Tuesday, October 24

Thoughts for the Day

I'm taking a Master Composter class right now. Literally, I started
to write this while sitting in the class. Bad student. Bad. Bad.
But right now it's review from last week, so I feel okay about being
slightly distracted.

I've been composting for a few years now, but I feel like I could use
what I know about the process a lot better and hopefully this class
will help me not only improve my own methods, but spread the word to
others about how easy composting is, and to try to inspire local
businesses to reduce their solid waste by composting what they can.

So while I sit here learning about microflora and actinomycetes and
the way things rot and how these bacterial and fungal organisms
convert food scraps from waste to soil, I think about the environment
and the world we're in and what we're doing to it.

To wit: I just read this morning that children in day care easily suffer from pesticide exposure.

This isn't due to pesticides being necessary. It's due to pesticides
being easy.

So here's the question: how do we change human behavior? Knowing
that people will generally prefer the easy path to the one which is
less damaging, what do we do to convince them to take the time to do
good things for the world than to take the simplest approach?

I don't have a good answer to this. I can only tell you my own
experience: when I realized I had to purchase a car for work (rather
than continually renting who knows what from week to week for my
occasional 200+ mile round trip commutes), I had a few choices to
make. I could have bought a Toyota Echo, which is a nice vehicle
with good mileage. I probably would have been happy with that
choice, but instead I chose to spend what I had on a used Prius. It
cost me about $1.5k more to go with the Prius. That $2k was a lot of
money, but I've made well over $1,200 of that back since buying the
vehicle in gas savings. If you assume gas has consistently been at
$2/gallon, and you figure out the difference between the average
50mpg that the Prius gets and the 40mpg that the Echo gets, that's
what it boils down to. Of course, gas has been a lot -more- than
that so I've probably made that money back and then some, and the
average Prius mileage is closer to 52mpg, except when I forget to
keep the tires inflated.

Of course the deciding issue for me wasn't MPG. It was emissions.

I bring this up not to get into economic details or to chide people
who haven't made the same choice, but to focus on the idea that
making choices that are better for our world and our environment are
somehow difficult. They're only difficult if you focus on the
short-term. They're only difficult if you buy into the notion that
environmentally sound choices somehow come at a cost.

And that depends on how you define "cost." If I have to travel
throughout the state for my work, and the nature of that work means
that I'm usually doing this alone, what am I doing to harm the world
around me in doing so? How do I define the cost of the toxins I emit
into the air? How do I define the cost of the extraction and
refinement of the fuel I use?

For me, the Prius is the bare minimum: it's what I can afford, but
not what I truly want. I want a car that runs on a combination of
electric and biodiesel. I want a vehicle which, when available,
makes use of the power of the sun to recharge itself. And I want
that to be the standard. I want 50mpg to be the -minimum- road
standard, not one of the best mileage rates available.

So back to composting... it's impossible to be seriously into
composting and not pay attention to the interaction between life,
death, pollution, sewage, landfills, disease and soil. And yet, as
a planet, I don't see how that many of us pay much attention at all
into what we put into the ground. For most of us, trash is merely
something we put away and it goes to a place where we don't have to
worry about it any longer. It's not. Every chemical, every toxin,
every pesticide, every disease, we throw away goes somewhere.
Landfill chemicals filter into the water. That water spreads into
the rivers, lakes and oceans.

I don't know where to go with this exactly except to say that
everything I've decided to do to change things is a starting point,
but I'm just doing it on a local and personal level. This is
something which needs to be accomplished on community, statewide,
national and global levels.

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