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Climate Justice and Environmentalism

Cars suck! But we can’t live without them.

Climate Justice and Environmentalism By December 7, 2015 Tags: , , , , , , , , 6 Comments
Even someone who thinks cars suck as much as I do still has to use them.

Even someone who thinks cars suck as much as I do still has to use them.

This post is part two of a series I’m doing on cars. Check out the first part in this series here.

I think we’ve established that cars are major pain in the ass, but then why are we so hooked on them? I said myself I could never fathom giving up a car, even though I hate them 90% of the time, so what gives?

There are a lot of reasons why it’s just not feasible for most of us to give up cars, even if we’d really like to. Most of the stuff that ties us to our cars are factors totally outside our control, so we can’t always address them. I can’t list all of them here, but I’ll do my best to touch on as many as I can.

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Get used to it: Terrorism and conflict in the age of climate change

Climate Justice and Environmentalism, Current Events, Social Justice By November 17, 2015 Tags: , , , , , , No Comments

jean-julliens-peace-for-paris-symbol-goes-viral

While I wrote this post the day after it happened, I decided to wait a while before publishing it, because I believe strongly that everyone, no matter what their privilege, deserves to have some time to just mourn a horrific event like this without it being picked apart to figure out the political implications, or used to make a point. It’s important to evaluate this stuff, but not more important than compassion in the face of the tragic loss of human life.

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What do you think we’re protesting about?

Activism, Climate Justice and Environmentalism By October 28, 2015 1 Comment

  
Recently I attended a People’s Climate Rally here in Denver. Because I run 350 Denver’s Instagram account, I took a bunch of pictures and posted them on Instagram, which also posted to my Twitter account. I got a lot of new followers that evening, but only one response. It was a comment from a Twitter user by the name of Renaud Gange, on a photo of a sign someone was holding that said “Stand up to big oil”.

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Cars suck! 11 Reasons why

Climate Justice and Environmentalism, Community By October 27, 2015 Tags: , , , , 5 Comments

This is part one in a series of posts about car culture and how we can make it work better for us.

I’m not writing this post with the intention of talking you into giving up your car. I understand that that’s not practical or feasible for many people, myself included. What I am making the case for is supporting changes to infrastructure, city planning, legislature, and cultural changes that makes choosing an alternate mode of transportation more practical, feasible, safe, and enjoyable more often. There will likely always be situations in which a car will be the best choice for transport, but if we can minimize those situations and increase the situations in which another mode of transport works better, we would all be happier and the environment and climate would greatly benefit at the same time.  So, with that in mind, I give you —

Reasons Why Cars Suck

1. Cars are really expensive

Cars cost a stupid amount of money. Mine cost 17 grand, and its not that great. You know what else I could do with 17 grand? About a million things I like more than my crappy ass hatchback. And my car was a cheap car! Some people spend as much money on a car as Jeremy makes in a year! For what? This will seem an even more poignant question as we continue with this list.

2. Cars are a shitty investment

Unlike other consumer goods that cost 10K +, cars are a really shitty investment. The longer you have it, the more it loses value. And if you bought your car new, it’s worst of all! It loses a shit ton of value the minute you drive it off the lot. In comparison, if I had bought 17K worth of jewelry (something I assure you I would enjoy more than a car, but still would never be frivolous enough to purchase), after 5 years of use, it would probably have increased in value. If I had put 17K down on a house, chances are I would at least get a return on my investment if I sold it. Hell, if I bought 17K of perishable food and let it rot it would be worth more than a car would be if I let it go. At least the rotten food becomes compost. You might as well be burning your money when you invest in a car.

3. Cars cost even more money to run.

After you’ve spent a shit ton of money you’ll never get back, you have to spend more money to fuel the damn thing. And you have no guarantee of what that fuel is going to cost long term. Maybe you can afford it now, maybe in five years it will be a terrible financial burden! Who knows? And you also have to buy insurance for your car, the rates of which are subject to change.

4. They also cost a fortune to maintain

You have to do certain things to keep your car in good repair, things that cost money and take time. You have to get oil changes, replace tires, replace break pads, fill washer fluid, etc. And still, even if you do everything right, eventually shits going to start breaking, and that stuff costs a fortune to maintain. I’m lucky. Jeremy and his dad are able to handle 90% of the problems our cars have encountered. That means we’re only paying for parts when it comes to maintenance and repair, and it’s still expensive! When you’re paying for labor too, that shit can break a person. All this for a thing that is doing nothing but losing value, every single day.

