Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Running on diesel

Date: April 16
Mileage: 29.2
April mileage: 355.8
Temperature: 40

My co-worker Brian shot this photo just as we were returning from our respective dinner breaks, about 7 p.m. We had about three inches by the time the sun set, and more slated for tonight. It was a little surreal to watch fluffy piles of new snow shimmer in the 9 p.m. twilight. A collision of seasons. I love it. Anything to lift the landscape out of the monotony of rain, which will surely return tomorrow.

The snow has everyone freaked out right now, and not because there's a few soon-to-melt inches accumulated on the ground. A massive avalanche cut down a series of transmitter towers to Juneau's hydro-power station, and the local utility announced they will be switching to diesel power until they can enter the unstable area and fix the transmitters, likely months. In the meantime, our power rates will be jumping 500 percent. 500 percent! When you look at your monthly power bill for $46.48 and do some simple math, the prospect is downright horrifying.

Meanwhile, I think about those generators pumping out hundreds of thousands of gallons of diesel fuel to feed Juneau's electricity appetite. That forms its own surreal image. The idea of water flowing from the mountains and giving us power is vague enough to be beautiful. But to think about Juneau being hooked to a massive, fuel-sucking generator is disheartening enough to make the smallest power uses seem so wasteful ... the things I like and depend on ... my reading lamps, my refrigerator, my computer. I walk around turning off lights and appliances but I feel like I'm throwing water balloons at a forest fire. A raging forest fire. The kind that sets ablaze everything in its path.

In its path like my housemate (and landlord), who is already on the ledge about selling his condo and will probably take the leap. In its path like my employer, who is already on the ledge about expenses, the largest and most easily expendable of which is its workforce. In its path like the local housing market, which will likely go even further to raise already astronomical rents and tighten already insurmountable no-pet policies to coax any of us who might lose the meager roof over our heads back into living at the Mendenhall Lake Campground. These things have a way of changing lives.

But what can I do besides cut tiny threads of my connections to the grid, maybe go to bed early tonight, maybe turn off my computer?

33 comments:

  1. It's starting to sound like maybe Juneau sucks.

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  2. What can you do?

    You can start to question some of the ideas you have come to accept.

    One big one is the idea of global warming and the ridiculous notion that man is causing it.

    I'm not sure why anyone (with any sense of geo-time) would think they KNOW what temperature the planet SHOULD BE at any given moment. When I hear people stand up and publicly say, "It's supposed to be cooler than this! Send me your money, you carbon-burning sinner!" it makes me laugh out loud.

    The next ice age is coming. In 10,000 years there will be ice two miles thick over much of the USA and there isn't ANYTHING we can do to stop it.

    As for me, I'll leave my appliances turned on and enjoy my life.

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  3. bucky dent6:29 AM

    My NYC electricity bill is 20x yours, so it's hard for me to get very excited, sorry. And if employers are cutting staff, and expenses make landlords dump properties, that means the cost of shelter should be going down, not up. We all make choices and must live with the consequences. A lifestyle requiring even the most modest creature comforts requires a suitable income.

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  4. Sounds like leaving with Geoff for the summer might actually be the most prudent financial decision, now. Life is crazy.

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  5. Anonymous6:34 AM

    I'm guessing a clothesline won't be too helpful in Juneau.

    You'll have to reduce your power consumption to 20 percent of your current use just to stay even...that's likely a fate in store for all of us, but it's a lot easier to ponder it in the abstract and adjust to it slowly than it is to deal with it right now.

    Excellent summary of the "downstream" effects - employers, housing, etc. Scary.

    I wonder about all the growth down here in the southwest, the fastest-growing part of the country. What happens when the air conditioning bill goes up 500 percent?

    "These things have a way of changing lives." Indeed. Let us know how it goes...

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  6. maybe some of us should band togather in the southwest and form a bicycle gang....

    Jill's Angels prehaps?

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  7. Anonymous7:13 AM

    do your part, however small the impact at least you are trying. If it reduced emissions then great, if it reduces your electric bill then great. If it saves two birds their nest then great.

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  8. Take it one day at a time. If you can, save your pennies, maybe think about buying your own place so you no longer are at the mercy of landlords with no-pet policies. Keep your eye on the job market; perhaps moonlight to get a little more green in your pocket. Cut your consumption as best you can, and hang in there. You know you're a survivor.

