Friday, May 25, 2007

An Interview with Kim Stanley Robinson

I've recommended Kim Stanley Robinson's trilogy about climate change (which begins with Forty Signs of Rain) for some time now. He graciously agreed to do an interview for me, which is posted at He's got some thoughtful answers, and I highly recommend a visit to read them.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Through the Eyes of a Child

We pulled a tree out of the front yard last Sunday. It was a little tree - a cypress that we'd moved from one place to another when we bought the house, and which was getting too big in the new place, too. A kind of normal gardening chore during spring clean-up. We were already researching what kind of bush we might replace it with.

Well, just as I was pulling the tree out of the ground, our other car drove up, including the ten-year-old, who caught me in the act. She wailed. I immediately became a murderer. Silly me, I suggested that it was like weeding, which we all do all the time. Little did I know that a tree is, on no case, a weed (I recall weeding my farm of alders to keep pasture and to leave room for young cedars when I lived a more rural life).

Anyway, I was in trouble for the rest of the evening. Not only did I pull the tree out but I also lopped it into pieces small enough to put into the recycle bin and I didn't do any kind of ceremony to lament its passing.

But it made me remember one night in California, where I grew up, when I sat up by a favorite stand of eucalyptus trees and watched the cars go by on the interstate below. This was when the orange groves were being yielded to housing tracts at the rate of a few acres a day and drives down familiar roads lined with unfamiliar sights happened regularly. I was sitting under the eucalyptus, breathing in their sandy scent, crying for the orange groves.

Maybe we should all feel the Earth the way kids do. I know I haven't cried for trees in a long time. Maybe it's time I tried that again. After all, when I print a ream of pretty, glossy, unrecycled paper, I'm using the life of a tree.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Seattle Times Challenge Continues: Our Report

The Seattle Times Climate Challenge encouragement for all of Puget Sound to do better. Popular columnist Nicole Brodeur reported out today. She's starting where we started - way too much carbon usage.
We're still there. I'd have to say we're energy pigs. We own two cars and drive them both most days. We travel. We have more computers than people and tons of devices.
We're changing, but slowly.
Things we've done across the last year include taking the bus to work at least once a week every week we can (we often have to go to more than one place across a work day), switching to an environmentally friendly dry-cleaner, installing fluorescent bulbs in some lights, buying terrapasses to offset airline travel, and trying to plan trips to reduce driving. We bought new energy efficient windows (we needed windows anyway). We did do a few things for Earth Day, too. We signed up for the green power program at PSE which lets us pay more for power and supports PSE as they buy green power or invest in building green power plants (kind of like a more focused terrapass). We bought a new washer and dryer and they coincidentally got delivered on Earth Day. We chose the Whirlpool Duet, and then had to paint the laundry room since an empty room demands paint. We picked an eco friendly paint from Benjamin Moore. $56 a gallon.
We've been doing good. But not good enough.
The paint is symbolic for our choices (a gallon of bad-for-the-world paint would be half that price or less). We've been throwing money at the problem. That's good , and something we can do to a limited extent, although we've got to finish paying for the windows before we do anything else big. It sort of feels like middle-class reaction.
We might have to actually do something harder soon to keep getting better.