The People’s Climate March

For those of you who weren’t aware (gosh I hope you were aware if you’re reading this blog!), the People’s Climate March took place in NYC yesterday in response to a summit going on at the UN about the same subject. The march, apparently, was 300,000+ strong. Amazing. Wish I could have been there.

From here:

From here:

From here:

From here:

(Apparently the above cyclists were a different group, riding in honor of Trayvon Martin.)

From here:

I wanted to go so bad, in fact, that I decided to partake in my own one-person demonstration here in Pasadena in light of LA’s solidarity march getting cancelled for some reason.

Here’s what I wrote on my tumblr:

I stood on a street corner in Old Town Pasadena yesterday holding up this sign for 45 minutes. This part of town is PACKED on the weekends, as it’s basically one giant fancy outdoor mall.

I wound up interacting, I guess, with a total of 6 people, though it seemed like a good number of folks managed to at least look at the sign. First person was a woman who was from NYC, thanking me for being out there and marveling at the intense activism over there, wishing that there was more of that here. (There is, but it’s much more labor-oriented.) Second person was a homeless man who asked me if I was taking money. I told him no, and he laughed and said that I was a special kind of crazy. He proceeded to flirt with me and tell me about how he’d visited NYC in a vision. The third person was a fat old white man who stopped and read the sign, then walked away, laughing. The foruth was a young girl who was waiting to cross the street with her mom, who read it, and who I heard ask “mom, what’s—” as soon as she thought she was out of earshot.

The fifth was a man who talked to me for probably 15 minutes about what I felt the alternative to capitalism was. He was genuinely curious, and made sure to let me know he wasn’t trying to be argumentative several times. He told me that he traveled through Eastern Europe back in the late 70’s and talked to a lot of folks living under communism, and that made him seriously doubt his socialist stance at the time. (This is interesting to me because the Hungarians I’ve talked to all said that things were better back then.) I told him that I don’t endorse the state or state power, and I definitely don’t endorse Stalinism or Leninism; rather, what I want is a paradigm shift and all I feel I can do right now is to give people a glimpse into an alternative that they might not have known to exist. I conduct my life and relationships, to the best of my ability, in the same way that I want society to function in the future. The rest I can’t say for sure.

The sixth was a kid who’d moved to Pasadena from Brooklyn to go to music school. He liked my sign, but he was more interested in knowing where the cheap eats were and where he might get some pot. I was able to help him with the former.

All in all, a great experience. I think I’ll be doing this sort of thing more often. It’s exhilarating to put yourself out there so honestly like that, you know? And I think it’s really that raw honesty that makes passer-by uncomfortable, no matter what kind of person is holding the sign. Ask for money with a GoFundMe, and you’ll get it. Ask for money on a street corner with a piece of cardboard and you’ll get folks holding their breath and looking at their feet as they pass you.

All in all, it was a tremendous moment for modern environmentalism, but it remains to be seen whether we can maintain enough momentum to keep the heat on politicians and business. I’m both optimistic and very doubtful that this will bring about any of the needed changes, especially as the march itself was sponsored by 350.org, an organization that makes no mention of capitalism anywhere on it’s site, instead placing the blame for our predicament almost squarely on the fossil fuel industry.

This is their “solution”:

We have the solutions to solve the climate crisis. Businesses and innovators around the world have developed renewable energy technologies, including everything from huge solar mirrors, new efficient wind turbines, and jet fuel made from rapidly growing algae.

Cities and communities across the planet are leading the fight against climate change, from keeping waste out of landfills to stop methane emissions to making government buildings more efficient.

Independent studies show that in the United States a sustained investment of public and private dollars in clean energy would generate 1.7 million new jobs in industries like construction for making homes and office buildings more efficient with new windows, lighting and cooling systems — and in manufacturing of solar panels, wind turbines, and electric vehicles.

Clean, renewable energy is a bright spot in the global economy. This industry is a success story that has resulted in job creation, scientific innovation, cleaner air, and a stronger manufacturing sector. When we invest in clean energy, we invest in a safer future, and we keep our money and jobs in our communities rather than padding the pockets of Big Oil.

Disappointing, to say the least.  At least, it seemed, many of the individual protesters had the right idea.

Self-Repair is Radical

This was a poster that was hanging up at a local electronics repair joint here in Vancouver. (It recently was voted best computer repair shop in the city!)

