Archive | April, 2013

How lazy people can save the world

21 Apr
From Bloomberg Businessweek

From Bloomberg Businessweek

We laughed when “Seinfeld” described itself as a show about nothing because we knew it was about everything. Now there is some thought that the way to solve the environmental crisis is to do nothing.

Let’s not laugh. It could fix everything.

This process, that involves nothing, was discussed in a Bloomberg Businessweek article called, “It’s Easy Being Green.” The key to it is something called default rules. The default rules take hold only when people do nothing. But first, governments, corporations or groups larger than the individual must act to set those pro-green defaults.

Each day we live with defaults, often not knowing they are there.

If you haven’t changed things on your cell phone or computer, they look and operate the way they do because of default settings – a ring tone or a screen saver or a folder icon. Your printer probably defaults to print on one side of a page.

Suppose each printer came with a default setting that printed to both side of the page?

According to Businessweek, Rutgers University imposed a double-sided default on all printers at that institution. After four years, it reduced paper consumption by more than 55 million sheets, which saved 4,650 trees.

That was one university.

Book-SimplerShould we choose to make it so, the default system could be extensive. In two towns in Germany, 90 percent of the people use clean energy (wind, solar, etc.) because that is the default. If you want the less-expensive, less-clean power, you have to do something. You have to tell them to change it for you.

As shown, most don’t.

This natural tendency toward laziness, procrastination and acceptance can be exploited for good. It doesn’t restrict freedom. It just points everyone in the right direction. If they choose, they can turn around and go the other way.

Learn more about doing nothing to save the world by reading “Simpler: The Future of Government,” by Cass R. Sunstein.

By Lanny Morgnanesi

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Biker/Writer Shares Experiences With Fracking

14 Apr
Author Seamus McGraw

Author Seamus McGraw

I recently attended one of those events where an author discusses his or her work in an intimate setting. From the outset, it was clear this would be interesting. After all, how many writers show up in leather pants, leather jacket, a Triumph T-shirt, shaved head, goatee and with a bike out front?

Upon entering the room, he placed a can of Drum tobacco and a pack of Zig-Zag papers on the table in front of him. He didn’t smoke during the talk, but he did roll. His best points were made while gesturing with the unlit fag.

After 45-minutes, he excused himself to go outside and feed his habit.

Lunch was served, but he said his lunch would be coffee. Do you have any?

He said he was a liberal but that 90 percent of liberals are idiots.

In the middle of the talk, he invited us – and anybody, for that matter – to a huge barbeque he holds every year.

Seamus McGraw-book coverThe man’s name is Seamus McGraw.

I’m embarrassed to say I did not read his book, but I will.

It’s about fracking.

Fracking is the common term for hydraulic fracturing, which is used to extract oil and gas from shale. It does so through a horizontal drilling process that pumps large amounts of water and chemicals, under extreme pressure, into the shale. The shale shatters and the gas and oil are released.

Fracking has put a glut of natural gas on the market and kept prices low.  It has caused coal-fired power plants to shift to the cleaner, cheaper natural gas. Most unexpectedly and perhaps most important, it will help the United States become energy independent in the coming decade.

It also may poison life forms that dwell near the drilling sites, or maybe even beyond them.

When Seamus is asked, “Are you for or against fracking?” he answers, “Yes.”

His book is, “The End of Country: Dispatches from the Frack Zone.” Those who read it said they didn’t see evidence of any leather-clad biker in it. Maybe the book is where he goes to hide.

Seamus failed at college, early careers and several marriages. He stumbled into journalism and writing, became successful, and then looked for a way to stumble out of it.

Around that time someone knocked on the door of his home in northeastern Pennsylvanian and offered him money for the fuel underneath it. He signed the papers and decided, “OK, one more book.”

What resulted got him attention, so now there is another book coming. It is on conversations about climate change — how we talk about it. Seamus believes that in politics and life we are divisive because we self-polarize. He said we are too blind or to stubborn to learn that under the surface we often believe the same things. His goal is to get to the point where we recognize this, and then move on to fixing our problems. Top on his list would be a national energy policy.

Seamus, soon to be 55, is a supreme raconteur. He seems incredibly knowledgeable on almost every subject. And, of course, his presentation is unique.

After his talk, I wished I could have seen him ride out of there. Unfortunately, I missed that. I guess I’ll have to wait until his next book.

Lanny Morgnanesi

In some lives, comfort and peace are luxuries

6 Apr

 

Margaret Smith -- from the New York Times

Margaret Smith — from the New York Times

A story today in the New York Times by Dan Barry tells how an 89-year-old Delaware woman was kidnapped, placed in the trunk of her car for two days, them dumped in an overgrown cemetery of weeds and sand. No food, no water. The dramatic part is how she crawled out of that cemetery on bloodied hands and knees.

“I’d stop for a few minutes, then start crawling again,” said Margaret E. Smith.

Author Eudora Welty

Author Eudora Welty

The woman, who has a heart problem, survived to calmly tell her story.

In many ways, the incident reminds me of a short piece of fiction by Eudora Welty called, “The Worn Path.” Written in 1941 and first published in the Atlantic, this classic piece is about the all-day journey of an elderly woman who walks through a forest, up and down hills, across a creek on a log, through barbed wire and through thorns.

As she walked, she’d talk to herself.

“I in the thorny bush,” she said. “Thorns, you doing your appointed work. Never want to let folks pass—no, sir. Old eyes thought you was a pretty little green bush.”

Only in the end do you learn it was a regular walk to town for her grandson’s medicine, and she had no money to pay for it.

Quite a moving tale and, I’ll bet, based on a true person, a person like Margaret E. Smith, who comes from a town called Slaughter Neck, something right out of a Eudora Welty story.I only recent read “A Worn Path.” I picked up an anthology and there it was. I would suggest you read it. It’s a lesson in determination and hard living, and how for many people routine is nothing more than the everyday torture of life.

By Lanny Morgnanesi

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