Monthly Archives: May 2006

Eco Savvy in Lightbulbs

Dino wandered in with this to say:

So when I was in college I was with a woman named Jackie. She was the bravest woman I have ever known, no one has ever worked as hard as I have seen her work during our college life together.

Well anyway, during college we made a pact that we would live like college students for ten years after college ended. I thought it was a great idea. Small cars, no kids, apartments, and whatever.

I think we’re a little past ten, though honestly I have no idea, the last years since college have been a blur.

There are few habits that have carried over since college, and my time with that girl. The Neti Pot, the Jansport Supersac, chick peas, AVP volleyball, and sneaking into Summerfest.

Well this weekend I did something interesting. I took the lightbulbs out of my house. I replaced them with the swirly other kind. I have used them in the lights in the driveway, or the garage. And honestly they have never been anything but great. Once they have gone in I have not changed any of them.

You know the thing is I don’t know that much about lightbulbs, or cleaning solutions, or toilets. I do research about this stuff, and I find out if it is interesting or valuable to make a change.

I was wondering what you have done to make your homes better stewards of the planet?

Does anyone have a compost pile? What the hell do you keep your kitchen stuff in? Coffee cans? How do you avoid the stink?

What about cleaning the oven? I cannot imaging that the stuff you spray in there and walk away from is a good thing. Suddenly all the burnt cheese from frozen pizzas is just gone? Where does it go…into mini cancers in my lungs I assume.

Where do you go on Wausau for inspiration? I have grown so tired of this cynicism…this sort of BS exterior…what is just fun? Who are the positive people…I like the people at the Janke Book Store…they stock the Parker Jotter, and I think I might be the only one buying them. Those ladies are cool.

Al at Et Al’s is a cool dude. He has a good dog too.

But who else?

Where do you eat, what just jumps up and down on your tongue?

It’s all rambling at this point isn’t it? A man in the town he lives in, crying out for something to turn his head, and pull him into something. Something that saves the cynicism, the grouchiness.

So are the lightbulbs a good idea?


Spotted on CTH K

So, what are we going to eat when all the farms have been “conserved” into Yuppietowns full of McMansions with two SUVs in every driveway? I am pretty cynical, but in my wildest dreams I couldn’t come up with something as cynical as this.

Sign O' the Times

Eat Locally Huh?

Dino found this and sent it along:

Hey cats and kittens…lots of talk about local this and local that…a timely article showed up in my RSS Feed today. So I thought I would pass it along. I have always been interested in things like my carbon footprint and what not.

So off to the races we go.

It's Not Enough to Be a Vegetarian
By Christina Waters, AlterNet
Posted on May 23, 2006, Printed on May 27, 2006

There wasn't much wiggle room left formagazine5.jpg the casual carnivore when über-ethicist Peter Singer got finished with us in 1973. That's when his uncompromising assault on trans-species suffering, Animal Liberation, had millions of readers trading in their T-bones for tofu.

But now even the moral high ground of a vegetarian lifestyle isn't good enough. Singer's new book, The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter argues that, all things considered, only a vegan lifestyle will do. The reasons go far beyond Singer's past exposés of animal abuse and factory farming. Tracking the source of food served at three very different American tables, Singer and his co-author Jim Mason uncover more than they could swallow.

How we eat can influence the very health of the planet even more than switching to hybrid cars or solar heating. The hidden costs of even the most prudent food choices — costs in terms of social injustice, poverty, waste and pollution, as well as animal cruelty make us all collaborators in environmental destruction. Especially Americans, who consume one quarter of the world's fossil fuels, and whose food industry "seeks to keep Americans in the dark."

Looking for transparency in how our food is produced, Singer visited fields, farms, organic facilities and fisheries guided by the food-buying habits of three families — one embedded in the "standard American diet" of Wal-Mart and fast food, another of "conscientious omnivores" and finally a family of vegans who consume no animal products at all. It wasn't hard to predict that the family shopping for bargains would be chastized for their convenience-based gastronomy. But when Singer sourced the politically correct fare bought by the conscientious consumers, the results were sobering. Looking at farms behind the "organic" and "certified humane" label, Singer did not like what he saw. Even farm-raised seafood smelled fishy.