I really am digging the last point, though: if you can’t fix it, you don’t own it. This is the way I’ve felt about computers my whole life. I grew up around tech junkies who have been building their own computers for probably longer than I’ve been alive. It’s also why I’ve never felt comfortable with the idea of owning an Apple product: the warranty is void if you so much as take a peek inside! A computer that I build with my own hands and know-how, that I maintain and care for, and use day in and day out, is a special thing. It’s the new animal husbandry, in a way. That’s not to say that I shouldn’t take it to a professional when I need to–even the best horse whisperer needs the help of a vet sometimes–but I should know what’s what, the mechanics of things gone wrong, and where exactly my expertise ends. Consumerism wants the inner-workings of everything we buy, of the world we live in, to be opaque. Opacity makes things easier to commodify.

Anyways, today is my last day in Vancouver… it’s back to Los Angeles for now. More sustainability and zero waste talk to follow~

Introduction to Cornucopianism and Malthusianism

Cornucopianism is the belief that, basically, technology that we haven’t invented yet will solve all of our problems with pesky things like scarcity and physics, and that the more people to invent and use all of that new technology, the better. Maltusianism is its philosophical opposite, claiming that population growth is bad, and that if you have children you should probably feel bad. I’m not particularly fond of either of these schools of thought, but I’ll explain why later.

From Wikipedia:

A cornucopian is a futurist who believes that continued progress and provision of material items for mankind can be met by similarly continued advances in technology. Fundamentally they believe that there is enough matter and energy on the Earth to provide for the ever-rising population of the world.

[...]

Stereotypically, a cornucopian is someone who posits that there are few intractable natural limits to growth and believes the world can provide a practically limitless abundance of natural resources. The label ‘cornucopian’ is rarely self-applied, and is most commonly used derogatorily by those who believe that the target is overly optimistic about the resources that will be available in the future.

One common example of this labeling is by those who are skeptical of the view that technology can solve, or overcome, the problem of an exponentially-increasing human population living off a finite base of natural resources. So-called cornucopians might counter that human population growth has slowed dramatically, and not only is currently growing at a linear rate, but is projected to peak and start declining later this century.

From SimplyEducate.me:

The Cornucopians are those who believe that advances in technology can take care of society’s needs. An increase in population is viewed positively because with more population comes more brains to generate ideas. These ideas generate technology in the form of modern gadgets, procedures, systems, among others that help address the problems associated with human sustenance and improve people’s quality of life.

People became more specialized in their work thus become more efficient and more able to respond to problems that arise in human affairs. Food production increased greatly as a result of modern, more efficient food production systems.  Despite increased per capita consumption, virtually enough could be produced from the bounties of the earth.

On Malthusianism, the same site has this to say:

The Malthusians are adherents of Thomas Malthus, an influential British scholar who popularized the pessimistic view of population increase founded on the assumption that with more population, more mouths will have to be fed, thus more resources to support that need. The food required to fill this need will not be enough as food production could not keep pace with population increase. This is popularly known as the Malthusian Theory.

Uncontrolled population growth inexorably results to environmental destruction. The ultimate scenario of the Malthusian theory would be wars, famine, resource depletion, among others as a result of competition for dwindling natural resources.

More or less simple, no?

Here’s what the RationalWiki has to say about some of the more extreme manifestations of both:

Crank ideas tend to accumulate the farther out to either side one travels along the Cornucopian-Malthusian continuum.

Denial of various environmental issues such as global warming, ozone depletion, acid rain, etc. can be systematically found on the Cornucopian side. Wishful thinking like abiotic oil is common among the crankier types.

On the Malthusian side, hard green ideologies, the hard forms of the Gaia hypothesis, and associated nature woo become more common. Predictions of imminent “doom ‘n gloom” have been described as “disasterbation.”[19] Also on the extreme Malthusian side can be found “lifeboat ethics,” coined by Garrett Hardin, which holds that the poor nations are already too overpopulated to help, and likens the rich nations to lifeboats that will sink if they share their resources and remain afloat if they don’t. This view inverts the conventional wisdom by claiming that it is immoral to give aid to the starving, because to do so means the rich and poor nations will both starve. The broader influence of Hardin’s line of thought has led to an enthusiasm for immigration restriction in some quarters of the environmental movement, which is highly controversial.

Y’see where I’m coming from now?

For the most part, I subscribe to neither camp, though if pushed I will admit to agreeing with the weakest principles of Malthusianism; i.e. that population growth and resource depletion always results in more problems than solutions. Historically, though, Malthusianism has tended to have rather classist and racist implications. Malthus himself, I believe, even argued that it was morally wrong for the poor to even have children and start families, and that it would be better for the poor to just… die out. (Not that it’s possible for a capitalist society to even exist without the low and working classes.) I do not, however, believe that an enormous population is a problem; rather, I firmly believe it’s a symptom of other, deeper issues.

