Two Small Ideas for Big Consumption Reduction


First, I want to thank you for visiting my blog and apologize for my recent paucity of posts.  Second, I’d like to pass along a passage from Annie Leonard’s book, The Story of Stuff, that contains a couple of ideas for big-environmental-bang-for-the-buck consumption reduction.

Here’s the quote:

Some consumer products are so inherently toxic or wasteful or energy intensive that improving production just isn’t a viable option and it would be better to just stop making and using them.  If I could wave a magic wand and do away with two everyday items in order to have a huge positive impact on human health and the well-being of our planet, those two things would be aluminum cans and PVC [plastic].  And if you’re looking for some really easy, immediate things you can do to lessen your own impact, start by eliminating these two toxic and totally unnecessary materials from your life.[1]

On pages 64 through 72 of her book, Leonard explains in greater detail why she chose those two products.  I hope you’ll take a look.

Thanks again for the visit, dear reader!

[1] Leonard, Annie. 2010. The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession with Stuff Is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health—and a Vision for Change. New York: Free Press, p. 64.

Bypassing Beef Brings Big-Buck Bang


In an earlier post, I said that any hope of stopping the unraveling of the ecosphere depends on a paradigmatic shift of values, from craving wealth and the stuff it buys to nurturing living things.  And I’ve argued a number of times that we need to reduce our consumption of unnecessary stuff.  But cutting back on some things does more good than cutting back on other things.  So if you’d like some big-bang-for-your-buck ideas, here’s one: Reduce or, better still, eliminate beef from your diet.

The link below will take you to an article from The Guardian, entitled: “Giving Up Beef Will Reduce Carbon Footprint More Than Cars, Says Expert.”

Future posts will include other ideas for consumption reduction with outsized results.  (Big thanks to Sean and Jerry for the suggestion.) 



In Which I Rant in Capital Letters


You may have seen some stories recently about several mysterious craters that have suddenly appeared in Siberia. Sad to say, there’s increasing evidence that methane, shooting up from underground, was the cause of those craters. Why should anyone give a rat’s rear end about methane-produced craters in Siberia? Because, in terms of global warming potential, methane is about 20 to 85 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Ever since the 1990s (if not before), some scientists have warned that global warming could lead to the melting of Arctic permafrost, which could, in turn, lead to the release of massive amounts of methane.

Here’s a passage from a book about global warming, published in 1996:

“There are millions of tonnes of methane locked in the permafrost of northern regions, in what are called gas hydrates. These are ice-like mixtures of water and organic gases which only form at high pressure and low temperatures—in this case probably during the last ice age. But because the world is warming the permafrost is beginning to melt. . . . The release of methane in large quantities from the arctic tundra could make a substantial difference to global warming, in what some people call a ‘runaway greenhouse effect.’ Research is continuing into this alarming possibility.”[1]

And so, here we are, with permafrost melting, leading to methane escaping, leading to more global warming, leading to more permafrost melting, and round and round.  It’s this kind of stuff that makes me want to rant in CAPITAL LETTERS. It’s the stuff that I learned years ago might happen and now appears to be happening that is transforming me (even as I type) from a mild-mannered Ph.D. into a wild-eyed blogger. And my wild-eyed message is this: WE CAN’T CONTINUE BUSINESS AS USUAL.  THE NATURAL WORLD ON WHICH WE ALL DEPEND—FOR AIR, WATER, FOOD, CLOTHING, AND SHELTER—IS COMING APART AT THE SEAMS.  THE RIGHT WING IS DOING WHATEVER IT CAN TO KEEP THE GOVERNMENT FROM ACTING.  GREEN TECHNOLOGIES CAN’T BE DEPLOYED FAST ENOUGH, AND EVEN IF THEY COULD BE, THEY INEVITABLY HAVE DETRIMENTAL ENVIRONMENTAL SIDE EFFECTS.  WITH EACH PASSING DAY IT BECOMES CLEARER: THERE’S NO MORE TIME TO WASTE.  EACH OF US MUST ACT.  WE—AS INDIVIDUALS—MUST REDUCE THE STRAIN WE’RE PUTTING ON THE ENVIRONMENT, AND WE CAN DO THAT BY REDUCING OUR SELF-INDULGENT CONSUMPTION OF STUFF.

A few days ago, the Washington Post ran a story about the Siberian craters. Here’s a link to that article: 

[1] Brown, Paul. 1996. Global Warming: Can Civilization Survive? London: Blandford, p. 57.

A Post That Gives Me an Excuse to Use One of My Favorite Words


Today, I’d just like to make clear that I’m not saying we should eschew all but absolutely essential consumption. (I hope you like the word eschew as much as I do. Every time I use it, I think I should follow it up immediately with a “gesundheit” or a “bless you” or something.) I’m just saying, before we make a purchase, we should keep in mind that there are environmental costs associated with producing, using, and disposing of the stuff we buy. To be brief, resources must be extracted, transported, transformed into goods, shipped to stores or warehouses, transported to where they’ll be used, and ultimately sent to a waste site somewhere. At various steps along the way, habitats are disrupted, resources are depleted, and pollution is created.

If you need something, go ahead and buy it, but please think first whether it’s worth—in addition to the price in dollars and cents—the costs it imposes on the environment.