Monday, February 16, 2009

Lecture Series: Sustainable Lifestyle Design


I plan on using this piece as a foundation for a book. Possible titles: The Green Manifesto, Sustainable Lifestyle Design. I also think this would be a good lecture topic.
Sustainable Lifestyle Design


The point from which one starts sustainable lifestyle design is awareness. Awareness of one's behavior and how it affects others. It's really a study of karma, which is Sanskrit for action. I think a great starting point, is analyzing where your money goes. How it is earned and where it is spent and on what. Who does your money benefit? What does your money support? Each dollar that you have is like a vote or a piece of energy. With each dollar or penny spent, you are making a vote as to what you believe in, you are casting your energy in a certain direction. Furthermore, each bit of energy you release has an effect. For example, if you buy a cup of coffee at Macdonald's, you are benefiting the shareholders of that corporation and you are also casting a vote in favor of that corporation and the way they do business with the coffee farmers in South America. It is through your support that those institutions and models of economics exist. Another example would be if you bought a cup of fair trade coffee at your local health food store. Your dollar is now supporting a completely different economic model, one that benefits farmers in South America more and one which benefits the local economy more. Now your dollar is still in your local town and it can continue to circulate locally, if people continue to spend locally. But if just one person breaks the chain of the local circulation by buying a cup of coffee at Macdonald's, that dollar has flown from the local economy, only to return by fractional amounts as dispensed by corporations through low pay wages to local workers.

So as one develops this awareness of where, how, and on what they are spending their money on, they start to understand their karmic effect and make adjustments to vote with their money in accordance with their values. When you are about to do anything with money, spend it, save it in a bank, invest it, think about whom is benefiting ad what you are supporting.

Another vantage point to develop awareness, is the expense and creation of physical energy, specifically fuel and electricity. How do you power your home? Where does the electricity come from? Most people get their electricity through a local utility. Most of the energy created through utilities comes from burning coal, which is horrible for the environment. However, many utilities offer clean energy for a modest fee. How do you use most electricity? Through showers? Electronics? Perhaps there's an easy way to cut your energy use in half, it depends on your awareness. How do you transport yourself? Do you drive a car? Does that car run on gasoline? Who does this benefit? What is the karmic effect of running a car on gasoline? Let me get you started. Each time you run your car on gasoline, you pollute the environment. Is there a way to reduce this pollution? Yes, there are many alternatives presently, such as zero emissions vehicles and increased fuel efficiency. Who benefits when you spend money on gasoline. Well, many people do. The oil corporations and their shareholders, the oil producing countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuela, Russia. What? I thought those countries were not looking out for our interests? Well, most of us cast a vote in their favor everyday by filling up at the tank. We literally give them power and money, supporting their political and economic models. As one develops awareness of the injustice and suffering caused by our actions, we start changing our behavior. We start using bicycles, mass transit, electric vehicles, cleaner biofuels, vegetable oil, hydrogen. We start powering our homes with wind, solar, and hydroelectric. We start doing a plethora of energy savings techniques, but it all starts with awareness. It starts with a radical approach of taking personal responsibility for one's actions and how they affect others in our globalized world.

Top 10.

1. Start a journal to develop awareness of how you spend your money and energy. Just one day of journaling could take up pages. Brainstorm the web of cause and effect.

2. Bring your own: coffee mug, shopping bag, utensils, whatever so that you don't participate is disposable society and plastic pollution.

3. Save energy: Insulate your home/windows, energy efficient appliances, solar attic fan, energy efficient home design, shorter showers, using LED light technology.

4. Produce energy: Solar is the easiest way to get started for residential applications, there are great tax breaks and you can start being an energy creator instead of merely an energy user. You can get it installed or pay a modest fee to your local utility to pledge to power your home by clean technology.

5. Transportation: Use an ultra efficient vehicle, start walking/biking, use mass transit, use straight vegetable oil, electric vehicles, carpool.

