by Claire Thompson.
This Thursday night, while many families are still wrapping up Thanksgiving leftovers, the annual Black Friday shopping frenzy will begin, with 74 million people expected to head to stores over the weekend. But Friday also marks the 20th anniversary of Buy Nothing Day, an alternative celebration that invites us to "wean ourselves off of mega corporations, put our money back into the local independent economy, and live for a different kind of future."
Given that Buy Nothing Day was dreamed up by the folks at Adbusters magazine -- the same crew that spawned Occupy Wall Street -- perhaps the day of austerity will take off on a larger scale this year.
My family liked the idea of Buy Nothing Day when we first heard of it, about 10 years ago. Because sitting at home and buying nothing in and of itself is not particularly exciting, we started a tradition of holding an at-home film festival on Black Friday. Watching three or four (high quality, carefully selected) movies in a row and noshing on Thanksgiving leftovers became a fun way to keep us at home enjoying each other's company instead of out contending with the frantic masses downtown.
Figuring other Grist readers probably had their own sustainable spins on Black Friday, we asked you to share some of your day-after-Thanksgiving traditions. Here's a sampling of what you told us on Twitter and Facebook. Share other post-Thanksgiving rituals with us in the comments below!
by Lionel Foster.
On Oct. 11, 2011, I asked the mayor of Baltimore to sleep with me. I challenged her to spend one night outside in front of City Hall in solidarity with Baltimore's 4,000 homeless residents. It was a long shot, I knew. My good intentions notwithstanding, she would likely decline. But even I was surprised by the police helicopter -- and the response it would elicit from my young companions.
Once a month, I write a column called "Where I Come From" for Baltimore City Paper. I use the space to moderate a conversation between races, between generations, and between the haves and have-nots. So when I found out that Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, members of the nonprofit community, and others had committed to ending homelessness in Baltimore within this decade, I began to think of ways I might help. One of the biggest problems, as I saw it, was how few people knew about the effort, so I put up the website One Night Stand for Homelessness, issued my friendly challenge, and encouraged everyone to join us.
Within 48 hours, hundreds of people hit the site, dozens volunteered to sleep out, and, per my suggestion, a number of them emailed the mayor, encouraging her to participate. When I learned that local college students were already planning a sleep-out during National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, I quickly pivoted from planning a small event of my own to supporting their much bigger effort. They called it A Bench is Not A Bed, and it was scheduled for last Saturday, Nov. 19.
As the night of the event approached, it was impossible to mention sleeping outside for some social cause without thinking about the Occupy movement. Baltimore's Occupy encampment is just blocks from City Hall, and despite the activists' non-violent tactics, they presented a public relations challenge for the newly elected mayor. The anti-homelessness rally must have added to her stress.
Still, on Saturday night, things got off to a beautiful start. Approximately 300 people, mostly students, some people experiencing homelessness, plus concerned individuals like myself, ate together, heard from advocat es, and participated in teach-ins. Students gave away sleeping bags to those who wouldn't have a home to go to the next morning.
The high point of the night came halfway through the program as more than 100 Occupy demonstrators, including a group en route from New York to D.C. on foot, arrived, shouting, holding signs, and banging drums. It was like watching the cavalry ride in with reinforcements, but this was also when the police presence increased noticeably. Police car lights flashed as the marchers approached City Hall, and for the next few hours, the helicopter did loops around the downtown area.
The Occupy Wall Street marchers moved off to the Occupy Baltimore encampment, but the police kept coming. It wasn't looking good. We had tried to get a permit to spend the night, but as in past years, the city had refused, giving us permission to gather only until 9 p.m. In the past, the police had allowed the group to sleep over, checking in occasionally but effectively extending the permit well into the following morning. Not this year.
During the last 30 minutes before the permit expired, more police appeared, and shortly after 9 p.m., an officer used the PA system in his squad car to announce that we had to leave. Days earlier, some students had talked about getting arrested if it came to that, and Occupy Baltimore had already agreed to take in those who wanted to sleep out but couldn't afford to go to jail. But in the end, the organizers decided that with few media representatives in attendance, imprisonment might not be worth the cost. So we packed up. Most people left, but a few dozen, confused and dispirited, moved to Occupy.
We looked like refugees. Students who less than two hours earlier were happy and engaged stretched out on their sleeping bags in stunned silence, shocked at having been displaced.
