Showing posts with label environmentalism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label environmentalism. Show all posts

December 26, 2021

A New Chainsaw, with a Hidden Cost

Santa Claus dropped off a new Husqvarna 120i battery-powered saw this year.
A 1980s Husqvarna chainsaw, rear, with a 2021 batttery-powered saw of similar size.

Santa Claus dropped off a new Husqvarna 120i battery-powered chain saw this year.
In back, that is a mid-1980s 49 cc “Rancher” saw, originally Dad’s firewood saw, but mine for some years now. It still works well. It has a 15-inch (38 cm) bar and weighs (without fuel) 13.2 lbs. (6 kg).

The battery-powered saw has a 14-inch (35 cm) bar and weighs 11 lbs. (5 kg). It is, however, longer overall because of the space needed for the battery. And lithium batteries require mining lithium by cutting down rain forests in the Philippines or wherever. Just search on "environmental cost of lithium mining" before you feel virtuous about foregoing gasoline.
It is supposed to run for 45 minutes or so before dying — I have not yet tested that part.
I cut up some small oak and pine for a test, no problem at all.
So this will be the saw for quick jobs, especially those close to the house, and it gives me a backup in case the gas-powered saw has a problem. And it is quiter, probably because the old saw's muffler is kind of rusted out.

Good Husqvarna quality — but not necessarily any more environmentally virtuous than burning gasoline. Californians, however, won't have any choice after 2024.  (I bet all the wildland firefighting sawyers wil hang onto their gas-powered saws as long as they can. Forty-five minutes is not very long on the fireline.)

December 12, 2018

An Unexpected Slot Canyon, Trail Art, and a Threat

It's better in the winter — this is early December
I was over in Fremont County, south of Cañon City, in an area where I used to wander some twenty years ago. Back then, a hike meant following deer trails, arroyos, or an occasional two-track road.

Now there is a trail network. That's a good thing, mostly.

Stumps + rusty iron = trail art
Winter is the time to be out in this country. The sun is bright, there is only a little ice in the shady spots, and the "piñon gnats" of summer — those little bugs that fly into your eyes, nose, and ears — are absent. So are rattlesnakes.

Layers of shale.
 I found this little slot canyon that I had not known about.
Tint the photo pink and say that you were in Utah.
Other people knew about it though, as their old graffiti attested.
1901 ??
I learned that some people believe there are dinosaur tracks in the canyon. I have seen tracks in places like the famous trackway out in the Purgatory Canyon. To me, the various dimples in the rocks looked more the result of erosion.
I don't think these are tracks from a prehistoric beach.
But there is always something. These trails are on BLM land, and a Canadian mining firm, Zephyr Minerals Ltd., wants to core drill part of the area and maybe mine it — or sell it to some outfit that would. So instead of year-around recreational area, there would be a big hole in the ground, maybe a cyanide-leaching pad or some crap like that.

There is a potential for polluting Grape Creek, which brings down the DeWeese-Dye Ditch & Reservoir Company's water from the Wet Mountain Valley to serve hundred of shareholders large and small on the south edge of Cañon City.

So another battle to be fought.

December 19, 2013

Blog Stew in Abandoned Houses

¶ Kind of a fairy-tale ambiance, if your idea of fairy tale runs to weasels, fog, and decay: "Forest Animals Living in Abandoned Houses." From Finland—where is the Southern Rockies version?

¶ A guide to telling what is eating your livestock.

¶ Colorado College professor Walt Hecox gets an environmental-policy award.

¶ Always topical: Survival Mom's guide to "50 Last-Minute Ways to Prepare for an Emergency." A lot of it is about water.

March 14, 2013

October 01, 2012

"Roadless Rule" Upheld

The Supreme Court has affirmed a lower court's decision in favor of the "so-called roadless rule, which prevents road construction and timber harvesting on 58.5 [some sources say 50] million acres of National Forest System lands."

According to the Salt Lake Tribune,
The state of Wyoming and the Colorado Mining Association said closing so much forest land to development has had serious consequences for residents of Western states and the logging, mining and drilling industries.
Supporters of the rule said the nation’s forests need protection from development to preserve pristine areas that provide wildlife and natural resource habitat for hunting, fishing and recreation.
I feel like this particular controversy has been ongoing through my entire adult life—and there is probably more to come.

Recycling is Good — Recycling is Bogus

Earlier this month I made the weekly drop-off at the recycling bins in town. While tossing the wine bottles into the "Clear and green glass" bin, I looked through the porthole and saw . . . a bunch of plastic water bottles. Like somebody could not read G-L-A-S-S.

But I'm sure that whoever did it felt virtuous about recycling, so virtuous that they did not have to even think about whether you can, in fact, recycle plastic bottles hereabouts. (You cannot, although I know that some places accept them.)

(When I taught a university composition class focused on environmental issues, early student writing would focus on recycling ("recycling is good") and riding bicycles — even though almost none of them rode a bicycle to school. But they knew how to recycle the platitudes of "green" virtue.)

When the paper-recycling stream is dirty, it raises costs at the mill — which in this case led to bankruptcy and thus further narrowing of the already narrow profit margin for recycling paper.

On the other hand, Denver Post reporter Aldo Svaldi does not explain how some recyclers can ask that shredded paper be bagged. Who removes the bags?

A university blogger (universities often try to be "green") explains the obvious:
But while higher recycling or diversion rates are generally better than low ones, that "conventional wisdom" kind of misses the point.  Recycling is good to the extent that it reduces the solid waste stream -- converts a portion of what otherwise would have been waste into a resource. 

But an individual or an institution can only reduce its solid waste output just so much without also reducing its solid stuff consumption.  Think about it -- however much stuff you buy, it all goes one of three places: waste, recycling, or storage.  For most of us, storage capacity is (in practical terms) fixed, so once that fills up the sum of waste out and recycling out is pretty much equal to the amount of stuff consumed.  We want to recycle as much of what we buy as possible, but we should want more to reduce the amount of stuff that we buy.  As individuals.  As institutions.
So, yes, recycling is good. It works well with metals (just ask the people stealing copper, brass, and bronze), pretty well with paper when the market is right . . . glass is still sort of iffy, I think. Plastic, I don't know, I wonder where all the bags dropped at the supermarket actually go.

But the real point is how much you buy (particularly packaging materials) in the first place.

August 19, 2011

Not Exactly the Civilian Conservation Corps: Politicians' Promised 'Green Jobs' Are Not Appearing

Certain politicians have been promising that "green jobs" will lead the way out of the recession.

So far it is not happening, not in California and not in Seattle, Washington.

But I have to wonder if the villain is energy conservation—that is hard to believe—or if it is clumsy, top-heavy government programs.
[Seattle Mayor Mike] McGinn had joined Vice President Joe Biden in the White House to make it. It came on the eve of Earth Day. It had heady goals: creating 2,000 living-wage jobs in Seattle and retrofitting 2,000 homes in poorer neighborhoods.

But more than a year later, Seattle's numbers are lackluster. As of last week, only three homes had been retrofitted and just 14 new jobs have emerged from the program. Many of the jobs are administrative, and not the entry-level pathways once dreamed of for low-income workers. Some people wonder if the original goals are now achievable.

"The jobs haven't surfaced yet," said Michael Woo, director of Got Green, a Seattle community organizing group focused on the environment and social justice.

"It's been a very slow and tedious process. It's almost painful, the number of meetings people have gone to. Those are the people who got jobs. There's been no real investment for the broader public."
People who go to meetings get jobs. People who might be climbing a ladder and turning a wrench don't get jobs.
In the Bay Area as in much of the country, the green economy is not proving to be the job-creation engine that many politicians envisioned. President Obama once pledged to create five million green jobs over 10 years. Gov. Jerry Brown promised 500,000 clean-technology jobs statewide by the end of the decade. But the results so far suggest such numbers are a pipe dream. 
The Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s, whose benefits we still reap in state and national parks, national forests, scenic parkways, etc., started—so I am told—with a one-page document. Maybe someone needs to dig it out of the federal archives.

Forest Army is a blog about the CCC—no recent posts, but good stuff in earlier posts.

June 03, 2011

Being a 'Good Environmentalist' in Kenya

American goes to work in Kenya and discovers that things are different there:
On the micro-level, environmentalism as an intentional set of individual choices is largely absent from Kenyan life; that is, choices made specifically because they are more ecologically sustainable. There is, of course, a class dynamic at play: as Maathai has pointed out, poorer people who must focus on their immediate needs are far less likely to consider choices where the environmental benefit is long-term. At the same time, many day-to-day Kenyan habits, like sharing clothing and buying seasonal food directly from the local market, are prevalent not because they are fashionable or because of any particular ecological concern, but because it is simply the most affordable and reasonable thing to do.