6. Food: Buy your food locally through farmers, community supported agriculture (CSA's) Go to locally owned restaurants that use local produce.

7. Money: Keep your money at a local credit union, let them make money off your money instead of a mega international bank. Spend your money locally. Use barter/trade. Buy used. Start a local currency.

8. Job: Work at a local business. Run a local business. Work to benefit others.

9. Water: Where do you get your water? Is it through a local utility that uses fluoride, a known poison? Is it from a well that could be tainted from local pollution? Or is it from rainwater that you collected from your own roof and purified using state of the art inexpensive technology?

10. Shelter: What structures are you supporting? Are they energy efficient? Are they safe? Are they rented to you and owned by someone else? Who is benefiting?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Idealist.org



I recently registered with Idealist.org, a meeting place for Nonprofits, volunteers, and consultants. I hope to be able to market myself as an ngo, volunteer, speaker, and consultant on this site.

Kiva.org


I recently registered and donated to Kiva.org They are a website that hooks up third world country entrepreneurs with 1st world creditors. For as little as 25 bucks, you can make an interest free loan that could help a community for generations.

Good Movie, Waltz with Bashir


Very unique animation movie about war in Lebanon in 1980's. Check it out. Its not too gruesome.

Friday, February 13, 2009

 
 
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Pogonip Trail To UCSC


I walked through the redwoods up to UCSC campus today. The University is nestled in a protected forest. Although it is an impressive sight, I got the feeling that most of the students are there because of their parents' preconceived life plan laid out for them. Many of them take the campus bus system to their classes in social isolation with Ipod headphones secured in their ears. This can't be the light of education. It seems like the darkness of ignorance.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Wilder Ranch State Park


Its close to Santa Cruz, just north on route one. The sheer cliffs are breathtaking. A great place for a picnic, walk, or run. A couple of nice secluded beaches.

AND IT'S MADE WITHOUT SLAVERY VALENTINE


Did you know.... 70% of the world's chocolate is produced in West Africa, where an estimated 12,000 children are currently in slavery. That's right, over two-thirds of all of the chocolate we consume every day. Without a screening process that ensures child and/or forced labor was not used, we have no guarantee that the chocolate we buy is not promoting modern slavery. So, what can you do?
This Valentine's Day, we're calling you to give love and spread justice by purchasing your chocolate Fair Trade. Just look for the fair trade label. Try a health food store.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Biofuels can be a joke.

Sugar cane based ethanol and cellulosic ethanol make sense. But it takes too much energy to make corn based ethonal and it affects food prices, same thing for soybased biodiesel. Algae derived biodiesel is the wave of the future.

CFL's are a Joke


Yes they are better than Incandecents, but they emit mercury when broken, you have to dispose of these properly, you cannot just throw them away unless you want mercury in your local environment. LED's are the way to go. They are even more efficient than CFL's and don't have mercury in them.

Recycling Plastic is a Joke.

No, I'm not against recycling per say. I'm against the creation of plastic. It never biodegrades. A small percentage is recycleable. Most ends up in the stomach of sea creatures or in a sludge the size of texas in the pacific ocean (not an exageration). See article: http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,23739,23157068-952,00.html

Bring your own coffee cup and bag to the store, those small things actually do make a difference. Support the outlawing of plastic bags in your city. Many cities and countries have been successful with this legislation. Stop buying plastic! Its really hard though, everything is made of plastic and packaged in plastic. Be conscious of your purchases.

What then shall we do...



