Monday, December 31, 2007

Cosmopolitan Charlestonian 2007 Round-Up

Often times we catch ourselves saying, “Wow, we sure do live in interesting times.” Recently we learned this saying is actually a Chinese curse, and a blessing. 2007, if nothing, has been interesting. So, we bring you our year-end round-up of events as well as some random residual thoughts left of 2007. Cheers for the coming New Year!

2007 found this pair leaving behind our vehicle and moving solely to a life supported by public transportation. Our “dream car” was a Jaguar. We worked hard to have our dreamobile and it was eventually realized. Nearly six years ago, in a country of easy credit, we were astonished and proud to have achieved our dream far earlier than the typical mid-life crisis estimation. Why not be proud? Nice car, nice house and you’ll be happy forever, right? We were culturally more than acceptable. But as ironies go, shortly after getting the Jag, we heard about peak oil theory and decided to look into it. At that point we began to see the true price of car ownership - false self images, extensive environmental damage, war and the extent to which this country will go to resist change. We felt hoodwinked. Obviously, if you’ve been with us since the beginning of our blogging escapades you will recognize these costs and understand their full breadth as they extend far beyond the prices paid at the dealership and the pump. After several books read and many hours of research we arrived at the conclusion that “happy motoring” will eventually be limited, so why not just get on with it and figure out a better way to live. Between the population boom, leveling of economic playing fields via globalization and the squandering of our resources, it’s pretty obvious this party ain’t goin’ on forever. Now that gas prices are estimated to reach $3.50 by the 2008 summer travel season we are pretty darn happy to have shifted away from a dream that was an albatross in disguise. We urge you to tell Mayor Joe, your individual County leaders and our State politicians that Charleston must grow its public transportation systems at once to further secure our economic viability.

We highly recommend getting out of your car(s). Our decision in 2007 put us in a very unique situation. We are now qualified as Charleston Area Regional Transit Authority critics. Although you may enjoy knowing that aside from the vast expansion of transit as necessity, there are many wonderful elements to commuting by bus.

- CARTA gives out a free copy of The Post & Courier each morning, but you’ve got to be quick! They’re usually all snatched up by 9:00 a.m.
- Public transit is safe. Since we began riding, we have seen and heard about many automobile accidents. Sadly, some were fatal. However, not one CARTA bus crashed, nor was anyone hurt to our knowledge on a CARTA bus in 2007.
- Ride n’ Read as Bitsy says…we read A LOT! After months of observing and being observed, fellow passengers have worked up the nerve now to occasionally ask what we’re always reading, especially those that don’t [read]. “Whatcha got to read today?” A conversation usually forms thereafter. We’re beginning to form a deeper appreciation for the power of community diversity.
- For those interested in psychology, riding the bus provides daily lessons in human interaction, especially once one begins to follow the characters (wink).
- Carrying bags after walking to the grocery store has given us nice looking arm muscles.
- Walking or riding bikes to the grocery store has other benefits too. For instance, when you really have to CARRY IT ALL BACK HOME you make much better purchasing decisions. Freetos? Sure, they’re light but take up a lot of space in a book bag or knap sack. Sodas – too heavy and that potion will kill us anyway! If you’ve got to carry something 3 blocks, make it beer. We’ve also been shopping more often at the Farmers Market downtown since it offers a nice, organic supplement to the grocery stores. Good eats and very svelt waistlines for 2008!
- Getting out of the auto “bubble” opens one to actual human experiences before and after work. We’ve met some wonderful, nice, normal working people on the bus and it is a pleasure to say the least.
- No more road rage – our coworkers probably like that.
- We’ve met lots of our neighbors by walking everywhere we go. The Eastside is peppered with an abundance of wonderful residents who do not fail Charleston’s hospitable reputation with their good mornings, good afternoons and good evenings as well as warm wishes for each holiday that comes and goes. A few inquiring minds have questioned us on the sudden disappearance of our vehicle.
- Olympic busses with environmental plusses. The busses in Charleston run on natural gas which when burned releases less CO2 compared to oil/gas. Charleston bought those nifty buses after the Olympics were held in Atlanta a few years back. Atlanta bought a bunch of them for the Olympics brand-spanking new. They used ‘em for a few months and then Charleston recycled them at a nice used price. Charlestonians may remember that transaction. The busses are still in very good condition IMHO.
- Thirty-one Dollars. That’s our monthly expense for one unlimited bus pass. It’s only $1.25 for a random trip if not using a pass.

