Only in Japan...

The people who brought you Godzilla, Mothra and Akira have turned their rather interesting take on science fiction to the realm of -- get this -- agriculture. I've never understood the Japanese predilection towards gigantic robots piloted by children and the like, but apparently the robot fetish is doing some good for the farmers of the Land of the Rising Sun.

The Tokyo University of Agriculture has developed a wearable exo-skeleton that will be used to assist farmers over the age of 65 in their daily duties of plucking radishes and whatnot from the earth. For those of you who don't know what an exo-skeleton is, remember that scene from Aliens where Sigourney Weaver is fighting the alien queen in the airlock, and she comes out of the storage room in that big yellow suit? The whole "get away from her, you b*tch!" line? Yeah, that's an exo-skeleton. Here's a picture of Sigourney's badass suit, and here's a picture of the one the Tokyo scientists have built for farmers.

The idea is that it's a powered suit that will take some of the bodily stress associated with physical labour off the elderly farmers, and frankly I think it's a great idea. I mean, some people might argue that when you're 65 you don't have any business picking radishes anymore because you should really be retired. But if you know anybody of that age bracket, you know the last thing most of these people want to do is retire -- they want to feel useful and they want to continue contributing to the greater good, however they might see that. This suit allows them to do just that. And let's face it -- when 40% of your radish-picking work force is over 65, it's probably a really good idea to implement some kind of support system for them, because no matter what manga and anime might tell you, putting kids in robot suits to pick vegetables still probably falls under the category of child labour.

Cool idea, but like I said in the title -- this could only come from Japan.


It's Closer Than You Think

I've been thinking a lot about the end of the world lately. Got your attention? Good.

I am not a fatalist, never have been. Even when I changed the thrust of this blog into the whole “Environmilitant” vibe, I still maintained my deep-set belief in the human ability to correct our errors and save our way of life from self-annihilation. I still believe that to this day. I think that with the proper education and shifting of priorities, we can still rectify the damage we've done and make this planet the paradise it's meant to be. The power is in our hands, blah blah.

But then I went home on the Easter weekend to visit my parents, and as we are wont to do, we wound up sitting around drinking and watching bad movies on TV. First on the docket was a little flick from around the turn of the millennium called Deep Impact. Those of you who paid attention to that year in movies will remember it as “the asteroid movie that didn't star John McClane”. Released at the same time as Armageddon, Deep Impact is, in my opinion, a slightly more believable take on the whole “huge rock headed for Earth that's going to kill everything” movie genre that took over Hollywood for a short period of time (typified by other natural disaster movies in and around the same era).

Why more believable? Well, for one thing it stars Morgan Freeman as the U.S. President, and I have yet to see that man in any role where he isn't fantastic – as opposed to Ben “Gigli” Affleck who stars as the other film's hero. Joking aside, though, Armageddon was just too...I don't know, slick? Yeah, I think that's the right word. Everything looked too pat, from the design of the new space shuttle (looked like something out of Star Trek) to the silly equipment they use on the rock (remember, they had to dig a hole in an asteroid to put nukes inside it, and the only man for the job was Hudson Hawk), to the awful saccharine soundtrack (remember when Aerosmith used to make records you wanted to hear?)...all of it just rang Hollywood Hollow to me.

Deep Impact , on the other hand, treated the concept of an “extinction level event” with significantly more gravity than the popcorn-munching false suspense of Armageddon. For one thing, the production staff on Deep Impact actually did their research and constructed a space shuttle that (gasp) looks and acts like a space shuttle and not an X-wing fighter. For another, one of the big rocks actually hits Earth, causing widespread destruction. Finally – and perhaps the most important part for the purposes of this post – the film deals realistically with contingency plans to ensure the survival of the human race in the event of a world-ending catastrophe.

Here's where I stop trying to be Roger Ebert and get back to the point. Deep Impact suggested that the major governments of the world would have advance knowledge of an “ELE” were one to be imminent, which doesn't surprise me – because let's face it, they know everything before we do. The idea in the film would be to build vast underground cities that would supposedly be protected from the effects of a big-ass rock laying waste to the planet surface. Government officials choose the “important” people to be saved (i.e. doctors, scientists, whatever is needed to build our civilization back up) and then open the rest of the spots up to a lottery (excluding anyone over 50 years of age). To me this sounds like a pretty reasonable system, but it got me to thinking – that's Hollywood's idea. What would happen in reality?

