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Archive for March, 2014

On this second day of spring, I found a jar of poetry and bits in a bush on a neighborhood footpath. I almost left it there without a look. (Scandinavians believe in mind-your-own-business and leave-no-trace. We can take it too far.)

photo-81I picked it up, and investigated by layers. First I read the words I could see through the glass. They were David Whyte words, and beautiful. I knew then, as I had before/life is no passing memory of what has been/nor the remaining pages in a great book/waiting to be read.

I put it back unopened and walked my dog.

On the return, I picked up the jar again, opened it. JAR #15, it said. I removed two slips of paper, and twigs and stones wrapped in string. “This jar is part of an interactive poetry and art installation that started on Bainbridge Island, Washington. If you’ve found this jar you can keep it, hide it somewhere new as it is, or fill it with new words and treasures for another person to discover.”

There is a website, Jars of Words. Islander Rebecca Rockefeller says she started this project as a birthday present to herself. My present to her is Rumi: “She is a letter to everyone. You open it. It says, Live.”

I write about it here because it seems important. I cover local politics on this blog. It is strenuous, not always rewarding, but usually worthwhile. I’ve watched how we do things—people who hold office or work for our government, or express an opinion, or build something, or organize their neighbors. It is often graceless. Always passionate.

Trying to get things done in a town full of opinions involves argument. Meetings. Hearings. Positions taken, grudges held.

To be startled by poetry on a morning walk puts the whole thing in context. People live and work and love. They disagree and take offense and avoid each other. They forget and go on. This is what people do in the markets and coffee houses and streets all over the world, all over time.

The poet Carolyn Forche tells a story about a Central American human rights worker who, upon hearing that the U.S. was sending an ambassador to help in the aftermath of revolution and civil war, asked, “Why send us your bureaucrats? Send us your poets. Send us the soul of your country.”

So Bainbridge Island. Here is the soul of our island, from Jar #15. (more…)

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potMy freshman roommate grew a spindly pot plant named Wilbur, which yielded exactly one harsh joint. Every college dorm had its down-low pot growers. People would come by the room, smoke some cheap pot from Mexico (pre-Paraquat), listen to a little Allman Brothers and stare at a wilting plant with its two or three leaf palms. Growing pot was more about the cool than the mellow. These days I know someone who has a medical marijuana-growing business, a long way from the dorm. He has this thing down to a precise science, the seeds, amount of light, nutrients and water, measuring everything so he can produce a smoke in any strength, any medicinal quality, all in a super-energized greenhouse. Growing pot is still not about the mellow.

According to a new article in Mother Jones, the 1970’s hippie, growing marijuana for personal use, has been replaced by big business that’s anything but green. Outdoor grows in California use pesticides, fertilizer and rat poison that harm protected wildlife and consume 50% more water than the city of San Francisco.

Although the article focuses on the massive outdoor grow business in California of the kind Washington has tried to limit, it gives a few startling facts about the environmental impacts of pot growing:

–Four plants growing indoors under lights sucks as much energy as 29 refrigerators.

–Nationwide, electricity used by indoor marijuana grows is enough to power 1.7 million homes. That’s equal to the output of 7 large power plants.

–The energy needed to produce a single joint is equal to the amount needed to produce 18 pints of beer.

–For every pound of pot grown indoors, 4600 pounds of CO2 goes into the atmosphere. (more…)

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Today, the New York Times has a story about a report on climate change just released by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest non-governmental general science membership organization.

AAAS convened a task force of climate science experts, economists, community leaders and policy makers for its “What We Know” Initiative, to address the continuing lack of public awareness of the full spectrum of climate risks. Scientists from Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Woods Hole and other research institutions are guiding the effort to educate people about the scientific evidence on climate change, raise the alarm about serious risks and consequences to the planet, and debunk myths and misinformation.

The report contains no new science. Instead, it is clearer and “more accessible than perhaps anything the scientific community has put out to date,” the Times writes. The initiative is intended to cut through public confusion, and identify:

The Reality–Surveys show that the public is somewhat concerned about climate change, but believes there is still significant scientific disagreement about the causes. This is FALSE. According to AAAS, “Based on well-established evidence, about 97% of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening.”

The Risk–AAAS writes: “Earth’s climate is on a path to warm beyond the range of what has been experienced over the past millions of years. The range of uncertainty for the warming along the current emissions path is wide enough to encompass massively disruptive consequences to societies and ecosystems: as global temperatures rise, there is a real risk, however small, that one or more critical parts of the Earth’s climate system will experience abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes.”

Worst case forecasts include severe food shortages, rising seas that would inundate coastlines, extreme heat waves, droughts and floods, and massive extinction of plants and animals.  (more…)

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The world’s environmental problems are so huge and complex it’s hard for most of us to know how to help. Leave it to the experts and hope for the best—Congress is going to stonewall reform efforts anyway, right?

Probably. But right here on Bainbridge Island, you have a golden opportunity to make a real difference for the environment, with one decision on your power bill. And by showing City Hall how much islanders care about clean energy, your efforts could be multiplied a hundredfold!

I’m talking about Puget Sound Energy’s “Green Power” program. I didn’t know it existed until late February when our City Council discussed it.

Chart-copyUnless you participate in the Green Program, over one-third of your electrical power comes from coal, from my home state of Montana. That sparkling, pure water in Montana’s streams, rivers and groundwater for fishing, hiking, wildlife, recreation and drinking water is not so clean and pure in coal country. (more…)

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Ahead of National Volunteer Week, April 6-13, here’s a piece I submitted to the City about Demi Allen, chair of the City’s Non-Motorized Committee.

21456_383645661735395_1608813028_nDemi Allen is one of the fortunate few for whom there isn’t much difference between an occupation and a calling. A business lawyer by education and experience, Allen returned to school in 2011, looking to incorporate his passions—conservation, biking, and livable communities—into his work. Last year he earned an MBA in Sustainable Business at the Bainbridge Graduate Institute. He sits on the board of a social entrepreneurship organization, advises nonprofits, and volunteers for social impact investment groups.

His volunteer service is local, regional and statewide. A long-time bicycle commuter, he became Chair of the City’s Non-Motorized Transportation Committee in January. He’s also secretary of the island’s bike advocacy group, Squeaky Wheels.

Community surveys show that islanders want better bike and pedestrian infrastructure, and he wants to get busy on those priorities. He says he plans to build on the years of work done by Squeaky Wheels and others, while looking for “new approaches to close the gap between where we are and where the community would like to be.” (more…)

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