In other transit news this year, we learned Atlanta has opened Atlantic Station Commuter Café. The first of its kind, the Commuter Café is a “clearinghouse for transportation alternatives” for every resident of the live/work, mixed-use community. Jealous, we note they even have a car check-out service. But hey, it’s Hotlanta, right?

Speaking of Atlanta, and for a Dry Times follow up, we thankfully report they’ve gotten a little rain over that way. Previously parched, Lake Lanier rose just slightly since Christmas. However, they are far from out of danger with worsening drought conditions forecast. Maybe they’ll find a solution by next summer involving something more than prayer.

Certainly we could not have a year-end wrap up without mentioning our horror as we realized the State of South Carolina was represented over the course of a few weeks, by a mapless and quite possibly mindless Miss Teen SC in the speech she made on “U.S. American” television. Yikes. If only she had a map. Then she could get to Oz and finally take delivery of the brain that’s apparently been on order for eighteen years. After that she can organize trips to India and Africa to help Paris with all the drunken elephants.

Other interesting tidbits from around Charleston include the start of construction on the bike path along East Bay Street leading to the Arthur Ravenel Bridge, and the securitization of an 11 million dollar bond for revitalization and construction on the old Cooper River Bridge footprint where a lake/park, shops and much more is planned to be developed. That is also exciting news for the Eastside, formerly known as Hampsteadborough as developed by Henry Laurens in 1789 (a little Charleston history for you there).

The Cosmopolitan Charlestonian did some reaching out in our own small diplomatic effort in 2007 to overcome the saber rattling and scare tactics in the seventh year of a failed Presidential Administration. We found a tiny glimmer of hope in the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) reports released earlier this month regarding Iran’s “ceased” nuclear agenda. In a world running out of oil, it makes great sense for Iran to power their country with nuclear and sell off their black golden resource to others around the world, like China, for one. Our postings on Iran were made at the height of the propaganda production wherein they were accused of developing nuclear arms rather than reactors. We certainly have our fingers crossed that a higher road can be taken effecting shifting powers in the Middle East while subverting any additional, disastrous war plans made by U.S. Americans.

In 2007 we corresponded with some interesting people. We traded e-mails with James Howard Kunstler hoping to review his upcoming book, World Made by Hand, scheduled to be on shelves around March. We were not accepted this time, but still give the plug because his work is strong. E-mails were traded with Bill Settlemeyer, of The Charleston Regional Business Journal (Setcom Media) with kudos cast his way for splashing peak oil, global warming and great environmental debate amongst the pages of the business journal. It’s been time. We met Bitsy Parker of ValueWit, in Austin, TX through this blog. This femme-fireball blogger banned Christmas in her house and experiments on bus riding with children in tow and/or busy business luncheons scheduled. She found us and we’ve been comparing bus notes between Charleston and Austin ever since. Finally, The Mad Hatter of There Goes The Neighborhood, who also holds down the fort at Lowcountry Blog Jam (where he graciously accepted The Cosmopolitan Charlestonian’s inclusion on his blogroll) posted some inspirational thoughts and kept us going right at the beginning when it may have been easiest to quit. Thanks goes to the Hatter as well as Wendy who brought to our attention The Post & Courier’s blogroll so long ago. It’s a good one for staying up on what’s going down around town. Finally, friend, published writer and fellow blogger, Stacy Crew, provided great advice and inspiration. She can help with all your organizational needs.

In one last random thought, we share that we are not very good at conserving water. We’ll get better in 2008. It’s a resolution at least. Since learning of a water crisis that is hitting most states in the union, we’ve tried to reduce excess water usage. Thought it would be a no-brainer until one finds themselves letting the shower warm up, running the water while brushing teeth, etc., etc. We’ll keep you posted on progress in future entries and provide further information on this additional limited resource.

As midnight draws near, we leave this posting with hope for the New Year. 2007 is running short on its own imperfect measurement. Time is simply the river on which all life flows. May we all appreciate every breath experienced on this earthy plane and draw on each moment with a greater consciousness for a greater good.

