Being Green. What Does It Mean?

Green planet. Commercial reality.
Green planet. Commercial reality.

 

The modern Green movement began on Christmas Eve 1968. That was the night on which the three men of Apollo 8 took the famous photograph known as “Earthrise.”

 

Here’s the link.

 

The sight of our beautiful blue planet against the blackness was made even more poignant by the moon in the foreground. The moon was the reason the Americans where there, orbiting around our celestial friend, but what they found was the earth. Found in the sense that for the first time, in color no less, the apparent fragility of our world was obvious.

Trouble is that it’s not true. The earth isn’t fragile. It’s a unique geological and biological wonder that has weathered (so to speak) billions of years of assault from comets, rocks, meteors, interstellar particles and radiation, as well as her home grown phenomena like volcanoes, shifting tectonic plates and a boiling hot metallic core.

Our galactic home-room’s character is rooted in change and adaptation. Only those who anthropomorphize a planet (now there’s an odd concept) could worry about it dealing with stuff. She has dealt with so much in the past to get where she is now, being in a period of relatively slow change and relative stability (as she finds herself) is the equivalent of being on planetary vacation.

When people say the earth is fragile, what they really mean is that the systems that support human life are fragile. That’s the subtext to most of the blather written and spoken about this topic. It’s not actually the earth folks are worried about…it’s their own life. Not that I see a problem with that. Survival is our first and most important instinct, and to lose it would almost guarantee our demise.

Here’s my point: we need to understand that there is a hierarchy of risk. In my lifetime, the risk of my dying from galactic cataclysm is infinitessimally small. Ditto volcanic action, earthquake, tectonic plate movement. The greatest danger to premature death and the illness that might precede it comes from my own actions, and that of my fellow man.

We’re finding now that mass production, while providing lots of stuff to lots of people, might not always have given us the safest products. Mass production, by the way, isn’t the problem – it’s the inputs that are the problem. Understanding the way in which we interact with, and ultimately absorb, everything in the environment has become hugely valuable in tracing the beginnings of disease. And, sadly, the shortening of lifespans. Think here of asbestos, or thalidomide, or tobacco. At the time, these were considered useful, and they are in some ways…but they have downsides, too.

That’s the value of the Green movement in my mind. By noting that we can use science and scientific technique to gain a more complete knowledge of how we work, we will understand how our bodies react. By improving the stuff we have around us – the quality of our food, the safety of our cleaning products, the efficacy of our dietary supplements – we can live better, longer lives.

My job is to spread the word about the ways in which you can improve the environment around yourself, your family, your friends and your colleagues. They are small ways, but simple to include in your life. That’s my way of reducing the risk, another way of going Green.

Where Shopping is a Pleasure

 

Some of this, a little of that.
Some of this, a little of that.

 

Here in Florida, the biggest supermarket chain is Publix. Actually, it’s beyond big. If not for Walmart and the almost invisible SweetBay, it would have a battleship-like unassailability approaching a monopoly. Given enough time their ubiquity will surpass Starbucks’.

The Publix marketing tag is:

 

Where shopping is a pleasure.

 

Think about this long enough and you’ll note that it’s not an invitation for you to agree; it’s an order. You will find shopping a pleasure, or you will pay the price. Sadly, that’s the way I feel whenever I’m in the store. Yes, I understand some folks do in fact enjoy shopping here. Granted, the aisles are wide and clean, and the shelves are well stocked. Forgive my cynicism, but isn’t that pretty much the same model as every other supermarket? What precisely is it that makes shopping at a Publix distinguishable from any other equivalently priced grocery?

When I lived in Bellevue, Seattle’s sparkling east-side sister, I shopped at QFC. That stands for Quality Food Center. Based on their range of goods, aisle width and price-point, QFC was essentially the same store as Publix. But being there really was a pleasure. The difference – as you might be guessing by now – was the people. QFC folks were notably, and I mean notably, more friendly and customer-centric that the grumps and malcontents I strike at Publix. If we deconstruct the shopping experience, the only way to differentiate between supermarkets (if we normalize for price) is by our interaction with the employees. That slice of time between placing our first item on the check-out conveyor and receiving our receipt is everything.

Apart from that, in the modern self-service grocery store, we are on our own, traipsing up and down the aisles, grabbing and tossing, like consumer automatons.

Okay, yes, that’s a bit strong too. My point is that there are so many better ways to shop, so many better products that will more exactly suit our needs, than the supermarket provides. In an online world where mass buying and stacking ’em high is counter to the individual’s needs, the supermarket becomes more and more irrelevant. Yes, I go there to buy my garbage bags and toilet paper…but precious little else.

Tailored shopping – the best of this from here, the best of that from there…now that’s where the pleasure lies.

 

Takeoff

 

Ready to begin.
Ready to begin.

 

Takeoff in an airplane is the most stressful time for both machine and pilot, especially when doing so at maximum weight. An empty machine – one with a small amount of fuel and just the pilot aboard – has a greater margin of performance than a fully loaded one.

The best way to think about this is as a performance envelope (some test pilot talk there.) All the stuff that goes into making the plane work can be thought of as defining the edges of the envelope. There are design limitations, regulatory limitations, material limitations, restrictions on engine size and power, environmental limits and not least, pilot limitations. When you’re operating away from the edge of the envelope, there are margins between you and the tested maximum performance. As you add weight, speed, temperature or high trees at the end of the take-off area, you move closer to the edge.

This envelope is the reason it takes time and experience to learn how to fly safely. It’s complicated. Many inputs are outside of the operator’s control, and yet they must be understood in at least a rudimentary fashion. Those inputs that are within the operator’s control are the ones – rightly – on which flight training focuses. How many passengers you take, how much fuel you load, how long the runway you use – these are all variables that the pilot must decide upon. Any one or all of these factors can kill you.

If you have a strong sense of self-preservation, take-off is the time to think about most carefully. Keep your machine as light as possible. Always use the runway or direction facing most into the wind. Choose the longest obstruction-free runway. Maximise the performance of your airplane by climbing quickly to a safe altitude. All of these factors will keep you away from the edge of the envelope, giving you more time, space and thinking ability to get it right if things go wrong.

Starting the right way takes forethought and preparation. Do it right, and the rest of the flight will follow.

Actions v Imagination.

Fuzzy future, clear foreground.
Fuzzy distance, clear foreground.

 

Imagination is a powerful tool. Creativity is dependent upon our imagination, so it’s easy to make the case that much of what makes us special stems from our ability to move abstractly beyond the here and now.

Trouble is that the here and now is where we live. Imagination isn’t an address, neither is it money to pay the rent. Imagination is like perfume, in that a little is better than a lot; restraint gets you where you need to go.

I was struck last week by a few people talking about the common theme of actions being more important than words. A guy at work, Sacha, and I are always figuring out what makes a successful person. We have come to a clear answer, which is that successful people focus on doing. They don’t react to imaginary difficulties, they don’t jump at fears, and they don’t waste time pondering what might happen. They keep their head down, moving forward at whatever pace they can.

My friend Amy has this wonderful philosophy:

[important]The biggest mistake I make is to ever think that my future self will be more disciplined than my current self. If I think I can do my study in the morning, I’m wrong. I had better do it now. If I put off exercising until later, I’ll never do it. The time to be better is at the moment. It’s all about understanding that hoping for change doesn’t work. Do it now. [/important]

That’s the downside of imagination, when it overwhelms reality. So that’s my big aim for the future, to not live in the future, and do what needs to be done. Action. Not action postponed.