Saturday, April 30, 2011

Fight of the Century: Keynes vs. Hayek Round Two

I am locked in my jail all weekend with some rather boring academic activities, I leave you with this video to get your monkey dancing about the thought of sustainable economy:

Friday, April 29, 2011

From The Green, an EOS topic: What is the most pressing sustainability issue we need to address?

It's time for the dialogue of the sustainability bloggers. If you haven't been following, every few weeks or so, a few bloggers come together on Sara Allen's The Green to discuss various things about sustainability and being "Green." This week's topic is an engagement on what we think are the most pressing sustainability issue to address. Here are what the others have to say:
(You can read my quick note on this topic here.)

Jeffrey Davis – (

I don't think one issue is more important than another. I think to quantify such issues will only succeed in alienating people who don't specifically care about those certain areas of sustainability. I think the most pressing issue is the one that matters most to each individual...because that is the issue they are most likely to take action on.

Brendan DeMelle (

Climate change is the most pressing issue facing humanity. Right now we are spending down the planet's ecological capital with abandon, loading the burden of our joyride onto future generations. We must collectively kick our fossil fuel addiction and transition immediately to clean, renewable energy, and learn to use energy much more efficiently and wisely.

Edward Hall (

We have to address the lost efficiency between progressive efforts. We can continue to "solve environmental problems" without looking at HOW we are solving those problems. We have to problem solve problem solving! It's a bit funny but once you look at efforts in sustainability it becomes obvious: the worst crime lies in the lost efficiency through lack of coordination. LightSource, is all about that... Bringing projects together, providing the mindset, motivation, infrastructure and environment to get us working beyond these arbitrary boundaries that keep us from doing our best to solve serious problems and live fulfilled lives.

I would also add, we must preserve and value diversity of cultural perspectives... This culture we have inherited is clearly off, and we have to learn from other cultures and peoples who are more in-sync with our planet. We can't keep looking to technology to get us out of this mess... we have to really reexamine our cultural values and learn from other cultures. I guarantee it will make us happier at the same time.

Meris Michaels (

More ecological – and less – consumerism:

Many of us are not aware of the social and environmental impact of the things we buy. Products are not made to last. Foods that are not in season are imported from other parts of the country or from abroad. We are wasteful.

We must learn to make do with less.

Daniel Goleman, author of “Ecological Intelligence”, does not hold much hope: "We need a profound change of attitude. We need to stop thinking/speaking about the Earth being in need of healing. It doesn’t need healing. We do.”

Here is one example of a product, which has a significant ecological impact: “strawberries in winter” (a European perspective).

Strawberries: Between mid-February and mid-April, France imports 90,000 tons of strawberries from Spain. These are transported 500 kilometers to markets in France. The strawberries are grown in vitro in central Spain then trucked south to Andalusia for planting in soil sterilized with chloropicrin which Saddam Hussein’s regime used to gas the population in Kurdistan. Plants are grown on black plastic and require large quantities of fertilizer, pesticides, fungicides. Irrigation of the fields is drying up the surrounding area. After harvest, the 5,000 tons of plastic used to cultivate the strawberries is either dispersed by the wind or burned. Most of the strawberries are grown near a delta area, which is a main reserve for migratory birds. Workers, mostly foreign women, live in unhealthy conditions and suffer from respiratory diseases and skin infections.

Jessica Reeder (

Shane Shirley-Smith (

I believe that the most pressing sustainability issue that needs to be addressed is the health and well being of human beings. Our health is our future right? From green chemistry, healthier school lunches for kids, warning labels on items with artificial colors and everything in between from vaccines to PFOA’s, we must insure health for our future sustainability.

What we are leaving for our future generations politically, financially and environmentally are intertwined and will prove to have an enormous impact on a healthy future. Keep listening, learning, and sharing all you can to protect your health, the health of our environment and the health of future generations.

Our future depends on our knowledge and actions, what choices will you make today that will change your health and the health of our world tomorrow? Together we CAN find the path that leads us to a greener, healthier future - we must act now individually, politically and collectively.

Please take a moment to watch this wake up story…


But the most important question is: What is the most pressing sustainability issue for YOU? Please leave us a comment or email with your thoughts.

Enjoy the planet.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bicycles and showers, the curious culture of my new home.

 (This post is part of a series on bicycles and sustainability; although I have a feeling food will become very much part of the topic. I apologize for the disconnected segments, but it's mostly because I have not figured out how to write the whole thing yet. Stay tuned.)

Click here to see the first part of this series.

When I first moved to the US I lived in a tiny one-bedroom apartment on Lowell Street in Cincinnati. On the night we arrived from China, my dad had made stewed chicken wings in a wok spiced with packages of those Ramen condiments that came with the noodles. Having meat at a meal was a sort of celebration to us, and having nothing but chicken was a rare treat. I still remember vividly my father’s proud justifications for moving us across the ocean:

“In China, we eat chicken on New Years Eve; here we have it every day, every day is New Years Eve.”

It wasn’t until later that I realized he felt guilty for moving us, but he had quit his job with the State's only medical research institute and that meant he had to find a way to make it outside of China. No one quits the State back then but my father was an idealist. He had always wanted to cure cancer through genetics and he turned away from practicing medicine to be a “pure scientist” – the noblest of profession by his standard. 

I stop blaming him for leaving China years ago but I’m still trying to reconcile with the whole thing. I still remember that night when we arrived in a new country; full of people I could not understand; filled with many strange things like supermarkets and shopping malls. I constantly think about that first meal with my family in a new land.

My first curiosity was why there were so many chicken wings. I’ve never seen any sort of “packaging” in China, and chickens are mostly bought from farmers with boxes of live chickens strapped to the back of their bicycles. That night, having that many chicken wings meant my father had to kill almost half a dozen of chicken; and where are the rest of the chicken? Where are the delicious hearts and gizzards?

My second curiosity was the bathroom. In China, we had a squatting toilet in a small room the size of a closet with a porcelain hole in the middle of the ground. The “plumbing” came with a hanging flush system. There was also a small floor sink next to the door for washing hands and feet when you leave. Later, my mom rigged a hanging bucket shower system that required boiling water on the stove. My new bathroom in the US had a sitting toilet and a shower and bathtub; the whole floor is also tiled, not just a concrete slab. I took my first shower with what seemed unlimited hot water, and I was addicted ever since.

Back to bicycles and showers, I’ve gone from needing a bicycle daily and showers weekly to wanting a bicycle occasionally and needing a shower daily. Leaving China all those years ago and learning to become American in the last twenty years has trotted me from a low impact boy to a high impact man. I can’t seem to find my way back to the days when I knew little but positively contributed more. As I got older and more “educated,” I seem to have gone backwards in my relationship with the ecosystem on this planet. That is my third curiosity, one I cannot live comfortably by: why is it the older I get and more prospers I am, the more expensive I am to Earth?

More to come . . . 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Riding on two wheels, memories and hopes.

(This is the first of a series of short reflections on public transit, our dependencies on oil, and my child hood memories on two wheels; stay tuned.)

Elly Blue writes a series on the Grist about bicycles and sustainability. She got me thinking about my childhood and the transformation China has gone through to begin its self-destructive fossil-fuel dependencies. In one of her recent blogs, she writes:

close to half of U.S. oil use today is in the form of gasoline. Most of this gasoline goes directly towards fueling automobiles . . . 377 million gallons every single day . . . a bit more than a gallon per U.S. resident per day . . . more than the daily amount of water most of us drink.

She argues that we can have a sustainable bicycle culture because (amongst other things)

40 percent of our driving trips spanning less than two miles, [making] the distances [] feasible [for a bike culture to emerge] -- so long as the roads aren't designed to be terrifying.
Growing up in Beijing left me a nostalgic respect for bicycles. I remember my reckless days of riding an old rusty 27-inch down the streets, hands off the handles trying to impress girls.
That was in the late 80s and early 90s. Rock’n Roll had just hit China’s emerging pop culture. There were no McDonalds on street corners and no gas stations. Hardly anyone owned a car privately. The streets were filled with bicycles, and from what I can remember, Beijing was proudly known as the “bicycle capital of the world;” or at least that’s what the patriotic media propaganda machines would let us believe.

These days the city is known for traffic jam and bureaucrats. Corrupted politicians and their paying customers litter the city like rats, buying up cars like toys and condos like dollhouses. The once bustling market streets filled with farmers and their produce are replaced with honking and rumbling highways. Along with the change, Beijing is now under an impermeable grayish layer of smog permanently blocking the sun from looking down directly. Fortunate for the locals, tanning has not caught on as fashionable and being pale is still a status symbol for the rich and spoiled. So no complaints have been filed to lift the veil.

Luckily, I no longer live in the city. I only occasionally visit to reminisce and fill my lungs with gunk from their tailpipe emissions. My dark summer tan would label me as either a farmer or a brute, but no longer a native; and I treasure the moments when I get a sharp poke in the eye by a “sunmbrella” from someone so carefully hiding from the sun beneath the filthy air. At times I would fantasize riding my bike down the Beijing streets again, but I’d be lucky if I last ten minutes without meeting the front end of a car in a dual: being a pedestrian is hard enough these days. Don’t get me wrong, there are more than enough people brave enough or poor enough to ride a bicycle to and from work or school, but they are pros and they’ve had 20 years of training in this new Beijing that I missed; they also carefully conceal themselves from the CO2 impact zone behind surgical masks and they have developed a resilient “hit me so I can demand money from you” attitude.

I miss the biking days of Beijing. I never once thought of oil prices or air pollutions back then, just my youthful fantasies. These days I worry about the price per gallon like the rest of you and I get depressed about global warming. I wonder if I could ride my bike more and drive less and I get excited to see our city is trying to become more bike-friendly; everyone seems to want more green options for transit these days.

But it seems no one is paying much attention to reducing oil dependencies in general, the politics these days is about reducing “foreign dependencies.” This troubles me. No one is talking about just how much oil we use and everyone is worry about how much oil we have left. This tells me we have not gotten over the hurdle yet to making a sustainable transition.

"Even so, the most powerful US transportation organization, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, has just made a move to curtail bike infrastructure spending. The outcry from advocates and states has stalled but not thwarted this effort. Clearly the political pressure is powerful to keep throwing money into increasing rather than decreasing our demand for and daily reliance on not-so-cheap energy.
Elly writes,
Bicycling can't save us from our energy crisis. At this point, nothing can. But it does point us toward a way to get through it with grace and possibly even build ourselves lives, communities, and a transportation system that we can truly afford."

Of course I don’t expect we have a overnight transition and everyone all of the sudden just started to ride bicycles everywhere, but maybe we can start talking about the idea of transitioning into a bicycle economy and test it to see if we will find it enjoyable as I once had as a child.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Critique of the Motivation Toward the Environment Scale - by Lauren Campbell

(White paper on cultural relevance in MTES)
The growing awareness of our environmental issues is reaching an all-time high. As our global population reaches critical mass, our environmental awareness is crucial to our existence. Although the concerns for our environment are on the rise, the majority of the us seem to still lack the motivation needed to behave pro-environmentally. This lack of environmental motivation, at a time of near crisis threshold, is detrimental to the livelihood of our planet and the continuation of our species. With many pressing environmental issue looming, a small handful of researchers in Canada created the Motivation Toward the Environment Scale (MTES), a psychological test that would help examine why some people are motivated to behave pro-environmentally and why others are not.

The MTES was developed by Pelletier, Green-Demers, Tuson, Noels, and Beaton (1998) and was published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology. There were no specific information regarding the testing universe and the development of this test was mostly influenced by the previous research on environmental attitudes and the rising social phenomenon of environmental concern (Pelletier, Green-Demers, Tuson, Noels, & Beaton, 1998). Séguin, Pelletier, and Hunsley (1999) have shown in previous research that environmental concern in addition to environmental education did not always lead to pro-environmental behavior. Pelletier et al. (1998) constructed this scale based upon Self-Determination Theory (SDT) that was proposed by Deci & Ryan in 1985 (as cited in Pelletier et al., 1998); they used the basis of SDT, as well as the motivation continuum proposed by SDT, in development and in the defining the constructs for the MTES. To date, this test was not empirically-based nor does it contain norms. Pelletier et al. (1998), did not appear to ask experts to rate their opinion of importance as it appears that this topic of study did not have a large amount of prior research at the time.

The MTES was modeled after the SDT and the different types of motivation developed in that theory. The different forms of motivation are located on a continuum, but are based from three different types of motivation: Intrinsic motivation, Extrinsic motivation, and Amotivation. Extrinsic motivation is further scaled into four categories: external regulation, introjected regulation, identified regulation, and integrated regulation. These types of motivation are located on a continuum where intrinsic motivation is the most self-determined and amotivation is the least self-determined. There were some pilot testing completed for this scale and there were three studies conducted prior to publishing the scale to establish internal consistency, test-retest reliability, and construct validity (Pelletier et al., 1998).Through this pilot testing researchers were able to narrow down the questions from 60 items to 24 items.

According to Pelletier et al. (1998) the scale had been set at 6 subscales with 10 questions each, but after the first study, which was used to determine whether the proper constructs of motivation were being measured, the scale was narrowed down to 4 items within each of the 6 subscales. The test is formatted in a Likert Scale style. The scale ranges from 1 (does not correspond at all) to 7 (corresponds exactly) with 4 (corresponds moderately) being in the middle. The test is scored by adding up all the scores within the subscales and acquiring the mean score for each individual subscale. The subscale with the highest average is then considered to determine what type of motivation the test taker has toward the environment. The MTES contains objective items, but there are very little specific instructions for the test taker or administrator. Other studies showed that scoring the MTES can be different for different studies and MTES does not have standardized administration to my knowledge. Villacorta, Koestner, and Lekes (2003) used the average score of each subscale for the purpose of their research, whereas Green-Demers, Pelletier, and Ménard (1997) used very elaborate scoring of the MTES to compute global self-determination indices and the questions were assigned different weights.

The MTES is mostly used in research settings, but it could also be used in educational settings. Most often the MTES is given in an academic setting to college students, but it has also been mailed to people’s homes. While the student take the test on campus, those who receive the test in the mail complete the test at their place of residency and return it by mail (Pelletier et al., 1998; Séguin , Pelletier, & Hunsley, 1999). There is at least one study where participants were asked to come to a lab to take the MTES (Villacorta, Koestner, & Lekes, 2003). The test administration does not seem to have contingencies regarding administration in a group or individual setting, but one might assume that by administering in a group format, where others have access to the responses of others, social biases could arise. The MTES appears most often as a pencil and paper test, but whether or not an electronic test is available cannot be said for sure; information regarding test protection could also not be obtained.

The need to take this test seems to be purely research based and there is not a time where someone needs to take the test. I would argue that with the growing concern regarding our environment, the MTES and other such environmental tests, that help us understand our environmental knowledge, motivation, and pro-environmental behavior, are essential to our survival. There is serious need for these types of tests in the educational system to assess a person’s environmental intelligence to assess that person’s role in the type of environmental classroom or social situation.

The MTES does not have a set age range. It requires the test taker to be able to read and to have enough environmental knowledge to understand words such as recycling, reducing, reusing, etc. This is an age restriction in the sense that young children cannot typically read and may not have the conceptual knowledge needed to fully understand environmental and motivational terms. Most testing with this scale has been done at the college level with the mean age between 21 to 23(Green-Demers, Pelletier, & Ménard, 1997; Pelletier et al., 1998; Villacorta et al., 2003). When the test was sent in survey form through the mail, the mean age was rougly 49 years-old (Séguin et al., 1999). There does not seem to be any certain demographic for which this scale would not be suitable. There might be discrepancies as to how different ethnicities and cultures view the environment, so it could be argued that the interpretation of this scale may not be same across all demographic divides; not that it would be inappropriate, but just misinterpreted. It would be useful to conduct additional research in the area of culture and environmentalism, to see if different perceptions occur in the first place especially in collectivistic vs. individualistic societies. There have not been norms set for the MTES because of a lack of research in this domain and it would be interesting to see whether this changes in the future.

Evidence for reliability is high for the MTES. There has been more than one study to verify its test-retest reliability and its internal consistency. According to Pelletier et al. (1998), The MTES shows very acceptable levels of reliability and when broken down into the six subscales of motivation that the MTES measures, the internal consistency of those subscales was considered satisfactory with values ranging between .78 and .96 (.78 < Cronbach’s α < .96). The MTES has showed satisfactory test-retest reliability over a 5 week period; Cronbach’s α correlation values ranged from .63 to .79, p < .01 (.63 < Cronbach’s α < .79) (Green-Demers et al., 1997; Pelletier et al., 1998; Séguin et al., 1999). The testing of the reliability of the MTES was appropriate and has occurred in more than one study. Both internal consistency and test-retest reliability have been tested. Reliability regarding alternate forms has not been done due to a lack of alternate forms of the MTES.

There appears to be evidence for construct validity, convergent validity, and discriminant validity. Evidence of criterion-related validity or content validity is scarce and could not be found for this scale. Convergent validity for the MTES and its sub-scales was supported. According to Villacorta et al. (2003), convergent validity was established by comparing the MTES to other self-reports that measure regulatory styles in the environment and in the academic domains (r(141)= .35, p <.01 and r(142) = .32, p < .01 respectively). There was also some convergent validity shown in Pelletier et al. (1998) with moderate correlations between the MTES and environmental behaviors. (.14 < Cronbach’s α < .48, p< .05 and p < .01). These environmental behaviors were positively correlated with the motivational continuum that SDT formulated. Discriminant validity was also shown through these procedures. In the process of showing convergent validity, Pelletier et al. (1998) showed that there was discriminant validity in the correlations of the MTES and the amotivation and external regulation categories of the Self-Determination Theory (.-12 < Cronbach’s α < .-25, p <, .05 an p < .01). These types of motivations are non-self-determined, so it was hypothesized that there would be discriminant validity in regards to these areas. The coefficients were also used to determine construct validity; the environmental behaviors acted not only as a comparison for the MTES for convergent and discriminant validity, but were also a validation for the construct that the MTES is measuring. Pelletier et al. (1998) also used confirmatory factor analysis, which the MTES endured, to confirm the construct validity. It has also been shown through exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses that the factorial structure of the MTES is supported; the relationship between the MTES sub-scales and psychological constructs provides construct validity (Green-Demers et al., 1997).

