all these phones are made from and what happens when that stuff gets tossed into our soil, air and water. Watch the video then let’s figure out a better way to go.

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Technorama-lama-ding-dong

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Author: the Inkslinger

At this point, I think you really have to bet on technology. By which I mean how we’re going to deal with the climate crisis. It’s not at all clear to me that we (by which I mean humanity) are going to summon the will and the courage and the passion to engage in the kind of behavioral constraints needed to cut carbon emissions 80% by 2050, which is pretty much what the science guys tell us we have to do to in order to avert what I’ll politely refer to as a bit of planetary unpleasantness.

Certainly personal behavior is going to be a key part of the equation and certainly even simple changes in the decisions we make and the way we live can and will have an important impact, but at the end of the day, it’s not going to be enough. The way the world is set up now, for example, I’m fairly sure I can’t drive my car 80% less than I do now, which is already relatively rarely. And I don’t see the kind of cultural and infrastructure changes coming anytime soon that would allow me to do it. So I’m figuring I’ve got to count on technology, on clever humans with opposable thumbs and big brains to imagine, invent, create, and use tricks of the material world to give me the equivalent of driving 80% less without my actually having to do it.

Which brings us to today’s edition of what’s going down around town (and by town I mean this big village called Earth). Because while I’ve been sitting here not driving, clever humans have been busy working on encouraging things…

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