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  9. Hunker down, ride it out. No need to make a crisis critical yet.

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  10. Really, Bucky? $1,000 a month for electricty? Wow.

    I don't really think this is a crisis for myself, really. Working families, small businesses, yes, this could be a real catastrophie. But I can easily adapt. I'm just uneasy about how it might affect my immediate future. With Geoff gone and the possibility of my moving out of my room, I'd have to look into getting my own place. The basement rates for small apartments that allow pets, plus a $300-a-month electricity bill (if the place heats with oil, otherwise it will be much more), plus other utilities would equal 80 percent of my income. In my mind, that's a form of indentured servitude, and I don't need it. Especially because I'm a single person with no children. I could work 80 hours a week, but I'd rather move on. That probably means leaving Juneau. And as much as I've complained about it lately, I don't really want to go :-)

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  11. Anonymous10:52 AM

    You could come back to Utah. I know I wouldn't mind. :) I only pay about $48 for about 8 months of the year (the summer is more expensive if you like AC)Miss you sister!

    Lisa

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  12. "You can start to question some of the ideas you have come to accept.

    One big one is the idea of global warming and the ridiculous notion that man is causing it."

    bounce, this is really BASIC science: burning of fossil fuels release gases into the atmosphere. these gases increase the temperature of said atmosphere. man's habits of consumption release gases into the atmosphere which in turn creates atmospheric temperature increase. there's no logical scientific way to dispute this. to do so is like disputing that water freezes at 32f or that humans need oxygen to survive. it's very basic science that has no means of being proven otherwise. now if you want to dispute to what extent this is happening and the long term effects that this may or may not have is another issue, but to claim that it's a ridiculous notion that man is contributing to increased atmospheric temperatue is really quite absurd. did you get that memo? the world isn't flat anymore... and yes, smoking really does cause lung cancer.

    if you want to continue whatever habits of consumption you feel entitled to (despite the possibility that this will make life more difficult for generations to follow you) that's one thing, but to try to justify this approach with science is really pathetic.

    you are right, there's going to be another ice age eventually that wipes out human kind (unless human kind wipes out human kind first), but that doesn't give us the right to live as destructivly and greedy as we please in the meantime. 10,000 years is a very short time geolocically but it's still doezens of generations of people who you are personally unwilling to do anything for which MAY help leave them a healthier planet. feel free to make this choice, but please spare us the crap about doing it in the name of science and stand up and admit that you're doing it in the name of greed.

    you're a dying breed, my friend. you might want to think about getting off the ship before it sails off the end of the world.

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  13. Anonymous11:56 AM

    Well Geoff, I do appreciate your endurance efforts and exploits and your willingness to share it. But I think you're way off base on this issue; most educated people in my circle have an opinion much closer to bounce's than yours. Our perspective is, it's more like chicken little on the one side than flat earthers on the other.

    Here's a paper that I think looks at it rationally and scientifically - not driven by an agenda as does the current histeria seem to be.
    http://www.oism.org/pproject/s33p36.htm

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  14. Juneautopia will survive, and I hope in the end this is a chance for us to consider our own power usage and better "feel" for rural Alaska. We are awfully lucky to have the hydro (and unlucky to have a rough transmission route!). If there isn't a disaster declared, we will be paying the same rates as rural Alaska...

    The clothesline suggestion is a good one--we switched to using one about a month ago after the idea went out on the juneauparents mailing list. With a wood stove, our house is actually pretty low humidity. I always find it amazing how many Juneautopians use humidifiers inside, but our houses (mold and all!!!) are fairly dry--try a clothesline inside!

    And hook the trainer up to your computer and keep blogging! I've had the fantasy of working with the local theaters to do something like the "magnificent revolutionary cycling cinema" at http://magnificentrevolution.wordpress.com/

    And Jill, can you offer readers a "mute the crazies" option on this blog comments? I'd appreciate it--thanks! :)

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  15. buckey dent12:47 PM

    Yes, $1000/mo. I live in a 75 year old porous brick-faced apartment with three exposed faces, several air conditioners, a big refrigerator, six computers, wife and kids...the whole package. NY has very expensive power, and it is also taxed to the gills. As the saying goes, you don't have to be crazy to live here, but it sure helps!