Cornucopianism, on the other hand, seems to most often manifest as blind optimism in my experience. It’s a form of scientism, I feel– one of the definitions of which refers to the excessive deference to scientific theory, empirical knowledge, and just plain reductionist thinking in all spheres of human understanding. This is almost a kind of religious belief, though. That instead of a prophet or deity, it is “science” and “technology” that will save us, even if current levels of technology and understanding have no feasible answers. The fact that there is only a finite amount of resources that we can expend in these efforts to secure more resources doesn’t seem to be something that occurs to them. Someone like my dad, for instance, seems to insist that we will have enough oil to get us to the next phase of energy technology, whatever and whenever that may be, completely ignoring that oil reserves aren’t going to wait until we don’t need them anymore before they decide to stop existing. (For the record, he isn’t wholly convinced of climate change either and spent many years going from one anti-AGW theory to the next. Eventually he ran out of explanations that haven’t been debunked and sat himself firmly in the “undecided” camp.)

At any rate, these are important schools of thought to be familiar with as we go out into the wide, messy world of environmentalism, conservationism, and economic justice.

Destroy the IMF and World Bank

An old film, but just as relevant now as it ever was.

I feel that this is something that needs repeating as often as possible: environmental justice and economic justice are one and the same.

We absolutely cannot achieve a sustainable and environmentally-harmonious society, anywhere in the world, under the system that birthed these two criminal organizations. Lifestyle choices, by their very nature, will never usher in the changes that we need. We cannot buy our way to sustainability (who can afford to make green purchasing decisions anyway? only a tiny percentage of the world’s population is who). We cannot rely on charity to bring developing countries out of poverty when systems like these are allowed to exist. So long as there is a “bottom line” that is measured in dollars rather than the well-being of people, there will never be justice, and our planet is doomed. That’s it. That’s all there is to it.

Zero Waste Vancouver

Yesterday was our day on the town– on Saturday we kept things low-key, deciding not to spend any money. (That made dinner a little difficult as I thought I’d get to go to the store!)

Here’s a free library in the neighborhood where my husband lives:

I actually found a decent read in there! The Value of Nothing, by Raj Patel; a hardback, and in great condition to boot. We left some comics in its place.

Sunday, though, was our big day. We were headed to the Mount Pleasant area, which apparently has morphed into an amazing neighborhood since the last time he’d been there. It was a mishmash of vintage clothing and furniture stores, pubs, record stores, hip restaurants, tiny co-op grocery stores, and the occasional high-end joint selling $30 light bulbs. Really, we were in that neighborhood for 2 reasons: 1. an indie comic book store called Lucky’s (the place was literally about the size of the hubs’ bedroom, and yet they have bands play there every now and then??), and 2. a store called the Soap Dispensary. Now let me tell you about the Soap Dispensary.

I found out about this place via blog-hopping, somehow managing to find my way to a zero waste/minimalist Vancouverite’s blog who had a link to it.

dispensers

This place is the shit. They have every household and personal care product you could ever possibly need in a sustainable, non-toxic, plastic-free form. (Well, mostly plastic-free.)

I damn-near started crying when I went in there. They had everything. And only until I started poking around in all the little nooks and crannies of the shelves did I really see just how indispensable this store will be for me once I move.

I’d finally gotten a chance to show hubs the No Impact Man documentary, seeing as how his reading to-do list was miles long and it’d be futile to try and get him to read the book. The Beavans are a bit obnoxious, I will be the first to admit, but Colin at least seems to have a small grasp of class issues which is vitally important to any meaningful environmental activism. The one important thing I believe he does say in the film, though, is that individual action is important, so long as it breeds awareness and real action. The film, too, I think is good because it presents the issue in a non-threatening way. Even my grandmother of all people was interested in watching it. That alone tells me a lot. So I figured that it was at the very least compelling.

And it was. A lot of concerns have been bubbling up in the both of us for some years now, and while I discovered the movement first, showing him this film yesterday seemed to really push him over the edge. So yep, the two of us had a field day at the Soap Dispensary.

Hubs got a chance to finally try out my safety razor and fell in love even with a 3+ week old blade that I use almost every day. So of course he spent about 20 minutes looking at the shaving supplies, and came home with a fancy one and a pack of blades. He also got a few small planks of cedar for the closet, some charcoal deodorizers, a dish scrubby, and some non-toxic bug traps. (He’s the neat freak out of the two of us… and also has an extremely sharp nose.)

I, on the other hand, came home with two bottles of oil, some cotton bulk/produce bags (they’re somehow impossible to find in stores?), a hand broom, and a glass spray bottle to fill with vinegar-based all-purpose cleaner and leave for him to use while I’m gone.