Eventually, a conversation began. Some students expressed surprise at how insistent the police were that we leave. One young woman recounted how an officer tried to intimidate her by insisting that jail was not a safe place "for someone like you." And it was at about that time that disappointment turned to anger.
Against the backdrop of a massive, army-style tent, Michael Jefferson, a polite, bespectacled sociology major from Annapolis, Md., summarized what a lot of students seemed to be feeling.
"When we were threatened with arrest, at first, I actually wasn't surprised. I thought, ‘That's just how it is,'" he told me later. "But [soon] I started to feel sick. Over 100 students had gathered to learn about homelessness and show their community they care, and for this we were threatened with incarceration. We had hoped that some city officials would join us ... but instead, all they offered was punishment."
Jefferson called what happened Saturday night "a formative experience." "It's a perverse world where public acts of compassion are grounds for arrest," he said. "I ... felt like we saw a dark side of Baltimore city politics."
We did. The big question now is how young people like Jefferson in cities around the country will respond.
My grandmother grew up in segregated South Carolina. Her generation marched with Dr. Martin Luther King. My mom was raised during the Black Power era. But me? I'm 31. My contemporaries and I didn't have a movement. As I helped promote the sleep-out, I was impressed that a group of people half a generation younger than me already had some community organizing experience before I thought to make my own statement.
These young men and women watched the World Trade Center burn, saw our country entangled in two major wars while they were learning algebra, helped elect the first black president, and now struggle with how difficult it is for him to do the work they hoped he would. So it's no wonder they're hitting the streets and coming up with their own answers.
During Baltimore's recent demonstrations, there has been no police brutality like the pepper spray incident at UC Davis. No one's been dragged off. No tents have been torn down. Not yet. But this is how movements spread: Here, as in other parts of the country, local officials are turning young people into victims, once passive observers into protesters, and a new generation of activists into battle-hardened agents of change.
by Lisa Hymas.
Last year, we had the death of the climate bill in Congress, the rollout of electric cars to the American masses, and, of course, the BP gusher in the Gulf. And this year? Tell us what you think have been the big stories of 2011 -- propelling us toward a greener future, getting in the way, or just reminding us that we need to get our asses moving.
Chime in with comments below, and then watch for our official list coming soon.
by Stephen Lacey.
Cross-posted from Climate Progress.
Fox News pundit Bill O'Reilly likes to say he operates in a "no spin zone." So when O'Reilly proclaimed recently that he wanted to install solar panels on his Long Island home, dozens of solar companies in New York took him at his word.
Speaking on his show to Alan Colmes last week, O'Reilly said he was ready to buy a solar system, but that he couldn't find anyone in the area to do it: "There's nowhere, no one," he exclaimed.
Well, his predicament is solved. A group of 60 New York-based solar companies have signed an open letter to O'Reilly explaining that they'd be more than willing to help him make an investment in solar:
Dear Mr. O'Reilly,
We hear you are ready to go solar pending your ability to locate a solar provider. We represent some of the hundreds of solar companies currently operating in New York State. We would be happy to help you get started with your investment in solar so you can join the many New Yorkers who are already saving money on their monthly utility bills by generating their own power.
Clean Power Finance
Energy by Choice
ETM Solar Works
Innovated Energy Solutions
Mercury Solar Systems
One Block Off the Grid
RH Innovation Inc
Sunrise Energy Concepts
Alliance for Clean Energy New York (ACE NY) -- representing 20 companies with solar operations in New York
Long Island Solar Energy Industries Association (LIPA) -- representing 25 solar electric contractors on Long Island
Dave Llorens, CEO of the fast-growing solar company One Block Off the Grid, says he could draft a quote for O'Reilly in minutes:
There are tons of solar installers that work on Long Island. We can show him the economics of solar (and they are strong there) by whipping up a quote for his house in 10 minutes. If Bill is serious about actually installing solar, we'd be delighted to help him understand the investment.
So there you have it: Can we take Bill O'Reilly, the self-proclaimed master of "no spin," at his word? With the cost of solar continuing to fall, and dozens of companies to choose from, this is the perfect opportunity for him to invest in a system.
If you want to see O'Reilly back up his word, we suggest sending him this tweet:
Over 60 NY #solar companies can help Bill O'Reilly of the @oreillyfactor install a system. Will he live up to his word? http://bit.ly/vjY43z
Stacy Mitchell, senior researcher at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, is writing a series of articles for Grist about Walmart's sustainability efforts and how they've been coming up short. Join Mitchell to chat about Walmart, local retail alternatives, and more, right here on Wednesday, Nov. 30, at 3:00 p.m. Eastern / noon Pacific. Sign up for a reminder below.