The MTES does seem to have face validity, although the test taker may not be aware that it is measuring different aspects of motivation. The questions are written such that a test taker could recognize that the MTES is asking about environmental behaviors. There is no direct information regarding content validity or any statistical references, but the MTES was put through stringent analyses to provide indirect evidence of content validity. The pilot tests that were ran by Pelletier et al. (1998) were conducted such that the questions in the MTES were a reflection of the Self-Determination Theory; which provides some evidence of content validity. The same goes for criterion-related validity. There was not any statistical references regarding this type of validity, but again, since the MTES was developed around Self-Determination Theory, one could argue that the criterion-related validity, more specifically concurrent validity, could be assumed. For example, for the people who score high on the MTES in intrinsic motivation, researchers would assume that it is those test takers who are out there behaving pro-environmentally and those who score high on amotivation would be the test takers who are not behaving, or behaving the least, pro-environmentally. The evidence for the criterion-related validity and content validity are not very accurate. These are just validity assumptions that someone could make based on their knowledge of all types of validity; there were not any statistical information regarding these two types. Construct, convergent, and discriminant validity did have statistical references and were focal points of conducted research. This allows test administrators and test takers to know the levels of validity for the MTES. These types of validity are accurate. There has not been any evidence of reliability and validity limiting usage of the MTES to different populations. It could be argued, however, that the MTES is limited to the use of motivational research or behavioral research because it is built around the Self-Determination Theory. This limitation could definitely hinder the use of the MTES in different areas of research.

The decisions that are made with this test are decisions regarding a test taker’s motivation to behave pro-environmentally. The MTES also narrows down what type of motivation the test taker is using to behave pro-environmentally based upon the Self-Determination Theory. Test scores could be misinterpreted if someone did not fill out the scale properly or if the test taker comes from a different culture. Different cultures may perceive pro-environmental behavior differently than how the MTES has been designed to assess those behaviors. In regards to Ethical Standard 9.06-Interpreting Assessment Results, this concept should be something that most test scorers and interpreters keep in mind. According to Pelletier et al. (1998), external validity needs to be more established with the MTES; when interpreting assessment results this should be kept in mind. This is also directly related to 9.09 (b) in the ethical standards of assessment-test scoring and interpretation services. Because the MTES is built upon the Self-Determination Theory, knowledge of this theory should be gathered prior to administering the scale. Based on ethical standard 9.05-test construction, it is the responsibility of the MTES developers to recommend prior understanding of SDT; which, are available in all the studies cited for this paper (Green-Demers et al., 1997; Pelletier et al., 1998; Seguin et al,. 1999; Villacorta et al., 2003). The information given by these researchers also adheres to the ethical standard 9.01 (b). By not having knowledge of this theory, the interpretation of the results could be skewed and misinterpretation of the results could follow. Misinterpretation of the results could lead to consequences such as misidentifying the motivation of the test takers; this could lead to the assumption that the test taker is not motivated to behave pro-environmentally when in fact they are. This could also lead to the wrong data being published, which would be detrimental to the area of research and the body of human knowledge in general. An unethical administration of this test could also leave a person emotionally taxed. If a test taker was someone who identified with behaving pro-environmentally and then received test results what stated otherwise due to an unethical administration, then that person could feel bad about his or her self. This would also be breaking Principle A and C of the APA Ethical Principles.

MTES is also susceptible to social desirability; however, according to Pelletier et al. (1998), the MTES seems to be unaffected by social desirability. If a test taker did give fake responses then it could skew research results, but there is not any direct reason that a test taker would want to do this. If a researcher were to explain what the assessment is measuring and why, which according to ethical standard 9.10 should be done, then a test taker might even be more interested in answering correctly, so that he or she knows where they stand in regards to motivation and the environment. Random responding might also be a challenge, although theoretically it is a challenge in all test taking domains. This could occur with a test taker who is not interested in taking the MTES or who does not understand the vocabulary of the MTES. Guarding against random responding could be prevented if the test administrator followed ethical standard 9.03 (a) and (b) and 9.07. Social desirability could also be prevented if a test administrator followed ethical standard 9.03 (a), 9.04 (a), and 9.11 and could guarantee confidentiality and test security. In order to follow the ethical standards that the APA expects, a professional is needed to administer and interpret results. By gaining adequate knowledge of the construct being measured and of the test taker, the test administrator should be able to properly administer and interpret the results. These are standards that the APA has put in place for a reason. Someone who did not have previous knowledge of SDT, and did not have the proper means to interpret the MTES correctly, could cause emotional harm to a participant/test taker.

Overall, I think that the MTES is a step in the right direction. The need for more environmental research in the psychological domain is something that cannot be ignored. With the growing evidence of society’s lack of motivation toward pro-environmental behavior and the issue of sustainability looming over our heads, we must learn why people are not taking the proper action. The MTES offers a glimpse into the psychological constructs that need investigated in order to accomplish a change in environmental mentality. It has satisfactory reliability and validity, which have been shown through multiple studies. There was a discrepancy in research with publishing dates; it appears the test development research Pelletier et al. (1998) was published after one other study, Green-Demers et al. (1997), in which the MTES was used as a measurement tool. This is probably due to the rate of publishing, but should be noted. There does not seem to be a large amount of ethical concern for the MTES, but research should be done in regards to different cultures and different perceptions of pro-environmental behavior. Further research in the field of psychology concerning environmental attitudes must be done. The Motivation Toward the Environmental Scale is one of few environmental measures offered in research and needs to be developed upon in order to progress this topic. I will definitely see myself using this scale in the future in order to build on psychological science in the environmental and motivational domains.


