OK.   Someone said that people like titles like this…those that involve numbers.   Was it the 10 easy steps that yanked you in, or the thing about the bra?   Hmmm?

In my last post, I commented on our growing and somewhat obscene dependency on technology.  However, as I’ve thought on this topic, it has lead me to consider the positives of technology, especially our ability these days to social network and use the web to gain useful knowledge.   There does seem to me to be a growing social consciousness and interconnectedness.  Sarah’s last post is just one example of drawing together useful suggestions to better our environment and then sharing it with others via the web.   Who knows what might spark positive change?  In fact, I was looking at our recent stats for the Year of Austere, and over the last week alone we have had visitors from 59 different countries.   59!  How cool is that?   To be able to share our thoughts and experiences with fellow humans from, for example, Aruba to Argentina to Algeria, and all continents, just blows my mind.   To all our friends out there I say this – thank God English is the universal tongue.   As much as I would love to return the favour and scan websites written in Guyanese or Lithuanian, I must apologize for my very limited linguistic capacity.   I’ve been learning French since I was 9, and I still fumble my way through “How are you”.

Not to be outdone by my list-savvy wife, I would like to share here a few tidbits I myself have come up with during my recent internet wanderings.   Some of these were interesting environmental facts, others downright good suggestions, and some others – well, let’s just say, they are downright stupid.   Like swinging your foot below a bumper to open a trunk.   Honestly, I liked BMW’s until I read that nonsense.

OK.  Here goes…

  • Sarah commented on Canadians being some of the worst consumers.   We should be ashamed by this.   I was therefore surprised to see Vancouver listed as one of the top 10 greenest cities on the planet.   Yup, number 5 to be precise.   Now, this ranking was based on elements such as use of renewable power (Vancouver is 90% renewable), presence of green spaces and clean waterways, and CO2 emissions.   The list is as follows from first to tenth:  Reykjavik, Iceland (certainly helps having volcanic fissures as a heat source); Portland, USA; Curitiba, Brazil; Malmoe, Sweden; Vancouver: Copenhagen, Denmark; London, England; San Franciso, USA; Bahia de Caraquez, Equador; and Sydney, Australia.  Some of these cities really put on their thinking caps for this stuff.   For example, Curitiba employs lawn-eating sheep to keep things in order (no comment, though, on the carbon footprint of what comes out the other end, and whether this was even calculated – this may have knocked them down to 20th spot).
  • I came across this organization called The Freecycle Network, which states the following as its mission “All about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills”.  Sound great to me!   There are apparently over 5000 groups with over 8 million members worldwide.   I took a look and found one right here in Surrey.  If anyone out there is looking to get rid of such diverse stuff as gardening stones, gardening tools, nail polish, sofas and ice cream pails (?), there’s someone out there right now just waiting to hear from YOU!  Hey, Sarah, don’t we have some crap out there in our intergalactic garage we can contribute to this cause?
  • Backyard environmentalism.  I love this term.  In essence, this suggests that we can all make a difference right in our own gardens.  Take a lawn for example.   Did you know that an average lawn creates enough oxygen for a family of four?   That the cooling effect of 8 average lawns can equal 70 tons of air conditioning, and grasses in the US each year capture up to 12 million tons of dust and dirt (I sneezed just reading that).   As long as we’re not dumping heaps of chemicals on our lawns to sustain them, it would appear that they are a positive influence on our environment.  Some suggestions to care for your lawn: 1) water in the morning when its cooler and the winds are light to reduce evaporation; 2) keep your grass at 3 inches height, as this is optimal for its health; 3) leave your clippings and let this nourish your lawn rather than chemicals; 4) plant a tree or two – every tree counts!
  • In 2005, in his book “Last Child in the Woods”, Richard Louv coined the term “Nature Deficit Disorder” to represent a person’s prolonged separation from nature.   American children (and I would suggest that this applies to most “developed” countries) spend 90% of their time indoors, leading to sickness, stress, disability, etc.   How can we possibly expect to protect our environment in future when we are not only acting as poor role models ourselves (in general), but when our kids have very little connection with nature?   I look at my childhood basically spent in the woods in Newfoundland, where the environment was a part of my everyday existence, and compare it to Nick’s now.   It is for this reason that I want to spend time with my boy in the woods.  It is my goal this summer.   I want him to experience the beauty of our world, how fortunate we are to be a part of it, and how obligated we are to protect it.

But all of this environment stuff can get out of hand.  I came across this concept of “Upcycling”, the supposedly superior option to Recycling.  In this scenario, you don’t get rid of what you have, you mold it into a different use instead.   For example, a bra strap becomes a handy-dandy headband.   Or birdseed packaging, in 30 easy steps (half of which involve a sewing machine), becomes a lunch bag for your kid.   Geez, as if school wasn’t difficult enough for children.   I mean, honestly.    Discard your bra and birdseed bag for God’s sake and go plant a tree, or 10, instead.

Chat on Friday.