We most certainly live in interesting times.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Clean Coal. Which Part of the Story is Dirt Free?

Kenneth Boulding (past president of the American Economic Association) once remarked, "only madmen and economists believe in perpetual exponential growth."

A few mornings ago The Cosmopolitan Charlestonian was victimized by shock and awe as CNBCs Joe Kernen on Squawk Box said something along the lines of, [so in the big picture] “…we’re running out of oil. Well, how stupid are we? If we had known about this three years ago we could have begun planning for it.” Joe was referring to peak oil, which is why we were standing together in the bedroom with our mouths agape in shock when we heard the statement. Typically the news jockeys and talking heads steer clear of anything that even remotely smells of peak oil and with exceptional organization, they rarely allow the term to escape their lips. In fact, as keen observers, we’ve been hearing some pretty creative terminology borne of the latest media-led confusion campaign. Like for instance, this one. We’ve now reached maximum efficient extraction capacity. This chatter will glaze over the eyes of any laymen, therefore, commencing the confusion campaign. We should also point out to Joe (who is more often the rogue character with deadpan observations and coy cynical wit) that Americans did know about this little problem three years ago. In fact, we’ve known about oil and energy shortages for ages. Remember those shocks in the 70’s, Joe? Lots of us have been talking about preparing for peak oil while the people on your show yawned, shrugged off great minds as alarmist and went on discussing unlimited growth. Growth! Growth! Stock Market to 21,000!

Peak oil being the segue for alternative energies, the Marketeers at Squawk moved on to the pursuit and peddling of “clean coal.” LOL – clean? The Honorary Southern Belle here in The Cosmopolitan Charlestonian camp is a transplant from Pennsylvania. That’s Coal Country people and the evidence is there. Here in beautiful Charleston we are far removed from the sights and sounds of industrial coal mining operations. Despite coal plants powering some areas of this state, the broader realities of coal use have not sunken into our collective consciousness. Because we don’t see it, mind the particulate matter that fills our air and pollutes our waterways as a direct link, we give it nary a thought. Unfortunately, the true cost and true effect is most certainly invading our daily lives with exorbitant intangible expense.

Looking back at life in coal country, the unrealized costs of the extraction of the coal resource were plain to see. Strip-mined areas were dead and barren, the land hacked and sawed into where the coal was taken. Abandon quarries and mine shafts took the lives of curious children and daring teenagers where drowning and collapse occurred. People often spoke of hidden costs, hidden company agendas and invisible toxins degrading air quality to the inevitable ailment of all society. There were always clear economic and environmental situations. Take for instance, Centralia, Pennsylvania. It’s been on fire since the 60’s underground. The town is dead from the inside out. Take a look. Is this clean coal?

Yes, we have discussed sequestration and scrubbing methods, etc. and agree that these new methods are cleaner; however, the truth of the matter simply is - there is no clean coal. When we talk about sequestering CO2 we are only talking about the portion of the process related to what comes out after we’ve converted the resource to energy. We’re not looking at the whole picture in this case which is exactly how coal and energy companies would like it to remain. What of the extraction, the processing, the shipping and overall messiness of this dusty resource? In our previous post, Curing Charlotte’s Addiction, you may have already found, especially if you are someone who has suffered at any time from asthma, or know someone that does, that coal is not so much our friend after all.

Coal may be viewed as one of life’s ultimate ironies as peak oil tempts us to tap the earth for additional resources. Our coal reserves in the states may be as vast as the great seas, yet can an ocean quench a man’s thirst? Or should we be left much like the Mariner lamenting, “Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink.”

We have coal in great abundance. It is all around us. But should we go ahead and fire it up?

Monday, December 24, 2007

A New Kinda Christmas Story - The Story of Stuff

The New American Dream – The Debt Bubble Credit Crisis Oil Oxymoron

Ever try digging out of quick sand? They say the more you fight the faster you’ll be sucked under. Survival is for those with nerves of steel, measured strength, agility and a strong persistence dedicated to getting out alive. As a nation, we’ve been led directly into a bed of quicksand. The question now is how many of us will sink under our own weight?

Back in September, in our posting, Bernanke Going for Broke, we warned of coming inflation and further difficulties in the housing sector. Why does The Cosmopolitan Charlestonian continue to discuss boring economic issues? Well, because over time economic policies seep into every one of our lives. Additionally, if you have anything financed currently or require financing in the near future, you are duly affected. That financing will cost you more.