Still, from one who comes from an American sensibility of trying to integrate my eco-beliefs into my daily habits, adapting to life in Kenya means adapting to an environment where it is harder—for me, at least—to be "good.” There are, simply, different choices that are available.
It's an interesting read about what happens when one's assumptions bump into different realities.

January 27, 2010

New Sierra Club Director on Obama, etc.

Politico interviews Michael Bune, new director of the Sierra Club.

Brune made his name as executive director of the Rainforest Action Network — a scrappy corporate accountability group that stages headline-grabbing protests against major corporations that engage in logging, mountaintop coal mining and other practices that can be environmentally destructive.

Bune approves of some of the Obama administration's environmental policies, but not surprisingly sees room for improvement.

The administration has indeed done an excellent job in its first year promoting a wide range of environmental initiatives. At the same time, we also believe the administration hasn’t realized its full potential. It has made, specifically, clean energy a top priority and yet hasn’t really leaned into a whole series of initiatives that would make a bigger impact.

September 22, 2009

Blog Stew with Shades of Green

A few good reads from the blogroll:

September 18, 2009

Tracking Trash Electronically

When I taught nature writing, I used to have students take the "Where You At?" quiz originally published in CoEvolution Quarterly and reprinted in Stephanie Fox's Whatever Happened to Ecology?

Question 8 reads, "Where does your garbage ultimately go?"

Now researchers are using tracking-chip technology to answer that question on a bottle by paper cup by aluminum can level.

“There is this hidden world of trash, and there are ramifications to the choices that people make,” [Brett] Stav [of Seattle Public Utilities] said. “People just take their trash and put it on the curb and they forget about it and don’t think about all the time and energy and money put into disposing of it.”

June 25, 2009

Blog Stew with Lynx

• A list of nature books for young readers from the John Burroughs Association.

• Famous Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki suffers a public meltdown over British Columbia politics.

• The Colorado Division of Wildlife reports births of some second-generation lynx kittens:

"The discovery of kittens this year is extremely promising," said Tanya Shenk, DOW lynx field researcher. "The locations of the dens show that lynx are beginning to expand their ranges and are once again finding both food and habitat necessary for successful reproduction."

In addition, two dens housed kittens from Colorado-born parents--the first kittens documented where both parents are native to Colorado. Division biologists believe there may be additional dens and kittens not found during this year's survey.

• Turtles eating things. What it says.

January 17, 2009

News from the Recycling Front

Pushing some faux-green conspicuous consumption, Thursday's Denver Post "Room" section announced the Mode Premium All-In-One Recycling Center.

It reminds you when pick-up day is coming. The cheaper model is only $180.

But when it breaks, M. asks, can it be recycled too?

A follow-up to an earlier article on the economics of recycling: Apparently some glass recycles well.

Faux-Green Symbolism at the Inauguration

A New York Times article illustrates why it sometimes is hard to have warm feeling about national environmental organizations. Does it really matter if the carpet is recycled?

I suppose the influence must be exerted in the halls of power, but sheesh, Bo Derek, spokeswoman for the environment? She did hang with Tarzan, it's true.

December 08, 2008

Recycling Market Stalls with the Economy

The Associated Press reports that prices for recycled materials are plummeting.

Aluminum should do the best, since it is so energy-intensive to produce, but even that market has dropped:

Cardboard that sold for about $135 a ton in September is now going for $35 a ton. Plastic bottles have fallen from 25 cents to 2 cents a pound. Aluminum cans dropped nearly half to about 40 cents a pound, and scrap metal tumbled from $525 a gross ton to about $100.

Meanwhile, after thirty years of being told that "Recycling is Good," people and municipalities are still doing it. Sometimes they wind up "upside-down":

In Washington state, what was once a multimillion-dollar revenue source for the city of Seattle may become a liability next year as the city may have to start paying companies to take their materials.

Another recycler had a similar complaint for the New York Times:

“We’re warehousing it and warehousing it and warehousing it,” said Johnny Gold, senior vice president at the Newark Group, a company that has 13 recycling plants across the country. Mr. Gold said the industry had seen downturns before but not like this. “We never saw this coming.”

And when that happens, the cynics who just want to beat up on environmentalists go, "See, we told you! Nyah nyah nyah."

