Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Global Climate Change & Bonehead Humans

...So much for being a purist I guess. Maybe this means that even if you're bad like me, you can still be a bike commuter.

Bonehead Humans

Last year I collaborated on a lithograph titled Bonehead Humans, which was about how we humans are so adept at messing up our planet. According to our indigenous scientific records, Raven was definitely white before he stole the sun and my theory is that he is a bit miffed about how we humans have been such shoddy caretakers of our planet. Since I am obviously a human (I hope) with an easily identifiable carbon footprint (oops, sorry), it seemed clear that a good place to start cleaning up my own act was right at home and hold back on any preachy or haughty stuff. You know, the old He who lives in a glass house shouldn't throw stones thing.

Frank Janzen at the Crow's Shadow Art Institute invited me to make some lithographs on the Umatilla Rez where the studio resides. I guess he doesn't mind my bent humor as we set about setting the White Raven on the loose again via his masterful lithographic magic. I wanted to use a photograph that I downloaded from NASA of Earth as a key part of the lithograph and have it juxtaposed with the White Raven that I'll be looking for in the near future...

What should we do about our mucked up atmosphere? You can help reduce your carbon footprint by buying one of the Bonehead Humans lithographs. It'll offset your carbon footprints by about uh... 31 feet! I'll document this for you if you need it for your carbon offsetting documentation. Call Frank Janzen at the Crow's Shadow Art Institute at (541) 276-3954 and get your print right this minute! Offsetting your carbon footprints is not cheap; it'll set you back about $2,500.00 for this limited edition lithograph. There are only 20 of them in the universe. Hurry, the well being of the planet is at stake; don't mess around with this bleak stuff.

On a different note, I find it interesting that there are a number of seemingly well educated people out there who are in clear denial about Global Climate Change, and many who would love to make it a political instead of a scientific debate (this is part of the bonehead stuff by the way). I vote for keeping it in the scientific arena. Ok; the art place too.
The Bonehead Humans Lithograph with the Yellow and Magenta inks finished. Frank is rolling the ink onto the Cyan plate, with his wife Marie assisting.

You do have to admit that Global Climate Change seems like maybe it is a bit factitious and unquestionably from the millions of other people and certainly not you; you're a nice guy, right? You're certainly not a planet killer. It occurred to me that we don't need a science fiction character like Zyzzakazz the Alien Warlord from another galaxy to blast us with a planetary death ray. It seems that all we need are our mundane automobiles, factories, power plants and so on, to do it for them. Who would have guessed that something so dull, ordinary and full of ennui as our lifestyle would have such a dramatic planetary impact? Wouldn't it be absurd for us to go down the tubes knowingly and willingly without even trying to change our lifestyle? Anyway, I finally got off my own behind and started some changes in my own mundane everyday lifestyle and started chipping away at my own carbon footprint.
Someone once wrote that city lights seen from space kind of look like bacteria cultures grown in a Petri dish. This made me feel all warm and fuzzy in a different kind of way and brings new meaning to the greeting, Good evening ladies and germs...

Putting that Bad, Bad Car Away
Around mid-February I joined the other bicycle commuters of the world. I had been thinking of doing the bicycle commute for a year and finally made the dive (Here in Idaho we still had snowstorms in February). The hardest part was just starting the bike rides, and doing it on a regular basis was surprisingly easy. You can even do things like partial bike commutes if you have to drive on a freeway. You can drive on the freeway and ride a bike through the streets to work (by using a bike rack on your car). Your worst gas mileage is on city streets and not the freeway, so you can still make a positive impact by chipping away at how you drive. You can put that bad, bad car away by degrees instead of the cold turkey approach. I get the sense that some people are physically addicted to their cars, like cigarettes or something. Hmm. Smoking at both ends? That makes sense in a bent kind of way.

Lots of cities have things like Park & ride where you can park your car in a designated area, or even things like putting your bike on a bus or subway. Our school encourages bus ridership by making it free for all university employees and students. Our university even has a bike facility where you can park in a bike garage, complete with showers, lockers and dry cleaning pick up and delivery for your work clothes. Our school just won a Best Workplace for Commuters award from the EPA and US Dept. of Transportation. How cool is that? Nothing like a bona fide stamp of approval I always say. Even if you don't have support from your employer, you can still bike commute. I don't use our bike facility; it's easier to just leave my bike in my tiny office and change clothes there.