A giant leap in December’s inflation reading inspired this post since direct cost is almost immediate and something none of us can escape. The quote below by Dr. Stephen Leeb, investment advisor and author of “The Oil Factor,” expressed a reaction similar to our own when we noticed the marked move of this month’s Producer Price Index number measuring inflationary pressures. He described it as:

…an inflation reading the likes of which hasn't been seen since the early 1970s: Wholesale prices rose 3.2 percent in November. When we first saw the headline we thought it was an annualized figure, rather than simply the monthly increase. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. The Producer Price Index (PPI) truly did increase by that much last month--its biggest monthly increase since August 1973.

Energy and food deserve much of the blame, but higher import prices (due to the weak dollar) also took their toll. It's a safe bet that none of these problem areas will be resolved anytime soon.

At this moment, we stare headlong into a murky spot in economic history where the average American, trying hard to keep up with interest adjustments and inflation, may come to eventually find them selves flailing and fighting, only to be further engulfed by the quick sands of debt.

Here in Charleston, we can report that just over the last three months several notices were received. First, our local power company established a rate increase of 4.4%, while our water company increased somewhere between 4 and 7% on average. At the same time, food expenses have gone through the roof, especially if one tries to eat well, i.e. organic. On top of these increases, one credit card increased its interest rate for no reason at all. They mailed a nice notice like the power and water company. Last, because of the Sofa Super Store fire tragedy, there is talk of increasing property taxes, meaning our house payment will go up a little too by the amount of the tax increase. Now, this is just a snapshot of our lives and we don’t even have to factor in rising gas costs, nor do we have an adjustable rate mortgage. We were really excited when we got rid of the car; however, feelings of gloom and doom are ever present with the cost savings quietly being transferred to the support of basic necessities. You can probably take a look around and notice a few similarities, wherever you live.

As a nation, we’ve gotten in this deep as expenses have outpaced incomes for years. Take a look at the trail we walked that led to the quick sand – the expansion of credit closed the gap between income and expense. Many Americans took the bait and levered up. On a macro scale, the credit expansion naturally contracted when artificial stimulation of our economy met global limits. Artificial stimulation of the economy provided funding for a war of choice and simultaneous tax cuts for mega-corporations and the wealthy. Artificial economic stimulation inflated a housing bubble as war in Iraq inflated oil prices. Artificial manipulation of currencies jeopardized the dollar and now poses additional risk to future oil prices with each downward jolt of the dollar’s value. Since oil is the driving factor behind our economy, every cost will increase as its price goes up. Because oil is priced in dollars the driving factor behind our economy soars when the dollar falls. Credit can no longer be extended to bridge the ever-growing gap.

This government elected to waste trillions to conduct aggressive policies, securing nothing more than a magnificent deficit for the trouble. Consequently, inflationary pressures will be testing the limits of a strapped American public who will most certainly choose food and heat over making their house, credit card and auto loan payments. The contraction of credit is a clear testimonial to the number of Americans sinking under their own weight. The sub-primes and Alt-A’s stopped making payments and the wheels came off the financial vehicle.

Looking back, we now realize the credit expansion really took off when financial managers figured out how to export our debt en masse. Financial engineers created what are known as derivatives. Rather than holding mortgage assets (which was the normal process just, say, ten years ago), banks artificially increased earnings by wrapping up the mortgages they wrote (the assets) and selling them off as stable investments all over the world. This creation allowed banks to write tons of new mortgages without having to hold any of the paper on their books. Drunk by profit and blurry eyed by abundance, lending restrictions were loosened until qualifying for a mortgage loan was ridiculously easy, even for NINJAs (no income, no job; no documentation loans). With interest rates artificially low after the 2000 tech bubble crash, thanks to Mr. Greenspan, and under his own admission, constant manipulation of policy by the White House, the stage was set for a whole new bubble to form and explode, i.e. housing.