Green-Demers, I., Pelletier, L. G., & Ménard, S. (1997). The impact of behavioural difficulty on the saliency of the association between self-determined motivation and environmental behaviours. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 29, 157-166. doi: 10.1037/0008-400X.29.3.157

Pelletier, L. G., Green-Demers, I., Tuson, K. M., Noels, K., & Beaton, A. M. (1998). Why are you doing things for the environment? The motivation towards the environment scale (MTES). Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 28, 437-468. doi: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.1998.tb01714.x

Séguin, C., Pelletier, L. G., & Hunsley, J. (1999). Predicting environmental behaviors: the influence of self-determined motivation and information about perceived environmental health risks. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 29(8), 1582-1604. Retrieved from

Villacorta, M., Koestner, R., & Lekes, N. (2003). Further validation of the motivation toward the environment scale. Environment and Behavior, 35, 486-505. doi: 101177/0013916502250753

Friday, April 22, 2011

Uncelebrating Earth Day.

Bad Religion: Against the Grain (1990, FLAC)
I’ve had a lot of people ask me what I plan to do on Earth Day. I guess being the token Green guy somehow obligates me to Earth Day by some religious duty. I ranted about Earth Hour and I write as if there’d be no tomorrow, so why shouldn’t I be obligated to celebrate Earth Day? And there are just so many things to choose from and it would be a great opportunity to meet others in the community. I could attend the Whit River Park’s events and know my local green vendors; I could plant a tree, work in the yard, or write a blog. But in my case, I’m stuck outlining as much of the body of criminal law as I can to prepare for an exam on Monday. I hate to disappoint my friends who read this shabby blog, but this particular post is written well in advance. As you read this on Earth Day, I am probably planted to a chair in my “office” plotting some diagrams to help me remember the elements of mens rea. But don’t let that discourage you from hearing the rest of my uncelebration of Earth Day. Think of it as chasing a rabbit on your unbirthday – I hope you enjoy your unbirthday greeting:
Earth Day reminds me that everyday is Earth’s day. The days are not ours. We came to Earth’s care by miracles and evolution and we owe each day to its presence.

So that’s it. That is my only contribution to Earth Day and your unbirthday greeting.

Consider it my sorry for an excuse attempt to make myself feel better. But like many of you, I just don't have the time to do any of the fun stuff. Feel free to have fun without me, it's your unbirthday. Have a piece of cake too. When you come back from your celebrations, and perhaps on Monday morning when you discover this blog post by random chance, feel free to uncelebrated Earth Day for me by giving thanks to Earth, who filled your morning with fresh air and gave you that cup of joe. Oh, and don’t forget to do something special on that unEarth Day like checking up on your garden or cancel that expensive chemical lawn care program.You don't want that stuff saturate the soil next to your veggie garden, trust me.

Happy Earth Day.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Why can’t life come with instructions?
A while ago I joined a project to start a conversion about Green with other bloggers. The project is facilitated by The Green. Every two weeks or so, there is a new topic and we all try and contribute.

This week's riddle: What is the most pressing sustainability issue we need to address?


Consumption. Because it is the source of our free market desires that drives the crash-test ride we call “industrial and civilized society.”

I could pick on industrialization but that would just be more unnecessary gripe and moan; and I don’t think we could stop the progress of industrialization without addressing our fundamental consuming patterns so the attempt would be futile; I could go on and discuss the backward sense of “civilization” we experience so distant from our original distinct connection with Earth, but then I would look like some kind of cultural fanatic. Either one is not worth the discussion because they both focuses on the past; they are topics about what has gone wrong, not about what we can do to make things right.

What we can do to make things right is a hard thing to pick on because it is a deeply ingrained social norm protected by our collective sense of denial. It is our palpable overt desire to consume that drives our demand for oil, plastic, cheap meats, chemically fed giant broccoli, and diabetic babies. Yet there is an eerie sense of social stigma against those who would dare to say: “consume less,” and it is thus left unsaid.

Talking about consumption requires an admission of guilt: I too over consume and am part of the perpetuated problem to our Sustainability Crisis. I own many gadgets that hardly justify their existence. I consume and waste more water than a village in China. I use electricity generated by coal freely while I sit on my high and mighty horse and preach. I am in denial because I don’t know a way out of my conditioned pattern of behavior: buy more stuff, love more gadgets, enjoy daily showers, and plug more things into the walls . . .

Well, they say the first step is to admit the guilt and come out of denial. What is the next step?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Earth Day

The following event info are provided by HEC (Hoosier Environmental Council) 

Purdue Earth Day

Purdue University will host an Earth Day celebration in the Herman and Heddy Kurz Atrium in Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering from 10:00a to 3:00p on Tuesday, April 19th. This 2nd annual celebration is designed to help the Purdue and Greater Lafayette communities learn about technical advances in green energy and how people can maintain a sustainable lifestyle. A recycling drive for personal (non-Purdue) electronic products will be held at a tent next to Schleman Hall on Stadium Mall.

Event Info
Stadium Ave
West Lafayette, IN 47906
April 19, 2011

Pillow Talk: Warriors in Lace

Music, food, drinks, stress-relieving beauty treatments, raffles (iPad 2 and Tiffany & Co. jewelry!) and lingerie shopping! Admission to this event is a $5 minimum donation to HEC. Your donation to HEC will help protect Indiana's clean water. The owner of Pillow Talk is generously donating 15% of proceeds that night to HEC.

Event Info
Pillow Talk
23 E. Main St.
Carmel, IN 46032
April 20, 2011
7:00p - 10p


Dine and Donate at TGI Friday's

Take the family out to dinner at the Castleton TGI Fridays in Indianapolis on Thursday night, mention HEC and a portion of your meal cost will go to the Hoosier Environmental Council!. You can do take out or dine in!!

Event Info
3502 E 86th Street
Indianapolis, In
April 21, 2011
6:00p - 10p

Yoga in the Park

Join HEC, Bambu Salon and Aveda for an evening of Yoga in the Park. Amy Thomas, owner of Flourish Yoga, leads the class in fusing together nature and soul in an effort to protect our local watersheds.