Read the series so far:
&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;a href="http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php/option=com_mobile/task=viewaltcast/altcast_code=f3d0244aad" mce_href="http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php/option=com_mobile/task=viewaltcast/altcast_code=f3d0244aad" &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;A chat on Walmart's greenwash with Stacy Mitchell&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
by David Roberts.
IN SEPTEMBER 2010, a company of U.S. Marines entered Sangin District, an area in Afghanistan's Helmand province that had seen some of the most intense, protracted fighting of the war. Their mission was to relieve British forces and launch an aggressive effort to clear and calm the area, which was, as the military is wont to say, “highly kinetic.” India Company, from the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, lost more than two dozen soldiers in the first four months of combat.
Early on in the fighting, First Lieutenant Josef Patterson, India 3/5's second platoon commander, took a small force south to clear a route into the Sangin River Valley. They established a patrol base, but for two months the area remained so volatile that fuel convoys couldn't reach it. Without fuel or battery resupply, the team could have been left with no way to run generators or power radios or computers—a potentially crippling situation. Even in smaller numbers, today's Marines are considerably more lethal than their predecessors, mostly due to the flexibility enabled by constant connectivity. As Patterson later explained, “If I don't have comm with my troops and my higher-ups, I am lost.”
But the soldiers of India 3/5 had another source of power: the sun.
That is the beginning of my new piece in Outside magazine on Marine Corps efforts to deploy renewables and energy efficiency on the front lines. I hope you'll click over and read the whole thing. (Better yet, pick up a copy at your local newsstand!)
This was a fascinating piece to work on for a number of reasons, some of which I may get into later. Here I just want to surface one of the big questions -- maybe the big question -- implicit in the piece.
A couple years ago, the Marines created an Expeditionary Energy Office, run by Col. Bob "Brutus" Charette, with the mandate to reduce fuel use in the field 50 percent by 2025. The cost is, if not irrelevant, at least secondary. Why? The short answer is, lots and lots of Marines are getting killed protecting convoys and the "tether of fuel" is restricting the range and speed of fighting units. Charette's mandate is entirely about battlefield performance: finding ways for Marines to power themselves, and keep themselves hydrated, with fewer convoys.
For the Marines, the mission comes first, cost second. It is, suffice to say, a sharp contrast with the hidebound, cost-obsessed, tentative, inconsistent steps the rest of the government has taken.
What if some of that Marine ethos was ported to the rest of the culture? It's not necessarily that cost-benefit analysis could or should be done away with entirely, but that in today's politics it has become a tool used by status quo interests to suppress momentum toward change. We have elevated cost over mission.
What if we decided our mission was leaving the next generation the best possible biophysical inheritance -- and that our performance toward that goal, not the incremental cost of each step (or the expected costs 30 years out), was the most important metric? What if we decided that doing the right thing is worth doing, not because it's a few pennies cheaper than the wrong thing, or only a few pennies more, but simply because it's the right thing?
Looking for creative and sustainable fare for your Thanksgiving feast? The Grist archives are a treasure trove: Check out some of our favorite recipes from years past. Bon appétit!The main dish
Tofurky, Turk'y, and other oddly spelled non-meat options
If eating animal flesh ain't yo thang -- regardless of how idyllic the animal's pre-slaughter upbringing was -- check out this turkey-substitute taste test. (It's doubtful you'll be able to pass a Quorn Turk'y Roast off as the real thing, though, no matter how good you are at convincing Grandpa that the Martinelli's is actually champagne.)
Sage-roasted chicken and pumpkin risotto
Tired of turkey? Try another bird prepared with a seasonal twist.
Take cranberry sauce one better with this variation.
Bread crumbs are for your parents -- quinoa is much hipper.
Wild rice dressing
With mushrooms, sausage, and fresh herbs, this hit side just might outshine the main attraction.
Sweet potato rolls
This is an adaptation of an old Southern recipe for potato yeast rolls, minus the hydrogenated oil. Attention overplanners: You can make the rolls as early as a week ahead and keep the dough in the refrigerator until needed.
Pumpkin pie with vegan-friendly crust
Make this classic with soy milk or cow's milk, with pumpkin puree from scratch or from a can -- whatever your inclinations, this recipe tells you everything you need to know to adapt.