There's been a lot of talk circulating in the last few years about the End Of The World – the most recent estimate is that something terrible is supposed to happen in 2012 (the last one being the infamous Y2K debacle when the clocks turned over to 2000 – and nothing happened), so if we take that to be true and assume that a dinosaur-killing rock is going to puddle-jump into the Earth in three years' time, what do we do?

I did a little research into this issue, and the first site I found was this one – essentially a calculator for what would happen to the planet if a projectile of x dimensions traveling at y speed hit the earth at z location. Really fascinating formulas, but a little bit dark, don't you think? I plugged in some numbers and suffice it to say I don't really want to talk about it. Go yourself if you want.

There are several “asteroid defense” ideas being bandied about that are kind of cool. The most obvious of these is, of course, nukes. Interesting idea – and it would be nice to use those huge stockpiles of horrifyingly destructive weapons for the betterment of humanity. But according to many scientists, this plan would be doomed to failure (apparently Armageddon got that part right, at least). Either the resulting force wouldn't be enough to destroy the big rock, or else it might only serve to smash the planetoid into fragments which, if larger than 30 meters in diameter, would not burn up in our atmosphere but instead crash into whatever happened to be in their way. Trade one big meteor for thousands of potentially dangerous ones? Fantastic.

Kinetic impact acts similarly – launching a spacecraft or other large object at an asteroid to attempt to blow it off-course or destroy it entirely, but the same problems exist with this possibility as with the nukes, so it's kind of pointless.

The really interesting theories almost delve into the realm of science fiction – things like using the gravitational pull of another large object to divert the asteroid gradually (that's a great idea if we have years to prepare for a possible impact, as with the impact postulated to take place in 2880), or my personal favourite – using an enormous tether attached on one end to the Earth and to the asteroid on the other to literally swing the rock around us. Of course, the logistics of a plan like that are staggering – honestly it sounds like an idea formulated during some kind of frat party weed-smoking session. “Dude, all we need is, like, some big string or something, you know? Like, like, a tether ball or something, and we could totally dodge that big rock!” Come on.

The bottom line is as far as the public is aware, we're woefully underprepared for a cataclysmic event that could wipe us all out and make all our efforts to “save the planet” completely moot. I know the chances of an event like this occurring in our lifetimes is slim, and I'm certainly not advocating spending a lot of money coming up with doomsday contingency plans, but it kind of bugs me. We spend all this time thinking about our petty problems, our silly wars, our minor hatreds, and somewhere out in the great deep of space there's a big damn rock with our names all over it. Kind of puts things in perspective, at least for me.

Man, the big picture is depressing.



Okay, this one is reaching a bit: I know the blog is called Environmilitant, but occasionally I have to step out of the eco-warrior role to discuss a secondary issue that is as important to the survival of our way of life as curbing global warming and cutting down gas emissions.

My friend Jeff over at Keep Your Coins I Want Change posted an excellent blog yesterday about the importance of food bank services in our fine city of Toronto. Apart from the fact that he's a very funny, entertaining guy (and you should definitely check out his writing once you're done with mine), he made some very prescient points that I'd like to hammer home here.

Apart from air (another big issue on this blog), food is the most important facet of our day-to-day lives. Those of us with the ability to purchase what we need don't often consider just how awful it is to go without food for days on end. Once upon a time I was a poor starving student doing my university degree and living on rice and beans a few times a week; I also don't come from anything resembling an affluent background (my parents worked very hard to make ends meet, but we spent most of my childhood well below the poverty line), so I can speak with some authority on this issue. I know what it's like to be trying to finish an essay, drinking gallon after gallon of crappy Toronto tap water to convince my tummy it's full, and not being able to concentrate because all I can think about is how I haven't had even a requisite bowl of rice in two days. Now, my situation was a little more voluntary – I decided not to work while I was in that year of my schooling in the interest of focusing strictly on my studies. Realistically, I could have picked up a job that would have provided me with spending money for the basics, but I didn't. I also could have gone to the food bank (a point I'll return to presently), but again – I didn't. So on some level it was my own fault that I went hungry for those months.