In the midst of all of this philosophizing, comes the important question of right or moral action. I'm trying to figure out the best way to spend my time now that I have so much free time being an unemployed California bum. I believe that the best way for me to teach and serve is to understand what a pure sustainable lifestyle looks like and seek to live it as an example to others. Although I believe that we humans spend way too much time exploring through science, I am not an anti-technologist. I'm trying to find the best way to balance good technology to create a high quality of life with lots of free time and great health. Some of the technology that I plan on employing is solar energy, which I will install on my vehicle and home. I'm still trying to get the van to run on vegetable oil. Pretty soon I will have the money for the repair. I also see the computer and internet as a great tool for people to be able to access information for democratic rights as well as being entrepreneurs. Digital pictures, music, and documents, make educational art widely available. This type of lifestyle should be low impact, mobile, clean, healthy, fulfilling, dynamic and social. I'm considering writing a piece called "The Green Manifesto" which details the ethical reasons for sustainable lifestyle. The main reason one would not want to pollute, and exploit is out of pure compassion for other people and the environment. Sometimes that is lost amongst the "being green is trendy" and "save our planet by enrolling in a digital checking account" marketing. I guess those are great small starts for the process, but we really have to do some radical things when it comes to our globalized economic model and our transportation chaos. Most of the things that people think are solutions are actually half measures. For example: Hybrid Cars. They get worse gas mileage than a 70's vw rabit. Many diesel cars in europe get over 100 mpg. Clean coal technology is a joke. Ethanol made out of corn is a joke. Biodiesel made out of soybeans are a joke. Recycling Plastic is a joke. Compact Flourecents are a joke. I will have to go into detail later about why these so called solutions are not what they seem to be.
 
 
 
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Santa Rosa



I made it to Santa Rosa, winding through lime green grassy hills with cows and sheep grazing between the vineyards. Santa Rosa was nicer than I expected. It reminded me of a norcal version of Pasadena. There are many nice restaurants with 200 different kinds of wines. There are snow dusted mountains in the background. It was cool to see the corporate headquarters of Zap cars. The electric car is alive and well in california with many recharge stations in the south. I spent most of my time playing guitar and eating cheap mexican food. I did make it to the artsy town of sebastopol and the quiet bay side town of Bodega. I watched the sun rise at Bodega Bay and talked to an elephant seal 5 feet off the pier, unfortunately he didn't talk back and he refused to pose for a picture.

Berkley

I left san jose amongst dreary weather and headed north toward san francisco. I arrived in the sad urban landscape of Oakland, and walked around a bit. After calling up Marc, a friend of my best friend whom is studying at Berkley for a PHd, I drove in that direction to meet up for lunch. Berkeley is amazing. I have now been to most parts of san francisco and I say with confidence that Berkeley is the best. At least it is the most up my alley. It is so nice compared to the surrounding areas that it is too much of a bubble of affluence and idealism. Its almost offensive. But I paid no mind to that as i drove past bread co-ops, cupcake co-ops, vegetable co-ops, these people make everything a cooperative, which is what I want to do! There was a live foods joint called gratitude that i almost went to. It is very upscale in some areas, very colorful, even the drug store called "elephant" offers yoga. This is a different sort of place. I could see myself living there. The streets are tree lined in most areas and many of them were in a winter bloom. Marc lives atop a hill in a nice residential area near UC Berkley. From his bedroom window, you can see the golden gate bridge and the beauty of the bay. He took me to the rose garden, which was mostly dormant, and we went to eat at Vic's Chop Shop, a trendy Indian eatery in the warehouse district. It was great. Marc actually took me on a tour of Manhattan a few years ago and took me to the best Indian place i had ever been to. Now he was showing me around what I would consider the Manhattan of the west, or maybe the Greenwich village, its really incomparable. It reminds me somewhat of Cambridge Mass, because of the Victorian homes and ivy league feel. Marc is studying theory related to theater. We discussed some of the concepts he is studying. We got on the subject of a the morality of a middle class white guy like me who wants to bring about more sustainability cultures and classes that are quite different. He had many good points, but I feel strongly that it doesn't matter where it comes from, anyone who brings wisdom to restore balance to a community with good will should be welcome so long as they respect the integrity of the culture. The reason why i want to restore balance, is because it has already been raped by western culture. I'm speaking of inner cities and third world countries. Marc was mostly being the devil's advocate and the shiva to my shakti. I left Berkley so that Marc could get some studying done. I pitied his slavery to the mind, but slightly jealous of the PHD, ha. He has showed such kindness and hospitality in the east and in the west. I'm sure he'll be giving me a tour of paris in no time. I got back in the van and headed north of the city, crossing the behemoth Richmond brindge across the bay. I was headed to wine country.