Baked ginger pears
Turn your Bosc, Comice, or d'Anjou pears into an easy, elegant dessert -- no crust required.
Sweet potato pudding
It's sweet, gloppy, and bourbon-infused. What's not to love?
This classic is perfectly delicious on its own, but even better topped with bourbon-sautéed peaches. Are you sensing a theme?
Always wonder what to do with that turkey carcass? Here's the perfect Cajun solution.
No matter what you put on the table, remember that Thanksgiving is supposed to be about gratitude, not gluttony. Or at least gratitude for a day of gluttony.
by Tom Laskawy.
Mark Bittman has provided the ultimate Thanksgiving guide for anyone interested in making our broken food system work again. His exhaustive list of the 25 people or groups for which he is most thankful is a must-read.* It starts with nutritionist and food system reform pioneer Marion Nestle and ends with "anyone who's started a small farm in the last five years, and anyone who's supported one; anyone who cooks, and especially anyone who teaches others to cook." That covers a good portion of Grist readers, I'd like to point out. So good on all of you, too. Heaven knows, I'm thankful for you.
In the glass-half-full spirit, I thought I'd take a moment to point out some recent news developments for which we should also all be thankful.
The collapse of the deficit supercommittee
There are, no doubt, many reasons to be thankful for this. After all, we can cut our national debt by $7.1 trillion by doing absolutely nothing, so it's not clear why we need a bunch of old men sitting in a room to come up with ways to cut less by performing all sorts of budgeting gymnastics. But, more to the point, it also follows that no deal in the supercommittee means no Secret Farm Bill. Or at least it means that reformers might still get a chance to weigh in on farm policy, in hopes of moving it away from large, wealthy corporate farms and towards farms who need and better deserve the support.
The Secret Farm Bill, which is no longer a secret thanks to the Environmental Working Group, won't be entirely scrapped, I'm afraid. But at least it will probably move back to the more open House and Senate Committee process and will likely require a standalone vote from the full Congress. That fact alone may turn back the most egregious elements of Big Ag's attempted raid on the treasury. A more public process may ensure that such brilliant maneuvers as cutting the subsidy criteria from $1 million all the way down to $950,000 might be seen as the accounting tricks they truly are. That eligibility cut was admittedly a fiendishly clever move on the part of farm state representatives. After all, "No farm subsidies to nine-hundred-fifty-thousandaires" doesn't have quite the ring that "No farm subsidies to millionaires" does.
Marion Nestle does a nice job of summarizing the contents of the Secret Farm Bill, which will likely form the basis of the 2012 Farm Bill, warts and all. At least reformers know what they're up against.
Yum! Brands, surrender monkeys
We can also be thankful that Yum! Brands' (the corporate owner of KFC and Taco Bell) attempt to get the USDA and various states to let food stamps recipients spend their benefits at fast food restaurants has failed. First, the USDA announced that it agreed with reformers as to the shortcomings of the plan. Then the individual states declined Yum!'s entreaties. Soon thereafter Yum! raised the white flag on the whole enterprise. It's a case of media attention and social organizing successfully derailing corporate lobbying. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, it's reason for cheer.
And finally, we can be thankful that it appears the man behind possibly the largest food contamination outbreak ever -- the hundreds of millions of Salmonella-tainted eggs produced and distributed by a handful of factory farms -- is getting out of the day-to-day egg business. According to the Associated Press, Jack DeCoster, whose web of front companies hid his role as the largest egg producer in the country, will find something else to do rather than oversee some of the biggest, filthiest "farms" in the U.S. It's not the whole enchilada omelet of factory farm reform, but it's a victory nonetheless.
And you thought I was Mr. Doom and Gloom!
In celebration, go visit your local farmers market -- the ones here in Philly are still in full swing -- invite some friends and/or family over, roast and eat a pastured turkey (or a Cornish game hen, as Boston's James Beard Award-winning chef Tony Maws does), or make this Thursday a Meatless Monday. Any way you carve it, have a wonderful Thanksgiving.
* And not just because he was generous enough to include me, along with former Grist food editor, Tom Philpott, the person who brought me into the Grist fold in the first place!
by Kristin Wartman.
"Whose food? Our food!" This was the rallying cry at the first Occupy Big Food event on Saturday in Zuccotti Park. The rally, which I led with Erika Lade, a graduate student in NYU's Food Studies program, gathered about 100 people with the goal of connecting the larger Occupy Wall Street effort to the food justice movement.