I left a simple recipe on there for him so he could refill it when it’s empty. I also made up a bottle of bleach alternative for him too, and put it in a glass milk bottle. When it’s time for me to leave in another 2 weeks, the oil will go in the freezer most likely, and the bags and broom will come back to California with me to be used the hell out of.

They had so much more than that, though, as the pictures show ( which are courtesy of their site and facebook; most of them don’t do the store any justice as they have much, much more now than they did when most of them were taken). Brooms and brushes of all sorts, mason jars and knitted cozies, soap nuts by the pound, powdered clays and charcoal, diatomaceous earth, salts and sodas, tooth powder in a number of different flavors, and even small sets of legos made from wood. I can’t wait to go back.

Here’s their website.

We came across a few other stores of note as we walked too. Here’s one I just about got lost in:

This joint, Urban Source, was basically set up like a teeny tiny warehouse of stuff. Packed to the hilt with random bits and bobs like fabric scraps, tiny test tubes, old film and slides, boxes, string, wood veneer, feathers, and a million other things. What impresses me most about this store is that so much of it would otherwise be considered junk and end up in the trash. But here it is, to be turned into scrapbooks, sculptures, and whatever else you might envision for it.

From their site:

We source out diverse and unusual manufacturing discards that are ideal for all kinds of creative projects. To eliminate over-packaging and handling, most materials are stocked in large barrels and sold in bulk.

Afterward, we headed to our final destination, Queen Elizabeth Park. We took a rest on some shaded grass, let the sweat dry (it was hot, and we did about 30 blocks of walking), and headed into the park to look around and take in the views.

All in all, a great day. Now to figure out where to get my growler filled around here…

The Hardest Thing

So I was in Portland for a wedding last weekend, meeting some of the bride’s family (my cousin) for the first time. They flew all the way from New Zealand, and were amazing company.

My dad and I got into a conversation with the bride’s father and stepmother about climate change at some point (there was a very reasonable segue somewhere along the line, it wasn’t out of nowhere), and my pop found himself quickly cornered by 3 leftists. I almost felt bad for him.

Almost.

My father has always been in the habit of withholding empathy from… most people. The poor, the disillusioned, the sick, the addicted, the oppressed. If only they’d just pull themselves up by their bootstraps and whatnot. He’s a firm believer that people often get just what they deserve, which explains why he mostly believes that rich people are inherently good and the poor are undeserving. Staying with him and his second wife every other weekend as a kid can be summed up with this picture:

Anyways, I’ve learned how to not let every conversation I have with him devolve into mud-slinging. Especially when it comes to things that I’m passionate about, like eradicating patriarcho-capitalist oppression, putting an end to the military-industrial complex, and saving the planet. (He would prefer things stayed just as they are.) So typically, when I try and engage him on environmental issues, I tend to just stick to hard facts and let him “deduce” a solution. I’ve foud his reaction to be rather flabbergasting, though. For instance, when I tell him that the disposable culture that’s been manufactured for us is bad because of X, Y, and Z, then what he’ll often do is nod in agreement, say something should probably be done, but ultimately react as if I’m speaking in the abstract, as though plastic and pollution doesn’t actually impact his day-to-day life.

So when we were talking with the Kiwis last Thursday, I tried a new tactic: try and get him to indulge a thought experiment where he lived in a world where these things did have a marked and drastic impact on his way of life (not that it doesn’t already). And it was like pulling teeth!

“Imagine you lived in a world where the sea levels rose by 100 feet because of rising global temperatures. What would you do?”

“I’d go carry on. We’d find a way.”

“Ok but I’m talking about you and your life personally. Downtown Oceanside would disappear under the rising sea levels. The freeway would be submerged; the only road connecting the Northern San Diego County to Orange County would be gone, unless you wanted to go 20 miles inland. What would happen to your business? Your house? Where would you get groceries?”

“I’d sell the house and we’d move inland and start over. Business would just have to move inland too.”

“But dad, no one would buy your house.”

He was started to get agitated. “We’d walk away from it then.”

“You’d walk away from all of that equity then, ok. How would you buy a new house without the money from selling the old one? And your business?”

We’d figure it out. And the real estate market wouldn’t disappear just because of the sea level. I’d still have work.”

“So you think that people in LA, despite pretty much every coastal zip code south of Malibu being wiped off the map, would just go on with their lives as usual, selling and buying property, refinancing, completely oblivious that half of the residents of LA County were suddenly displaced? The docks and airport and some of the most important rail corridors on the entire west coast were gone? You honestly think that the market would just trudge along like nothing was happening?”

