Monday, January 11, 2016

Sustainability: fewer, better, circular

I'm just waiting for Sen. Inhofe to show up with his snowball, as long as he doesn't bring along the fracking-triggered earthquakes Oklahoma has been enjoying. Coming back yesterday from Taylors Falls, we noticed that much of the St. Croix River is frozen over. For the brief moments when the sun shone, the snow-covered countryside sparkled. We reconfirmed that extra-cold and cloudy is much less enjoyable than sunny and sparkily.

St. Croix River, Osceola, Winter
St. Croix River, Osceola, Winter
Photo by J. Harrington

I suppose that, if the North Pole is going to melt in the Winter, that cold air needs to go someplace and Minnesota is just so damn handy. Think about what increased weather volatility is likely to mean for our food supply, in part because  the way the world (especially the US) grows much of its food contributes to climate change.

I'm sure you know that sustainable and "green"aren't features we can add, like checking off "automatic transmission" on a vehicle. Sustainable is a function of the systems we use to produce the products, food and vegetables we need and want. I've just been going through some of that reckoning as I shop for a new vehicle. The question of gas mileage affects green house gasses and my personal carbon footprint. The dealership where a vehicle is purchased may be more or less sustainable, as is the corporation that produces the vehicle and it's entire supply chain. Think nested systems, like Russian dolls, often on a global scale. If there isn't sufficient transparency in reporting corporate and product sustainability, and a more common set of metrics used to measure it, comparing apples to oranges becomes almost impossible. That's one of the reasons I think it's important to push for corporate social responsibility reporting to better align with the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals, and to maintain that alignment over an extended period of time. As a consumer and citizen, I'm willing to weigh the value of clean air versus clean water (I want both, thank you), but I need a basis of comparison that's common and limited in how "fudged" it can be. Are vehicles, and those who produce them, getting more or less sustainable? How would we know?

Baseball has issues with steroids and records that may or may not be affected by drug use. VW has real issues with transparency and honesty and environmental reporting. Regardless of how much a vehicle may be discounted, do you really want to do business with a company that lacks integrity? We have only one planet at our "disposal." There are now enough of us that, unless we a more prudent in our economic development (not growth, development) we'll all be out in the cold, not matter how warm the climate gets. Martha and the Vandellas were telling us about this last millennium. Maybe the lesson will start to sink in after about half a century, but, on an evolutionary or geologic scale, that's not even a heartbeat.

Drought

By Felecia Caton Garcia 

Try to remember: things go wrong in spite of it all.
I listen to our daughters singing in the crackling rows
of corn and wonder why I don't love them more.
They move like dark birds, small mouths open

to the sky and hungry. All afternoon I listen
to the highway and watch clouds push down over the hills.
I remember your legs, heavy with sleep, lying across mine.
I remember when the world was transparent, trembling, all

shattering light. I had to grit my teeth against its brilliance.
It was nothing like this stillness that makes it difficult
to lift my eyes. When I finally do, I see you
carrying the girls over the sharp stones of the creek bed.

When they pull at my clothes and lean against my arms,
I don't know what to do and do nothing.


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