NYU professor of Nutrition and Food Studies Marion Nestle was the event's featured speaker. Although Nestle was intimidated at the prospect of using the human microphone for the first time, she picked up the unusual speaking technique quickly. "I'm an academic who studies social movements," she told the crowd. "Occupy Wall Street is a social movement. Occupy Big Food is a social movement."
Occupy Big Food has three main goals: To raise public consciousness, to put pressure on food corporations to change their destructive practices, and to organize and unify Americans in an alternative food system. As I told the audience that day: We have two choices. We can create our own food system now, or we can watch as corporations continue their destruction of our food, our environment, our health, and our economy.
As we have seen at Occupy Wall Street, collective action is crucial. We were there with the hope that the food movement can follow Occupy Wall Street's model to unify individual voices into one collective roar.
For social and political movements to make real change they must reach across social boundaries, especially race or class-based ones. Bill Granfield, president of the Unite Here Local 100 food service workers union, came to the rally with local 100 members who work in the cafeterias and executive dining rooms of Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, and JP Morgan Chase. These companies are under contract with some of the largest food distributors in the world, such as Sodexo, Compass, and Aramark. Granfield describes the workers as "New York's working people of Wall Street."
"If we are going to have a real food movement it has to include real, sustainable jobs for workers," he said in a recent interview.
Justice and equality was also at the heart of Ryan Ehrhart's speech on Saturday. Ehrhart is a PhD candidate at CUNY, who focuses on food sovereignty. He began by addressing a recent write-up about Occupy Big Food on the National Public Radio website which used the term "foodies." The word, he says, "has connotations of elite consumption." "This is a food justice movement. This movement is about getting a food system that prioritizes healthy food for all people, regardless of income."
Chef Erica Wides, host of Let's Get Real: The Cooking Show About Finding, Preparing and Eating Food on the Heritage Radio Network, has her own word to describe what takes place in the industrial food system. At the rally, she suggested a new term entirely. "Big Food isn't feeding us food. They're feeding us something else," Wides said. "I call it ‘foodiness.' Like Stephen Colbert's ‘truthiness,' which isn't about truth, foodiness is not food. Like veggie puffs with no vegetables; fruit bars with no fruit; taco meat with no meat. The way to make Big Foodiness change is to do so from the ground up: Eat vegetables, not veggie puffs. Eat fruit, not fruit bars."
Those of us who went down to Zuccotti Park on Saturday believe that healthy food is at the root of a healthy democracy. And we are not the first to say so. In 1937, Franklin D. Roosevelt said, "A nation that destroys its soil, destroys itself." I believe that we are in the final hours, and we must prevent this from becoming true.
In her closing remarks, my co-organizer Erika Lade summed up the sentiment at the rally when she said, "It's time for the food movement to stop being nice, stop being elitist, and start being radical."
by Anna Fahey.
Let's face it: Few of us speak in perfect, clear, stirring, and memorable soundbites. But scientists are particularly apt to load their communications with so many caveats and so much detail that non-scientists have a hard time determining whether they've said anything definitive at all.
Scientists have good reason to be cautious in their communications -- and in a politically charged environment, climate scientists are particularly gun-shy. Too much simplification -- let alone personal or emotional appeals -- may tread too far outside the scientific norms of dispassionate objectivity, and put a scientist's credibility on the line. For many scientists, the moral dimensions of their work are self-evident. But articulating them is risky.
The problem is that political opponents of climate action often portray the caveats and caution as evidence that scientists are unsure of their findings.
So, what should a scientist do?
Richard C. J. Somerville and Susan Jay Hassol offer some tips for climate science communicators in the October issue of Physics Today [PDF], along with a good overview of the most common pitfalls of climate communications, and the political and cultural context in which climate scientists must operate.
Four of Somerville and Hassol's recommendations seem most important and most appropriate for scientists. I've boiled them down here.
1. Emphasize what is known. (Stop leading with unknowns, caveats, and disclaimers.)
When communicating with colleagues, scientists tend skip over the basics (which their colleagues already know), lead with caveats, and then dive straight into details -- especially new, cutting-edge findings. But when communicating with the public, scientists often forget how little people really know about climate change; they forget the perception that even the basics are unproven or disputed among scientists. As Somerville and Hassol put it, "It's ... important to repeat what is scientifically well understood to a public for whom the well-established older findings may still be mysterious."
