On the occasion of Nelson Mandela’s passing, I suggest reading his lengthy obituary in the New York Times. I often recommend his biography, “The Long Walk To Freedom,” which moved me greatly as I read it during a visit to South Africa.
Contrary to many Americans’ assumptions (and somewhat glossed over in his own accounts) Mandela was not a Gandhi or MLK-like figure of nonviolent resistance:
In 1961, with the patience of the liberation movement stretched to the snapping point by the police killing of 69 peaceful demonstrators in Sharpeville township the previous year, Mr. Mandela led the African National Congress onto a new road of armed insurrection. It was an abrupt shift for a man who, not many weeks earlier, had proclaimed nonviolence an inviolable principle of the A.N.C. He later explained that forswearing violence “was not a moral principle but a strategy; there is no moral goodness in using an ineffective weapon.”
Long hours affect more than us individually. They affect the planet. Martin Pullinger, an ecological economist at the University of Edinburgh, said that reducing the hours of full-time workers by 20 per cent—essentially cutting back to a four-day week—would reduce the carbon footprint of all working age households by 4.2 per cent in the United Kingdom and 6.4 per cent in the Netherlands, the nations studied. Yet he notes that in all the discussions of working hours and labour policy, environmental goals are rarely mentioned or even considered.
Here’s a map—click to enlarge it—of the routes taken by refined products in Washington.
As the Ecology report explains, fuels refined in Washington—mainly at the four refineries indicated by red triangles in north Puget Sound—travel along the Olympic Pipeline to terminals located nearby and to Portland. From Portland, some of the fuel is barged to a terminal in Pasco. Eastern Washington gets the balance of its gasoline and diesel from Montana and Utah via pipeline. Read more »
You see that picture? That’s one whole year of my junk mail. Almost 33 pounds of it. A 20 inch stack of expensive, forest-destroying, unwanted trash.
Thirty-three pounds of junk mail in 2012.
And that’s nothing! I’m five years into a crusade to defend my little mailbox from paper spam. A typical Seattle household gets three times as much: 100 pounds a year. In 2009, when I last did a 365-day count, my stack was four inches taller and weighed in at 50 pounds. That was after I’d already spent hours beating back the onslaught with the help of Catalog Choice, the de-junking website. I’ve done more of this tedious work since, opting-out online and calling customer service numbers, and I’ve pushed my tally down first to 33 pounds (for calendar year 2012) and, in the most recent six months, to the equivalent of 26 pounds per year.
Progress, yes, but it’s still an obscenity—to have to work so hard to keep other people from putting litter on my property. It’s also a drain on our communities: hauling away junk mail costs US cities and towns about a billion dollars a year.
Conclusion? Unchanged since 2009: we need a Do Not Mail Registry, just like the Do Not Call registry. Changed dramatically since 2009, however, is the overarching trend: US mail volume is in free fall. More on that below.
One phone book slipped through in 2013.
The big win in the stack pictured above, which shows my ad-mail from calendar year 2012, was the complete absence of phone books. From 15 pounds and six books, I went to zero. Seattle’s Yellow Pages Opt-Out program worked! Unfortunately, in my 2013 stack (which covers the six months after I spent May aggressively unsubscribing to junk mail), one small phone book appeared, from Frontier Communications. I checked Catalog Choice and saw that I’d already told Frontier to skip me. If Seattle’s Yellow Pages law were still law, Frontier could have been fined for ignoring my request. Unfortunately, the Yellow Pages industry won a court challenge, so the fines are no longer in effect. Aggravating! Naturally, I have torn up the Frontier book and folded its yellow paper into a voodoo doll. I’ve been spending evenings tossing it in the air and catching it on my ice pick. Read more »
Oil and coal companies hope to dispatch scores of trains across the Northwest each day, bearing fuel to refineries and port terminals. To help the public understand the magnitude of these schemes, Sightline is highlighting key rail crossings from Sandpoint, Idaho, to Cherry Point, Washington, along the main path the trains would take from the interior to the coast.
In this installment we examine communities in Snohomish County, Washington.