On health as enlightenment


So I have this newfound appreciation for homeostasis as an ethical imperative. Without realizing it, my book "the human manifesto" was based on this idea that us humans are biological organisms that seek many needs and wants to achieve happiness. Unlike Buddhism, which proclaims that life is suffering, I am taking the opposite stance that life is a 'cycle of pleasures'(alternate book title). Each moment of our lives, we are in a process of seeking homeostasis, such as eating, sleeping, crying, excreting, etc. Each one of these processes is extremely pleasurable, if one takes that perspective. The other perspective would be in constant want. I prefer constant fulfillment. It's kind of like the glass being half full approach. I know that most readers would be assuming that I am taking a hedonistic approach. I am not. Hedonism is extremism, not balance. I suggest temperance in all things to achieve the tao. It i not lost on me that all of these things have been thought of by taoists thousands of years ago. I am merely restating my understanding of it through my 21st century lense. I believe science proves more everyday, that toasts were correct in their understanding of nature as yin/yang homeostatic balance. Where does love and compassion fit into all of this? As a balanced being, you want all others to be so as well and your mere presence and wish for them to be so is a positive influence on their balance. So if you want to be enlightened, seek perfect health. But health is not merely physical, it involves the mind, body, and spirit.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Scary San Jose



I went to visit my friend Rory in San Jose. He is in his element there, but it doesn't fit my taste. It is very commercialized, and suburban in many areas. The great thing about san jose, is the diversity. There are many asian and indian residents and they bring many great eateries with them. Through my experiences and conversations with Rory I got to philosophizing quite a bit. (Rory is a Jungian psychologist). I left san jose feeling quite like the cloudy/rainy weather, humbled by my place in the universe and having a newfound realization about life as balance and homeostasis. I finally understand what texts mean when they describe yogis as being mirrors like water. They reflect the truth of everything. When you interact with an enlightened person, they make you realize all of your own traits without their direct communication or condescension. Like a mirror. That is why Jesus described himself as the way, the truth, and the light. My interpretation is that he was referring to the universal process between light and darkness, shiva and shakti, yin and yang. Most of the people trying to run this world think they are pursuing truth through knowledge, but that is a mostly false quest. Knowledge is light, but it is nothing without wisdom. I now refer to wisdom as knowledge put into action to bring about harmony. (Homeostasis) It is true that everything is always in flux, always seeking that homeostasis. So in a way, everything is always in harmony, however, there could be a much more harmonious harmony which would involve less of a swing on the pendulum between suffering and pleasure, darkness and light, ignorance and truth. This is what i think the Buddha was referring to when he described the middle way. There is complete aestheticism, which is light (experience of absolute reality), and there is complete ignorance living in suffering and delusion (maya). The Buddha suggested that we be aware of the illusion of relative reality while maintaining a lucid state in that reality, thus freeing yourself of suffering and also being able to experience the diversity of life and help others who are in maya. I left the experience in san jose feeling like a very small cast member in the universal drama, who none the less has an effect on the whole cosmos. Reality is like a dance, an improv jazz song. It is completely ordered, yet completely spontaneous. I left the experience in san jose feeling less like I need to search so much. I just need to be the dance, I just need to be the jazz. And enjoy my small special part in this cosmic drama. After all, i'm helping write the lines...

Friday, February 6, 2009

 
 
 
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Bonny Dune and Panther Beach



I went wine tasting at Beauregard Vinyards in Bonny Dune with my friend Marianne, then went to Panther Beach to look for a hidden cave. We didn't find the cave but we did find a nude man reclining by the cliffs. The waves were crashing, the moon had a rainbow around it, and the sun set behind the sea, releasing a pink glow across the sky.
 
 
 
 
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