It was at this point, I guess, that I was beginning to ask too much of him. He was getting mad, for some reason. The very notion of such a scenario upset him, and it seemed like he was interpreting me as being belligerent instead of speaking about very real circumstances that are within the realm of possibility so long as we continue to do nothing.

It was a very emotionally-fueled, irrational, as he would probably call it, reaction, and that’s what interests me. His reaction, I think, is probably the reaction most people would give if pushed far enough. Either deep down, they truly don’t care (anti-environmentalism; it’s a real thing) or they are terrified but are more terrified to show it. I think my pop probably feels both. The capitalist perpetual growth machine has done a fine job of convincing him that environmental matters really are simply abstract and academic at the end of the day, because to acknowledge them as real future threats to him, and threats to many poorer people right now the world over, is to look death in the face.

On another occasion over the weekend we were talking about the drought situation in California and the sheer lunacy of HOA-mandated lawns in so many parts of So Cal. I was telling him a funny story about the gardener at my condo complex who wants to work with me on building a secret composting bin so that we don’t have to get approval from the board (because fuck that noise; they already gave a neighbor of mine shit for trying to start a free library near the pool); he came up to me before I left to let me know that he hadn’t forgotten about the project, but funnily enough he’s already starting to get pangs of guilt every time he throws food scraps away. My dad, ever the robotically literal guy he is, didn’t find it funny. “Guilt is such a waste of time,” he declared. “Of course it is,” I replied. “It’s only meaningful so long as it motivates real action. Simply feeling it accomplishes nothing.” I proceeded to ask him if he ever felt guilty doing any of the ecologically destructive things that he does. “Do I feel guilty every time I water the lawn? No, of course not.” I asked him if he felt anything, and he said no.

He doesn’t feel anything.

That, right there, is the crux of the issue, isn’t it?

How do we get people to care? How do we get people to act and stand up to the capitalist interests that see our planet as nothing but an exploitable resource and a waste sink? How do we get people to start seeing the planet as a member of our collective family again? Enough for it to be worth laying down our lives for?

The three feelings that are the most destructive to the movement are guilt, self-satisfaction, and nothing.

How do we get people angry?

Imitation Crab Is Safe to Eat… I’m Pretty Sure

No, I haven’t been able to kick the sushi habit completely; though I no longer order any kind of nigiri or fish donburi. Unfortunately (?) I realized that you’d have to pry the California rolls out of my cold, dead hands… after all, it was one of the first kinds of sushi I fell in love with as a kid. (Not the first, though– the real gateway drug was a friend’s homemade gimbap, a similar Korean dish, that she’d often bring to school. As an aside, gimbap doesn’t often feature fish at all, instead using fillings like egg, pickled vegetables, cooked meats, etc.)

Anyways, as you probably know, the main ingredient in California rolls is the imitation crab. So I got to wondering–and worrying about–what kinds of fish and seafood go into the making of imitation crab, called kamikama in Japan. I did a search, expecting the worst, but found some very heartening information instead. Apparently kamikama is made pretty exclusively from Alaska Pollock, which is not only sustainably fished, but is a very labor-aware industry overall.

From Seafood Health Facts:

The Alaskan Pollock fishery is highly regulated and falls under the jurisdiction of the federal government through the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Northern Pacific Fishery Management Council. Annual catch limits and seasons are set for Pollock fisheries. Limits are also set for bycatch species that may be caught unintentionally when fishing for Pollock. Many Pollock fishermen have formed cooperatives to more efficiently utilize the fishery and limit bycatch of unintended fish species. The eastern Bering Sea and Aleutian Island Pollock stock were certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council in 2005. According to NOAA FishWatch, no overfishing is occurring on Pollock stocks.

Greenpeace released an article back in ’08, claiming that the industry was on the verge of collapse with stocks cut in half at the time. But if the NOAA is to be trusted, then things have seen major reforms since then. Which gives me some small hope for the fishing industry as a whole, I suppose.

I guess for now, consider imitation crab, and Alaska Pollock, safe to eat.

New Seasons Market

Sorry, but there’s really no point to this post whatsoever other than to show off some bulk food porn. I’m in Portland for a wedding this weekend, and managed to get in a trip to this store right out of the airport. It was so beautiful. *A*

Gosh golly I wish I lived here.

Oh, and that last photo is me getting a nice, shiny new growler filled with a coffee milk stout courtesy of one of the kindly associates. I’m on my way up to Vancouver, BC after this trip, and East Van is seeing a surge in the popularity of the growler fill station, so I figured that I’d need to be prepared for that also!

So, stay tuned, I guess, because I plan on visiting a few zero waste-friendly stores while I’m there and will be taking pictures.