Category Archives: CFL

Tipping Points

Many of you probably are familiar with the term “tipping point”, coined by Malcolm Gladwell in his book of the same name. As he describes it,

“The word ‘Tipping Point’… comes from the world of epidemiology. It’s the name given to that moment in an epidemic when a virus reaches critical mass. It’s the boiling point. It’s the moment on the graph when the line starts to shoot straight upwards. AIDS tipped in 1982, when it went from a rare disease affecting a few gay men to a worldwide epidemic. Crime in New York City tipped in the mid 1990’s, when the murder rate suddenly plummeted.

“When I heard that phrase for the first time I remember thinking–wow. What if everything has a Tipping Point?”(From the website of Malcolm Gladwell)

If only it could be so. After exploring and writing my series on Water (here, here and here) I obsessed about the issues of plastic, plastic bottles, drinking water issues,plastic bags and on and on. Then it seemed that I kept reading about places where people were doing something about it–Devon, Ireland outlawing plastic bags, San Francisco banning water bottles for government offices and employees,fancy restaurants no longer serving imported sparkling waters but infusing their own filtered water with bubbles and now the bottled water industry is taking notice of the increasing number of cancelled contracts. And, is it my imagination, or are more people bringing their own bags into stores? The Trader Jo lines are full of people holding their previously purchased reusable (and branded) bags. Even the California legislature has introduced the “How Many Legislatures Does it Take to Change a Light Bulb” Act that proposes to phase out incandescents by 2012 and,in a first by a national government, Australia has a phaseout program to make the switch by 2010. Canada is phasing them out by 2012.

Well, maybe not yet a tipping point but it certainly looks like we are
on the uptick of a wave.

One would think so with all the businesses advertising how “green” they suddenly are. Responding sometimes to consumer demand, sometimes to the new public relations opportunities, sometimes to the simple fact of achieving ocassionally significant cost savings, corporations down to small business are rethinking some of their practices and coming up with “green” ones. Lots of them are great, some dubious. Another tipping point? Hardly, although they might as well be warming up for the real tough regulatory days to come.

Cynicism aside, I applaud all efforts to conduct our lives more consciously and if business saves money making changes, all the better. For the real tipping points manifesting themselves aren’t so good. While the bell curve of peak oil suggests a tipping point for some, I bet there are a lot of smug faces out there as oil approaches $100 a barrel (today it retreated to just below $90 I believe.) The report of accelerated ice melt in the Artic is unnerving scientists who have witnessed it themselves. Who would have thought even as early as last year that there would be US Coastguard ship movement into the un-iced waters to monitor new shipping lanes?

Have we reached that Tipping Point?

Life Envisioned in Keywords

I don’t want to tell anyone about global warming these days (I mean hardly anyone). Most of us know about it. Rupert Murdock, of all people, has recently pledged to make his company News Corp. carbon neutral by 2010! The behemoth Walmart Corp. is pushing CFL light bulbs (compact fluorescent bulbs, which use about 75 per cent less electricity than incandescent bulbs*).

Good Grief, Charlie Brown! There’s nothing to worry about!

Maybe not and maybe so.

What I would like to do, for myself and interested readers, is to track the information flow on these issues and try to understand what is really happening. Like the age of the internet, climate change as an idea, is creating social and cultural change. It is controversial, and we, the United States, are highly responsible and on the spot to create solutions. My intent is to try to distill this and present some concrete methods for making personal changes…maybe even some political action…who knows… to live a more enlightened life.

I should put in here too, that I feel a tremendous responsibility for the mess we appear to be leaving the kids who are being born today. Not to mention, the rest of the world.

This, the tracking of information, however, is not as simple as it seems. The information flow we have today is “mass media” and others. Information is not always pure; it is often propaganda, to speak very directly. Exxon/Mobil ,for instance, has spent millions to inject doubt into the nascent national debate on global warming. (More to come on this, I am prepared to back up all my accusations with documents and facts.)

It is not easy to get to the truth, to feel really informed. With this age of the internet there is so much information being thrown at us I sometimes feel like I am being deluged with the force of a fireman’s water hose. Yet, in an effort to remain sane, concerned and informed (as well as productive) I have pared down my reading habits, my email “news alerts”, my magazine subscriptions, my rss feeds and my newspaper scans.

What this amounts to, curiously enough, is coming up with just the right keywords to define my circle of awareness and interest.

So here they are: climate change, global warming, greenwashing, green business, deep economy, technology, peak oil, energy, biofuel, cradle to cradle, greenhouse gas emissions, carbon sequestration, plastics, organic,local food, architecture, agri-business, OPEC, Kyoto, wind power, solar, sustainability, LEED, , IPPC.

Have you thought of your life in keywords?

*Postscript: A CFL bulb uses only one fourth as much electricity as a regular incandescent, lasts 10 times as long, and easily saves $50 during its lifetime.