The spectrum…

Between useless and necessary is one we all seem to be beginning to perceive. Or act like we knew existed all along, I’m not sure which is preferable. In one way, I don’t know whether this device

is green. But while it fits the definition of the word in common parlance, it encapsulates the phenomenon with airtight precision much better even than a story made up to do the same thing. To wit: its designer, having realized a personal crisis over all the useless crap he has birthed into the world over the last thirty years, at the cost of great personal wealth to himself, now brilliantly pivots toward the responsibility trend. On this he will also realize vast fortunes. Who says design is dead? Oh… he did.

But… I think this is how it’s going to work, if ‘going to’ and ‘work’ still have functional equivalents in a post-industrial society. One word cannot intersect itself. Inventing ways to save us and selling it back to us is the intersection of the meanings of Green in English. We all know that and the double entendre is at least part of the crude appeal, indeed the sustainability, of the term. He who had a real impact in creating this morass of consumption, now comes riding to the rescue. Like I’ve said, while not altogether hopeful, I do think people can redeem themselves. So I’ll not begrudge him, only fold my criticisms into a larger loathing for the overall concept of design – the kind of savvy that got us into the situation in the first place.

gadgets and Green

We’re on an island in Greece and, watching a rebroadcast of the Lakers-Celtics with my son before we go swimming this afternoon, we see a commercial for this car.

In the spot, a dog puppet is driving up an idyllic street in the car, and passes a very beautiful woman riding a bicycle. The puppet dog (it might be a chicken) sort of whistles at her as the road becomes a hill. She pulls over, and the… driver motions to the back, where the license plate in the rear of the car pops out. It’s a hidden bike rack.

In the next scene the beautiful woman is riding with the dog/chicken, while her bike is in back, on the rack.

I’m just sayin’. Imagination, people.

Green means $$$

Of course, can’t leave that out. It’s the reason any of this has been conflated into the marketing vortex that it is. So we deign to talk about it; but the minute we do, it’s in need of immediate unpacking.

When discussions about what to do in the face of dramatic climate change brought about by CO2 emissions are constantly framed in terms of what we (i.e., businesses) can afford to do, what’s doable politically, what’s pragmatic, the need for market solutions, etcetera, it might be a good time to remember the purpose of government. There is no need to negotiate with ourselves about just what the most powerful among us might be willing to do to ameliorate a self-induced calamity. Relying on market incentives is the slow way of doing nothing.

We all want to understand, the cut to the chase, to make it simple, to separate the signal from the noise. But to actually do this will entail waking some uncomfortable bedfellows.

It will be no easy business to reappraise the relationship between citizens, the government and business. But it never was, not even in the first place.

According to Locke, the State of Nature, the natural condition of mankind, is a state of perfect and complete liberty to conduct one’s life as one best sees fit, free from the interference of others. This does not mean, however, that it is a state of license: one is not free to do anything at all one pleases, or even anything that one judges to be in one’s interest. The State of Nature, although a state wherein there is no civil authority or government to punish people for transgressions against laws, is not a state without morality. The State of Nature is pre-political, but it is not pre-moral. Persons are assumed to be equal to one another in such a state, and therefore equally capable of discovering and being bound by the Law of Nature. The Law of Nature, which is on Locke’s view the basis of all morality, and given to us by God, commands that we not harm others with regards to their “life, health, liberty, or possessions” (par. 6). Because we all belong equally to God, and because we cannot take away that which is rightfully His, we are prohibited from harming one another. So, the State of Nature is a state of liberty where persons are free to pursue their own interests and plans, free from interference, and, because of the Law of Nature and the restrictions that it imposes upon persons, it is relatively peaceful.

And then, there’s JJ Rousseau:

As time passed, however, humanity faced certain changes. As the overall population increased, the means by which people could satisfy their needs had to change. People slowly began to live together in small families, and then in small communities. Divisions of labor were introduced, both within and between families, and discoveries and inventions made life easier, giving rise to leisure time. Such leisure time inevitably led people to make comparisons between themselves and others, resulting in public values, leading to shame and envy, pride and contempt. Most importantly however, according to Rousseau, was the invention of private property, which constituted the pivotal moment in humanity’s evolution out of a simple, pure state into one characterized by greed, competition, vanity, inequality, and vice. For Rousseau the invention of property constitutes humanity’s ‘fall from grace’ out of the State of Nature.

Having introduced private property, initial conditions of inequality became more pronounced. Some have property and others are forced to work for them, and the development of social classes begins. Eventually, those who have property notice that it would be in their interests to create a government that would protect private property from those who do not have it but can see that they might be able to acquire it by force. So, government gets established, through a contract, which purports to guarantee equality and protection for all, even though its true purpose is to fossilize the very inequalities that private property has produced. In other words, the contract, which claims to be in the interests of everyone equally, is really in the interests of the few who have become stronger and richer as a result of the developments of private property. This is the naturalized social contract, which Rousseau views as responsible for the conflict and competition from which modern society suffers.

The normative social contract, argued for by Rousseau in The Social Contract (1762), is meant to respond to this sorry state of affairs and to remedy the social and moral ills that have been produced by the development of society. The distinction between history and justification, between the factual situation of mankind and how it ought to live together, is of the utmost importance to Rousseau. While we ought not to ignore history, nor ignore the causes of the problems we face, we must resolve those problems through our capacity to choose how we ought to live. Might never makes right, despite how often it pretends that it can.

