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Solutions & sustainability - May 5

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Crunchy Culture
Author Rod Dreher Has Defined A Political Hybrid: The All-Natural, Whole-Grain Conservative

Hank Stuever, Washington Post
A manifesto for granola-eating conservatives who want to save the planet.
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Two succulent, naturally raised chickens with good farm references are in the oven, snuggled up in a roasting pan like doomed lovers. Fat, perfect carrots are peeled, chopped, seasoned and ready to simmer.

"Notice that I am literally barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen," observes Mrs. Crunchy Con, and perhaps, she quips, she should have done her hair for the occasion like Phyllis Schlafly's. The li'l Crunchy Cons, boys ages 2 and 6, are out back in the warm Wednesday afternoon sun, making sculptures out of a bowl of ice cubes -- something constructive and home-schoolish, something very We're Not Watching TV.

In fact, if it weren't for their right-wing politics, the Crunchy Con family could be roasting organic chickens in Berkeley, or Takoma Park. It's that kind of house.

Wearing a faded green henley shirt, jeans and sandals is Mr. Crunchy Con, named Rod Dreher.

By day he is a right-leaning pundit and opinion editor at the Dallas Morning News -- grappling with his disappointment with how the war in Iraq is turning out. At night he comes home in a used 1993 Mercedes sedan with 109,512 miles on it, to live, like Thoreau at Walden, deliberately.

...In his recent book, the grandiloquently titled "Crunchy Cons: How Birkenstocked Burkeans, Gun-Loving Organic Gardeners, Evangelical Free-Range Farmers, Hip Homeschooling Mamas, Right-Wing Nature Lovers, and Their Diverse Tribe of Countercultural Conservatives Plan to Save America (or At Least the Republican Party)," Dreher, 39, describes his little house as the perfect expression of his politics.

...Crunchiness, and its potential to both irk and challenge the Republican Party, has become Rod Dreher's central preoccupation: In the summer of 2002 -- not long after he'd discovered that Birkenstock sandals make his achin' dogs feel better and that the stuff from the co-op tastes even better than the No. 2 combo at his beloved Sonic Drive-In -- Dreher wrote a brief essay for National Review's Web site, which grew into a 3,000-word manifesto for the magazine.

..."We made fun of our liberal friends," he originally wrote of his newfound love for organic food, "until we actually tasted the vegetables they got from the farm. We're converts now, and since you asked, I don't remember being told when I signed up for the GOP that henceforth, I was required to refuse broccoli that tastes like broccoli because rustic socialist composters think eating it is a good idea."

...A broader manifesto began to take shape. Crunchy Cons prefer smaller houses, older things, the musty truth of Scripture. "Culture is more important than politics and economics" is a bullet-point, as is "Beauty is more important than efficiency. . . . Small, Local, Old and Particular are almost always better than Big, Global, New and Abstract." Meanwhile, "The relentlessness of media-driven pop culture deadens our senses to authentic truth, beauty and wisdom."
(3 May 2006)
Welcome aboard the green train, Rod Dreher. Long profile.

Related:
Column by Froma Harrop: Conservatives who conserve
Book review from NY Times
Birkenstocked Burkeans by Dreher in National Review Online.
-BA


'Clear lead needed' on green life

BBC
Environmental advisers to the UK government are urging more radical action to promote green lifestyles.

The Sustainable Consumption Roundtable (SCR) says people need a clear lead from government.

Its report, I Will If You Will, urges measures such as taxing flights, rewarding water conservation and banning over-fishing of cod.

It says consultation shows that people want to adopt greener habits, but many believe individual action is futile.

Action stimulated by regulation can be effective and go down well with the public, it adds, citing the example of standards mandating energy-efficient boilers.

The SCR report comes after 18 months of consultations with members of the public, businesses and other stakeholders across Britain.

"Going green can be smart and stylish," commented SCR co-chair Ed Mayo, "but it is not yet simple.

"We want to call the bluff of politicians, to take action to make the sustainable choice the easier choice."
(3 May 2006)
Related from WorldChanging: Sustainable Consumption: I Will if You Will.


Life, but not not as we know it

Meg Carter, The Independent
Zero emissions, village-style car-free neighbourhoods - and no landfill. A new settlement on the Yangtze will show the world that China wants to help save the planet after all.
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With its breakneck economic growth, soaring demand for energy and heavy dependence on coal, China is often depicted as the world's environmental bogeyman. Yet Dongtan, a ground-breaking eco-city to be built near Shanghai, is already setting new standards in sustainable urban planning and inspiring decision-makers worldwide - including London's mayor, Ken Livingstone.

Dongtan will be built just 3km from a bird sanctuary whose varied residents include the endangered black-faced spoonbill (just one thousand of these large, white wading birds are estimated to remain in the wild). And its location, in protected wetlands on Chongming Island at the mouth of the Yangtze river, doesn't exactly sound like a good starting point for an environmentally sustainable city with a population of half a million.

But Dongtan's designers insist that it's a blueprint for how cities could support, rather than destroy, the environment. For its two major goals are to generate zero carbon emissions and cut average energy demands by two thirds via a unique city layout, energy infrastructure and building design.
(4 May 2006)


Beyond hope

Derrick Jensen, Orion Online
The most common I hear spoken by any environmentalists anywhere are, We're fucked. Most of these environmentalists are fighting desperately, using whatever tools they have-or rather whatever legal tools they have, which means whatever tools those in power grant them the right to use, which means whatever tools will be ultimately ineffective-to try to protect some piece of ground, to try to stop the manufacture or release of poisons, to try to stop civilized humans from tormenting some group of plants or animals. Sometimes they're reduced to trying to protect just one tree.

Here's how John Osborn, an extraordinary activist and friend, sums up his reasons for doing the work: "As things become increasingly chaotic, I want to make sure some doors remain open. If grizzly bears are still alive in twenty, thirty, and forty years, they may still be alive in fifty. If they're gone in twenty, they'll be gone forever."

But no matter what environmentalists do, our best efforts are insufficient. We're losing badly, on every front. Those in power are hell-bent on destroying the planet, and most people don't care.

Frankly, I don't have much hope. But I think that's a good thing. Hope is what keeps us chained to the system, the conglomerate of people and ideas and ideals that is causing the destruction of the Earth.
(May-June 2006)


Leave the gas at the pump and pedal away

Steve Lopez, LA Times
Dick Riordan was the last Los Angeles mayor to preach the joy of bike riding, so when the price of gas soared north of $3 a gallon and oil company profits finally gave us a clear definition of obscenity, I thought about giving him a call.

People tell me I'm off my rocker, but it seems to me that since L.A. is mostly flat and the weather is good year-round, thousands of people could get out of their cars and onto bicycles.

It would take vision, if not wild imagination. I say we shut down a lane of Arroyo Parkway now and then and open it to bikes. You can't get anywhere on Wilshire Boulevard in a car, so let's get them out of there altogether.

We'd need the right kind of role model to make it happen, though. And as my colleague Steve Hymon noted in Monday's paper, Jaime de la Vega, L.A.'s deputy mayor in charge of transportation and mass transit, drives a Hummer.

De la Vega was a Riordan transit advisor, too, back when. But Riordan doesn't remember him driving a Hummer. If I were Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who calls himself green and wants to remake Los Angeles as some kind of enviro-friendly utopia, I'd tell De la Vega to make a choice by the end of the week: Keep the Hummer, or keep the job.

Riordan, it turns out, was game for a bike ride even though he had quadruple bypass surgery less than two months ago. In fact, he'd already done a 30-mile ride since going under the knife.
(3 May 2006)

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