Free. Donations are appreciated and benefit HEC.

Event Info
Broad Ripple Park
1550 Broad Ripple Ave
Indianapolis, In
April 22, 2011
4:00p - 5:30p

The Ripple Inn

Stop by the Ripple Inn on Earth Day and pick up your pint glass! All it takes is a small donation to HEC. NUVO will be on hand in the lounge upstairs to give away green guides and activities. Plus, there are prizes and giveaways for the guest with the most creative "earth day" costume-made out of recycled materials. What can YOU come up with?

Event Info
The Ripple Inn and Room 929
929 E. Westfield Blvd.
Indianapolis, In
April 22, 2011
5:00p - 11:30p

Earth Day 2011

Join just about every environmentally-minded organization in central Indiana for the 2011 Earth Day festivities at White River State Park. Pick up tips, learn how to green your home and yard and above all, enjoy the day at Indiana's biggest green event.

Event Info
Earth Day 2011
White River State Park
801 W Washington St
Indianapolis, In
April 23, 2011
11:00a - 4:00p

Monday, April 18, 2011

The legal status of Mother Earth, I doubt she cared for such frivolous human concept until her veins were polluted and her heart desecrated.

Earth Day is coming and there is an interesting debate UN will take up on the issue of “rights of Mother Earth.”

At first I thought this was a joke, propagated by the right leaning news media to poke fun of the environmentalists. Fox News made it sound like a terrible idea, as if we are putting down the bucket of water and started a prayer service for the fire that’s burning right in front of us:

United Nations diplomats on Wednesday will set aside pressing issues of international peace and security to devote an entire day debating the rights of “Mother Earth.”
But to me, the problems we face with regards to our environment and sustainability are the precise issues of international peace and security that we need to address, so the joke is on Fox News for being too invidious to the likes of me. We have come to a point when we need to acknowledge the serious shortages of our waters, the poor qualities of our air, and the depletion of our soil and natural resources without concerns for long term development and sustainability. I think FOX could do better than to throw cheap jokes around that may not even be funny.  

All media bashing aside, I think the concept is a great idea and an excellent initiative taken by the UN. We need this conversation globally to really address some of our problems in the next decades. I’ve always felt our Sustainability problem needs be confronted on a much deeper level than just air pollution or global warming. Granted those are pressing issues, but to put those items on a pedestal is to miss a very important point: our crisis is fundamentally a problem in how we identify with our environment and how we treat the planet that nurtures us. I personally discovered my destination of Sustainability from a discovery in human rights and humanitarian laws. During my search exploration, I realized that we cannot come to appreciate each other and our environment if we cannot appreciate our existence with all living beings – Earth being the source of all those we define as “Life.”

Keeping true to my philosophical beliefs and my respect for Buddhist teachings, I find nothing wrong to have a serious debate about the legal status of our planet. While I don’t want to make it a new religion out of environmentalism or sustainability (as some who argued against this UN initiative and made fun of Bolivia for pushing for these legal rights), but what Bolivia has done should be applauded as a necessary extension of the International Declaration of Human Rights:

The Bolivian law establishes 11 rights for nature that include: the right to life and to exist; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered; the right to have nature’s processes free from human alteration.
So my alliance is clear for once. I am with the global community on the need to establish a basic right for our planet. While we are at it, let's also focus on a harmonious existence of basic human rights in the context of our planetary rights, please.  

Friday, April 15, 2011

Japan’s nuclear problem and long term prospects of sustainable nuclear energy.

We’ve spent our early efforts towards nuclear research and development on making nuclear bombs, perfecting it’s long range delivery, and maximizing payload.

Why can’t we shift focus now and really look at the feasibility of utilizing nuclear energy safely and sustainably to solve some of the world’s energy problems? Is it sustainable or green to consider nuclear energy as a viable option even in the wildest of hopes and dreams for the human capacity to do good things?

I see a lot of anger and panic towards nuclear energy these days because of Japan's disasters. You can’t blame the masses of the Green movement to join the panic since most of our leading organizations have been long invested in the cause.

“Major anti-nuclear groups include Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, and the Nuclear Information and Resource Service. The initial objective of the movement was nuclear disarmament, though the focus has shifted to include opposition to the use of nuclear power.
I had to stop and ask myself, being an obsessed Trekkie most of my adult life, do I really want to join the masses on the dissent of nuclear energy only because I align with these organizations otherwise? If my instinct should hold true to ask such a question, should I challenge my own blindness? Do I not imagine one day my grandkids will call from the far reaches of space and say that they had a hard day managing the safety level of their warp core and how they wished for the days of predicable nuclear engines?

I hesitated. After working for the Legion, I learned that many well established mission driven organizations may have good intentions, but they do deviate from their philosophies by the lure of short term market share or temporary operational gains. This is committed by both side of the political spectrum and all sorts of “neutral” organizations.

(I know of some rather senseless lawsuits initiated by a very reputable civil rights organization against a long standing cross on mountain top built by an old army medic, for his fellow service members injured or killed in war. This is the same problem I had with people who can’t agree to have a Christmas tree in their work place or schools. Coming from a different culture, I welcomed the tree and the cross. One because I am curious, two because I hope others would also allow me to bring my special ways of celebrating Chinese holidays to the public. It’s a shared experience for learning. Maybe I am partial to the old medic, making me partial to opinionate; but I don’t want to deviate too far.)

I have a lot of respect for organizations such as Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, and the Nuclear Information and Resource Service. But I have to ask myself if I can picket sign to ban all nuclear energy development in responsible ways.
I searched the web and there is a wealth of information about nuclear energy; its efficiency, safety, real costs, and a host of other relevant information. Some alarmed me, some made me think about the serious possibilities of scientific progress only if we can keep our minds off the weapon’s game. It looks to be a very tough choice: I’d have to give up my Trekkie status and be really “pro green” with the rest of the masses "feeling" for what green energy looks like? Or I can still dream about space and foolish things beyond the galaxy and hold my ground that it’s not the knowledge and science that kills, it’s irrational people who kills.