5. Cars contribute to sedentary lifestyles

Look, we all want to just sit sometimes, I get it. But too much sitting can increase your risk for a lot of health concerns, and we do a lot of sitting in cars. According to the U.S. Census Beurau the average commute time for people in the US is 25.4 minutes (of course this varies by specific location, but this cool tool helps you find out the averages where you live specifically), which means most people spend about an hour every day traveling to and from work. That’s five hours a week. To add insult to injury, on average in the US commute times are actually getting longer! And that’s just your commute to work. It doesn’t take into account all your trips to the grocery store, doctors office, taking kids to school, going to the movies, etc. Harvard has estimated that the average American spends 101 minutes a day driving, which adds up to over 11 hours sitting on our butts all week.

All of this maybe wouldn’t be so bad if driving were actually relaxing or fun, but in general, it’s not. Which brings us to our next point.

6. Driving is stressful

Even if you are the type of person who truly enjoys just driving, chances are that most of your driving is not exactly fun. Work commutes make up the most of our driving and are often spent in traffic jams. Errands make up a significant portion of the rest of our driving and rarely are those particularly pleasant either. And if you are a parent, chances are that 99% of your drives with your kids (which make up most of your non work commute drives) are hell on wheels.  Sure, driving may be fun in some rare examples, driving a collectors or sports car to or from something fun, going off roading, maybe a road trip, that’s about it.  And lets face it, how often do you get to do that?  Most of the time, driving is a shitty chore.

7.  Driving is an unproductive use of time

We’ve already established that driving takes up a lot of time and most of it sucks.  Imagine what else you could get done if you had that time back.  There are things you can do to make driving time somewhat more productive, I like to listen to audio books while driving, but for the most part it’s time where you’re pretty much doing nothing of value to you or anyone else.

8.  Driving is isolating

When you are driving, you are pretty sealed off from your community.  You are going too fast to interact with anyone or experience much of what is going on around you.  It’s kind of like going everywhere trapped in a bubble.

9.  Driving is dangerous

Statistically, driving is one of the most dangerous things you can do.  Motor vehicle accidents are the second highest cause of accidental injury deaths in the United States (just below accidental poisoning and just barely above all the various types of gun injuries) (accidents in general are the 4th highest cause of death in the US) a total of 33,804 deaths in 2013.  There’s only so much you can do to control how dangerous driving is, too.  Even if you are the best driver in the world, you can’t control all the other stupid drivers out there, or random acts of God that could render all your driving skills moot.  But chances are you are not the best driver in the world, you’re probably pretty good, but like most people, you make mistakes now and then.  Doing so puts not only yourself and other passengers in your car at risk, but is also dangerous for literally everyone else in the world.  Cars can be pretty dangerous weapons in the right circumstances (which is why we train, test, and license everyone before they are allowed to wield those weapons).

10.  Cars contribute to poor air quality

Accidents aren’t the only way cars are killing people.  Cars also contribute to poor air quality, something that the World Health Organization estimates contributes to 7 million premature deaths annually world wide, and also contributes to a number of chronic illnesses, like asthma.  And the thing about pollution from cars is that it’s kind of like peeing in a pool.  The pollution may be more concentrated where it’s released initially, but eventually it disperses equally everywhere.  So even if you’re doing your driving in Denver, you’re probably contributing a little bit to a kid’s asthma attack in Nepal.

11.  Cars contribute to climate change

Cars aren’t the number one cause of climate change, but they are in the top 5 (spoiler alert, they’re #2).  Estimates for the death toll of climate change vary between 250,000400,000, and 4 million people annually, but will likely increase as ocean levels rise.  The numbers are going to vary based on what criteria you use to define a climate change death (and they are probably all going to be included in the 7 million deaths listed in #10), but whatever the actual number is, there’s no disputing that the death toll of climate change is more than terrorism.  Climate change is also incredibly expensive, costing the US an estimated $100 billion.  Guess who’s pocket that comes out of?  If you pay taxes, it’s yours!  So there cars go, costing you more money again!


Clearly, I’m not a big fan of cars, but I also understand that given current conditions they are impossible to get rid of.  I can’t even think about getting rid of mine, and I would LOVE to be rid of that thing.  But even if we all agree cars are needed in the world we currently live in, I think we can also agree that they are kind of a crappy burden the vast majority of the time.  So what are the solutions to all of this?  I’d like to continue this dialog to find out!  Stay tuned for future posts on this subject.

Click here to see part two of this post, Cars suck! But we can’t live without them.

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More local fracking activism

Activism, Climate Justice and Environmentalism, Social Justice By September 17, 2015 Tags: , , , , , , , , No Comments

Last night I went to another meeting concerning the fracking super well that will in all likelihood be built a block away from my children’s future middle school. This meeting was hosted by Synergy Resources, the company that owns the mineral rights to that area and plans on drilling there, and was significantly more entertaining than the last one. I live tweeted it, but in case you missed that, here are the important takeaway points, as I see it.