All this is to say that ‘to guarantee equality and protection for all’ has to be extended and the ability to do so is within the power of people living under government by consent. You give yours in any number of ways. If you want light rail systems and other public transit infrastructure, a different system of tax allocation, less dough spent on highways, more solar energy, whatever… if you want these things agitate for them.

Green means $$$ and how we spend it.

Mediterranean Intermission

For this month we’ll be away, here.

Where they have their own ideas about what green means, as well as blue and white. I’m working on some other projects while our crack IT team will be switching the site over to its permanent home at www.whatdoesgreenmean.net

You shouldn’t notice the change very much, just adding some more features and keeping the videos and other media available on the front page.

Ephkaristo e Kalinachta for now.

sustainable design

From energy efficient appliances to recycled materials to self-contained power generation, there are many elements to sustainable design and each of them have very specific meanings, as well as ramifications for the way we think about, design and build structures for home and work.

Once there is general understanding of what ‘sustainable’ actually means, the degrees of separation between what we’ve been doing design-wise and what is sustainable into the future will become apparent. This is itself among the first steps toward sustainability.

Tom Lawrence is an engineering professor at the University of Georgia. In addition to instructing students and leading campus initiatives for greater energy efficiency in buildings new and old around campus, in 2007 Lawrence was selected by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) as a Distinguished Lecturer to lead workshops on LEED ratings and sustainable design practices. He travels far and wide to give talks on this very subject. In the primer below, he describes the spectrum of design standards that can be seen in practice today.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O31htnsRhEY]

sustainable design

From energy efficient appliances to recycled materials to self-contained power generation, there are many elements to sustainable design and each of them have very specific meanings, as well as ramifications for the way we think about, design and build structures for home and work.

Once there is general understanding of what ‘sustainable’ actually means, the degrees of separation between what we’ve been doing design-wise and what is sustainable into the future will become apparent. This is itself among the first steps toward sustainability.

Tom Lawrence is an engineering professor at the University of Georgia. In addition to instructing students and leading campus initiatives for greater energy efficiency in buildings new and old around campus, in 2007 Lawrence was selected by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) as a Distinguished Lecturer to lead workshops on LEED ratings and sustainable design practices. He travels far and wide to give talks on this very subject. In the primer below, he describes the spectrum of design standards that can be seen in practice today.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O31htnsRhEY]

Future present

If we could shift toward a new tense, would we? Are we is more likely the question.

Shifting attitudes likes parts of speech would be helpful. Every so often, as I’ve noted before, the time lines fade in and out and suddenly la futura gets a bit closer before we even notice. The EPA is (quietly?) developing guidelines for how to measure one’s individual carbon footprint. This is the precursor to developing a system by which this type of consumption gets taxed, which is all mostly good and most probably inevitable. The rub will be in ameliorating the extent to which this tax is regressive toward the poor, i.e., how much extra you get taxed just for being in a lower percentile of the earning bracket. But it can be done. And the main thing to remember is that it is going to be done. So stop your whining and adjust as you can. This is far better than the drawn-out twelve step agony whereby we allow all of our worst tendencies to play themselves, court disaster further, then decide to try to do the right thing in the end anyway. Let’s just go ahead.

… Nothing like the sun

Obviously. But while many consider renewables the answer when it comes to providing a long term energy harness to pull our wagons, grind our corn and light our nights, the technology really is running behind.

Or is it?

There are some glimmers of progress; but what do we know about the sun in this context? What would it take to wrap our wires around just a little bit of that power? A guest speaker a few months ago said, after a grim summation of our strategies to confront global climate change, “No country in the world uses as much energy as hits its buildings every day.” What did he mean?

I found someone to ask.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnPQPa7FXlo]

raising eyebrows

… but not in a good way. I saw this commercial a couple of times during what turned out to be the final Pistons-Magic playoff game last night. At first, I thought “they’ve got to be kidding.” On second viewing, I spotted all the serious green placement in the ad, and knew they weren’t.

The guy talking has a green corduroy sport coat; big potted plants are conspicuously placed among the vehicles and the simulated browsing – plants, at a car dealership? And then there’s the color of one or two models, the sign, the whole motif seamlessly jammed against the point of the campaign – a guarantee of $2.99 per gallon gas for two years, for the first 12K miles each year – as if they obviously make sense together and one simply is the other.

But they don’t and they are not. Guaranteeing a lower-than-actual, set gas price is not ecological. It begs no further investigation. Just an example of the acumen of the marketing geniuses pointing their best at our stupid. That’s what you’re always up against if you’re going to wade into TV land. The only legitimate space in the creative imagination of advertisers is that reserved for further convincing of how stupid we can be. It seems to be the only place where they believe there lies any potential at all.

Now, here is someone who thought much more highly of us, who could use green like it was just a color or something. Rest in Peaceful Collage, Sir.

Food, and where it comes from

There exist all manner of local food co-operatives and CSA ( Community Supported Agriculture) projects. In most of the rest of the world this is not a newsflash in need of acronyms; but even Americans are becoming increasingly in tune with what our far-flung system of food distribution hath wrought. Organic and long shelf-life don’t really go together, though if we demand them at any price, they can be found. But there are some truisms that crush this paradigm occasionally, like the fact that fruits are seasonal and vegetables taste best on or near the day they come out of the ground.

Enter Athens Locally Grown. Well… I did. Fresh and online, it’s the largest farmer’s market in Georgia. Watch below.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKM3KW0Eo6w]