Ok, ok, so I still have an RV that gets less than ten miles per gallon (Don't tell anyone). We hardly drive it, and my rationale is that I give up most of my transportation carbon footprint to pay for this 20th century hulk. We expect to put way less than 1,000 miles on it this year and it is one of the smallest 22' versions. Even with this hulk, I still use way less gas than the average American. Conspiratorial whisper here: Shhh, Pretend you didn't read this part. So much for being a purist I guess. Maybe this means that even if you're bad like me, you can still be a bike commuter.

Some of my fellow bike commuters are purists who use no gas and are a pretty radical bunch. Most are quiet and you'd never know of their resolve. One had a sticker on her bike that said, If you have an activist sticker on your car, you are part of the problem. Another said, Draft SUV Drivers First.

...we don't want to be winning a collective Darwin Award for the human race while we're in the midst studying the problem.

Global Climate Change & Going Green
When my son was about seven he asked me what the first man to land on the sun said. I dunno I replied, kind of absently. He giggled and said, Ow, ow, ow, ow! Anyway, I think that's going to be us in a number of years.

Early in the month we had a record high temperature of 104 degrees F (40C), which was pretty hot for that date; maybe a more accurate measurement was that it was in the sizzling, fry your ass category. Holy crap! I mean good gracious. Place your exclamation of choice here on being competently seared. These extraordinarily hot temperatures are why a lot of us are at least doing a double take at our carbon footprint and doing stuff like bike commuting. It seems that global warming has definitely arrived and it has a wicked smile in store for us.

Here is a refresher from Al Gore with his An Inconvenient Truth book and film. Their site has a Take Action link where you can calculate your carbon footprint and figure out how you can reduce the carbon dioxide you personally create in your everyday lives. Here are a couple of sites that have numerous links to the issue of global warming:
Gore recently put forth the We can solve it challenge, wherein he stated, “America must commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and other clean sources within 10 years.” It seems to me that some good places to start are to implement a number of new tax credits for things like buying green cars, solar panels and so on. A few years ago when my wife and I were buying a new car, we were grossed out to learn that we could get a $25,000.00 tax credit for buying a monster SUV, as long as it weighed over 6,000 pounds. We almost bought one, but our conscience prevailed. It was clearly the wrong thing to do, and we were totally disgusted. If Gore's challenge is to work, it needs things like tax credits to help regular people (that elitist crap won't work here, so forget it) implement the changes in their everyday lives. This could be a win-win situation for everyone, from corporations to individuals, to the government. It could stimulate our stagnant economy along the way too.

I'm embarrassed to say that our own house has a high Energy Star rating from the EPA, but is nowhere as green as it could be. Here are a number of sites that offer things like wind and solar energy alternatives.
If this all becomes overwhelming, take a break and play Van Morrison's version of Bein' Green (by Joe Raposo from the Hard Nose the Highway album). Heck, play a few other cuts along the way. Take a deep breath and pump up the volume, man. Nuthin' like muppet soul (to quote Rolling Stone) to ease your blues away. Or better yet, try Joy Harjo's new CD Winding Through the Milky Way. Joy is a good friend whose poetry, writing and music can bring you back to a good place with your own creativity.

Anyway, back to the other stuff. This is a graphic from the NASA Aqua/AIRS satellite, which was originally designed to measure atmospheric water vapor and temperature profiles for weather forecasting. As it turns

out, it also measures carbon dioxide (CO2), which in this case, is mostly man-made smog produced from the burning of fossil fuels. Can you spell exhaust emissions? This isn't exactly rocket science here, and even the boneheads still in denial should get it. Low concentrations are in blue, and high are in red. This is primarily the northern hemisphere. Notice that the CO2 has its highest global concentrations (as indicated in red) in Asia, Europe and America. We be bad. Spank us. Take our cars away and send us to bed with no dinner. Spank the ones in denial twice as long, just because.

It is Ok to take one's time to study a problem, but on the other hand, we don't want to be winning a collective Darwin Award (by taking ourselves out of the global gene pool) for the human race while we're in the midst studying the problem. It kind of reminds me of someone who wants to read a book on how to put out a house fire while it is burning down around them. Repeat after me. Being proactive is a good thing. We can clean up our messes and committing Sewercide, to die willingly in your own sewer is a stupid way to go. Being proactive is a good thing...

Detail from the Bonehead Humans lithograph.

Part 1 of a Three Part Series
Part 1: Global Climate Change & Bonehead Humans
Part 2: Price of Gas
Part 3: Bicycle Commuting

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