Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “waste-water”

Grass – Roger Ingalls

john-james-ingalls

Grass must grow in my blood; it inexplicably and constantly waves through my mind. To be clear, I’m talking grasses and not lawns. The appalling manicured green carpets in front of our houses are a waste of valuable water and the chemical runoff is deadly to a balanced ecosystem. But grass, real grass, is the essence of life.

Rice, corn, wheat, rye and sugar cane are just a few grasses that feed humanity. Oats, prairie, tundra and hay are varieties for the rest of us animals. We should never underestimate the importance of grass; it’s the unsung hero of nature.

In Praise of Grass, published in the Kansas Journal just after the Civil War was written by John James Ingalls, a Senator and founder father of Kansas. Below is one of my favorite paragraphs from that essay. You can plow the grass under but it still geminates in the blood.

Grass is the forgiveness of nature — her constant benediction. Fields trampled with battle, saturated with blood, torn with the ruts of cannon, grow green again with grass, and carnage is forgotten. Streets abandoned by traffic become grass-grown like rural lanes, and are obliterated. Forests decay, harvests perish, flowers vanish, but grass is immortal. Beleaguered by the sullen hosts of winter, it withdraws into the impregnable fortress of its subterranean vitality, and emerges upon the first solicitation of spring. Sown by the winds, by wandering birds, propagated by the subtle horticulture of the elements which are its ministers and servants, it softens the rude outline of the world. Its tenacious fibres hold the earth in its place, and prevent its soluble components from washing into the wasting sea. It invades the solitude of deserts, climbs the inaccessible slopes and forbidding pinnacles of mountains, modifies climates, and determines the history, character, and destiny of nations. Unobtrusive and patient, it has immortal vigor and aggression. Banished from the thoroughfare and the field, it bides its time to return, and when vigilance is relaxed, or the dynasty has perished, it silently resumes the throne from which it has been expelled, but which it never abdicates. It bears no blazonry or bloom to charm the senses with fragrance or splendor, but its homely hue is more enchanting than the lily or the rose. It yields no fruit in earth or air, and yet should its harvest fail for a single year, famine would depopulate the world.

The Lawn Dilemma – Roger Ingalls

The season has finally turned and California’s dry heat has arrived. The lawn in front of our house has not tasted a deep drink for several weeks and it’s starting to show. Frankly, the grass looks like crap. We are rapidly becoming the scourge of our suburban neighborhood; the lawn cancer of picturesque Yupsterville.

This lawn-thing has me conflicted. Should I waste water and fossil fuels to keep the hood uniform and neighbors happy by maintaining a useless lawn? Or…do I color outside the suburbia sidewalks and transform the yard into an eco-friendly oasis of indigenous plant life along with an edible garden? Basically it comes down to fitting in or doing the right thing.

What is America’s fascination with two-inch tall carpet-like grass? Do we feel so culturally inferior that we must emulate manicured croquet gardens of eighteenth century aristocrats? Let’s get real…Marie Antoinette isn’t going to walk out my front door and say, “let them eat cake.”

There are 76 million home owners in the United States and that distribution of property sets our culture apart from every other civilization. Widespread land ownership should not be taken for granted; it is a historic anomaly. We should set our own lofty examples of how to use and protect it by saying no to home lawns that are environmentally disastrous and a huge resource waste (water, oil for pesticides and natural gas for fertilizer).

Let’s look at this differently. The U.S. lawn and yard market represents close to $30 billion a year. If we spent the same amount on growing edible gardens and returning indigenous plants to our yards, less water would be consumed and our waterways would be less polluted.

More importantly, hunger would be wiped off the planet.

The lawn dilemma has been resolved…let the transformation begin!

The Morning After 2 … Seriously

Now I realize I was being flippant yesterday and was likely to incur the wrath of e-book zealots. I would apologize, but I simply enjoyed writing the blog entry far too much, so I will settle for a passionate (and genuine) plea to embrace the e-book revolution.

When it comes down to it, the argument is all about e-books .v. tree books. I thought it would be a simple argument. Deforestation is one of the biggest factors in Global Warming, no? It seems that much of the debate centers around a study produced by the very credible Cleantech Group. They focus on the Kindle, though they admit that they possess little knowledge in the carbon footprint of the production and maintenance for the Kindle or the Whispernet technology that sends e-books effortlessly through the air straight to your kindle or computer.

I kind of got lost with the scientific and environmental jargon, but as I understand it, e-readers could have a major impact on improving the sustainability and environmental impact on the publishing industry, one of the world’s most polluting sectors. In 2008, the U.S. book and newspaper industries combined resulted in the harvesting of 125 million trees, not to mention the waste-water produced or other factors such as storage and transportation.

The report, authored by Emma Ritch,suggests that the carbon emitted in the life-cycle of a Kindle is more or less offset after the first year of use. She writes that “any additional years of use result in net carbon savings, equivalent to an average of 168 kg of CO2 per year (the emissions produced in the manufacture and distribution of 22.5 books).”But even before we get involved in the intricacies of carbon footprint measurement, we have to be comfortable with the huge amount of trees cut down, the energy put into printing and packaging the books and then their distribution and storage.  

If you can deal with that, consider this from an industry insider: ABOUT 40% OF ALL BOOKS PUBLISHED ARE EVENTUALLY PULPED. Tens of thousands of copies of Jonathan Franzen‘s Freedom were pulped because of errors. Dan Bown’s Angels & Demons reputedly published 6 million copies for it’s first run with 2 million being sold in the first week. And the rest? Here is another article on the mass pulping of books.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t even come down to carbon footprints.

Enjoy your e-reader, knowing you are part of a movement to save the planet – the only one we know that has chocolate on it (sustainably fair trade grown chocolate,  of course!).
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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

 

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