Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Incentives for going Green?

From Tree Hugger:

Toronto calls itself a green city, and its wholly owned power distribution subsidiary Toronto Hydro has been handing out the CFL's and advertising conservation like mad. It has been so successful that the electricity loads in the city fell by 178.5 million kilowatt hours — enough to power 178,000 homes for a month — between spring 2005 and the end of 2006. Oops, that means a $10.4 million drop in revenue, leading to a 6.3% increase in hydro rates to cover it, eating up almost every penny of the savings. This is such an incentive to turn out the lights, telling everyone to spend money to conserve and then penalizing them for doing it. Only in Green Toronto. ::CBC No, wait, there is the green province of Ontario, encouraging people to invest in green technology. Max Woschnigg did, building a big 80Kw turbine and saving $ 3,600 a year in power, while selling excess back to the grid. He just had his property reassessed for tax purposes and guess what, it is worth more with the turbine and his taxes just went up about $ 3,600. Another great incentive from the Green Government of Ontario. ::Tyler Hamilton in the Star And we wonder why people aren't being serious about conservation.

Defaulting to Green

Yesterday I started a series of posts related to creating our sustainable future. It's the folks at World Changing doing the writing and thinking.

Here is strategy number 1:

"1) Defaulting to green: When relatively equal alternatives exist, routinely choose the greener one, even if its impact is only minimally better (for instance, choose recycled toilet paper whenever possible). This may not produce massive change, but it helps solidify the gains of greener products. We ought to be working to put obviously dumb products -- like bleached, pulped-forest toilet paper or toxic chemical household cleaning solutions -- out of business. That'd be a pretty clear market signal."

My additional thoughts:
In the past, major environmental change occurred when major corporations were convinced to move from Styrofoam to paper, to turn off their PCs on the weekend, mainly because of their large size and footprint. Now, we need individual consumers to begin making their own lifestyle changes, as well as providing the politicians with the political cover they need to create new laws, tax incentives and breaks. Low hanging fruit can taste as good as the fruit at the top of the tree.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Buy our way to a better future?

The folks over at WorldChanging are blogging about how to create the sustainable future we must have. Over the next several days, I thought I'd paste in some of their ideas for further thought. Here's the starter. If you'd like to see the whole article at once, you can find it here.

You cannot buy a better future, at least not the sort of bright green future we talk about here at Worldchanging. That sort of future -- a sustainable one, a future that itself has a future -- is not available for purchase: It doesn't yet exist. You can't find it on shelves, and you can't even order it up custom, no matter how much money you're willing to spend.

You can be heroic in your efforts, but at the moment it's essentially impossible to live a North American consumer lifestyle and do no harm. You can buy only organic food, recycled products, and natural fibers and you won't get there. You can even trade your car for a hybrid, harvest your rainwater and only run your CFLs off your backyard wind turbine, and you still won't get there, both because the waste associated with consumerism is so massive and because the systems outside your direct control upon which you depend -- from your local roads to your nation's army to the design of the assembly lines used to build your car, rain barrel and windmill -- are still profoundly unsustainable.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Tom Swift

Growing up, one of my favorite series of books to read was about Tom Swift, and his friends. Tom always invented cool gadgets that would get him out of scrapes, was always chasing Communist-sounding bad guys, was hyper patriotic, didn't see much need for girls ("Bye Tom, oh please be careful," they were known to murmur), while they stayed at home.

Nevertheless, they were great fun, and launched me on my science fiction reading interest. I love the internet, for I recently came across a great essay on Tom Swift. Enjoy.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Micro Lending

Micro Lending is high up in the news rotations these days, especially after the Grameen Bank founder, Muhammad Yunus, received the Nobel Peace Prize this past year.

So what if we want to learn more about micro credit or lend money to people in developing countries, or people in the United States, who are starting their own businesses?

Here's an article on Slate that details one person's investigation of micro lending companies.

One thing I found interesting was the article's assertion that the best way to give is to give consistently to a few organizations, it creates a larger "bang for the buck."

What's this got to do with poverty? While government has an important role to create level playing fields so that the many have an equal chance to make it, citizens also have a role. What if we could divert some of the billions that we Americans spend on coffee, makeup or other "essentials" into anti-poverty programs that work; such as micro credit? What would that do to reduce poverty?