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  16. Anonymous2:18 PM

    I kinda want to back Geoff up here. There are numerous reports on this issue, and very educated arguments on both sides, but if you look at reports such as those issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC), his analogy about smoking and lung cancer is how I think of it in terms of environmental issues, and is backed up by these types of reports.
    "Global warming has been attributed partially to increased amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The main sources of human emissions of greenhouse gases are the burning of fossil fuels and industrial activities, and measurements taken have proven that these emissions are significantly higher since the industrial era."
    Hey Jill, it probably won't help that much, but computers draw about 40-60% of your load typically, so shutting it off is probably a good idea (other than the indoor clothes line). Other suggestions are decreasing the amount of "phantom" load that your appliances are drawing when they are unplugged but not on. either uplugging things like your tv and toaster or hooking them up to a power strip and shutting that off works. Everyone knows about efficent light bulbs, on the same principle, anything that produces heat (like crappy light bulbs and hair dryers) are wasting energy. limiting your use of these things is another good energy saver. I'm sure you guys heard enough of this from me in Utah.
    nl

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  17. amazing photos again and again and again!!
    Do you sell your photos? If so, how much would they be?

    Greetings from Bremen, Germany
    ~Winni

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  18. Just want to echo the plug for the "mute the crazies" option. Keep on ridin', keep on writin'!

    Peace!

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  19. Go Crazies go!

    Why yes, I do need a hobby thank you.

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  20. Geoff, I hate to co-opt Jill's web site about the issue of GW.

    I am happy to go round and round with you (and anyone else who cares to join :-)).

    I am at: http://slackchain.blogspot.com/

    It's not technically my website, but I post there a lot.

    However, to answer one of your points...

    Well over 90% of all greenhouse gas is made up of water vapor. Until we control the process of evaporation, there IS NO WAY we will have any meaningful affect on greenhouse gasses.

    We can't make the wind blow, we can't make it stop blowing, we can't make it clear up in Juneau and we ABSOLUTELY CANNOT STOP the next ice age.

    Carbon dioxide is plant food.

    You know what.... Now that I think about it... The only place I have seen as much GUILT passed around for being human (as I see with the GW issue) is in some religions.

    We have "sin" (burning carbon - you can live, just make sure it's in a cave or a tee-pee), we have a God (Mother Earth - a Goddess in this case), we have penance (cast off capitalism, live well below your means and send money to Al Gore) and we have guilt being passed around with a dump truck.

    Come on over to slackchain!

    The last thing I want to do is hijack Jill's excellent website with all of this, but I am very happy to discuss and debate it.

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  21. Anonymous8:28 PM

    I don't think anyone's going to come bounce, you just obviously proved in your last comment that you're crazy.

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  22. To the anonymous poster who tried to refute Geoff and backup Bounce, using OISM as your source doesn't help your argument.

    Read more about them here: http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Oregon_Institute_of_Science_and_Medicine.

    If you read the section on their original "Oregon Petition" to try to convince Congress that GW is a sham, you'll see that most of the "scientists" they included as signatories don't even have the credentials to give an informed opinion on the matter. Hell, they might as well have put my 2-year-old daughter's name on there.

    Also, the fact they refuse to disclose where their funding comes from is very suspicious. Usually this means funding from Big Oil, Big Coal and the like. I have a feeling this is another Heartland Institute, who similarly makes claims that they have a bunch of scientists that refute GW, and then you see how much money Exxon has given them over the past decade... They've also received money from, and tried to defend, Big Tobacco in the past.

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  23. Anonymous9:58 PM

    Geoff, you are spot on (except maybe
    the dying bread part), and 10:56AM,
    your paper's abstract suggests that it
    doesn't disagree. I started looking at
    the paper's summary to see if it was
    short enough to read straight away and
    I noticed that one data point (datum)
    I knew for sure was reported wrong in
    the paper. That doesn't mean the paper
    is wrong, but it does mean it is
    sloppy, or worse. It also means
    that if you want the truth you will
    have to do a lot more than reading
    the paper. My paraphrase on the
    paper's abstract: "we're not dead
    yet, and the climate is complicated."
    We already knew both of those and it
    isn't surprising that they didn't
    find evidence otherwise. Oh, and
    in my circles, the educated people
    think more like Geoff than Bounce.
    I was thinking of responding to
    Bounce until I decided the post was
    probably a joke. Well, maybe not.