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Environmentalism vs. NIMBYism

Activism, Climate Justice and Environmentalism, Social Justice By September 15, 2015 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , No Comments

The other night I went to a meeting hosted by Adams County Communities for Drilling Accountability Now, or ACCDAN. They were opposing the drilling of a new natural gas well in the area, a so called super well, which would be a large facility. Fracking contributes a great deal to climate change through the release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. There are also potentially health risks to people from drinking potentially contaminated drinking water and breathing contaminated air around the facility, but mostly my concern is the climate. I was excited to be able to do some activism in my own community, but I expected the turnout to be small. I live in a middle class community that is largely conservative, and conservatives tend to uphold the Drill Baby Drill mantra. 

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Colorado water law

Climate Justice and Environmentalism, Social Justice By September 4, 2015 No Comments

Image obtained at http://www.coloradowatertrust.org/what-can-i-do-with-my-water/

Imagine, for a minute, that you were born in a village by a river, in a beautiful fertile land. Your village has a rich culture that depends a great deal on agriculture, mostly fruit and vegetable farming with some animal husbandry. For centuries your village has lived this way peacefully, but as you grow older in this village, people are starting to notice that the river is running lower than it usually does, despite no real changes in weather or precipitation. This is starting to take its toll on the productivity of your villages fields.

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Weather Rant

Climate Justice and Environmentalism By February 21, 2015 Tags: , , , , , , No Comments

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Colorado weather forecasters are calling for somewhere in the neighborhood of 8″ this weekend, and everyone is flipping out. I don’t totally get it, having lived in this state almost 30 years (my parents took me to live in St. Louis for a few years as a small child, and I spent a couple years elsewhere in the Army, but other than that it’s all been here, and I’m third generation native), I remember a time when an 8″ accumulation was considered on the high side of modest snowfall. I remember having to drag my ass to middle school after the blizzard of ’97 with 3 feet of accumulated snow on the ground. Now when not even a foot is called for, everyone calls it #snowmageddon and clears out the grocery stores (I snapped the above photo of the line I had to wait in at the grocery store when I went to get diapers yesterday). We’ve gone soft in this state I’m afraid.

It probably shouldn’t be surprising, we just don’t get snows like we used to anymore. The last really big blizzard we got was in ’03, 4 – 6 feet of accumulation depending on where you were (it’s worth noting that the light rails were still running for the first few feet of that, I took one). That sort of snow wasn’t super common growing up here, but it did happen. My kids will probably never see snow like that. They get that on the east coast now. Everything is topsy turvy, it seems. When it’s been almost a decade since we last had a real blizzard, and in that time the main population growth has come from people moving here from places where, yeah, a few inches of snow is a disaster, then I guess it should be no surprise that we’ve gone a little soft. On top of that, I am pretty convinced we’ve cut funding for snow removal or something because I also remember driving in the blizzard of ’03, and there are times now that the roads are worse at 3″ of snow than they were then at 72″. The only explanation for that is that snow removal was better then than it is now (and maybe there were fewer idiots freaking out on the roads back then, I don’t know).

But hey, I don’t like cold and snow either, so I’m just as willing to stay the hell away from it as everyone else. Luckily this snow fall (sorry, this is not a blizzard, it’s not a blizzard until we’re measuring in feet, not inches) is happening on a weekend and most of us won’t have to go out in it. And considering how everyone was preparing to baton down the hatches like a fucking hurricane was coming yesterday, I doubt there will be much in the way of commerce going on so I hope the staff at retail establishments is minimal (having worked as a pizza delivery driver, however, I know those poor souls are doomed, I’ve delivered pizzas in far worse snow than this, in a Ford Focus, no less. No one cares what the roads are like when they want pizza delivered hot to their doorstep). You won’t find me out there making snow angels and building snow forts, no way. I hibernate when this shit falls. But I also get really pissed off when I hear people complaining about it.

