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Novel Progress Notes #5; and Random Gloats: Screw the Candles in the Wind - The Annals of Young Geoffrey: Hope brings a turtle [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Young Geoffrey

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Novel Progress Notes #5; and Random Gloats: Screw the Candles in the Wind [Mar. 29th, 2008|06:28 pm]
Young Geoffrey
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New words: 3,782
Total wordcount: 66,771
Deadline: May 1

Today's session was a strangely frustrating one, despite the nearly 4,000 word count. You see, last night while I was trying to get to sleep, an important, possibly pivotal - and certainly exciting - scene came into my head and I couldn't wait to get to it today.

Unfortunately, yesterday I had left my heroine quite a ways from the River's Inn and her upcoming bar-room battle with a band of malleavalent Elf-like creatures. And so it was that, just as my heroine and her not-entirely reliable companion had a long walk ahead of them before that scene, so too did the author have to struggled through nearly 4,000 words to get her to that scene.

And so it, she and I must all wait until tomorrow for that confrontation ...

* * *

Because today is supposed to be Earth Hour, a "consciousness-raising" environmental event with which I imagine most of you are least vaguely familiar.

If not, the idea is that all of us are supposed to turn off our lights, our teevees and our computers, thereby apparently somehow "taking a stand against climate change."

I suppose it's possible that this sort of stunt really does cause some people who might not already have done so to give some thought to climate change and all that that implies for both human suffering and what may well turn out to be a major global die-back - a genuine eco-catastrophe. And I suppose more people thinking about the state of the world can't be anything but a good thing.

But (and apologies to the Globe and Mail's delightfully ascerbic television columnist John Doyle, who said similar things earlier in the week), I'll be cracking the last of my beers and watching the Habs versus the Leafs come Earth Hour this fine evening.

Frankly people, my ecological footprint is about as small as a Westerner's can get. I usually remember to turn off my (now mostly harsh, energy-saving) lights when they're not in use. I use a power bar so that my television, vcr and stereo aren't burning electricity when they are idle; I don't eat much meat and try to buy local produce; I'm even more than pretty good about recycling.

More important, I live in a city, not a suburb, I don't own a car and seldom rent, and most of my local transportation is done with my feet or through the use of a 30 year-old bicycle.

This Earth Hour thing reminds of me an email I received from various well-intentioned people after 9/11, when a bunch of well-intentioned nobs thought that if everyone in North America went out into the streets in front of their homes holding candles, that somehow that would "send the terrorists" a message.

Give me a break. Whatever you think of Al Qaeda's goals or methods, what they want is for the West to get the hell out of the Middle East. (Yes, I'm over-simplifying things; work with me, people.)

And whatever you think about global climate change, turning off your machines for an hour on an arbitrary Saturday night is not going to do a bit of good.

Off the top of my head, here's a brief list of things that actually might do some good. And note that almost all of them require as a first step that we get involved in the ugly, frustrating and slow-moving business of politics.

  • Stop driving your car, unless you absolutely have to;

  • don't buy a car, unless you absolutely need one;

  • vote for a government that will impose a carbon tax with teeth;

  • stop building new suburbs

  • stop building new highways that subsidize those suburbs;

  • stop buying crap you don't actually need;

  • buy locally-grown food when possible, especially organic; and

  • generally think about the long-term impact of everything we do.

Yes, it's a tall order. Yes, I personally could (and should) be doing more than I am. But for god sake's don't tell me that I "must" take part in some essentially meaningless feel-good ritual.

As a post-script, David Suzuki himself just appeared on the screen giving hockey fans special dispensation to keep their sets burning during the game. Probably a politically astute move, but the larger logic escapes me.

Fuck it. They're about to drop the puck. Go Habs Go!
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: shara
2008-03-29 11:30 pm (UTC)
Earth Hour isn't an actual footprint-reducing excersize, it's an awareness-raising one. A lot of the organizations participating are not your usual crunchy-green ones and I've heard a lot of stories already from people who have had encounters with participants who have never in their lives given a thought to connecting their own behavior with the state of the planet.

This is for them - to show them that an hour without television, computers, and lights isn't the end of the world. I think of it like the blackout a few years ago: people will spend an hour "unplugged", and reconnecting with other actual humans. They'll have to think for three minutes about how to spend their time without the usual cop-outs available to them. They might actually discover they really enjoy themselves for that hour, and choose to partake more often in the activities that can be done sans electricity.