As the banks are now learning, nothing disappears; all is simply transformed. The limits being tested in the credit markets do not exist in a vacuum, despite Fed Chairman Bernanke’s persistent declarations of “containment” to all of us watching this progressive march toward the next chapter of the Globalization experience. In the wake of financial default The American Dream itself has now become an oxymoron. It’s almost certain this economic situation will continue to slowly tumble out of control, if not naturally now, then later, with greater drama for the additional cost of the defibrillations President Bush, Treasury Secretary Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke expended on arresting financial institutions via creative rate reductions and monetary injections designed to keep the economic heart pumping so it should continue staggering down the path of unsustainable growth.

When dissecting the housing dilemma this country faces, it doesn’t take long to realize that the promises of government rescue are empty like so many promises in the past. The Hope Now plan will end up a false savior as did the Enron-like Super SIV (meant to fix the financial derivatives mess), Invasion of Iraq (meant to secure oil flowing to the U.S.), and No Child Left Behind (meant to provide a future). The plan promises to offer relief to MILLIONS of homeowners facing a rate adjustment over the next few years. Picked apart, Hope Now equates to an elaborate smoke and mirrors illusion concocted only to separate those knee-deep in the debt sands from those neck-deep in the debt sands. Basically, it’s Housing Darwinism. Only the strong homeowners with an adjustable rate mortgage will survive. Homeowners with one late payment or less than 3% equity in the home will not qualify to enter the program. And if a homeowner does qualify for the program (on primary residence only), said homeowner must meet particular credit score criteria to receive the bail-out loan. Now how many people do you think will actually meet all the criteria? Ironically, the strict mortgage qualification process of yesteryear abandoned for higher returns during the boom has been turned on its head, conversely keeping many homeowners from qualifying for the no hope now of any relief program. Frankly, we lost all hope from the moment Bush gave out the wrong number for the hotline. Jackass.

Giving up our car was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made, especially in the face of this impending inflationary cycle. Luckily, we live in an area that supports urban transport, although there is room for improvement. Our decision was fueled by both a yearning for the creation of a better lifestyle, as well as a deep sense of dissatisfaction for this administration and their shenanigans.

The consumer controls over 70% of the U.S. economy. Knowing this alone is a powerful feeling. Understand this with complete clarity. What we are watching right now is a lesson in sustainability. Endless credit and reckless mortgage writing in no way leads to a secure future for our nation. What it does lead to is people losing their homes and economic erosion. These unsustainable practices are resulting in a calamitous outcome that will take years to unravel. The same can be said for our energy policy, our global warming agenda, mass food production, and shopping our way through a war (we could go on and on). Think about it.

Maybe when enough of us make bold decisions to keep ourselves from sinking in the debt sands while refusing to accept bad governmental policy, the powers that be will begin to recognize our purchasing power, thereby attempting to provide bubble-free products in bubble-free markets. For instance, design us a pollution-free, affordable car that runs on something that does not cost lives via war or starvation, and we just might buy it. Until then, we’ll continue using the money saved each month on the car to protect our personal interests in a landscape that is appearing to look more and more like 1929, or 1973, depending upon which economist is analyzing the information at hand.

The next year or so may be rocky and will hinge on the strength of the consumer. On one hand, cutting back discretionary spending could throw the country into recession; on the other, not cutting back secures a metaphorical patch of real estate in the debt sands. So, what will the mighty consumer do? Let’s all hope it’s not this.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Our Heads Will Be The Next To Pop

The healthiest thing to do is harbour a sense of humour for one's self. The Bubble machine is running on full speed now, and the producer of this video has captured it in perfect form. Laughing Out Loud here in the blogosphere...

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Curing Charlotte's Addiction - Unveiling A New Light Rail

Although the landscaping isn’t in yet, Saturday, Charlotte, North Carolina opened their light rail system to excited crowds clamoring aboard for their first free rides. Electrically driven, the Charlotte Observer proclaims the rail is ringing in a “new era of mass transit” in the city. Lines were so long for Saturday’s free ride, the transit system began driving some of the estimated 60,000 riders back to their cars as they were unable to board the rail (due to the crowds) for the return trip to their original boarding spot.

This turn of events will surely signal in a new era of study for the City of Charleston as our neighbor’s success will most likely reignite thoughts of building our own light rail (or other) system. Many of you may remember that studies were performed in 1990 by Wilber Smith Associates to assess the feasibility of a light rail system along the Norfolk Southern line from Summerville to Downtown Charleston. At $46 million, it was deemed a no go. Despite the recognition in the Berkley Charleston Dorchester Council of Governments report that, “an efficient transportation system is the life blood of an economically healthy region,” little progress has been made beyond these outdated residents of the county’s file cabinet. Through these old reports, we learn that although many recognize the potential and possibilities, the folks organizing implementation of the system, if it were ever funded, gave an approximate delivery time of up to ten years to complete. We seriously assert that ten years is simply too long to wait.