Unemployment and Homeownership

In the spirit of Freakeconomics research, (i.e. research that leads to some interesting thinking), here's a study about the relationship between home ownership and structural unemployment. The more mobile you are (no mortgage), the more willing you are to move to new places, and take new jobs, you are less likely to be unemployed.

From the article:

English economist Andrew Oswald has shown that across European countries, and across U.S. states, high levels of home ownership are correlated with high levels of unemployment. More conventional factors such as generous welfare benefits or high levels of unionization don't explain unemployment nearly as well as the tendency to own houses. Renting your home and staying flexible do wonders for your chances of always finding an interesting job to do.

The complete article is here:

Friday, March 09, 2007

Falwell Knew Of Gingrich Affair

9:37 PM (38 minutes ago)
Falwell Knew Of Gingrich Affair Before Clinton Impeachment
from Huffington Post by The Huffington Post

In an interview with Focus on the Family founder James Dobson that aired Friday, Gingrich admitted to the affair in 1998. In 2000, he divorced his second wife, Marianne, after his attorneys acknowledged his relationship with Callista Bisek, a former congressional aide now his wife.

"He has admitted his moral shortcomings to me, as well, in private conversations," Falwell wrote in a weekly newsletter sent Friday to members of the Moral Majority Coalition and The Liberty Alliance. "And he has also told me that he has, in recent years, come to grips with his personal failures and sought God's forgiveness."

How much longer will we have to wait before the hypocrisy of some on the religious right is seen for what it truly is: not piety but a power grab. Funny how God and the right easily forgive Republicans: Newt, Rush, etc., but Democrats are bound for hell...

I saw the "it depends on what is is" parsing going on today: it was okay for a Speaker of the House (2nd in line to the Presidency) to have an affair, it's not okay for the President. Oh, what's that? Newt was a Republican?

Gingrich tells Christian group of affair - Yahoo! News

Gingrich tells Christian group of affair - Yahoo! News

Sigh. What more needs to be said? Perhaps something about planks and specks?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

A good listen

Need something to listen to? Check out the 12 Byzantine Rulers podcast.

History Lecturer Lars Brownworth gives 13 short (15 min or less) lectures on 12 key emperors of the Byzantine empire. Dull you say? Not at all!

Mr. Brownworth is very engaging, and provides key information as well as anecdotes that bring these ancient figures to life. (Loved the anecdote about the emperor Diocletian retiring to grow cabbages). Highly recommended.

Poverty work

In my classes, we often ask "Why are people poor?" "Why does poverty exist?" The issue is fairly complex, and one of the most interesting groups talking the problem in developing countries is the Millenium Promise Project. Their goal is to "eliminate extreme poverty by 2025."

From their website: "Our flagship initiative, the Millennium Villages, now operating in 78 villages across 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, takes a comprehensive approach to addressing extreme poverty. By combining the best scientific and local knowledge, Millennium Villages address all the major problems simultaneously -- hunger, disease, inadequate education, lack of safe drinking water, and absence of essential infrastructure -- to assist communities on their way to self-sustainable development."

Here's an excerpt from a hopeful email I recently received:

"Koraro, Ethiopia has seen dramatic and hope-inspiring changes since the community began working with Millennium Villages in February 2005. More than 150 new homes dot a landscape that was once barren. Crops like maize and sorghum now grow where only splintered rocks and dusty earth once stood. And parents are now deciding that it makes more sense to send their kids to school than to keep them home to work.

One of the first efforts of the project was to give farmers improved seeds and fertilizer. This together with new farming techniques and the hard work of the villagers has produced crop yields four times as large as when the project began. During the last planting season, in July 2006, many villagers decided to diversify their fields to include oranges, bananas, coffee, coriander and ginger—crops that will improve nutrition in the village and command a higher price at local markets."

For more information on this project, and how to end poverty, see Jeffrey Sach's book: The End of Poverty
Monty Python's Dead Parrot Sketch performed in a unique way!

For complete information on this, read the 419 Eater Blog for all the information on this scamming of Nigerian scammers.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Iraqi Blogs

Seems like I found this collection of Iraqi blogs in an airplane magazine back in January. One way to connect the dots is to seek out different experiences and viewpoints. I offer these blogs, without endorsing any particular viewpoint:

Iraq the Model

Neurotic Iraqi Wife

A Family in Baghdad

A Star from Mosul

Here's a blog on introducing Islam:

Introducing Islam