Municipal programs can't be switched off and on with the market, so I doubt that they will stop. As one commercial recycler said,

"It's going to be bleak for a while," he said. "We can just make our piles taller, and hopefully by spring, things will be a little better."

November 10, 2008

Blog Stew, Recycled

• Walking in the cities.

Walking can do that to you: take you to places you don't expect to go, people you don't expect to meet, entanglements you hadn't planned on.

• A Grand Junction paper reports that Sen. Ken Salazar does not wish to be Secretary of the Interior but predicts some changes in BLM's approach to oil and gas drilling. My pre-election thoughts about Obama and the West are here. (Via Coyote Gulch.)

Five myths about recycling, debunked by Popular Mechanics. Hat tip: Glenn Reynolds.)

• Michael Pollan (writing before the election) warns the president that food is a big, if somewhat occluded, issue for him to deal with.

November 06, 2008

Enviro Ballot Issues Do Poorly Nationwide

Wall Street Journal blogger Keith Johnson notes the poor showing for environmental initiatives in Tuesday's election.

I was surprised to come home Wednesday and discover that Colorado's ballot measure to raise severance taxes on oil and gas to something approaching Wyoming's rates (#58) was defeated. The industry-funded campaign falsely cast it as a direct tax at the gas pump, which is so wrong. But their ad guys realized that "it's a tax" was a scary line for a recession election.

Only in Missouri did a green-energy ballot initiative have any success. Proposition C set out to gradually increase the use of renewable energy to 15% by 2021, mandating slow-but-steady yearly increases. That’s the kind of measure that power companies and electricity grid operators like, because it gives them time to absorb the new power into the system without disruptions. Alone among the five environmental ballot initiatives, Proposition C had almost no opposition.

October 13, 2008

A Little Hypocrisy from the World Wildlife Federation?

I can see why this juxtaposition of World Wildlife Fund advocacy and high-priced recreation causes sarcastic reactions. James Rummel is astonished too.

If you had $65,000 lying around, would you go on the trip?

September 04, 2008

Candidates Still Ignore Western Public-Lands Issues

Ed Quillen's Denver Post column from August 19th, "What the West Wants to Know," is worth reading, if you missed it. He rightly asks,

The pundits who analyze such matters also predict that New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada and Oregon will all be competitive states that will get a lot of attention when the campaign heats up after Labor Day.

So why the sense of disappointment? Because I haven't heard much mention of "Western issues," even though we're supposed to be important players this time around.

Check out his questions for the candidates, about the Forest Service fire-fighting budget, for example.

As for me, I would like to ask Senator McCain, "Who is your pick for Interior Secretary?" Because if it's another James Watt, there is no chance you would get my vote.

And I would like to ask Senator Obama, "Without any help from your staff, could you name three agencies within the Department of the Interior?"

Governor Palin could answer that question, I'm sure -- of course, she is probably at odds with all of them.

Quillen is right: Neither McCain nor Obama has addressed these issues.

Senator McCain at least produced rare bipartisan unity in Colorado's senatorial delegration with his off-the-cuff remark about re-visiting the Colorado River Compact, causing both Ken Salazar and Wayne Allard to shout, "No way!"

But does Obama know what the Compact is and how it influences population patterns and agriculture in the Southwest and Southern California? I wonder.

Whoever wins, I see plenty of non-partisan issue-oriented activism ahead.

June 26, 2008

"Make It So!"

Organizers of the Democratic National Convention are finding it hard to have a "green convention," as measured by such important benchmarks as cotton fanny packs.

Apparently, says the Wall Street Journal, you can have union-made fanny packs or you can have organic-cotton fanny packs (from China?), but you can't have American-made organic-cotton union-made fanny packs.

Yet Hizzoner John Hickenlooper has so decreed.

Much of the hand-wringing can be blamed on Denver's Democratic mayor, John Hickenlooper, who challenged his party and his city to "make this the greenest convention in the history of the planet."

Convention organizers hired the first-ever Director of Greening, longtime environmental activist Andrea Robinson. Her response to the mayor's challenge: "That terrifies me!"

Given that political conventions are increasingly meaningless, maybe this guy has a good idea:

Watching the greening frenzy from afar, Fred L. Smith Jr., president of the libertarian Washington think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute, suggested the Democrats could really shrink their footprint by staging a virtual-reality convention: "Just have everyone stay at home with their laptops, sitting in their pajamas, interacting through their avatars."

Hat Tip: Rod Dreher (and Erin)