As suspected, and happily discovered after hours of pretending that the next keyword would be the big producer. Wait. Google searching. Wait. Iclandic Figure Skating? Lose all hope while breathing out heavily. Start over, and we found, The Post & Courier, builds a case for commuter rail service in Charleston based around a series of more recent studies and articles by Niel Pierce of the Citistates Group. Siting congestion, three dollar gas (which will only continue climbing upward – our prediction), future housing expectations, pollution and CARTA’s increased rider-ship, they tell us “a rail solution should be quickly forthcoming.” As two people putting CARTA’s transit system to use daily, we can attest to the part about the increasing numbers on the bus system. We anticipate the demographic will continue to shift and climb in unison with gas prices. Come closer as this must be whispered in your ear, dear reader, we recently spotted a new rider who daily sports a fancy-schmancy business suit and beautifully polished loafers. For a minute, we thought we were in New York City or Boston…surely not Charleston.

The real wake-up call lies in one of Citistates writings from the P&C, entitled “The Price of Having It All.” The article concisely conveys what we at this site sincerely hope moves to the forefront of local consciousness – an inevitable destructive cycle will take place within ten years if we don’t get our act together pronto. Our environment cannot, and by law of nature, will not, be taken for granted.

Officials fear the day is coming when beaches won't be safe, flooding will increase, and tourism and property values will take a terrible hit.

These dangers aren't to be dismissed lightly. Within a decade, this three-county treasure of a region could find that by placing its bets mostly on the economy and by relying on engineering to restore mobility and then on science to repair the environment, it's lost both — its quality of life and its economy.

Consider the recent rating of “F” received by Charleston from the American Lung Association, and it’s easy to see how we are paving our own road to hell. This week’s liberal City Paper features yet another human violation of our making. In an extensive expose entitled, "Charleston’s Dirty Little Secret," we found a foul explanation for much of the trouble at the root of the potential catastrophic environmental consequence observed by the Citistates Group.

By Stratton Lawrence - November 28, 2007
Don't breathe deep — there are killers afloat
Sunny skies, warm winters, and clean ocean breezes. Our comfortable weather and environment draws increasing numbers of people to Charleston to enjoy our quality of life. Unlike notoriously polluted places like L.A. or New Jersey, breathing here is an afterthought. So here's an unwelcome surprise: Our air is downright dirty. Earlier this year, the American Lung Association (ALA) gave Charleston County an "F" for the levels of particulate matter in our air. There's no special scale here. F means we haven't done our homework, and now we're playing catch-up.

Charleston seems to have a little issue with pumping carcinogens into our own air (yet we ban smoking throughout our city, as noted in the article). PM2.5 soot breathed in will cause asthma, heart and cardiovascular disease, stroke and generally breaks down the whole immune system. The article notes that “asthma cases in the U.S. have increased 450 percent since 1980.” A measurement of 35 micrograms per cubic meter is the EPA’s max. At the moment, it is estimated Charleston hovers around 32.

We are all responsible for Charleston's F rating with the ALA. Every time we drive a vehicle or crank up a lawn mower, we're burning oil that releases toxins into the air. Every bit of electricity we use (significantly more in S.C. than the national average per household) contributes to the toxic plumes being emitted from the five coal-fired power plants surrounding us on the Edisto River, Lake Moultrie, and up the road in Georgetown.

The lack of aggressive action to lower PM2.5 levels suggests that, right now, commerce and economics are prioritized before the health of the county's residents.

Essentially, we face another critical juncture. Does Charleston run blindly down the current path and continue belching toxins into the atmosphere, leaching pesticides into our waterways while ignorantly refusing to recognize the changing landscape? Will we continue, with great pride, to run our limitless supply of oil burning machinery with reckless weedwhackerish abandon knowing the fumes we breathe breed cancer cells? Where the hell are the gas masks? This is freaking us out, man.

