Monday, May 25, 2015
When I take those “What Religion Are You” tests I always end up being a Reformed Jew or Liberal Quaker (Friends). Yet, I was raised a Southern Baptist, which is down in the bottom left.
The point here is that religion is not the problem after all, since there are plenty of religious groups that support environmental regulations and believe in evolution.
What this issue is really about is conservatism versus progressivism. Now, again, there’s nothing wrong with being a conservative. Gosh knows, we need a few of them to balance out the liberal extremists. And, I’m guessing there has ALWAYS been a conservative/liberal division.
Not to offend anyone, but conservatives are the defender of the status quo and resist change. They like things the way they are, no matter how awful things are. They just rationalize it. All through history it’s the progressives that have accomplished positive change in the world.
I’m guessing there’s some correlation with education level as well. If you’re highly educated you’re more likely to be labeled a “stinkin’ liberal.”
In the United States there are lots of conservative people. No one can control the family or “tribe” they are born into, so I certainly don’t judge anyone for their conservatism. That’s just the way they are wired, programmed, created, or whatever.
Conservative control of government and our society’s power structures may very well cause the end of our species and planet. But, these folks just got it from their parents, primarily, and there is not a mechanism inside them questions. Yeah, that’s a nice way of saying, “no critical thinking skills.” Of course it’s possible to live in a fish for three days.
I used to think I was a conservative, but even as a kid I always enjoyed listening to another person’s viewpoint. I always liked questioning and learning. I became a journalist and then an editor, and was always a Curious George or Charles Dickens, walking around and exploring, and learning everything I could. This didn’t make me a good conservative, so I flipped sides in 1997. Not that I was wishy-washy. I was just a liberal locked in a conservative’s body.
Anyway, back to the point. Ahhh, what was the point? Oh, yeah. The point is that we have to get all the bubbles on the chart to the top right, or else we gotta pop them. Or, I can just join the Buddhists, New Agers, Atheists, Agnostics, Quakers, Liberals, and Reformed Jews, and push for positive change. The folks at the bottom corner are the anchor that’s dragging along the sea floor. We progressive liberals just have to row harder, despite the drag and added weight. We can do it. Why? Because that’s how we are wired. We are wired to make an actual difference in the world, instead of scaring people with ancient goat herder stories. Not that I don’t enjoy those stories, it’s just that they are not real.
Okay, now I will wander back in the desert. I’ve said enough.
Credit: Josh Rosenau/National Center for Science Education.
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
I look around and stay in awe of the act of “being alive.” We humans, the animals, and plants have all made an incredible accomplishment in the Universe. Most of the place is just rocks and dust, but somehow those of us on Earth put those raw materials together to create fantastically complex organisms.
But there was something even more fantastic that got life started. Somewhere in the early stages of Earth a primitive cell WANTED to stay alive. Hell, actually it just wanted to eat because, somehow, not eating and dying became unpleasant. And thus, we had the driving force that began to push evolution.
Soon after the first cell, cells began grouping together. Not on purpose, but simply because those that teamed up had an advantage of getting food. As the weather and atmosphere changed, different clusters fared better under various conditions. Holy Batmobile, evolution was now at full speed.
Those warm-blood marsupials evolved from metatherians during the mid-Jurassic period. Throw in millions of years and before long these buggers are playing with fire and packing out the malls at Christmas. Yeah, they are us.
But, but, but...
Some people tell me that when we die we will be reincarnated and others says you go to Heaven, but you must say the three-sentence prayer first. There is no scientific evidence to support our wishful thinking. For poor me, when this fragile, vibrant thing called life is taken away from me, that’s it.
Of course there’s purpose to life. We want to eat because it’s uncomfortable to be hungry. We want to reproduce because it’s ingrained in us, and it feels good. We don’t want to die because living seems more fun. For us higher evolved animals we have this freaky added fear of what might happen afterwards. Will we be put into a TV sitcom? Will we burn in a lake of fire with Hitler and Ted Bundy? Will we become a cockroach? Will we….
