Seminars About Long Term Thinking


I posted yesterday about Cool Climate Network’s interactive maps, where you can find find and compare average carbon footprint and average annual vehicle miles traveled by zip code in the US.  I tried in that post to compare the carbon footprints I had calculated here and here to Cool Climate Network’s averages for Joshua Tree, with muddled results because of the variation in carbon footprint numbers each calculators gave me. Today I realized that Cool Climate Network has their own carbon footprint calculator, so I tried it out. I figured I might be better off comparing my carbon footprint to Joshua Tree’s average if they were calculated by the same people.  Who knows, really? I’d love to do a full and convincing inventory, like Saul Griffith in his Long Now talk. Perhaps once I’m licensed…

Cool Climate Network’s carbon footprint calculator is pretty similar to the other three I’ve tried (Carbon Footprint, Nature Conservancy, and Global Footprint Network), but on the simple side. It took about ten minutes. Here are the results:

Cool Climate 2013 Estimate

A total carbon footprint for both Reanna and me of 19.7 tons of CO2 in the last year is “59.9% better than the average household in the United States with 2 people and similar income.” It’s also 55% of the 35.8 tons of CO2 they estimate for average in Joshua Tree. I wonder why they match by income. What I’d really like to know is  our number of standard deviations from the Joshua Tree, US, and worldwide average: where we are on those Bell curves.

Beneath these results, Cool Climate Network lists 41 ways to decrease our carbon footprint, mostly things that the survey did not ask about. We’ve done about 20 of them already, though some we could do more of.  This is another way a more detailed calculator would be better. Those 20 things we’ve done already add up to about 6 tons of CO2, so it may be that our actual footprint is more like 14 tons of CO2.

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My family celebrated Thanksgiving on Friday this year instead of Thursday, so I spent Thanksgiving day giving money away and buying Christmas gifts–a great way to do it! This is the first holiday season in my life that I’ve begun with a solidly-above-the-poverty-line income. It’s a whole different experience. I’ve given to charities before, of course, but always with a little mental wrestling over each gift. This year I could make a list of everyone I really wanted to support, send each some money, and it just felt fun. Here’s my list so far:

The Long Now Foundation: I got on to these folks through their really, really good Seminars About Long Term Thinking. They see our culture’s “pathologically short attention span” and have a mission to “foster long-term responsibility.”

Mojave Desert Land Trust: These folks really caught my attention when they managed to purchase (save, really) a large and beautiful swath of desert on the western edge of Joshua Tree, surely the next to fall to big box stores as Yucca Valley slouches east. It made me so happy. They focus on land conservation and stewardship around here, including wildlife corridors.

Rocky Mountain Institute: Amory Lovins has been a hero of mine since I saw him speak at the University of Oregon ten years ago–to this day one of the most inspiring lectures I’ve seen. (Here’s a TED Talk.) He started RMI with the vision “a world thriving, verdant, and secure, for all, for ever,” and the mission “to drive the efficient and restorative use of resources.”

Wikimedia: I use Wikipedia almost every day, and so do you, probably.

Chicago Public Media: WBEZ in Chicago, which produces at least two of my regular podcasts, This American Life (in-depth news, great stories) and Sound Opinions (music news & reviews). I can’t quite tell if they also produce Planet Money (economics-related stories and explanations), another of my regulars… they seem to be associated with This American Life, so I threw in some extra money for it.

New York Public Radio: Mostly for Radiolab, which makes science-related podcasts.

KCRW: Probably the best radio station in the world. I have cut myself off from the daily news cycle in the interest of staying sane, but I still listen to a lot of KCRW. Their music programs are great, and they produce Left, Right, & Center, the only political show I listen to intentionally these days.

The Human Food Project: These folks are going after large-scale microbiome base rates in various populations. They have an open source project going called American Gut where you can join and get your gut microbiome sequenced and compared to the others involved.

Mil-Tree: A local military/civilian integration and healing project based on the work of Ed Tick. Their Art of War show was one of the most moving things I witnessed this year.