The reality is that even if this article were only half true, fifteen and a half micrograms per cubic meter is still too much for our confidence levels to remain anywhere near their usual stratospheric highs -HA. The article in its entirety is an eye-opener to say the very least.

So, we say - build the rail. Make it a reality. Let’s begin to tackle this problem. The oil supply spirals toward depletion faster than this society is prepared to shift and our populations grow knowing no subdivision boundary - we simply can no longer wait. Honestly, we like getting to work in a reasonable amount of time and would like things to remain that way. And we like breathing clean air and would like there to be a few unbastardized particles left for our enjoyment.

Mostly, we don’t want to end up like Atlanta (see previous post Dry Times for their debacle) with bad air, little water and no solid plan. We must learn from our inland neighbors. They’re on the verge of a crisis with (until last week) no idea how to handle the magnitude of this issue. We in Charleston don’t have a crisis yet, meaning we haven’t crossed the point where the Federal government will demand that we clean our air, certainly a nice and costly offer for all of us. Hence, it is at once the perfect time to plan as well as clean house. Small changes can make huge differences.

The Native American Indians believed that the sign of a good leader was not what the person got done during the life, but what was done in the leaders name long after they were gone. These leaders practiced the Seventh Generation Philosophy. Great inspiration lies in the humane laws of the Six Nations (of Indians). It is said that these great leaders influenced our very own Founding Fathers. Seventh Generation Philosophy commanded that every decision made by the leaders of the Six Nations take into consideration the impact on the following seven generations of descendents. Native Americans lived in harmony with nature for more than 4,000 years. Europeans entered the scene only 400 years ago here in America. Notice the missing zero?

As we contemplate The Price of Having It All, the price of just having this laptop appears a little staggering when considering seven generations. The material relevancy of this specific item is not lost on us. OK, so we like our laptop. How ‘bout we agree to take baby steps. So, will someone please begin work on free, clean energy so we can keep the laptop humming? Like indefinitely?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Tips For Thanks And a Conservation Christmas

Well, Thanksgiving has come and gone and now we march toward the Christmas holiday. Contemplating an appropriate post for a dramatic year, an unexpected e-mail arrived. A reader shared with us that she commends our attempt at cutting back our oil use/dependency. Lamenting her own inability to give up her “bus” as required by the needs and safety of her children, we pointed out that conservation efforts can occur on a multitude of levels, and that her methods needn’t specifically mirror our own. Anyway, in this inspirational e-exchange, our reader asked us to post a few ideas, as well as one of her own. This is no way constitutes a complete list, but this being a great idea, we’ll continue to post interesting finds. As the holidays continue to unfold, we thank all of you for your kind words, kudos and the appreciation some of you have shown for the conservation efforts of two small people in the world.

Happy Holidays to all! Good luck implementing any of the following conservation tips:

Install fluorescent light bulbs to ensure reductions in energy use.
Install adequate insulation in your home to ensure reductions in energy use.
Buy recycled products when available, i.e. recycled paper towels.
Recycle your glass, newspaper and plastics in areas where recycling is available.
Reduce use of plastic bottles - mountains of plastic bottles end up in landfills.
Investigate personal product choice – use your dollars to cast favorable VOTEs for companies practicing conservative production methods.
Designate an area of your yard for compost.
Install a rain barrel and use it for yard watering. Reductions in water use also reduce energy use in areas where hydropower is the source of electricity generation.
Repair dripping faucets or leaky toilets.
Turn off the faucet when brushing teeth and shorten showering time.
Use public transportation just once or twice a week to reduce use of fossil fuels, and still keep your car for really busy days.
Turn off the lights. You’ll look foxier by candelight anyway.
Don’t buy a fake Christmas tree. Think lead dust and crowded landfills.
Plug TV, VCR, DVD, Stereo system, computers, etc. into a surge protection plug. Power the whole mess off at the surge protector to stop electrical “leak” into the electronics.
Turn off your car and curb pollution while waiting at the drive-thru, school pick-up area or bank drive-up ATM.
Buy locally grown foods to combat fossil fuel use in long distance food shipments. Check out this cool mashup from to find local food sources.
Last, simply buy less.

Still haven't had enough? Here are ten more.

As always, feel free to post your comments and include other green tips or conservation ideas we’ve not listed here. Ya’ll take care!