We're having a number of people over (none of whom want to spend an hour in the dark "alone" - apparently the first thing my friends do when they lose television access is seek out other people to hang out with. WHAT A THOUGHT!) to play board games by candlelight. :) With any luck, there will be enough Earth Hour participants in our neighbourhood that the sky will darken a little and the background noise will dull. I hope to enjoy some silence and maybe see the night sky. I hope.

It seems cynical to not participate because you "don't need to". Sometimes being part of something that might be really positive brings unexpected rewards. Why not reach out and join in?
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2008-03-30 01:54 am (UTC)

Consciousness-Raising/Awareness-Raising

I did acknowledge the nature of the event and even, I think, say that it might do some good. And I will even, grudgingly accept your anecdotal evidence that it's having the intended effect - god knows, having Suzuki show up during Hockey Night In Canada might introduce the concept of ecological awareness to people who somehow remain unaware.

It seems cynical to not participate because you "don't need to". Sometimes being part of something that might be really positive brings unexpected rewards. Why not reach out and join in?

Well, two reasons. First, because I really did want to watch the game. And second, because I'm a curmudgeon whose experiences with just about any kind of mass activities have been disappointing in one or many ways.

Still, you're friends coming over so as not to be alone, remind me fondly of the neighbourliness that spread over the city during the big black out a few years back. It's funny how quickly we forget how much fun that night (or two, or three, in some areas) was, isn't it?
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[User Picture]From: sabotabby
2008-03-30 12:14 am (UTC)
A-fuckin-men. I'm participating (the only thing on now is my step-dad's laptop, which is on a battery) but the whole thing seems silly.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2008-03-30 01:55 am (UTC)

We Should Be Afraid, Both of Us

I'm feeling the urge to re-think my position: there's got to be something wrong if you and I are both in agreement with Rex Murphy.
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[User Picture]From: sabotabby
2008-03-30 02:01 am (UTC)

Re: We Should Be Afraid, Both of Us

Age and experience has turned us into craggy assholes.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2008-03-30 02:02 am (UTC)

Re: We Should Be Afraid, Both of Us

Assholes, maybe, but I insist that we still both maintain the smooth-skinned beauty of youth, only slightly matured by wisdom and laugh lines.
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[User Picture]From: madrigalia
2008-03-30 04:00 am (UTC)
Hear, hear! I was taken aback when a work email cheerily announced that "As a responsible corporate citizen, we have decided to participate in Earth Hour..." Oh, we have, have we? I can think of seventeen thousand less PR-greedy, more organic and effective ways to reduce our corporate footprint.

But what do I know. Walking home through darkened streets 'midst drunken students always puts me in a cynical mindframe.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2008-03-30 05:19 pm (UTC)

Drunken Students!?!

Well, colour me embarassed! Had I known that Earth Hour was going to encourage youthful drunken debauchery, I'd have been all for it. Lord knows, this city needs more of that on Saturday nights.

I was taken aback when a work email cheerily announced that "As a responsible corporate citizen, we have decided to participate in Earth Hour..." Oh, we have, have we? I can think of seventeen thousand less PR-greedy, more organic and effective ways to reduce our corporate footprint.

Which kind of brings us to the fundamental problem, doesn't it? A society dedicated to economic growth as a fundamental "good" without taking into account (literally, as in "accounting") the cost in natural capital (not to mention social capital) is not going to easily become one that is environmentally friendly.

Climate change is only the most dramatic example of humanity's ecological footprint on this planet. In other words, driving a Prius may be a bit more eco-friendly than driving a Hummer, but just putting a stop to new suburbs and the highways that serve them would do one hell of a lot more good than a million Priuses on the roads.

Not to mention that there are probably about 5,000,000 people too many on this planet. To crib an idea from Kim Stanley Robinson, how about each person be given the right to bear and/or sire .75 children? But then we're talking world government and ... and I can sort of see why so many of us just throw up our hands in despair.

Things are going to get one hell of a lot worse before they get better.

And on that note, I'll wish you a happy Sunday.
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[User Picture]From: deweyintoronto
2008-03-30 11:07 am (UTC)
I ate my meal in the dark yesterday at a restaurant that was taking part in Earth Hour. While I was rather annoyed to have no idea what I was eating, does involuntary participation still count?