The purpose of life, to me, is to honor life. After all it took three supernovas to create elements that were dense and complex enough for us to create cell walls, and reproduce, and LIVE. This is a universe of hydrogen, man, so why are we here???
Honor Thy Self
First of all, we are only here for a brief moment and for most people in the world life will suck. If you are one of the lucky ones not born in abject poverty be extremely thankful every day. You can start by taking care of yourself and honoring the miracle of YOUR life. Don’t eat junk, don’t do drugs, don’t suck smoke in your lungs, and exercise a LOT. Honestly, in your cozy, wealthy American world you may not have any concept of sickness or death, but your bad habits will bring you down, and you’ll never get to see humans land on Mars.
Honor All Others
Do animals and trees have a consciousness? OF COURSE they do. Because they all want to eat, and nothing wants to die. That, baby, is consciousness. It is important that we respect ALL life, not just humans. Sure, call me a Zen Buddhist.
I am sorry to anyone who I may offend, but I am unable to believe in anything that can’t be proven, at least beyond a doubt. Yeah, I believe in wind even though I can’t see it. I feel the molecules hitting my skin. That’s more evidence than what exists for the 1,000 gods created by humans during the span of written history. For starters, click HERE for a book on 200 gods. These are just the popular gods from Roman, Greek, Celtic, and other major cultures. This list doesn’t count those weird gods found in primitive, South American villages. Please don’t tell me about your one RIGHT god, the Republican Western European god who has a great gun collection. If you do, I’ll share with you the story of the god Thor, who was a pretty cool dude.
Okay, you collection of cells. Go live your life with honor and dignity. Dedicate yourself to food, reproduction, and avoiding death. And take it a step further by helping to make others have less miserable lives. Go where you are called and at least give a little to others as you travel on your life journey.
Photo credit: n8kowald / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND
Monday, May 18, 2015
Batteries are amazing things. Somewhere along the line the sun is captured, turned into charged electrons, and held inside batteries.
But batteries aren’t that efficient and storing the sun in a way that’s cheap, green, and efficient is a huge technological challenge.
So, gather around everyone, I have a really cool idea. Let’s get the U.S. government to budget $1 billion to make a better battery. We will get government, private citizens, and industry to all join forces and work together. Yeah, I know, the Koch brothers will be cursing and throwing lamps against the wall. Okay, sorry guys.
Right now, we are exporting millions of dollars a day out of the country to buy a far more primitive version of stored sun called petroleum. Now, honestly, this stuff is nasty and when you burn it, you fill the air with carbon and pollutants. Oh, I know, Climate Change is just theory. We all know that Al Gore made it up so that he could make starving tree-huggers rich. Right.
A battery is an extremely more efficient way of storing the sun than oil and coal. I know this runs contrary to what the powerful U.S. oil lobby says, and all their media minions like Fox News. But, hey, I graduated from a really good community college and it makes sense to me.
As far as the $1 billion being expensive, well, that’s how much debt the U.S. has created in the time you read the Wall Street Journal in the happy room. Or think about how much money we blow every day using military resources to protect overseas oil fields. The point is, this is $1 billion that will give Americans JOBS. That’s the word Republicans scream constantly every time we environmentalists want to save public land or help some endangered species. So, they don’t want to raise the minimum wage, but they sure love JOBS, so it seems like they’d be on board with this.
Joint Center for Energy Storage Research In 2012 my dream came true when the U.S. Dept. of Energy was given a $120 million, 5-year grant, and with that money they formed the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research. This is one of the most important initiatives ever and is a step in the right direction. But $120 million is only a pittance. They need $1 billion to get the job done. Let’s set up private donor programs, encourage grants, and pressure Congress to increase funding. If we are going to live on this Earth with all our modern conveniences, by golly, we need batteries that can store a lot more sun.
Imagine what better batteries can do. If they are really good you’ll only need HALF as many solar panels, which means a solar system for your house will become more affordable. And better batteries in your car will mean less energy needed to charge them, while offering a greater range.