Now imagine a situation where it isn't voluntary: a single parent trying to support children on a woefully inadequate minimum-wage salary, or whatever. It's disgusting that in the wealthy society in which we all live that people – especially children – should go without food. I have two points on this issue that I'd like to bring to light.

The first is somewhat overreaching. We live on a planet that literally sheds foodstuffs like dandruff. There is food everywhere. Look at the animal kingdom – do you see gorillas or antelopes or whatever working horrifying 40 hour a week soul-sucking jobs that don't contribute to anything, just so they can have the privilege of eating? I think not. And yet, for all our vaunted technology and higher reasoning, we all do it – we all work our asses off just so we don't go hungry. Why?

For those answers I will direct you, gentle reader, to a scholar who has tackled this problem with significantly more panache and background than I could possibly bring to the table. Daniel Quinn is something of an amateur environmentalist who has taken it upon himself to seek “creative and positive solutions to global problems”, a goal he has actively pursued for the last twenty years. His writing is one part sociology, one part history and one part philosophy, and culminated in his award-winning Ishmael series (consisting of Ishmael, The Story of B and My Ishmael), which are, in my opinion, some of the most introspective and useful texts when it comes to seeking grand-scale alternatives to our current way of life (see? Told you this was an environmental blog). One of his fundamental points is that “locking up the food” in the way we do (i.e. making everyone work 40 hours a week just to feed themselves) has caused some of the most far-reaching, destructive social trends our culture faces in the 21st century. Quinn is a personal hero of mine because rather than simply pointing out the problems, he offers dynamic solutions which, while they would require a total reboot of our patterns of thought, would probably also work. For more on his theories, check out his website, or better yet, go read his books.

Now that we've gotten the big-picture stuff out of the way, here's my second point.

As Jeff pointed out in his blog, the divide between the rich and the poor in this culture is vast. How is it that a family living in house A has an overabundance of food at their fingertips – pantries literally stuffed to capacity with non-perishable food items that will inevitably collect dust in the back of a cupboard for years, while next door in house B, a family is starving to death? Well, we all know how that works – bad luck, bad planning, born into the right or wrong situation, whatever. It's not for me to comment on the how and why of these problems (go check out Quinn, like I said).

The problem I have is that so few people – relatively speaking – do anything to help alleviate these issues. How hard is it for people to take a little of what they earn, or a bit of what they've stockpiled, and donate it to an organization like the Food Bank who work day in and day out to help feed the disadvantaged? I am never, ever going to eat that dusty tin of peaches that has been in my cupboard since the Harris administration, but they haven't gone bad – that's the whole point of “non-perishable” food items. Why wouldn't I take a few minutes and scour my pantry for stuff like that, stuff I don't even want, and run it down to my local drop off depot so some kid can taste the juicy goodness of my Del Monte fruit? Why wouldn't I, indeed? Fact is, I have – and I do, regularly. You should too.

But Christina, you might say, there are so many deadbeats out there who take advantage of these social support networks – people who don't actually need the Food Bank, they're just too lazy to work, so they leech off the good nature of others!

Yes, this is sadly true. I hate it as much as you do. People who suckle at the proverbial teat of their more generous brethren should die in a fire. But what kind of people are we if we make all our decisions based on the lowest-common denominator of our society? Like Jeff said, I've never been a big proponent of the whole “I am my brother's keeper” idea, but I do think as individuals and as a community we have a responsibility to lend a hand to people who just aren't making it. If we base our social support on the rotten apples who manipulate the system, the only people who suffer are the ones who genuinely needed the help.

I know this is an environmental blog, but the whole point of saving the environment is to preserve our way of life for our children and their children. But it's a multi-faceted issue – and if we can't help ourselves on as fundamental a level as the basic needs of our species, we're not going to get anywhere. Check out the Daily Bread website for more information – we have to start somewhere, folks.


Stensiling in the Future

Okay, I have a lot to say today, and it's a good thing I already changed the format of this blog, because otherwise this post would look really out of place.

My friend Jim Fairthorne over at State of Affairs posted a blog on Thursday detailing environmental watchdog Greenpeace's castigation of the Ontario government's proposed nuclear plan. Jim made a number of prescient points, all of which you can find here, but to summarize, he discussed the importance of keeping Canadian jobs in Canada and argued that if GP spokesman Shawn-Patrick Stensil wanted to criticize nuclear energy, he might do well to come up with some alternatives that were just a little more specific than hiding behind the “green energy” moniker. I'll come back to Mister Stensil in a minute.

