Monday, May 25, 2009

Just enough sourcing

Today is Memorial Day in the United States. A very strange holiday in its inherent contradictions. It is a day or remembrance of those who sacrificed for our freedom, and in doing so we celebrate our freedom with picnics and barbeques to celebrate the start of summer. The irony is our freedom on this day is freedom from work. Sounds positively May Day like in some regards.

As part of that celebration will be copious amounts of food. I stopped by the grocer to pick up some sundries and debate whether I will go to a picnic today. Of course like all good picnics, it will be potluck which is fantastic. The downside is that I've never been to a potluck where there wasn't tons of food left over that goes to waste. How does one size a meal properly to reduce waste? I was in NYC (bad air travel) and had the prix fixe dinner which is enormous. Much wasted food. Now one can say this is bio degradable so what's the big deal.

The challenge is that pesky thing called the second law of thermodynamics. All the energy used to raise the protein and the carbos is not perfectly efficient. Especially in the case of protein. So if you are shipping 10 percent too much food, you are having to use 10 percent more transport. (Now I realize that most shipping is done in discrete units, but at the volumes we deal with 10 trucks to 11 is more likely).

So why do we relate hospitality to abundance. This is the same in almost every culture of the world. The more I look at our environmental problems, they increasingly become social ones. Human nature is animal nature on steroids. In the same way we have microeconomics and macro economics. Perhaps we need micro and macro environmentalism. We act the way we do in the pursuit of status and what that status confers, but when we all do, our status diminishes. It's very much the paradox of thrift, what is good for us individually is bad for us collectively.

Can these interests be aligned? Something to think about today as we remember that the sacrifices that we make for a way of life, pale in comparison to the sacrifice of others.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Car Free on a roll.....

Is May Car Free month for the New York Times?!?! Today there is roundtable of different urban planners, developers and experts on whether Car-freeness is viable in the U.S.?

It's an interesting question. The answer is it depends on what we seek as our norm. For those who live in New York City, the answer is obvious. For those living in rural Montana, probably not. There are places where it seems that it would be obvious like San Francisco Bay area, but even if I want to live carfree in San Francisco my job is out in the 'burbs.

It's great that we are asking these questions. Carfree for me will need to be freedom of norms. That things such as meetings and job timing can be done with more flexibility. My job is irregular so being Carfree is less likely, when I had a more regular job it was easier.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The architecture of being car free...

The old gray lady has an article on a German city that has structured itself to live car free. The banishment of garages and driveways while using common parking away from homes facilitates a different type of living. What struck me most about the article is that the lack of cars increases the feeling of security. Letting one's children play out without fear.

The biggest challenge to creating car free cities is that cars are so central to the American sense of identity. If you think about, if numbers matter than this is a country of autos more than people since the population of cars exceeds the population of people. There is an experiment planned in Hayward, California. It'll be interesting to see if it takes off.

Even in cities where transit was laid down first and cities blossomed around them such as Portland, car ownership is very dominant since in the edge cities you need cars to get to transit. However, discovery is always an act of trying something new. Otherwise it wouldn't be research.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Bagging it so you can bike it.

Yesterday I spent a few hours with the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition and volunteers stuff the commute bags for those who visit energizer stations located all over Santa Clara and San Mateo counties this Thursday May 14. This is a day where local companies and municipalities support biking to work. And hopefully a one day event becomes a lifestyle.

I loved riding my bike to work at my old job, the the demands and location of the new job made bike commuting happen less often. You often need a lifestyle that supports bike commuting. So here's a reach out to local businesses. Build flexibility into work schedules where possible, relax the culture a little bit this summer to let people dress in more bike friendly clothes and provide showers and bike racks, or let people bring their bikes into their offices. These steps can help biking to work easier. It works in Amsterdam, it could work here.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

May showers, enough!

It's raining here in Nor Cal, which while a bummer because it wrecks the ball game, guilt tells me we need the water. *sigh*