Sunday, April 29, 2007

Stuck in Climate Change Purgatory?

This in the New York Times today on Carbon Neutrality as modern-day indulgences!
Quoting Andrew Revkin:
" the carbon-neutral movement just a gimmick?

On this, environmentalists aren’t neutral, and they don’t agree. Some believe it helps build support, but others argue that these purchases don’t accomplish anything meaningful — other than giving someone a slightly better feeling (or greener reputation) after buying a 6,000-square-foot house or passing the million-mile mark in a frequent-flier program. In fact, to many environmentalists, the carbon-neutral campaign is a sign of the times — easy on the sacrifice and big on the consumerism." go read it

Of course "carbon neutrality only works if "carbon emissions" is a zero-sum game (only X amount of carbon can be in the atmosphere, so I will pollute and you will off-set my X tons of carbon emissions by NOT giving off X tons).

We all know (don't we?) that Carbon-neutral companies don't work that way. They say they will put our carbon payments towards fighting global warming or other such vague efforts, but unless they are able to show someone else is literally offsetting my output, it is not going to work.

So, what can we do on a local scale to move off the dime and make some actual reductions? Better transit use and availability? Better community planning (work, stores, residences, schools within closer proximity)? What is it that we will do (are willing to do?!) in our communities to start a change? That's a question that bothers me daily because I think climate change is one problem we can't solve on an individual or family level. It will take community cooperation and sacrifice - which means the first step is building real community trust and cooperation first.

Who remembers how to do that?

Friday, April 27, 2007

Looking for a New "New Deal" and some courage

Wallace Roberts has a provocative piece in the Vermont Guardian questioning whether there is such a thing as affordable living in Vermont -- or anywhere else -- for the average person.

I have to admit, my husband and I have recently had conversations about our financial state after law school that go something like this:

"How can we make $ X from our combined incomes so that buy a house in Vermont that will probably cost twice that, so that we can save for college for our children that will cost three times that, and so that we can save for retirement that will cost four to seven times that amount? Then we consider that out of that same income (which is still well above the national median, mind you) we must also pay off school loans, afford health, life and home insurance, and fulfill our commitments to our church and community organizations. It seems too much.

Then I thnk of the millions of families who are the "working poor" with no prospect for retirement, no health insurance, who live daily with job, food and housing insecurity. This is a real problem in Vermont and in the Upper Valley. But how in the world do we get people into office who care enough about our virtually invisible and certainly disenfranchised neighbors? Who can explain to those already in office that neglect of our poor citizens DOES effect the business bottom line through a complicated economic system of lost productivity, trade imbalance, regressive taxes and system-wide cost shifting?

There seems to be a threshold of entitlement for the wealthy, that makes $25 Million space vacations OK and somehow beyond ethical scrutiny. (see Simonyi's $25M space station trip). Considering that the majority of our national leaders either come from such wealth or now live in it, how do we raise their consciousness beyond compassion to the level of courage required to do something?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Global Warming and football

Thomas Friedman in the Times today said: The biggest energy deficit we have right now in America is the energy to lead on this issue. I have a five year old nominee.

In a recent conversation about the origins of Gatorade, Satya asked why it was necessary to create an electrolyte sports drink. I explained the severe conditions under which young men train for the fall football season. I mentioned not only the hot humid Florida weather, but also how football uniforms with their layers of padding and jerseys and medical tape compound the problem, making it hard to rehydrate with water alone.

"So why don't they just play football in the winter so they don't risk sweating so much?" she asked. "And," she continued, "why don't they schedule basketball season early in the fall and possibly soccer?"

It seemed so simple. "Because they don't have a smart girl like you to run the athletics program," I replied, thinking that if she can solve the problems facing Division 1 college sports at age five, perhaps she'll be ready to work on the energy crisis by age nine or so.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Something is wrong here...

I may (or may not) have a child who is challenged by Autism. For that reason and because it is hard to avoid the topic these days, I keep up with the latest in Autism news and research.*

*(O.K. I am in law school, so it is fair to say I don't keep up with anything. My dear Mom keeps up with the news and research and sends me links and articles.)

What I am seeing makes me extremely uneasy. For instance, look at this list of symptomatic behaviors...

* lines up toys
* plays with toys in same manner every time
* is very organized
* is rigid about routines or object placements
* upset by changes
* eat few foods or only certain textures
* smells food
* unaware of danger (e.g., hot things)
* tantrums for no apparent reason
* has obsessive interests
* likes spinning objects
* likes to spin him/herself
* likes parts of objects (e.g., wheels)
* does not use toys appropriately (lines up cars by color rather that zooming them)
* special areas of talent or expertise
* perseveration
* walks over things (e.g., toys) unaware

Yes, I pulled them from the CDC website on Autism:

Look at them again. I removed only three or four:

* insensitive to pain
* unaware of danger (e.g., hot things)
* hand flapping/finger flicking/toe walking

How many professors (or other brilliant and talented but perhaps quirky types) do you know who exibit three or more of the behaviors from the top list (substitute toys with something else like pens, etc)?

We are being over inclusive here. I think we (I am using the human "we") have no idea what's going on with these kids and who fits in and who does not. We've considered professors (and other amazing people). What of these ASD spectrum characteristics would be evident in the prison population. (That's a bizarre and completely unsupported bomb, I know, but keep your mind open. That's what we do at this blog). I wonder how ASD responds to coke, to THP, to heroine. I wonder what happens to un-identified kids with ASD. I wonder what happens with unidentified poor kids with ASD. What do you think?

Why am I asking these questions? I think we are facing a huge mental health and or environmental problem that we are not equipped to understand much less address. When I look at the ASD informational websites and the number of kids with delays I see everyday, (scope of the disorder as described and the pervasiveness of the condition in the population), I get a very discomforting feeling.

On the one hand, there is a huge population of kids with serious problems. On the other hand, we are describing them with an overbroad brush. No wonder researchers voice such extreme opinions about the demographics of ASD. Is it an epidemic? Is it that we are better at diagnosing kids?

We've got an enormous group of people to look at, why can't we (or don't we) describe them accurately? You're kidding me that we can't do better than "special areas of talent or expertise"! That's not a problem description; that's an item on a college application. What logical person would put that in the same list with "hand flapping/finger flicking/toe walking"?! More interestingly, why do these symptoms show up in the same (beautiful, brilliant, challenged sweet) person?

I still can't pinpoint what exactly is wrong. It's just wrong, though. Something is wrong.