Now, the future super battery will require a complete out-of-the-box approach. We’ll have to look at completely new battery technologies, the way battery chemicals react, the way those little ions are charged and stored, and how the energy is transferred. This will take some real thinking, but we humans are sometimes pretty smart, and I know we can do it.
Batteries, my friends. Think batteries as a key to saving the world. They can hold tons of sun and give us the energy when and where we need it. Just how cool is that.
And while I’m on my battery rant, I need to give a plug (no pun intended) for my latest hero, which is Tesla Motors. They are thumbing their nose at the God Kochs and reinventing the future. I’m extremely excited about the new Tesla Powerwall product, which is a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that can store energy at the residential level. Now, my friends, we as an uncivilization are finally moving forward!!!
Learn More: U.S. Dept. of Energy Joint Center for Energy Storage Research
Photo credit: AlicePopkorn / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND
Saturday, January 10, 2015
As a citizen of the United States you are given an incredible gift — citizenship in a stable, affluent democracy. In return, you have two duties as a citizen: 1) Vote, and 2) jury duty. Sadly, most people don't even vote, even though so little is asked of us. Even if you are feeling jaded and cynical, and feel your vote won't make a difference, you should still do it. As for jury duty, it's amazing how many people try to get out of it. Although not perfect, our justice system is pretty wonderful and fair. But without citizen support it's not going to function.
Now, while I'm proud to be an American, I'm even more proud to be an Earthian. I think we live on an incredibly beautiful planet and we have a duty to protect and preserve it. So, here are a few simple duties that I suggest for Earth citizenship:
- Always be a peacemaker, starting with your own relationships, your family, your friends, government, and countries.
- Acknowledge everyone as your brother or sister, and every animal as your pet.
- Always work toward the goal of zero impact on the Earth. The goal should be to leave your planet in better condition than the way you found it.
I think of the United States as just one state among many. We are no better or worse than any other country. We all have our problems. When I hear talk about "American Exceptionalism," I just want to barf over this silly arrogance. We are all equal and we are all one.
Saving the Planet
Should we do this to save the Earth? I mean, the Universe is a cold and indifferent place. Who's really going to care if we make the Earth uninhabitable. And I recently read that there are 100 estimated Earth-like planets in our galaxy. So, what's the big deal if some locust-like species destroys one? And should we do this to save the human species? Naw. What happened to all those big woolly mammoths 10,000 years ago? No one knows for sure, but that's right about the time when humans discovered agriculture. I'm not suggesting a coincidence, I'm just saying that species are always coming and going. Who in the Universe is going to miss us when we are extinct? So, ultimately, the reason that we should be good Earth citizens is because it is right, moral, and just. We owe it to our children to give them just as beautiful and clean a world as we had. It's only fair. We also owe it to the millions of animal species that we co-exist with. That's where the "right," "fair," and "moral" part comes in.
Every time you jump in a car you are putting carbon and smog into the atmosphere. This stuff doesn't go away. Many items that you throw in the garbage will take 500 or more years to decompose. Every herbicide and pesticide you put in your lawn goes into the ground. Every chemical you flush in your toilet goes somewhere, especially if you have a septic system. Slowly, by the death of a thousand cuts, we are poisoning our home — the air, water, and soil. We created this highly technological society to make our lives easier, and all we've succeeded in doing is slowly killing ourselves. STOP, don't flush that old prescription down the toilet — the filters at the water plant won't get it out. STOP, it's not necessary to have a chemical-soaked golf course lawn. Let it go back to nature. STOP, you don't really need that cigarette. START bringing those reusable bags to the grocery store. It's just a collection of small behavior changes, done collectively, that can make a massive difference in the wellbeing of our planet. Think about it.
If we're destroying our trees and destroying our environment and hurting animals and hurting one another and all that stuff, there's got to be a very powerful energy to fight that. I think we need more love in the world. We need more kindness, more compassion, more joy, more laughter. I definitely want to contribute to that. — Ellen DeGeneres