So massive are the fossil fuel industry’s plans that simple math shows that the shipments would close streets for hours each day as trains pass through at-grade crossings.
In Snohomish County, we estimate that coal and oil trains would close streets by an average of between 49 minutes and 1 hour and 50 minutes, each day. At the slower speeds that are typical of urban areas, fossil fuel trains could shut down streets for more than 3 hours every day. That’s over and above current street closures from trains. Read more »
For your viewing pleasure, I give you two takes on how fossil fuel export plans could reshape life in the Northwest.
Number one, a forum on oil transport hosted by Washington Environmental Council. My act, which provides an abbreviated overview of the changing nature of oil in the Northwest, starts at about 6:10 here:
You should also take time to absorb the remarks by moderator Brett VandenHeuvel, as well as my co-panelists Kristen Boyles and Matt Krogh. The second panel focused on the risks of oil spills and vastly increased maritime traffic and it starred Puget Sound experts Fred Felleman, Stephanie Buffum, and Bruce Wishart.
Beginning in January 2014, non-toxic couches will be widely available for the first time in decades. A tireless campaign waged by firefighters and parents, researchers and scientists, public health and public consumer advocates came to fruition last month when California reversed its outdated, scientifically discredited flammability standard—a standard that places pounds of toxic chemicals in most North American homes.
For 38 years, California has exported to the rest of the continent a flammability standard so feckless, dangerous, and pervasive that it boggles the mind to consider how it was enacted in the first place. Technical Bulletin 117 mandates that all foam furniture sold in the Golden State must withstand an open flame for 12 seconds, a standard furniture manufacturers satisfy by blending flame retardant chemicals into furniture foam. These chemicals are associated with adverse health effects in all living things, particularly in the wee ones.
Whether it’s the wine or the tryptophan or just…family dynamics, these holiday discussions can go terribly wrong. But with a solid game plan, we can all do our part to keep Turkey Day festive and, just possibly, while we’re at it, make a little progress reinforcing government as our best tool for coming together and making everybody’s lives better.
Of course every good quarterback knows delivery is key—and that means finesse. It’s a reminder that we can foul out too soon if we let our tone get angry or accusatory or defensive.
Anyway, the rule for talking politics at Thanksgiving is that it’s not about winning—or even about touchdowns or tackles—it’s about a productive conversation that moves the whole team forward. (Mejia’s football analogy should get her an MVP.)
To inform debate over coal exports and oil shipments, Sightline is analyzing public at-grade rail crossings from Sandpoint, Idaho to Cherry Point, Washington.
If fossil fuel companies succeed in shipping the volumes of fuel they have planned, they will—by sheer physical necessity—disrupt vehicle and rail traffic all along the rail route. In this chapter of the series, we examine the effects in King County.
Coal and oil trains—loaded in the interior of North America and bound for the coast—would close off streets for hours each day.
The list of cities and crossings we analyze here is not comprehensive. Rather, we depict several representative locations in King County. In each of these places, we estimate that coal and oil trains would close streets by an average of between 49 minutes and 1 hour and 50 minutes, each day. At the slower speeds that are typical of urban areas, fossil fuel trains could shut down streets for more than 3 hours every day. Read more »
King County is laying the groundwork to solve its own transit funding problems in the event that the legislature fails to come up with a “balanced” transportation package anytime soon. Under its Plan B option (which we argued here should really be Plan A), the county could avoid cataclysmic cuts in King County Metro bus service by creating a Transportation Benefit District and raising its own revenue.
And speaking of drought (a climate change impact we’re likely to see more and more of), could dried up crops of the past year be a contributing factor in the great Butterball turkey shortfall of 2013? (Read this and you’ll never want to eat factory turkey again anyway, so the shortfall will not be affecting you.)
A Walmart in northeast Ohio is holding a holiday canned food drive — for its own underpaid employees. “Please Donate Food Items Here, so Associates in Need Can Enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner,” a sign reads in the employee lounge of a Canton-area Walmart.
Kory Lundberg, a Walmart spokesman, says the drive is a positive thing. “This is part of the company’s culture to rally around associates and take care of them when they face extreme hardships,” he said. Read more »