When asked about climate and extreme weather, for example, many scientists will start off with a disclaimer, such as "We cannot blame any particular event on climate change." But following Somerville and Hassol's advice, a scientist could start the conversation emphasizing the well-understood connections between climate change and the increasing likelihood of extreme weather. There's no need to exaggerate, and no point in fear mongering -- stick to what's solid and defensible. The key is to leave the disclaimers until later -- or else they're all anybody will hear.
2. Invert the standard order for reporting. (Start with the main point, then give the background.)
Scientists are accustomed -- even trained -- to start with background information, then add supporting details, and finally deliver their conclusions -- the main point -- at the tail end of their communications. This is how it's done at a conference or in a paper.
But for talking with anyone other than their peers, it's better to "invert that pyramid" and begin with the main point.
3. Less is more.
An academic conference is worlds away from an interview with a reporter, where an expert may only have 30 seconds -- or one short quote -- to convey what's important about scientific findings to mainstream audiences. Even if you have the opportunity to say more, people can have trouble sorting out what's important. As Somerville and Hassol point out, scientists who know a lot about a topic tend to "overdo the level of detail." They recommend that scientists craft simple, clear messages about what's important and repeat them often. Less is more.
4. Stop speaking in code. (Choose plain language over technical terms, insider jargon, and acronyms.)
We can cultivate much greater understanding of climate science by using words that more people understand. Rather than "anthropogenic," it's better for scientists to say "human-caused." Drop "spatial" and "temporal" for regular old "space" and "time." Use familiar units of measure; for the American public, that means using feet instead of meters and Fahrenheit instead of Celsius.
There is also scientific "code" to indicate likelihood and certainty. Unfortunately, this language can totally backfire when non-scientists hear it. Indeed, Somerville and Hassol point out that some words and phrases, commonly used by scientists, lead to confusion among lay audiences. In fact, they write, "many terms mean completely different things to scientists and the public." Here are a few of the biggest offenders:"Consensus" sounds to laypeople like mere opinion. "Uncertainty" sounds like head-scratching or ignorance. "Theory" sounds like a mere hunch or speculation. "Likely" and even "very likely" translate as: not going to happen. "Inevitable" can sound like nothing can be done.
Somerville and Hassol offer better choices for reaching clarity among non-scientists. Here's a full list:Scientific term Public meaning Better choice enhance improve intensify, increase aerosol spray can tiny atmospheric particle positive trend good trend upward trend positive feedback good response, praise vicious cycle, self-reinforcing cycle theory hunch, speculation scientific understanding uncertainty ignorance range error mistake, wrong, incorrect difference from exact true number bias distortion, political motive offset from an observation sign indication, astrological sign plus or minus sign values ethics, monetary value numbers, quantity manipulation illicit tampering scientific data processing scheme devious plot systematic plan anomaly abnormal occurrence change from long-term average
There are some other messaging tips in the article, including recommendations that I've highlighted in the past for just about anybody charged with communicating about climate change -- the need to frame climate change not just as an environmental issue but also as a question of our economic security and human health, for one, as well as the importance of talking about solutions -- both our ability, and the necessity, to solve the problem -- when we talk about the science. Somerville and Hassol also encourage climate scientists to "let their passion show."
But for many scientists, I fear all that may be too much to ask. While I don't discourage scientists from considering those recommendations and employing them whenever appropriate, I picked out the four tips above because I think scientists are more likely to actually employ them -- which is the ultimate test of their usefulness. These four are powerful, I think, because they represent fairly small changes in the way scientists present information, but represent the potential to dramatically change the way non-scientists hear and absorb that information.
That's my take. If you are a scientist, please let me know what you think!
by Greg Hanscom.
It's hard to put a finger on the exact moment the crap took over Americans' lives, but I know exactly when it happened to me. And as we head into a day of national gluttony followed by a collective, orgiastic display of shopping, I've resolved to do more than weather the onslaught. I want to look into my own personal relationship with crap -- and I hope others will, too.
My story starts in 1997, when I moved from Montana to a small town in Colorado, where I'd landed my first paying job in journalism. I made the trip in my Toyota Tercel wagon -- and I brought everything I owned with me.
