A meandering blog with no clear topic. You will find me talking about knitting, building, kids, social and economic issues, Alaska, and lots of other stuff.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

the canary in the coal mine

"The Arctic is often cited as the canary in the coal mine for climate warming … and the canary has died.” - Dr Jay Zwally, a glaciologist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center


So, we did not have a record loss of arctic sea ice this summer as we did in 2007. No, we only had the second largest sea ice loss ever. And during a summer that was exceptionally cool and cloudy. It was cool enough this summer that most crops were several weeks behind schedule, and some things didn't produce at all up here.

I don't want to repeat the entire article linked above, but some of it, I just have to.

"The Arctic is key to the world’s climate, and Arctic changes have the potential to seriously destabilise the global climate system...The danger is that an ice-free state in the Arctic summer will kick the climate system into run-on warming and create an aberrant new climate state many, many degrees hotter. The Arctic sea-ice is the first domino and it is falling fast. Other dominos will inevitably fall unless we stop emitting greenhouse gases and cool the planet to get the Arctic sea-ice back. " [emphasis added]

So see, big deal, huh? Read on....

"And so the conclusions we reached in November 2007 were:
• Because of the dangerous knock-on effects caused by its loss, the Arctic sea ice must be restored to its normal extent as fast as possible.
• To get the Arctic sea ice back we need to cool the earth by about 0.3ÂșC. If we don’t, we cannot avoid very dangerous climate impacts. There is no third way. This is the new very inconvenient truth politicians seek to avoid.
• To cool the earth fast enough to get the Arctic sea-ice back quickly, we need to move to zero greenhouse gas emissions as fast as the economy can be restructured, and is environmentally safe to do so, and take about 200 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide out of the air. We also need to find environmentally-safe mechanisms to actively cool the earth while navigating this transition. [emphasis added]
• Taken together this is a staggering task in terms of the necessary scale and speed of action, but there is simply no alternative if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change. "

Catastrophic climate change. We are not talking a little bit warmer. We are talking mass eradication of species, severe desertification of current agricultural land, massive releases of methane from permafrost and arctic seabeds. And to prevent it, we have to not just cut back on greenhouse gasses. We have to stop them. Get to ZERO emissions. Heck, even my woodstove emits greenhouse gasses. The article suggests:

"The climate emergency requires leadership and courage, and an imaginative capacity almost completely lacking in ... politics today. We need to inspire people with the idea of transformative action, the willingness to promote a new vision of the future and make it the number one goal of our society and economy. It requires governments to put much of the enormous wealth generated by our economy into the solving the climate crisis. "


"If politicians cannot lead, then we all must, in building a movement across society that uses the brutal reality of our position to advocate and inspire the nation to take transformative action. We can only play this game once. If we don't do enough, or at sufficient pace, in building a post-carbon economy, the climate system will get away from our capacity to correct it. Trial and error climate policy is not an option. Waiting for the market is not an option. The Arctic is our Pearl Harbor."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Does anyone really need a $150K wardrobe?

I don't think so. Not even our beloved governor turned vice presidential candidate. According to news reports, the republican party has spent over $150 THOUSAND on clothes for Sarah. Most at Neiman Marcus. She is supposedly donating them to charity when she is done, but so what? For someone that is trying really hard to portray herself as a soccer mom, a typical suburban woman, this isn't working. It's just silly and disgusting.

Monday, October 20, 2008

My economic stimulus plan

OK, so the title may be a little bit grandiose, but to be perfectly honest, I think they have it all wrong. They being the know-it-alls in Washington that have come up with one harebrained scheme after another to waste citizens' money. They keep saying taxpayers, but I am damn sick and tired of being called a taxpayer or a consumer. Anyway, this is what I think they should do:

1. Bring the soldiers home from Iraq and Afghanistan. We are spending hundreds of billions of dollars to keep them overseas. We can put that money to better use.

2. Repeal TARP, the $700 billion bandaid for the credit crisis. I have a couple of reasons for this. First, I don't think it will work. There is a lot more than $700 billion in bad paper out there, and once we start, where do we end? There was one bank that said it had over $300 billion all by itself. Secondly, the vast majority of citizens are against the plan, and I think we count a lot more than all the Wall Street corporations put together.

3. If a bank lent money it should not have, or an insurance company insured loans they should not have, or an investment firm made bad bets, they need to take their losses. If I were to invest money in the stock market, and lose it, or to lend money to someone and not get it back, there would not be any government agency standing by to hand me my money back. It should not work for them either.