I'm going to go out on a limb here, and throw my support behind Jim on this one. Yes, I'm a huge supporter of green technology. Yes, I think wind turbines and solar panels are wonderful ideas and a great support network for our energy infrastructure. But the bottom line is this: according to the 2008 Independent Electricity System Operator statistics, here's how our energy generation-to-consumption worked:

- Ontario Energy Production totalled 159.3 TWh
- Generation by Fuel Type:
- 53 per cent from Nuclear (84.4 TWh)
- 24.1 per cent from Hydroelectric (38.3 TWh)
- 14.5 per cent from Coal (23.2 TWh)
- 6.9 per cent from Gas/Oil (11 TWh)
- 0.9 per cent from Wind (1.4 TWh)
- 0.6 per cent from Other Sources (1 Twh)

Okay? Okay. Nuclear energy provides over half this province's power – fact. The so-called “green” energy totals (if we assume that all “other sources” are green in nature) generate roughly three percent of what the current nuclear plants generate. So clearly, at least in the short term until green tech can be made more efficient and the red tape of any major changeover can be cleared up, the Power Of The Atom looks like a pretty good alternative to things like coal, oil and other major pollutants.

Jim's article (if you haven't read it yet, and you should) doesn't even directly deal with the issue of whether or not nuclear power is “good” – he skips over that pointless argument and goes right into the economic ramifications of the Ontario government contracting the building and maintenance of our nuclear reactors to external, non-Canadian companies. Jim argues that it's a much better idea for Ontario's economy to make sue of the existing CANDU infrastructure and keep these jobs in Canada, and I tend to agree with him.

And now back to Mister Stensil, who personally responded to Jim's blog post. I've included the text here:

Hey Jim,
I don’t think you tried to hard to find alternatives to Ontario’s nuclear plans on Greenpeace’s website.
I [sic] took me two clicks to find this link: renewableisdoable.ca
You’ll find a report there that’s been endorsed by all of Canada’s major environmental organizations on how to replace the Pickering B and Bruce B nuclear stations.

At a global level please check out Greenpeace’s Energy Revolution report on how we build a climate friendly energy system (without nuclear): http://www.energyblueprint.info/

I took the liberty of checking out the links Mister Stensil included in his post, and what I came up with solidifies my irritation with this whole situation.

If you go to the “Renewable Is Doable” site, you'll find an awful lot of rhetoric about how green technology is a Better Idea than nuclear power, but they don't really say a great deal about how it's better, why it's more economically feasible or even what technologies they want to use instead. They make mention of a trend towards lower energy requirements in Ontario and reference the IESO statistics for 2008 that I mentioned above. However, upon reading the IESO report, I discovered the “trend” is actually the result of wetter, more temperate summers decreasing the public desire for air conditioning. So basically what they're saying is because the trends are dependent on the weather, we can no more predict energy consumption than we can plan a picnic with any real assurance it won't be rained out. And yet, Greenpeace is still railing against the idea of nuclear energy as unnecessary.

In a blog post on January 13th, 2009, Mister Stensil contends that these predictions render nuclear energy an overcompensation for a non-existent need. He figures we can replace the existing CANDU network with a wide array of solar panels and wind turbines to shore up what will amount to 75% of our energy requirements by 2010 (especially once the plan to shut down Ontario coal plants goes into effect).

Once again, I'm all for the prospect of reducing our dependence on pollutant-rich energy sources in favour of green alternatives, but this has not been well thought-out. What happens if we decide to shut down every nuclear reactor in favour of fields of wind turbines (that people already don't want), or sheets upon sheets of solar panels? Do you have any idea how much this kind of initiative would cost? Certainly I don't think it would result in the “billions of dollars” of savings Mister Stensil is suggesting.

The bottom line is this: we're in the midst of a much-touted economic crisis. Jobs are going the way of the dodo with alarming rapidity. Changing our entire energy system to a green network whose efficiency is still under debate would be a monstrous, costly undertaking. We have existing power which, while it's not perfect, is rather efficient and will cost us far less in the short term and shore up our energy requirements while we research green technology and figure out ways to improve its efficacy in the interest of eventually making that changeover. The green revolution is coming, folks, but it's not going to be built in a day.