My condolences for the Japanese People. May you survive your challenges and emerge as a stronger and more sensible nation focused on Sustainability. May your future stand on the pursuit of reason and knowledge, not fear and ignorance. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Parking lot’s Lilly Arbor Day Project - by Lauren Campbell.

The Lilly Arbor Day project took place in Indianapolis on March 25th. This is a project ten years in the making.

It called for contributions from IUPUI students, faculty, staff, Eli Lilly employees, and community volunteers. The aim of this project is to restore the flood plains that line the White River, with hope to one day restore the flood plains along the entire 100 miles of White River located in Marion County.
- Karen Salazar.

The purpose of this project on a small one-mile stretch of land in the middle of downtown Indianapolis is to experiment with certain species of trees, different types of soil, and different planting techniques. Through scientific data, the project hopes to compare what process and combination of these variables combined produces the greatest number of trees in the flood plain.

There were eight different plots along this one mile stretch; four different combination each duplicated. The duplications were used to account for random differences that could not be controlled; scientifically, it is to account for random error. When we were broken up into groups, I was assigned to Vince Hernly and Mark Sparks’ group. I went to the last plot of land and began measuring trees.

This plot of land consisted of soil comprised mostly of silt and of trees that were randomly placed. There were a few volunteers that began picking up trash and recyclables along the river and other volunteers began looking for marked trees to measure their growth in the past year. This is to study the benefits of native and invasive plants along riverbanks. These ecosystems contribute immensely to several environmental factors including water quality, ground water quality, infiltration systems, soil erosion, and animal habitats; understanding these ecosystems can help us make some significant decisions that will impact our immediate surroundings.

The ground vegetation near the White River is scarce. The construction of this site has increased the vegetative cover enormously, which improves water quality, through filtration of the water runoff and by providing a buffer zone during flooding. Planting trees in this area may develop large root networks to help slow water down during flooding, thus helping reduce the amount of collateral damages.

While measuring trees, I came across a few that had not survived the recent flooding. We hope our project can help rebuild a healthy ecosystem. The more vegetative cover and the larger the root network of the trees, the less soil and stream erosion, which will lead to more plants being able to prosper and to better water quality. The different types of soils used in this project also provide data regarding the best environment in which these trees can grow.

The acre-plot that we worked on was comprised of silt soil and the trees seemed to take well to it. Soils comprised more of silt and clay tend to retain water much better than soils comprised of mostly gravel or sand. The areas located north of our plot were comprised of mostly sand and gravel and the trees did not do so well.
There were also differences in the way in which the trees were planted on the different plots; some trees were planted with ‘open’ roots, meaning that there was not soil on them prior to planting, while others had ‘closed’ roots, meaning the roots were wrapped in soil prior to planting. The open root trees did pretty well and most seemed to grow during the year and the majority of them survived the recent flooding. It appears that this network of trees and their roots will be extremely beneficial to the White River and to the quality of water within it.

Water quality is a huge issue here in Indianapolis. This kind of large and extensive projects generates invaluable data. According to the 2010 Impaired Waters List, see the Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC) website, Indiana has over 2,600 impairments that make bodies of water in our state unsafe for drinking and recreation. This directly affects the people who live in the state of Indiana via the groundwater system. The White River is a gaining river, groundwater flowing south feeds into the White River and is then contaminated by many different things; one being parking lot run off pollutions, according to Jesse Kharbanda, Executive Director of the HEC, is the third highest water pollutant in our state, mercury being number one due to all the coal manufacturing that the state does.

Photo by S. Donaldson
I was surprised to see a parking lot runoff ditch that had been constructed in the middle of this project. Ironic how a ten year project dedicated to increasing water quality in Marion County has been overridden by the construction of a parking lot. This is why we need to understand the psychological process needed to change the way people think about our environment while we collect data and learn about what we can do. We need to start applying what we are learning and learn as we apply. Putting one more parking lot in the city to cause more problems for a project trying to reduce the very pollution that has been killing our community makes no sense, I hope we fix our public transit system and take one parking lot away and convert it into a urban farming lot to help bring fresh produce to the hungry.  

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Urban Homesteading Takes Root In Cities and Towns Across the Country

I spent this past weekend plowing up areas in my backyard, planting carrots, radishes, lettuces, Chinese squash, and some climbing spinach.  It was hard work, but I am proud of what I've accomplished. It had helped rekindle some fond memories I had growing up. 

Before our family deteriorated by my adolescence, my identification with the American culture, and my military service, my parents had always grew potatoes, carrots, beans, tomatoes, strawberries, and all kinds of things as far as I can remember. Each season, we would gather as a family, dig-up what little land we could use, and plant seeds and care for them until harvest. When we first moved to Beijing, we had a small garden in the back of our dorm building. I was always warned not to steal the strawberries before they got to the right ripeness. When we moved to the US in the 90s, we had lived on the first floor of a duplex. My parents would grow vegetables in the back yard each Summer. I would take my brother, two or three years old at the time, help pull weeds and manage the small crops.

Since I began to live on my own and began to think about my life's past, I tried to grow something each year, to remember our times together - as a family. I also grow things to regain some sense of sanity in my world. There is nothing better than labor and sweat to redeem my sinking memories.

A few days ago I was alerted to a new book by Rachel Kaplan and Ruby Blume. Kaplan rightfully claimed
“[w]e are at a cultural crossroads in terms of our relationship to the earth . . .. It’s clear that what we’re doing isn’t working anymore, and we need to find another way to live. Urban homesteading offers a series of practices that help us become stewards of the earth.”

She made me realized that it was my fond memories for a happier times that made me focus on Sustainability in my current work. I am glad someone else has found that same source for Sustainability to call for others to rethink our relationship with our land and our families.

Their new book is titled Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living (April 2011, Skyhorse Publishing). Their hopes are to give every day people the tools they need to live more sustainably, in small and big ways. The book is to be a comprehensive guide to self-reliance, green living and the growing movement of urban homesteading around the country.

I am excited for this book. I hope this book brings your families together just as my family once had came together, just as I hope my family will come together in the future.