    Honestly, if you aren't familiar
    with the Navier-Stokes equations
    and what mathematicians and scientists
    think of as chaos and chaotic systems,
    then you aren't in a position to
    pass judgment that people aren't
    influencing the climate, and if you
    are familiar, then you won't pass
    judgment that people aren't influencing
    the climate.

    "What can you do?"

    Three common strategies are:
    1) follow your urges and damn the
    consequences
    2) follow your urges and rationalize
    away the consequences
    3) try to understand what is going
    on then decide

    I don't much care for 2), but that
    is human nature. (There is science
    supporting that too.)

    Matt Newlin

    p.s. I hope this isn't a duplicate;
    I hit "publish your comment" and
    waited...nothing, so I tried again.

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  24. To the anonymous poster who said,, I don't think anyone's going to come bounce, you just obviously proved in your last comment that you're crazy.

    No problemo.

    If this is the best you can do at standing up for your point of view (cheap and meaningless insults), nobody would listen to you anyway.

    Look, I am not trying to talk anyone out of their need for self-loathing and guilt for living a happy and successful life. Some people obviously feel that they don't deserve it. Who am I to talk them out of all that self-inflicted pain?

    Just remember this, for every light bulb you turn off, I have three being turned ON (all of which are being used for capitalistic productivity). For every drop of fuel you think you save, the Chinese and the Indians burn a thousand. You aren't really conserving anything at all.

    Move back into a cave and do all the hand-wringing you want for all I care. Just don't expect me to follow you.

    I am not guilty.

    Someome (in a post here) a while back tried to turn financial success into a disease. They referred to it as "affluenza" and said something to the effect that propserity was "pernicious."

    I assure you, it's hard enough to make it in this world without scuttling your own financial boat with bogus ideas like that.

    Those who insist on believing crap like that, be my guest. The real crime, however, is when people teach this bile to their kids. You will handicap them and make their success much more difficult. When they meet my kids (who are being taught that financial success and prosperity are WONDERFUL, achievable and deserved) they won't stand a chance.

    People like MY KIDS will be writing the pay checks and people like YOUR KIDS will go through life hoping they don't get fired.


    Why would anyone do that to their kids?

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  25. Anonymous5:15 AM

    Ak Gore is about to get sued for the fraud he's perpetuating.

    The founder of The Weather Channel is leading the charge:


    http://www.businessandmedia.org/printer/2008/20080303175301.aspx

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  26. Go you crazy ass crazies go!

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  27. Anonymous7:41 AM

    Hi Bounce,

    I wrote the bit about affluenza. Look
    it up (say, on Wikipedia). It is a
    disease, independent of financial
    well-being. We can disagree about
    who has it. I stand by the statement
    that spreading the disease is pernicious.

    I hope that makes things more clear.

    Matt Newlin

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  28. I didn't intend for this blog to become a political forum, although I think I've made it pretty obvious in previous posts my own political views and viewpoints, especially when it comes to consumtion. I actually do appreciate everyone who chimed in on their own viewpoints. Dialogue is always beneficial, and helps us assess our own beliefs.

    Speaking as someone who reads the Associated Press wire for a living, I can tell you not to put too much weight in any one scientific paper. It's a sad but true fact that anyone can publish anything, especially in the Internet day and age. When you read the latest "study," it's important to consider the numbers, methods and most importantly, the sources - the first being the source of funding. Decide for yourself.

    When it comes to global warming, people aren't just being fed propaganda. They know what they see. Not many people dispute that smoking causes lung cancer any more, because so many patterns point in that direction. A recent study of people in Alaska (I think Columbia University funded it - believe what you choose) found that 83 percent of Alaskans believe climate change is a serious threat (and this is a conservative state.) But we can see the glaciers melting, the sea ice fading, the salmon disappearing. It's a tough sell to tell us that something that could be potentially catastrophic to our lifestyle isn't happening.

    Maybe climate change is human caused and maybe it isn't. But if it's human caused, it means there's something we can do about it. And if it's not, we're all doomed, the ice age is coming, etc. I choose the worldview that involves optimism and taking action.