Feedback on this issue would be much appreciated – we need to talk about this.


You Don't Need A Bigger Boat

Anybody remember when the Crocodile Hunter died? I know it was a few years ago, but it leads into something I've wanted to talk about for a while. For those of you who forgot about this ultimately foreseeable incident, Steve Irwin was a certifiably insane Australian who made his living provoking and antagonizing potentially dangerous animals of every stripe. In his extensive career he was bitten, stung, strangled and otherwise maimed by just about every predatory animal on the planet. He eventually met his admittedly tragic end on the pointy side of a manta ray's stinger – bam, right through the heart. Like I said, raise your hand if you didn't see this one coming. Statistically there are only so many times you can poke deadly animals with a stick or drag them around by the tail or whatever before one of them punches your clock. So Steve Irwin got Dracula'd by a venomous fish, and the entertainment world lost one more strangely compelling nutcase.

The response? A whole school of stingrays were found mutilated with their stingers ripped off all over the beaches of beautiful Queensland, Australia, because a bunch of rabid fans figured it was justifiable retribution against a species that clearly has an agenda to rid the surface world of wingnut naturalists (that's sarcasm, folks). Leaving aside the somewhat dire insinuations about human nature this incident illustrates, it points to the very human proclivity to hate and fear anything we don't understand.

It's the same thing with stuff like Jaws. Peter Benchley wrote a book about an almost-comically homicidal shark that preyed on the unwary swimmers of Amity Island. The movie version by Stephen Spielberg builds on the already-unlikely premise. The big biter leaves a trail of dead tourists in its wake until a trio of local thugs (a sheriff, a marine biologist and – get this – a professional shark hunter) decide to form a brute squad and go hunting for the underwater beast. A string of unlikely circumstances follows, including the fact that the shark apparently really hates English drinking songs, culminating in the use of a pressurized barrel and a rifle to quite literally explode the evil fish.

This is bullsh*t upon bullsh*t, folks – it's pure, unadulterated fiction. Seriously – a survey done by the Florida Museum of Natural History notes that in 2006, there were only 62 cases of what they call “unprovoked” shark attacks on humans (“unprovoked”, of course, meaning the non-Steve Irwin variety). Sharks don't like people-meat; even the most grossly obese American tourist isn't fat enough for the great-white palette, and usually humans are attacked by sharks because they're mistaken for seals or other marine life more suitable to the diet of a twenty-foot long apex predator. Why are they mistaken for seals, you might ask? Because humans have this unwavering desire to throw themselves into intrinsically dangerous situations in order to pursue recreation. Case in point: surfing. Leaving aside all the other stuff that can go wrong (like drowning, or generally looking like a douchebag), why would you want to dress in a rubbery, seal-esque wetsuit and leap on a board shaped like your average great-white's afternoon snack, and then hurl yourself into bodies of water where these scary-ass creatures tend to congregate for meal times? Clearly, this is stupid upon stupid: engaging in already-dangerous activities in an environment where you're at a distinct disadvantage (ever tried to move fast in five feet of water?), and then adding into that you're trespassing on the turf of the baddest street gang of the aquatic 'hood (the Sharks, get it?).

It's like my buddy Jeff O. over at Keep Your Coins I Want Change said to me when I was discussing this post with him.

Jaws should have been the shortest movie ever made. They should have seen the shark, gone “oh gee, there's a shark...so who wants to play volley ball instead?” and that should have been it. Approximate running time, five minutes. Fade to black.

If we could just keep it to ourselves, maybe the absurdly high number of shark attacks (more sarcasm) would dwindle to, oh, I don't know, none. There's no real reason why people should ever get attacked by something in the sea. But we keep doing it, and what's more, we make it a pastime.

At least surfing is athletic – what about these rich, bored, upper-middle class tourist clowns who decide that the swim-up bar in the pool of the 5 star resort just isn't interesting enough. No, they want to go into the sea and have a face-to-face encounter with the oldest, most efficient predators on the planet. But in the interest of public safety and of not, you know, having limbs chewed off, they put these over-privileged voyeurs in a big metal cage and lower them into the water – which is, according to the popular conception of sharks as mindless man-eaters, the same thing as keeping the samosas behind glass at the supermarket. Then, the companies that run these thrill-a-minute excursions dump a bunch of fish guts into the water around the cage so the sharks will be attracted and driven into a feeding frenzy, to the great satisfaction of the Tourist Snacks. Sounds kind of neat, right?

