The snow just keeps on coming. In front of my house, a lone pair of tire tracks fades with each falling inch. Yet, under the drifts at the end of the driveway, is a plastic bag with today’s Washington Post. It’s as if it’s 1999, when everyone got the paper and the day couldn’t start unless you devoured those words along with your toast and coffee. But the bag is skinny now and fewer subscribers are on the street, yet someone still managed to bring my paper in the worst December storm on record.
The front page tells of another endangered habit. People complain about empty mailboxes and no festive cards to make their day. But others are glad to be done with the tradition. They love using Facebook because they can send quick, paperless greetings and a steady supply of family snapshots all year long.
I, too, am toying with discarding the card idea. In the few days our grown-up kids were together this summer, no one thought to take a perfect picture. But we’ll hang in for another year and send a generic photo. Whatever goes in the mail, I know I can depend on a slew of hard-working humans to get it where it needs to go.
Amazon depends on humans, too. I never thought much about that until I stumbled on a link to their holiday help-wanted ad. Amazon hires walk 10 to 15 miles a day and “repetitively lift, bend, stoop and squat”. I suddenly realized, when I order on Amazon, a great effort will be made on my behalf – not by robots or machines – but by living, breathing people. Continue reading →
I was walking with my friend when she told me her dog, Rita, was having a terrible time with allergies. Nothing—from pricey prescription dog food to medicated soap—made any difference. As she was talking, I thought of a Green Living Meetup I had just attended, the topic: “Ways of Reducing Chemicals in Your Home”. Something I learned there just might help.
I had never been to a Meetup before. When I arrived a little early on that rainy Saturday afternoon, the room in the public library was already half full of a diverse assortment of adults, plus a few babies. Our smiling hosts, Sara and Todd, sat on a table up front next to an array of boxes, bottles and bags.
Sara spoke first, explaining how the human body fights off infection and rids itself of harmful chemicals. Toxins are carried off in secretions such as sweat and mucus, or filtered by the kidneys, liver and other organs. Allergies and chemical sensitivity happen, she claimed, when those mechanisms are overwhelmed. The wafts from a fresh coat of paint or new printer could be the last straw to break the back of the body’s natural defenses.
Promising he’d have good news later, Todd launched into a litany of scary environmental data. A long-range study by the EPA detected 900 chemicals in the air of the average government office building. Indoor air can be ten times more polluted than the air outdoors. Houses, especially new ones, can harbor a host of noxious compounds. Throat-cancer-causing formaldehyde, for instance, may hide in your shampoo, your tissues, your carpet, and the no-iron clothes you wear. Continue reading →
The simple act of taking the bus can make a big difference. Last year, because Americans took 10.7 million trips on public transit, 4 billion gallons of gasoline were not used. Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas pollution in this country – and cars are the biggest contributor. But somehow, as much as we hate traffic, we tend to forget the mighty job a bus can do to get cars off the road. We also overlook that, to a kid, a bus can be a ticket to personal freedom. Knowing how to take transit teaches children to be durable humans.
For Blog Action Day, 2009, I offer the story of how my fifteen year old son and his friend learned the transit lesson. I won’t reprint the whole story which appears in the Washington Post, but suffice it to say the kids and their moms got an education—thanks to technology—on how to research and ride the bus. The families saved both time and money. But for the kids, there was more. As I wrote, “For one thing, they got exercise. Walking that mile to and from the bus happens to be the daily dose of activity recommended for teens by the American Heart Association. Plus, getting outside in the fresh air is an antidote for what author Richard Louv terms “nature deficit disorder.” Louv, in his book “Last Child in the Woods”, also argues that the leash we have on our kids is way too tight. When we allow them to be more self-reliant and self-propelled, they gain pride and satisfaction.”
I am proud there are two more people on the planet who know a viable way to get around without a car.
So, next time you don’t think you can stand another minute behind the wheel, think about whether you—or someone you have to drive—could possibly take the bus.
Let’s have a show of hands. How many of you try to eat locally-grown food? OK – that’s a pretty good number. How many keep your money in local banks? Hmmm – not too many. Now – whose 401K is invested in local companies? Anybody? …Anybody?
You must be like the folks in northern Virginia who invited economist/lawyer/wonk/author Michael Shuman to come and speak. Shuman asked them the same questions and they answered the same way – and they call their group “Sustainable Reston”!
Well, it’s time to wake up and smell the money.
Shuman says dollars showered on local business grow the local economy. It’s like water runoff. If rain falls on lawns and gardens, it soaks into the ground and is sucked up by thirsty plants. But the rain that falls on hard surfaces like sidewalks and streets, runs down the drain, is shunted away, and the plants don’t stand a chance. Continue reading →
We might wonder how one of the world’s leading biologists, E. O. Wilson, could say that video games are the future of education. But that he did, today on NPR’s Morning Edition. His blunt prediction: “We’re going through a rapid transition now. We’re about to leave print and textbooks behind.”
It was an extraordinary segment. Renowned electronic game designer, Will Wright, was the guest interviewer. He chose to talk to Wilson, whom Wright says has been a major influence on his career as designer of such blockbusters as Sim City and the evolution-depicting Spore. Wilson believes that video games can actually recreate teaching methods that adults used on kids at the dawn of humankind. “They went with adults and they learned everything they needed to learn by participating in the process,” Wilson said. Virtual reality games, Wilson says, can do the same thing. In Wilson’s vision, if a teacher wants to visit a tundra, the class can go to a tundra. A rainforest can be explored, canopy to floor, without one bug bite. Continue reading →