    I'm curious if you've ever read "Collapse" by Jared Diamond. Without being political or trying to push an agenda, I think Diamond does an excellent job of showing the pattern of consumption throughout human history. In one chapter, Diamond wonders (to paraphrase), "What was the person who cut down the last tree on Easter Island thinking about as they felled it? Where did they think the next tree would come from?" It's a good question. Their society didn't survive to leave a record, the the island today remains without trees.

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  29. Though Jill should have the last word, I'd like to chime in and recommend another interesting book, Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales. In addition to his in-depth study of how and why some people live through difficult situations while others don't, Gonzales gives several examples of the catastrophic breakdowns of complex systems; the more complex the system, the more dramatic (and perhaps the more inevitable) the failure. Juneau's current power situation is illustrative of this principle, as was Katrina, as is our crazy house-of-cards banking and finance system. Among other things.

    As individuals who simultaneously participate in and contribute to the complex systems that constitute our current societies and our day-to-day lives, I'm not sure what we can do other than, you know: a) have a plan and stick to it, and b) keep it as simple as possible.

    Simplicity does not equal deprivation; as this blog clearly shows us every day, sometimes the simplest things - like riding a bike - lead to a life more fully lived, touched, experienced, than many of us can imagine. I vote with the "turn off the lights and go outside" contingent.

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  30. I will hand it to you Bounce, not many who take your stances on these issues are willing to speak so openly of their motives. rather than trying to justify your positions with questionable (at best) scientific findings you're willing to just put it right out there that you feel it's your right to live a life in which your individual wealth and comfort is the most important thing to you, regadless of how this may have an effect on other people or the environment. in my mind this is a very empty and greedy way to live a life, but it's better than the seemingly countless people who live this life but are unwilling to admit it, and thus make fools of themselves trying to rationalize it. although I suppose you do at times fall into this camp as evidenced by your first comment on this blog, but then in your second comment you more or less come clean and eliminate the chance of anyone taking your first comment seriously.

    honestly though, i do respect you for being so open about your feelings on this. whereas you see success and prosperity as having to do primarily with money, for me they have almost nothing to do with money. both views are commonplace in the world today, but only one of them leads to any chance of sustainable life for generations to follow us. yes, an ice age is coming, but if billions of people continue your model of living there sure as hell aren't going to be any humans alive when it gets here.

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  31. Anonymous10:31 PM

    Let's see. We have earth with perhaps a best case a 1.5 mile thick atmosphere that can sustain life as we know it. Take a glance out the window and look a mile and a half. It's not really that far. We have gone from producing essentially no fossil carbon emissions in 1850 to producing 8 billion metric tons of the stuff every year (along with plenty of other garbage). We are expected to add 3 billion new people to earth in the next 40 years. Many wanting the same thing that we have all grown accustomed to. The vast majority of humanity looks a meal or two ahead of the present and is unlikely to luxuriate in ruminations of global warming or the impact of man on the environment.

    Anyone questioning whether man's negative impact on mother earth is happening and will continue to accelerate is bordering on absolute quackery. That said and with human nature what is is, the vast majority of the 9 billion people so soon to be resident upon this earth are likely to act in their own daily self interest. I say this with an incredible amount of grief. Probably more than enough to carry bounce's callous lack of responsibility.

    The crime is the perpetuation of doubt in the face of fact. Keep the doubt alive just long enough and you can justify just about anything. If you need some recent examples I'm happy to send a few your way.

    Pat Rodden

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  32. Anonymous8:07 AM

    It is still being debated whether the earth is actually still warming or not, among true climatologist. But it is quite obvious the earth has been steadily warming since the last ice age, duh! But what has NOT been proven, despite all the mental regurgitation of political lines from the greenies, is that man is causing it. One volcano can put off more CO2 than man ever has. Further, the earth is naturally in balance. .CO2 is like oxygen to plants, they will proliferate and turn it back into biomass if we release more. We are really only releasing CO2 previously stored up by them anyway. You talk about billions of metric tons of CO2 being releases. Well all there is NATURALLY IN THE WHOLE EARTH is 0.03%. How many metric tons of water vapor do you think there is per square mile. Obviously you know nothing but the political diatribe put forth by the hypocrits like Algore. The point was made very nicely that the more oil you conserve, the more will be available to China and those 3rd world countries already exempt from the kyoto accord. Soon you will all likely be bowing to the Chinese. But for every gallon you save, someone else is going to burn. You are doing NOTHING for the environment except trying to feel better about your sin.

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