Ever heard of a guy called Pavlov? You've heard of his dogs, for sure – the ones trained to salivate at the sound of a bell. It's called behaviour modification and it works by associating certain sensations with certain results. In the case of our friends the Griswolds, the sensation is the fish chow that makes the sharks think it's time to eat – the result is a sharky association between food and fat tourists in the water. Do I need to draw you a picture here?

To bring it back full-circle, the people who dig (dug?) the Crocodile Hunter and who really want to swim with Jaws are the same people who will lose their minds over a few shark attacks and one dead Australian and endorse mass killings of these scary, scary animals. The point is, you can only mess with nature for a certain period of time before nature will turn around and bite you in the ass. You don't need a bigger boat – you need a new hobby.



I'm not big on swearing, but this one is accurate. Ever heard the phrase "don't sh*t where you eat"? There's a lot of truth to that sentiment.

If you know your American geography, you know that the Mississippi River empties directly out into the much-romanticized Gulf of Mexico. What you might not know is that for thousands of miles, farms dump all their excess fertilizer (read: cow poo) into the river, where it sludges on down and spreads its toxic payload all over the Gulf.

What's a bit of crap in a body of water that big, you might ask?

How about a colloquially-named "Dead Zone" where, true to the phrasing, everything dies? Everything from marine life the size of big fish down to the smallest amoeba floating in this excrement soup has its little existence extinguished by high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus that eats up all the oxygen in the water, leaving only sickly-green algae floating around on the scummy surface. Definitely sounds like somewhere I'd rather not take a dip; how about you?

Oh, did I mention the Mississippi Dead Zone is the size of New Jersey?

Yeah. Over 8000 square miles of fish-free toilet.

Now, I don't want to rag on farmers, don't get that idea. They work hard. Harder than I would particularly want to, that's for sure. But we're living in the 21st century -- can we find no better way to dispose of our hazardous waste than by dumping it in the nearest body of water? I mean, we have to drink this stuff. To say nothing of the poor fish.

You know, there was more I wanted to say on this subject, but honestly I'm just too tired to discuss enormous poo dumping today. It's making me sick to my stomach. I'll revisit this on Monday after I get back from my mini-vacation.


Not exactly as advertised

When I first came across this article, the name immediately made me want to write about it. The name came up on my RSS feed as "Five Ways to go Green Without Really Trying". Now maybe I'm hormonal, but that made my blood boil like I accidentally sat down on a lit element. The most basic, fundamental roadblock we have to get around in our fight to save this planet is very simple: human apathy and laziness. People want change; of course they do. And if it's something they don't have to think very hard about, something that won't detract from their standard of living or (heaven forbid) interrupt their American Idol marathon, then they're all over it.

It took a long time for people to get used to the idea of recycling, but eventually they got over the fact that they couldn't just throw all their trash in one bag anymore: some of it had to go in a separate box, for the good of us all. Good for you! But then, along came the Green Bins (for those of you who don't know, it's a wonderful idea much like compost, in which you separate certain food waste into a -- you guessed it -- green bin so it can be taken to a different landfill site where everything is biodegradable), and once again Ma and Pa Canada decided this was too much hassle -- I mean, really, the idea of actually having to separate your half-eaten, wasted meal into a totally different bag? Unthinkable! Recycling is okay, but garbage is just garbage! Why can't we just schlep it all together and forget about it?

Sysiphus keeps pushing that rock up the hill, and lazy, ignorant lardasses keep knocking it all the way back down again.

So when I read the title "Without Really Trying" my immediate reaction was irritation, because somebody (it seemed to me) was monopolizing on just that sort of laziness to actually market products to people. "Want to assuage your environmental guilt, but not enough to actually do something proactive? Here, buy this product and you can get back to feeling good about yourself and wasting food and watching bad TV." All of this went through my head in rapid succession, so as I was preparing myself for the rage that was doubtless about to overcome me, I opened the link.