Much of what Singer points out in the book flies in the face of the reigning environmental folklore. The "buy locally" mantra, for example. It is not necessarily the case that local products are less costly — if by cost you include the environmental costs of carbon dioxide emissions, or social justice issues such as how much more your dollar could buy in a village in Sri Lanka versus what it might mean to an upscale Palo Alto community. Just as "cheaper" isn't always cheap, so "organic" isn't always good enough. At least if you're willing to do the homework Singer did for his book, uncovering the high fuel costs involved in growing organic tomatoes out of season. The "buy local" choice makes ethical sense, it seems, only when paired with "seasonal" consciousness. Out-of-season goods, even organic ones, always bear a high environmental price tag.

Singer's maddeningly strict utilitarianism has made him famous. It can also make him tedious. Sidestepping the tricky issue of intrinsic rights, Singer bases his ethical considerations on the issue of calculating interests. Since animals (including us) have interests, such as avoidance of suffering, then those interests must be respected, as long as doing so does not entail greater suffering on our part. Poverty, hunger, abuse — these all cause suffering which those in affluent cultures might easily prevent. That is, if we're willing to make some sacrifices. And under Singer's moral microscope, we are obligated to make those sacrifices. He even makes the bold and sure-to-be-mocked suggestion of reviving the religious prohibition against gluttony. This idea, at once silly and sensible, is pure Singer.

In "The Way We Eat," Singer carefully addresses the issue of making enlightened food choices, of buying and consuming only those animal products whose provenance is well-known and well-documented, for example Niman Ranch products. Even in these cases, Singer warns that we cannot know exactly how far the concepts of "free range" or "humanely slaughtered" might be stretched. Time constraints on production line workers have a way of trumping careful handling. So to be safe, Singer says (over and over), we should simply not consume any animal products, except — he admits with a certain sangfroid — delicacies without central nervous systems, like mussels, clams and scallops.

His new book is rife with disturbing facts, never mind that much recent literature (Eric Schlosser's "Fast Food Nation" and Marion Nestle's classic "Food Politics") has amply prepared the inquiring reader for the horrors of modern chicken production and cattle slaughter. More disturbing than simply the graphic accounts of turkey insemination and poultry abuse that pepper "The Way We Eat," are Singer's revelations about hidden eco-costs.

If we carefully choose only farmed salmon, we're supporting the huge wild harvests needed to feed the farmed fish. Even humanely raised animals are land hogs, taking up space that might be better used to grow plant food for humans and repopulate wild species. Here's another eco-bomb — it makes more ethical sense to buy rice from Bangladesh than rice grown in the Sacramento Valley. Singer has plenty of reasons, but the focus is on social justice. Money going to developing countries — especially on purchases of fair trade items — makes a much larger impact than money reinvested in an affluent American community.

In ethical terms, the consumer literally gets more moral bang for the buck. Add to that the fuel savings by shipping from Southeast Asia rather than trucking from Sacramento, and purchases of goods a half a world away become environmental "bargains." Cheap food is only apparently cheap. Others — workers, animals, endangered species — are paying for our "out of sight, out of mind" consumption style.

Singer himself sets a brisk moral pace, donating 20 percent of his income each year to UNICEF and Oxfam. (It would be interesting to calculate how many fossil-fuel guzzling flights Singer takes per year between his joint teaching appointments at Princeton and his native Melbourne, Australia.) Still, I can't help feeling that he is asking us to be better than we actually can be. Given the facts — and he certainly supplies them — we are called upon to avoid eating seafood, eggs, meat, milk — any animal products — period.