About the Authors of the book:

Rachel Kaplan has been gardening in and around urban environments for more than 20 years and belongs to a bicoastal family of farmers and gardeners. She is a psychotherapist and educator, and offers consultation with a permaculture focus for businesses, non-profits, schools and community groups. She holds a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology from Sonoma State University, and a second degree in Interdisciplinary Arts from San Francisco State. She has written and edited numerous books, including The Probable Garden of Eden. Rachel lives in Petaluma, California with her partner and their daughter on a little homestead they call Tiny Town Farm.

K. Ruby Blume is an educator, gardener, beekeeper, artist, and activist, with more than twenty years of experience gardening in urban settings. She has worked extensively in the arts and is the co-founder and artistic director of Wise Fool Puppet Intervention, an environmental justice project. In 2008, she founded the Institute of Urban Homesteading, a project dedicated to promoting localism, self-reliance, and urban sustainability through low-cost adult education. Ruby lives and works in Oakland, California.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Indiana: gays may not be able to get married, but at least our rivers don’t burn! - by Leontiy Korolev.

Environmentalists get discredited in many ways. In fact, just calling someone an environmentalist has negative connotations in certain contexts. I heard Indiana Senator, Beverly Gard, in an answer to a substantive environmental question, applaud Indiana’s environmental efforts because our rivers don’t catch on fire. Ironic, considering Nixon created NEPA, the National Environmental Protection Act, which laid the groundwork for future environmental legislation. By the way, the “burning river” is the Cuyahoga River, which is the quintessential example of the reasons for environmental regulation. Ohio’s river actually used to catch on fire prior to regulation of polluting sources.

Anyways, even Nixon’s environmental standards were a bit higher than, “make sure your rivers don’t sustain fire.” In fact, here’s some language from the NEPA preamble (which Nixon drafted himself!...Joke): “to declare national policy which will encourage productive and enjoyable Harmony between Man and his Environment…biosphere and stimulate health and welfare of man…enrich understanding of ecological systems and natural resources important to the National...”

Well enough venting, here’s some substance. I’ll point out some of the glaring statistics, but you can do your own analysis: (From Scorecard):
As Indiana residents, we have the

• 12th highest added cancer risk;
• 14th highest health risks from criteria air pollutants;
• 9th in releases of toxic chemicals with respect to total environmental releases;
• 8th in releases of toxic chemicals into the air;
• 2nd in releases of toxic chemicals into the water;
• 4th in releases of recognized carcinogens to the air;

Things might not be so bad if there were some sort of enforcement mechanisms or legal structures to monitor and punish polluters, perhaps a permit system that could be monitored and enforced by the states or the federal government. Enter Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and several other regulatory schemes. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Act was intended to ensure that companies have permits for the pollution that they release. As of 2010 at least 200 facilities in Indiana had broken air pollution laws in the past three years. 12 of these have been considered “high-priority.” These “high priority” violators have been violating the Clean Air Act continuously for at least 3 years. (Stockman, Dan. “Clean-air Picture; Bad Data, Slow Action Cloud Enforcement Efforts.” The Journal Gazette 28 Mar. 2010.) So, the problem is not just that there is a lot of pollution in this state; the real problem is that the “authorities” know about the pollution and very little action is being taken. As they say, there’s a reason they call it Indiana Department of Environmental Management, as opposed to protection.

What’s the point of this article, just to piss and moan? Kind of. But the fact is that these are some harsh stats. Environmentalists may be easily discredited, but making fun of thrift shop hipsters won’t change the fact that you should not be drinking Indiana’s tap water. These are facts. The state is dirty. Indiana’s environment and environmental policies may attract typical industries, and it may keep some jobs in the state, but it hurts the welfare of our citizens and it certainly does not invite nor keep those with a “non traditional” entrepreneurial approach.

I hope this wasn’t offensive to those of you with the “if you don’t like it then go somewhere else” mentality. Actually, yes I really do.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Mao's Wall and Social Media, sustainability of the human experience.

The role of social media in the environmental movement, or any movement a all - Egypt, Iran, China, etc. - is about starting a conversation, building a community learning/knowledge platform, and generating activities from the grassroots up to really challenge the status quo and make a difference.

I consider the “Discussion Boards,” that started the Cultural Revolution in China, and subsequently sent thousands to their death or re-education, a form of Social Media.

But today, in the US and most of the world, we have a lost sense of social media intricately combined with the powers of the Internet and various computing devices. In much of the US, social media is trendy, high-tech, and sometimes about nothing with significant substance: what did Kim Kardashian have for lunch today?

Social Media, to me, in the truest form, is about bringing people together on a topic and uniting the consensus to overturn the established norms put in place for the benefits of the few, the rich, the careless. Social Media is about using our high-tech devices to generate a collective and existential question we must ask ourselves: where do we see ourselves in the future as a specie, a steward of Earth.

There are company sponsored social media. These are powered by marketing campaigns structured around products or political messages. These are “Peer Review for Profit” social media, This type of “Social Media” is part of the established norms for the benefits of the few, the rich, and the careless. This is the kind of social media that influences the masses who stands for nothing, who will fall for anything.

On the other side is the type of Social Media that makes social media sexy and dangerous. This is the kind of social media that exist not for the sake of politics or product sales. This is the Social Media in ListServs of human rights lawyers; private forums for scientists to discuss their views on Sustainability; this is the Social Media on Twitter that raised over $70,000 for cancer research in one day. This is the kind of Social Media that gives our conversations substance, helps us learn and grow, and get us away from our daily routines to do something good for our society. 

I learned from a good friend that a conversation can change the world. Many social media and marketing companies often miss this very point. Social marketing and viral marketing is effective not because technology has made it so, but because technology made that conversation available. The Internet is littered with unnecessary conversations these days. We have wasted so much time paying attention to this useless information.

Our job and responsibility is to stop this deterioration and help generate positive cooperation.  

Social Media is not about technology, not about trends, not about meaningless things that does nothing for the Human Experience. To me, Social Media is about a Conversation, about Learning, about making a difference – for our environment and for our fellow human beings; for Earth.