Perhaps my favourite example of "Missing the Big Picture" was last night's concert in Nathan Phillips Square. 10,000 people gathered for a concert to take a stand against climate change, and I'm willing to bet my next paycheque at least 7,000 of them drove in from the suburbs to do it.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2008-03-30 05:22 pm (UTC)

You're Off the Hook

No, you're safe; involuntary participation doesn't count. I mean, I suppose you could have stormed out of the restaurant in righteous high dudgeon, but somehow that strikes me as even sillier.

By the way, congratulations.
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[User Picture]From: tacky_tramp
2008-03-31 02:18 am (UTC)
buy locally-grown food when possible, especially organic; and

Neither of these options is necessarily "good for the environment." Organic crops often require more energy to produce, so while we are spared the nasty chemicals in the runoff, we're burdened with additional fossil fuel use. And locally grown food is usually produced and transported inefficiently, meaning there are often more food-miles on a locally-grown tomato than on one from across the country. Not to mention that locally grown food can involve energy-intensive hot houses and hydroponics, if the climate is wrong.

My point is not, "Don't eat local or organic." It's, "Interrogate your choices very, very carefully before claiming that they're environmentally responsible."
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2008-03-31 10:38 pm (UTC)

Perfection Is Often the Enemy of the Good

I think my subject line is a quote, but I'm not sure. Onwards.

Neither of these options is necessarily "good for the environment." Organic crops often require more energy to produce, so while we are spared the nasty chemicals in the runoff, we're burdened with additional fossil fuel use.

Say what? I had thought that "organic" implied meant the food was grown with, you know, organic fertilizers - ie, not hydrocarbons extracted from rocks. I'd better check the Canadian standards - if there are any.

I do have a very hard time believing that, here in Southern Ontario at least, our local farming and transportation industry is so inefficient that getting a bag of carrots from the Holland Marsh 30 miles from my apartment burns more fossil fuel than getting a similar bag shipped up from ... well, elsewhere, far away.

Even if so, by buying locally I can at least hope my dollars helping to build a more sustainable local farming community.

Leaving fossil fuels and global warming aside, there are other reasons to buy local. Among them (at least in my area) are:

  • In-season produce just tastes better;

  • buying locally encourages farmers to keep farming, rather than selling more of Southern Ontario's apparently very rich agricultural soil to developers who will just pave it over for more suburban sprawl;

  • buying locally provides local employment and keeps green space green, thus improving the local pollution levels; and

  • from a pragmatic nationalist perspective, it simply doesn't make sense to depend on foreign food supplies.


But I certainly do take your point about interrogating choices. And its off to Google with me.

Edited at 2008-03-31 10:38 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: tacky_tramp
2008-03-31 10:56 pm (UTC)

Re: Perfection Is Often the Enemy of the Good

In the U.S., at least, "organic" simply means that the produce was grown without persistent pesticides or particularly damaging fertilizers. Tomatoes that are grown in a hot-house under high-watt bulbs with resource-expensive hydroponic irrigation? Still "organic" as long as you keep them clean of chemicals. So "organic" does not automatically mean "good for the environment." It just means "doesn't dump as many icky fertilizers and pesticides into the ground and water." Which is just one part of ecological sustainability.

I will find the studies I've seen on local foods being less efficient than far-away ones. I know the Economist has written about it. On NPR the other day, for example, they were saying that if you live in Buffalo, NY, a bottle of Bordeaux has less carbon footprint on it than a bottle of California wine -- because the French stuff comes mostly by boat, which is a very efficient shipping method, while the California stuff travels cross-country by truck, which is quite inefficient.

And yes, I completely agree with the other reasons for buying locally. It is nice to keep farms around, and it is nice to maintain one's national agricultural heritage.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2008-04-01 12:27 am (UTC)

Re: Perfection Is Often the Enemy of the Good

I'm not drunk; I'm just very, very tired. I sent the following as an email reply rather than a response here.


Bloody hell. I'm almost positive we had an almost identical exchange, up to and including mention of the Economist, some time last fall or maybe last spring.

To the best of my recollection, you never did follow up with the data, nor did I check on Canada's regs versus those south of the border.

I don't know about you, but I'm hanging my head in shame. Of course, it's also been pointed out that my recent rant about robots calling one's home was also a repeat. If I find a copy of the novel I'm working on in my files I'm going to shoot myself.
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