1. This is nothing, so shut your wimpy hole. There are plenty of people in New England right now, not to mention those of us here who remember what real winter used to look like in Colorado, playing the worlds smallest violin for you and your forecasted eight inches.
2. What the hell is there to complain about? We’ve hardly gotten any cold and snow all winter. We had several weeks of 60 and 70 degree weather back there, for Christ’s sake! My tulips started growing!! It’s not like this is the hundredth snow of the season, it’s not even the tenth! This has been a fucking easy and gentle winter (like last winter, and the winter before that) in which cold and snow didn’t even really start until mid February (it used to be February and March were the snowiest months of winter, not the only months of winter), so please STFU.
3. We need snow and cold!!! We need it for our ecosystem to function properly. And not just our ecosystem, but the ecosystem of pretty much the entire mid to south west portion of North America (yes, the whole continent) depends in a large part on cold and snow in the Rocky Mountain region. People all over this continent face massive drought and ecological disaster when we in the Rocky Mountain corridor don’t get enough winter, which means fires, food shortages, and death. We know what it looks like when we don’t get enough winter. We have seen it, over the last decade. It is not pretty. It looks like ever more numerous and massive forest fires. It looks like whole forests wiped out by pine beetle kill. It looks like increased pesticide usage, crop failures, and drought. It looks like rising rates of insect borne diseases. We have seen it, and I guess I kind of feel like, since we know what not enough winter looks like, we should be grateful for what little winter we are still getting. We should be down on our knees praising the heavens for whatever amount of snow we’ve been blessed with, which is, I’m sorry, not nearly enough this year. I’m not saying we should all be skipping outside singing songs from Frozen, but at the very least, could we refrain from whining about how unfair it is that we should have to suffer through a tiny fraction of a season we actually desperately need for our ecosystem to function properly? How out of touch could we possibly be?

In my frustration, I posted the following rant on Facebook.

I’m going to be that asshole again and say it, this snow is good. We need snow. We need it for agriculture, fire protection, drinking water, and for our ecosystems not to get all fucked up. And not just here, in Colorado. Thirteen states, several tribal nations, and many parts of Mexico are to some degree dependent on the snowfall we get here in Colorado for their water supply, including California, you know, THE STATE THAT MOST OF THE NATION’S FOOD COMES FROM. Food needs water to grow, yo. And it’s not just water we need, we also need cold temperatures. Cold temperatures kill off insect larva so that there are fewer insects in the summer time. Insects like pine beetles, Mosquitos, and various pests that kill our crops. Warmer winters mean greater pesticide usage, more dead forests, and more West Nile and Lyme disease, just to name a few consequences of not having enough cold and snow. If you like eating, not having insect borne diseases, and not breathing ash all summer, you should be grateful for this snow. I don’t like snow and cold any more than anyone else, but our ecosystem has it for a reason. So maybe instead of bitching that our weather is finally supplying us and much of the western part of North America with this much needed weather, get comfy in your home, drink some hot chocolate, spend time with your loved ones, and enjoy getting a hibernation break. If you have to go out in this for work, bitch about your cruel corporate overlords who force that upon you, not the weather. And the next time it’s unseasonably warm in the winter, instead of skipping around chirping about how beautiful it is, get pissed, because it is not normal and it is not okay and something can and should be done about it. Take it from this third generation native, February and March are normally our snowiest months, not our only snowy months. At the very least, if you can’t handle one or two 8″ snowfalls at the very end of what used to be winter, be grateful you didn’t live here back when we used to get real winters, and no one freaked out unless we were calling for more than 12″. This state has gone soft.

(Note; we did get what I would call a medium blizzard in ’07. I forgot about that, which is weird because the National Guard was called up and I was a part of it. Granted, we were called up to help cattle ranchers in Lamar, primarily. Denver was expected to for the most part handle its own shit during that, but it was a blizzard. Still, it’s been 8 years since then, almost a decade, and I don’t think we’ve had anything I’d consider to be a blizzard since then. We used to get at least one blizzard a year. I’d say we need at least 2 feet of accumulation from a single storm to call it a blizzard.)

(Another note; if you are going to order pizza in this kind of weather, for the love of humanity and all things good and holy, please turn on your porch lights, shovel your driveway and sidewalks, and tip appropriately. That’s at least 20% or $5, whichever is more. If delivery to your door in a snow storm is not worth that, get off your lazy ass and you drive to pick up your freaking pizza. All delivery places also offer carry out. I have seen people seriously injured on icy sidewalks and had their cars totaled in the effort to get you a lousy pizza during a snow storm. Show some gratitude. No one owes you a pizza.)

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How to make friends outside of school

Activism, Community By February 4, 2015 Tags: , , , , , , No Comments
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This is what socializing via Facebook is like.

There is a common complaint amongst 20 and 30 something moms in my circles. “How do I make friends?” They ask. “How do you meet and connect with people now that we’re no longer in high school / college?” Many of us (and probably not just moms) feel a lack of connection, companionship, and intimacy in our lives. The online interest groups we join to discuss our hobbies are a poor replacement for actual community with real, human interaction. We know this, and yet we feel utterly ignorant to what we can do about it. We have no idea how to meet and interact with real people in real life. I have a few ideas though.

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Communicating environmentalist issues

Climate Justice and Environmentalism, Current Events By January 5, 2015 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , 4 Comments

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Last semester in my horticulture class discussion about the Keystone XL pipeline came up. One student said he hoped that construction on it would start soon, because it would create jobs and lower oil prices. He said he understood that environmentalists were afraid of oil spills or whatever, but that the risk of that was pretty low and the benefits were worth it.

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