A decade later, when my wife and I decamped for the East Coast, it took a 24-foot rental truck to accomplish the same task -- and that was after two epic yard sales, in which my wife and mother-in-law, inveterate saleswomen, unloaded all manner of junk on the unsuspecting public, including a jungle of half-dead house plants, a pile of dirty cinderblocks, a dozen half-used cans of paint, and a 40-year-old ten-speed bike with two flat tires.
I remember driving across Kansas, thinking that there was a lifetime of accumulated posessions in the back of that truck. No doubt each item had some special meaning, but at that moment, it all seemed like useless baggage. "I could drive this thing into a lake," I thought, "and be done with it forever."
Everything I really gave a damn about -- my wife, our 3-year-old daughter Lucia, and the dog -- had gone ahead in our new Subaru. Was there anything back there that I'd miss? My bike, I decided -- I'd be crippled without that. But it was the last thing to go in, so I could always pull it out, then drive the truck into the lake.
for my junk (and my marriage) Kansas does not abound in lakes.
Don't get me wrong: I'm fond of my stuff. I have enough skiing and mountain climbing gear to outfit a Himalayan expedition. I steadfastly cling to the notion that I must own a copy of every book that I've ever read. And in my decade and a half as a journalist, I've amassed a formidable archive of notes, folders, and three-volume environmental impact statements. My wife's weaknesses seem to be in clothes, kitchen gadgets, and knicknacks. (Ask me about the ceramic cats her parents picked up on their honeymoon sometime.)
These hoarding tendencies would be fine if we were the sort of people who kept everything in its place. We're not. Neither of us inherited that gene. My wife's shoes litter the house like beer bottles after a bender. (The dog does his part by scattering our footwear to the far corners of the property.) And me? I will someday be found dead beneath the pile of papers that have avalanched off my desk.
Add two kids to the mix and you have a recipe for complete domestic disaster. Lucia, now 7, has amassed a menagerie of stuffed animals so vast that the creatures boil from beneath her bed and skitter across the floors. Her little sister, 3, likes to torture her by hiding the "stuffies" behind the furniture, where I swear they breed. Then there are the LEGOs and the blocks and the crayons and the puzzle pieces -- and 1,001 children's books that would probably be better used if half of them were donated to the library.
At our house, the crap rules. But it's getting better, thanks to a little unintended experiment we've recently undertaken.
Two months ago, we uprooted again and moved cross-country (hopefully for the last time) to Seattle. Our lives were in such upheaval -- a new job for me, new schools for the kids, a huge question mark for my wife -- that there was no time to unpack all those boxes. Instead, we unloaded what we needed to survive day-to-day and shoved the rest into closets or the basement.
And there it has stayed -- it's amazing how little we miss the junk.
Every time we rifle through boxes to find some lost implement, we come up with a dozen other things that we didn't miss, and add them to the growing mountain of giveaways in the basement. Sure, the house is still a wreck. But it's a manageable wreck. It is possible to get from one room to another without fear of tripping over something and breaking your neck. The children, bereft of most of their toys, actually play with the handful of things that we've unpacked for them.
Last week, as I sat at my computer preparing to write this column, Lucia climbed into my lap. We watched Annie Leonard's animated short, The Story of Stuff, in which she explains what goes into making the crap we accumulate and where it goes when we're done with it. Of all the products we buy, Leonard says, only 1 percent is still being used half a year later: "Ninety-nine percent of this stuff is trashed in six months." Meanwhile, for every can of garbage we haul out to the curb, 70 cans of waste were generated "upstream" -- in the making and shipping of the product.
When the film ended, I asked Lucia what she thought. She was quiet. Thinking. Then she hopped off my lap and went on with her day. I wouldn't have known that anything had come of it if my wife hadn't mentioned a few days later that Lucia had given her an earful. "See that, mom? That's stuff. That? Stuff. That? More stuff!" She even allowed that she could live with little less of it.
No doubt over time our belongings will begin to expand to fill our half-empty home. (In the immortal words of George Carlin, a house is just "a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.") But we're talking about finding a smaller place, purging still more of the clutter. There's even a little houseboat for sale down on the water. Maybe, just maybe, we could boil our belongings down to the point where we could make a fast getaway -- no need for the moving truck this time, or ever again.
At any rate, this Black Friday, you won't find this guy at the mall. I'm going to be busy taking a load of stuff to Goodwill (Ceramic cats be warned!) -- and maybe dropping by the SPCA to get a few stuffies neutered. I've got better things to do with my time than managing crap. How about you?