Tuesday, March 27, 2012

How babies trump economic growth

Less than an hour old.

Babies are wonderful. They start out tiny, then they grow and grow and grow.
They keep putting on weight as they grow into full size adults. Then they stop growing.
We don't want to grow forever. That's pretty clear. The weight loss industry is proof of that. We want to have healthy, fit bodies that can support our pursuit of happiness.
The Federal Government last week downgraded it's projections for economic growth for the next few years. As far as the economy is concerned, it's heresy to question the wisdom of continuous exponential growth.
Consider it questioned. Why is growth so sacred?
Growth is the only way to pay interest on debt, which is spiralling out of control. Growth involves increasing our use of natural resources. Those resources are being used faster than they are being replenished.
Taken to its logical conclusion, we will use up the limited resources, collapsing the web of life on which we rely, and doom ourselves to a global crash that will live forever in the geological record.
Why? Because we've become slaves to the system we created. The majority of your mortgage payments are interest. Most of your energy decisions are already made far into the future. 
Options: Create a scenario in which we remove our limits. This involves massive space exploration, terraforming Mars at the very least, and escaping our cradle planet for the planets around neighbouring stars. Yes, farfetched.
Or we learn to live within our limits, accept that we can't grow forever, and instead strive to create the equivalent of a stable climax ecosystem. A planetary economy that does not grow, but rather endures forever. Allowing us to live within our limits as the global conscience and consciousness of the earth.
The system is our system. The crises are our crises. We can change the system. We can fix this, or we can stay the course. Not both.
We don't need growth to realize our potential as a species. We need to exist symbiotically with the geography of our prosperity, taking and giving back as we balance the needs of all life. We'll get our happiness back.
If your baby's leg was broken or it had a fever, you would do what you could to get it fixed. The same thing goes for our wetlands, our atmosphere and our ecosystems. They're all extensions of ourselves. The baby's going to need her ecosystems just like she's going to need her legs and her lungs. Let's do what we can to fix them.
Originally published October 29, 2011
You might also like:

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A weigh to reduce garbage

Residential garbage makes up a third of the waste that we currently send to landfills. By aligning our incentives and weighing our garbage, we can reduce the amount of waste we send to the landfill and save money.
In a perfect world we wouldn't need landfill anything, and we can get most of the way there. Let's look at the situation.
First, the big picture: World population is increasing, while resources are decreasing. The price of raw materials is only going to go up.
If you're looking for raw materials, the waste stream is a great place to find them, often at a discount. When you factor in the fact that you don't have to pay ~$100 per tonne to landfill them, recycling becomes even more of a bargain.
Municipalities pay for waste in tonnes, because it's easy to measure. Technology has come far enough that with a little equipment on the garbage truck, it could weigh the container before and after emptying and charge residents by weight. Less garbage means a smaller bill.
This system would reward people who don't make much garbage and encourage people who have lots of garbage to reduce their waste.
The other big way to significantly reduce residential contributions to landfill is to divert organics. About half of residential garbage is organic, split evenly between yard waste and kitchen organics.
Composting these costs about half as much per tonne as collecting and landfilling yard waste, and a valuable product is obtained at the end. Nutrients stay in the nutrient cycle, rather than being buried in the landfill.
A collection system that would weigh and compost the organics at half the cost of the garbage would encourage people to separate the two, while not penalizing the people who use backyard composters and leave their grass clippings on their lawn.
Keeping the organics separate and out of the landfills would feed the soil, which feeds the plants, which feed the people again. Maintaining those nutrients in the cycle is good for our tummies and our pocketbooks.
It's certainly a shift in the way we approach things, but a focus on waste reduction can come along with cost reductions, especially as landfill tipping fees continue to rise.
There are certainly some transition costs associated with changing status quo, but whether the motivation is personal cost savings or the environmental factors, maybe we can have our cake and eat it too.
p.s. In case you're wondering, the other two categories that make up the rest are ICI (Institutional, Commercial, Industrial) at ~40% and Construction & Demolition waste at ~27% of the waste stream.
You might also like:
Garbage Day. (This is where I recycled today's picture from.)
Waste Reduction: Garbage and Time
Compost: Nature's Recycle Depot

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Your time is limited, don't waste it.

When great people die before their time, it helps remind us all our time is limited, and we mourn both the loss of a hero and the loss of what they still had to contribute.
Entertainers and leaders are easiest to identify in this category. People like John Lennon (40), Jack Layton (61), John F Kennedy (46), Elvis Presley (42), Martin Luther King(39), Buddy Holly (22), James Dean (24), Princess Diana (36), Janis Joplin (27), Heath Ledger (28) all had more to contribute.
It's not often we see billionaire CEOs this broadly mourned, but Apple's founder and CEO Steve Jobs (who died Oct 5 at age 56) was no ordinary entrepreneur.
Part visionary, part showman, part perfectionist, part CEO, part Santa Claus for grown-ups, Steve set the direction for technology, bringing style, user experience, and performance to everything he touched.
Apple Computer made technology user friendly, and brought two major revolutions in user interface to the market. The first was the mouse and graphical user interface, which Jobs saw at Xerox, and the second is the touchscreen, currently appearing on iPhones and iPads everywhere.
Jobs was an artist, obsessed with the details. Between Pixar and Apple, both have become wildly successful and built legions of devoted fans. He predicted the future not with a crystal ball, but by inventing it and bringing us along for the ride. Fans looked forward to product announcements like they looked forward to Christmas.
He nailed the big picture too: In a commencement address at Stanford in 2005 he recognized the usefulness of death as life's change agent. "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. … And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become."
You can find the full video on Youtube. It's worth watching, and can set the tone for an amazing life.
Follow your intuition. Take action. Don't get trapped in the safety of the tried and tired. Whether or not you spend most of your time within arms reach of something Jobs had a hand in designing, his recommendations for living fully are spot on.
Steve Jobs certainly had more to contribute, and we will miss his insanely great influence on the direction of technology. Thanks Steve.
Originally published October 15, 2011.
You might also like: