January 17th, 2009

buddha and serpent - SFAAM

Good Morning!

I woke this morning thinking of the school where I pick up Zach.  It is fenced and then fenced within that for various areas, schools, ages.  The children are well-protected as they must be.

I feel we, too, are protected, are in a big play-pen, learning how to get along and play together and share.   I suppose the difference is that there is supervision in a school.  One child is not allowed to hit another or dominate them.  It seems we have not learned equality here, as adults, on our planet earth.

I read the news and find it depressing.  I don't even seem to feel an uplift at Obama's inauguration though I am certainly glad and grateful it is here.  Perhaps it is the marketing that disturbs me.  Because we gave money to his campaign, we received a fancy paper inviting us to the inauguration, which merely meant we could attend a local, public event here.  It felt false, and came with a list of and pictures of things we could buy.  Somehow it seems odd to me to be encouraged to buy mugs, hats, and shirts that say Obama.   How is that about saving the planet?  Also, he is the president.  Do we need to advertise for him?  It borders on hero worship and I don't like it.  Hero worship gets us into trouble.  I do appreciate that he is encouraging everyone to get out and volunteer on Martin Luther King day or rather his sponsors are.  A great deal is being done in his name.

Perhaps it is the many meditations for peace I have been doing that allows me to feel how many places need those prayers.  I am feeling guilt that I live in the country that furnishes weapons to other countries so they can use them to kill.  I am haunted by images of children in Africa holding guns, and yet, I love this country.  I am always happy to return home.  

And the sun comes again today, brings light softly to the hill.

I am reading A Natural Sense of Wonder, Connecting Kids with Nature through the Seasons, by Rick Van Noy.   Reading it, one certainly sees the changes in climate.  Where I am we are breaking records for heat and drought.  It is sobering, something out of our hands.

Van Noy writes this:

We read of the scientific evidence, but there is also evidence of climate change in our history and literature.  When Thoreau mapped the pond in winter, he measured sixteen inches of thick ice. A meticulous note taker, he also recorded the dates when the pond would thaw in spring. The average date for the ice to thaw, the ice-out date, between 1845 and 1854 was March 31. Some students from a group called Journey North have continued the tradition. Between 1995 and 2005 the average date on the same pond was March 13, eighteen days earlier. In 2006, the ice never came in.

Conservation botanists such as Richard Primack are comparing what is left today to what naturalists such as Thoreau wrote about. "Of the more than 20 species of orchids seen in Concord by Thoreau in the 1850's, for example, only 4 remain today."  Plants now flower about three weeks earlier than they did in Thoreau's time. Trees leaf out earlier in the spring and shed leaves later in the fall. Season creep, they called it, and it's creepy all right.  Baltimore orioles may have to move to Buffalo."

I don't believe I am depressed, just reflective, feeling deeply.  Meditation allows that, I believe, gives a spaciousness that says, "Yes, I am the one with her head most necessarily in the sand,  and I am the one feeling the pain that rocks this planet each day, allowing the healing power of tears to flow."

I have dedicated these forty days to meditating as much as I can.  There is a soberness in it for me, a gravity, even as I work to fill myself, my room, the planet, with light.  Perhaps it is feeling the dark places within, bringing them light, like water, saying it is safe to come forth.  Look at the world, the wholeness of it, the balancing.  See all with Love!

All that happens outside is in me.  No wonder, at times, I bow with pain, and, at other times, lift my chest to the sky with the open winged heart of a bird.

alan - winter bird

Perseverance -

From Writer's Almanac:

It's the birthday
of Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay in Louisville, Kentucky (1942). He started boxing when he was 12 years old, after his bicycle got stolen. He went to report the theft to the nearest police officer, who was coaching boxing practice at the time and invited Cassius to work out with his boxing program.

His motto was "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee." He won the world heavyweight boxing championship title in 1964, the same year that he converted to the Nation of Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali.

One of his coaches, Angelo Dundee, said, "Of all the fighters I've ever known, only he could make the heavy bag sing when he hit it. He ran 11 miles to the gym from the hotel and back every day along the causeway. He was always the first in and the last out of the gym. He is the most unspoiled kid I've ever had."

alan - lilies in the shade

Long Now Foundation!

I am a member of the Long Now Foundation which has excellent talks.  Here is Stewart Brand summing up the talk given last night by Saul Griffith, an engineer, inventor and scientist.

Words of Stewart Brand:

Engineer Griffith said he was going to make the connection between personal actions and global climate change.  To do that he's been analyzing his own life in extreme detail to figure out exactly how much energy he uses and what changes might reduce the load.  In 2007, when he started, he was consuming about 18,000 watts, like most Americans.

The energy budget of the average person in the world is about 2,200 watts.  Some 90 percent of the carbon dioxide overload in the atmosphere was put there by the US, USSR (of old), China, Germany, Japan, and Britain.  The rich countries have the most work to do.

What would it take to level off the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at 450 parts per million (ppm)?  That level supposedly would keep global warming just barely manageable at an increase of 2 degrees Celsius.  There still would be massive loss of species, 100 million climate refugees, and other major stresses.  The carbon dioxide level right now is 385 ppm, rising fast.  Before industrialization it was 296 ppm.  America's leading climatologist, James Hanson, says we must lower the carbon dioxide level to 350 ppm if we want to keep the world we evolved in.

The world currently runs on about 16 terawatts (trillion watts) of energy, most of it burning fossil fuels.  To level off at 450 ppm of carbon dioxide, we will have to reduce the fossil fuel burning to 3 terawatts and produce all the rest with renewable energy, and we have to do it in 25 years or it's too late.  Currently about half a terrawatt comes from clean hydropower and one terrawatt from clean nuclear.  That leaves 11.5 terawatts to generate from new clean sources.

That would mean the following.  (Here I'm drawing on notes and extrapolations I've written up previously from discussion with Griffith):

"Two terawatts of photovoltaic would require installing 100 square meters of 15-percent-efficient solar cells every second, second after second, for the next 25 years.  (That's about 1,200 square miles of solar cells a year, times 25 equals 30,000 square miles of photovoltaic cells.)  Two terawatts of solar thermal?  If it's 30 percent efficient all told, we'll need 50 square meters of highly reflective mirrors every second.  (Some 600 square miles a year, times 25.)  Half a terawatt of biofuels?  Something like one Olympic swimming pools of genetically engineered algae, installed every second.  (About 15,250 square miles a year, times 25.)  Two terawatts of wind?  That's a 300-foot-diameter wind turbine every 5 minutes.  (Install 105,000 turbines a year in good wind locations, times 25.)  Two terawatts of geothermal?  Build 3 100-megawatt steam turbines every day-1,095 a year, times 25.  Three terawatts of new nuclear?  That's a 3-reactor, 3-gigawatt plant every week-52 a year, times 25."

In other words, the land area dedicated to renewable energy ("Renewistan") would occupy a space about the size of Australia to keep the carbon dioxide level at 450 ppm.  To get to Hanson's goal of 350 ppm of carbon dioxide, fossil fuel burning would have to be cut to ZERO, which means another 3 terawatts would have to come from renewables, expanding the size of Renewistan further by 26 percent.

Meanwhile for individuals, to stay at the world's energy budget at 16 terawatts, while many of the poorest in the world might raise their standard of living to 2,200 watts, everyone now above that level would have to drop down to it.  Griffith determined that most of his energy use was coming from air travel, car travel, and the embodied energy of his stuff, along with his diet.  Now he drives the speed limit (no one has passed him in six months), seldom flies, eats meat only once a week, bikes a lot, and buys almost nothing.  He's healthier, eats better, has more time with his family, and the stuff he has he cherishes.

Can the world actually build Renewistan?  Griffeth said it's not like the Manhattan Project, it's like the whole of World War II, only with all the antagonists on the same side this time.  It's damn near impossible, but it is necessary.  And the world has to decide to do it.

Griffith's audience was strangely exhilerated by the prospect.

                                        --Stewart Brand

goldsworthy - pebble circle


“A perception, sudden as blinking, that subject and object are one, will lead to a mysterious wordless understanding; and by this understanding you will awaken to the truth.”  

Huang Po


alan - morning glory center

Bells -

The temple bell stops –

but the sound keeps coming

out of the flowers.