Imagine my surprise when I was met by a well-written, clever, useful article about several solutions (not even product placement -- solutions) I either hadn't considered, or didn't know about.

The manual lawn mower? Great idea. Exercise (which the aforementioned apathetic lardasses could use), absolutely no emissions whatsoever (other than your own sweat), and it self-mulches your lawn. Also, you're saving money on gas. Right on!

The hatchback was the only one I took issue with, mostly because of my last post and its implications to the automobile industry. But the "marketing to men" angle was cute, so I let it pass.

The beer growler is a great idea too, though not revolutionary in Canada (we've had returnable bottles forever). Reuse is better than recycling because it takes less energy and produces less harmful emissions, and also -- beer is good. (I'm Scottish, what do you want from me?)

Milk paint -- remember how I said I never knew some of this existed? That one wins. I would never, ever have thought of using milk to paint anything. What a neat idea.

And finally, Soap For Everything -- now, I'm not normally into plugging companies, but I have actually tried this stuff and it is amazing. They aren't kidding when they say it works on anything: my aunt once used it to get red wine out of a carpet, and twenty minutes later I was washing my hair with the stuff! The peppermint scent is nothing short of divine. And it's genuinely green. Awesome.

So it turns out my initial reaction was totally misplaced, and the article is great (seriously, check out the link at the top). I guess it goes to show that I shouldn't fly off the handle if something looks offensive or stupid at first glance. Don't worry; that doesn't mean I won't.


Compensate the Green Way

I just received a comment from my good friend Jim Fairthorne over at State of Affairs (great political blog, check him out); he brought this to my attention:

BTW, have you heard of Tesla Motors? A few years ago they released an electric sports car and the sedan was coming out this year some time, but they kind of dropped off the map. Do you know what's going on with them?

Contrary to Jim's belief, Tesla Motors has not, in fact, dropped off the map. In fact, they're doing rather well for themselves, and that bodes well for the future of alternative energy vehicles.

For those of us who have never heard of this company, Tesla Motors (named after famed electrical engineer Nikolai Tesla) is a Silicon Valley automobile start-up company that focuses on the production of high performance, consumer-oriented battery-electric vehicles. Since 2003, Tesla has been pushing back the boundaries of electric-car technology.

In 2006, they released their first model, the Tesla Roadster -- and why millions of people don't own this car is beyond me. First of all it's sexy as hell:

See what I mean? That's part one. Part two is the sheer economic value of this vehicle. Check this out (from the Tesla wiki):

"...the car has a range of 221 miles (356 km). The company and reviewers state that the Tesla Roadster accelerates from zero to 60 mph (100 km/h) in less than four seconds, and has a top speed of 125 mph (201 km/h) (limited for safety). The cost of powering the vehicle is estimated at US$0.02 per mile."

Two cents per mile. Say it with me. Two cents per mile. God, that sounds good, doesn't it? Beats the pants off whatever it is we're paying for gas, and of course there's that added bonus of not killing everything within a five meter radius of your toxin-spewing tailpipe.

But what, you're asking, is the price tag on this wonder of sexy, clean technology? Okay, it's a little steep for the layman -- the new sedan Model S is going to be released in late 2011 with a price tag of US$57,000. Certainly out of my budget, but -- what about all these hoity-toity corporate California types who just have to buy their sixth Hummer and use up all my air because they're compensating for something? The base model H2 retails for in and around $60,000, and even though General Motors doesn't like to admit it, the mileage for one of these automotive monstrosities is a maximum of around 15 miles a gallon. At two bucks a gallon, do the math: that means these yuppie yahoos are shelling out about thirteen cents a mile. Now compare that to the two cents a mile you get with the Tesla Roadster (which is already smaller, cooler looking and equally compensatory) and spread it out over a year. Federal standards suggest the average American drives about 15,000 miles a year. Ready for it?

H2 gas per year: $1950.00
Tesla electricity per year: $300.00

At the risk of this turning into a total math lesson, that means an average American driving a Tesla Roadster as compared to an average American driving a Hummer is going to save almost $1700 a year in gas, all the while keeping the air much cleaner, paying the same as they would for a stupid urban assault vehicle, and looking less like a midlife crisis on wheels.

What's my point in all this? Two things. First, saving the environment and looking cool doing it rocks. Second?

Nuff said.