So suspicious is he of even the most scrupulous producers that no evidence could convince him to rethink his conclusions. Like many who have devoted a life's work in support of a philosophical stance, Singer has never met a fact that could stand up to his argumentation. Or so it seems. If I grew it and killed it myself, it would still be wrong, says Singer, because actually eating it could set the wrong example for observers. How are they to know how humanely this little filet mignon was dispatched? Short of veganhood, we have no excuses.

And no more patience! How much should we agonize over the ethical price tag of free-range chicken, for chrissakes? Where do we stop the calculation of suffering? With pigs? Or scallops? What about the bugs I crush walking through my own organic garden? Numbed into ethical exhaustion, I came away from Singer's message, bloodied but unbowed. Living a moral life is arduous. The hidden price of the vegan lifestyle is, for me, too high in time and anxiety. So I will continue to eat seasonal, organic produce, cage-free eggs, free-range chicken and wild salmon. But Singer's book did affect me. I've increased my contributions to Heifer International.

Christina Waters, Ph.D., writes about food and wine, and teaches environmental ethics at UC Santa Cruz.

Memorial Day

Marcus sent this shot of the Marine Colorguard in Marathon Park.

Marine Colorguard Marathon Park

Spotted Downtown

Partially in response to Dino's query, here is a shot of the "completed" First Wausau Tower. This the sign at the building site, with a view of downtown looking east. So this is the building face toward the river. My only question is why, in taking all the trouble to "photoshop" in the drawing of the building, why didn't they "photoshop" out all the construction equipment? 🙂

Artist Rendering of the Dudley Building

Wausau Master Plan 2000

Perhaps the “Friday Dudley” prompted Marcus to send this along:

Does anyone remember 2000 when the Wausau Master Plan was introduced by Mayor Lawrence & Company?

Might I call your attention to page 19, section F – The Riverfront “Superblock” District. From the looks of recent growth, the spirit of the plan is mostly in effect. Except for two things, the new parking structure and The River Place Building.

This $22M open-air auto storage is mostly empty I might add, but a future referendum may be on the ballot soon for a future expansion of two more levels of empty parking. [nice!] This was suggested as a compromise, since the city was going to have to fork over another $2M for the preparation of the top floor to build condos (as was previously planned).

The second part I need to point out is the recommendation of Madison’s City Vision: The site abutting 1st Street, north of the Library, should be kept in architectual scale with the river, and its ultimate use should be riverfront oriented. See page 44 for a rendered drawing.

Okay, so someone goofed on this one. While I’m all for downtown development – even “sacrificing” a project I was involved in (Rockwater) to make room, I do think someone needs to remind city officials that they already spent quite a bit of money to get a recommendation for future growth. That plan entailed a “River Front” development philosophy.

Meanwhile Wausau Benefits has made a wonderful investment with their newest office construction (Ironically, naming the building River Place) So, why all the fuss? It’s to point out that Wausau is allowing it to happen again. The Dudley Brothers Building.

Nothing against the Dudleys, who are certainly one of a handful of innovative thinkers in the city, it’s just counterintuitive to block the River Front. Again.

The powers at City Hall just don’t get this. Here they have this unique River Front, and no one is capitalizing on it! At least, not in a community focused manner. Outside of a few Kayak races, what is drawing people to the river?

Perhaps I’m underestimating the new Dudley Brothers Building, but how hard would it be to create the first floor in such a way as to “launch” a string of new businesses along the water front? Perhaps eateries and a small marina for boaters to float into? This would have a profound effect on the downtown area, wouldn’t it? Promoting the waterfront as a gathering place?

This, in my opinion, would be of the best interest to the community.

Request for Info

Dino posted this in response to Marcus’s post, so I moved it down underneath where it makes more sense — ed.

So I am all for helping Marcus out…so I would like to see the plans for the Dudley building. Are they posted somewhere the public can see them?

As far as the river goes…I know the spacing between the Dudley and the river lends itself to structure. So I think some stuff is bound to be there.