4. Instead of this new economic stimulus package they are talking about, which is just another attempt at a quick fix, a get-rich-quick scheme on a national level, we should be investing that money in a way that will pay off in the future. Think New Deal. Invest in fixing the electrical grid that is old and worn out and in danger of a major collapse. Invest in alternative energy projects that will help reduce our reliance on oil. Get the railroads back in good condition, as shipping freight by rail is much more efficient than by truck. Get the CCC reactivated for these things. Not only will these things help us in the future, but using something like the CCC will create jobs. Unemployment is relatively high right now, and this type of program would help lower it, and thereby put more money in people's pockets. Slower than sending out a check to everyone, but more effective in the long run.

5. Institute a foreclosure moratorium for families who just had their rates readjusted or are newly unemployed. There should be some guidelines about this, so people that just decide to quit paying their mortgages because they are underwater don't get bailed out, and so that people can't just pay nothing and live there for free. Put in place rules for renegotiating their mortgages so that it is a uniform process.

6. Encourage victory gardens and local food production. Food prices are rising, more people are applying for food stamps, food banks are used to capacity and more. The cost of transporting food across the country is astronomical, and wasteful. For things like olive oil, that can only be produced in certain areas, fine. But Alaskans should not be buying potatoes from Idaho.

7. Create MAJOR incentives for increasing energy effciency. Things like carpooling, using public transportation, switching to higher mpg vehicles. We can save energy in other areas besides transportation too. The better insulated a house is, the less energy it takes to keep it warm/cool. Individual families that make plenty of money may not find this important, but as a nation, it is essential that we use less.

8. Create MAJOR incentives for making things here in the US. Almost everything I buy these days says it is made in China, Indonesia, somewhere besides the US. That needs to change.

I am sure I can think of other things, but this, to me, is a good start. I think it would help get us pointed in the right direction, away from the mentality that the only things that keeps the economy going are consumer spending and banks lending to each other.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

as promised....

Here are pics of my new kitchen:

As I said earlier, I am very excited about having a real kitchen in my house. I have cabinets, a sink, a stove, tile floor... it's all there.
Now for the details... the stove is propane, connected to a couple of 100 pound tanks out back. Turns out a natural gas stove converts to propane just by changing one little part. This stove does not require any electricity to work, not even the oven. This is a good thing, since I don't have any electricity.
I do have running water, however, of sorts. We have a 150 gallon water tank upstairs that has a faucet emptying into the kitchen sink. It will go to the bathroom sink too, eventually. We can't use our pretty kitchen sink faucet however, because it turns out that gravity does not supply enough pressure to force the water through the faucet at anything more than a dribble. So we have a temporary faucet that is just like a typical outdoor faucet, until we have more pressure. What we don't have yet is hot water. If we need hot water, we heat it on the stove, or on the woodstove, if it happens to be hot. Our water situation is by no means a perfect one, but it works for us for now.
So, I have a kitchen. I have lived in this cabin since April 1 without a kitchen (you can see the pics here and here of my previous setup). This is a vast improvement, one I am totally psyched about.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Assault with a deadly spork...

James called me earlier today to read me this story he found while reading the Anchorage Daily News. I think it is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard. Apparently some guy had lunch at KFC, and must have gotten some serious indigestion or something... he stabbed a guy with his spork, oh excuse me, hybrid fork spoon utensil. When James read this to me, my reaction was, are you KIDDING me?


I love Alaska.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

long time no see

Well, I knew it had been a while since I last posted, but not until I looked at my blog did I realize it has been over a month. WOW. I have been insanely busy at work, getting lots of overtime, and the commute is taking up just about all the rest of my waking hours. Add church activities, sick kids (even just the minor colds and stuff they have require attention), listening to news about the financial mess, the excitement about having an oven to bake with, I have no time.

BUT DID YOU HEAR THAT???? AN OVEN TO BAKE WITH. I am leaping with joy. I am absolutely, completely ecstatic because I have a real stove. This weekend, I will post pictures on my blog of my beautiful new kitchen.

I have three days off this weekend. I am absolutely thrilled to have all that free time. I don't know what I will do with it all.... oh wait, I will bake bread. I will knit. I will play piano. I will post pictures and erudite soliloquies on my blog. I will spend time with my kids, maybe playing in our snow. I will plant daffodil bulbs and hope they survive the winter. I will.... wait, what happened to all my free time????