Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Environmental Trail #1

My first big steps down the trail of environmental consciousness were through the book "Serve God, Save the Planet," but really I was preparing for those steps throughout my life. Appreciating the beauty, fragility and interconnectedness of nature as a whole has long been a part of my life through early camping trips with my family, campouts with the Boy Scouts, and then adventures planned by my friends and me. So if you really wanted to follow or just understand the process that brought me here, to my current thoughts, you really need to start out there. Go walk in the woods. Go float a river. Fly a kite. Watch birds. Sleep under the stars in your backyard. Visit a national park.

I think that going to these places, experiencing these "outdoor" type things, is more than just appreciating the beauty of the world around us, although that is a very good reason to go do those things. Instead, I think the importance comes more from the act of remembering that these places foster.

When we live in cities, in suburbs, we forget that we are actually dependent on the nature around us for our very survival. Food does not magically spring up at grocery stores. Gasoline does not condense out of the air into the fuel pumps. Electricity does not spontaneously and naturally flow through the wires that run to our houses and places of employ. Everything we do depends intimately on the natural world. Everything we see, whether a house, a car, a pair of Nike shoes, or the fajitas you ate last night for dinner, all of it comes from Nature. Someone mined the metal, harvested the grain, raised the beef, cut the trees...whatever the base product might be.

The processes that companies use to give us our modern conveniences affect us in myriad ways. The electricity that runs a factory comes from coal that was strip mined out of hills - probably in West Virginia or other Appalachian states. Many of the machines that mill, stitch, or assemble require some kind of cooling...which usually comes from our streams and lakes. This water is fed in, and used to cool down the machines, making the water hot. It goes back into the source from which it was drawn. And that is the most benign interaction with the local water ways. Chemicals might be added in order to dye or treat fabrics, to wash products, to make a special finish. This chemical water solution will often be dumped back into the rivers and lakes. Heat and air and vapors from chemical processes are also loosed into the air, floating on air currents to surrounding areas, or countries a world away.

These interactions are found just in the creation of a product. Our air, our water, our land is forever altered by each and every thing we create.

So when I read "Serve God, Save the Planet" I already had a sense of this interdependence. SGSP serve to take that interdependence and make it tangible. I had numbers - quanities of waste, cost of electricity. I had stories - devastating increases in environmental diseases and the damage they wrought on families. Most importantly, I also had solutions - I had actions, choices, presented in such a way that my own impact, while small, was still significant.

I began to conserve.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

I'm Back!

So my epic travels are currently over, although the next Big Trip is never far from my mind. If you missed it, my buddy Nick and I traversed the United States in my 2001 Toyota Camry, logging 9000 joint miles, and 11,400 before I was back in the hot, friendly confines of Houston. You can check out some ridiculous videos that we shot of our exploits at our other blog.

Along with huge amounts of driving, hiking, and beauty intaking, I also did quite a bit of reading this summer. The end result of this reading is a drastic shake-up of my lifestyle. Let's call this...oh, I don't know...maybe Breaking the Mold? Perfect.

My previous mold is now in pieces on the ground, and I am trying to make sense of a new world with words like "Organic", "Sustainable" and "Environment" taking center stage in its formation. I plan on laying out the entire progression of my current mental journey over the next couple weeks.

The beginning of my journey came when I read "Serve God, Save the Planet" by J. Matthew Sleeth. I blogged about this book here and here. You can find it at here.

A couple months after reading that book and subsequently loaning it to everyone I know (who in turn, have told me they loaned/purchased it for everyone they know), I was told to watch this video, called "The Story of Stuff."

The video looks at the manufacturing process beginning all the way at material acquisition (i.e. digging up some bauxite that will be...), and ending at disposal (eventually turned into an aluminum can and thrown away or recycled).

Watching this video I was struck by a couple of points:
  • What is out of sight is generally out of mind - Since it isn't my backyard being dug up, I don't care. At least, that is how I have operated so far in my life.
  • I don't pay attention - Really an extension of the first, but even for the things that are in my sight, such as having 24 individual Gatorade bottles packaged in a bigger package, I don't even recognize how much I am wasting.
  • I do have power - Capitalism is based on supply and demand. When a demand exists for a product, a supply will grow to fill it. If I do not demand (as shown by my buying habits) triple packaging, but prefer a minimalist approach, that supply will grow.

Friday, June 20, 2008


I don't imagine anyone even checks this anymore, as I have been so tardy with posts.

For the summer I will be taking a break to drive all over the country, and if you have any interest in driving or trips or national parks or horrible beards, you can check that out over at America Clockwise. I will resume posting here in August.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Somemore Vocation

I honestly don't have any updates on what my vocation actually might be, but for the moment I do have an answer for my next step. I still think that teaching might be my road, but not middle school.

I accepted a high school math position at YES Prep NC.

I am actually really excited about the job. First, I get to teach high school. Second, I get to teach at YES, which is just an amazing place to work. The faculty is fun, and completely focused on getting the kids to college. The kids want to be there. They work hard and are friendly. Secondly, my course load is sweet; 2 sections of Alg 1, 2 sections of Alg 2 and 1 section of Robotics. Yep. I get my own robotics course.

So I am staying in Houston for at least another year.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


I have this student. W. He is a squirrel job.

I mean, he totally acts like a squirrel. He is out of his seat. He is in his seat. He is picking things up. He is putting them back down in different places.

He's squirrely.

Anyway, he used to frustrate me all the time. Although I found him relatively amusing, he took a lot of time out of class. But then he made me a picture. And then I started thinking "maybe he acts so crazy because he is really excited and doesn't know what to do about it..." I don't know. Maybe I'm reaching. But the pictures are great.

Picture #1

So in this one, W is laughing and I'm telling him to "Get out, go, go, go out in the hallway now."

I have a blair suit. I don't know why.

I have a magical shave button. This is what happens when I use sarcasm. "Did you shave Mister?"
"No. I pushed my magical shave button, and the hair sucks back into my head."

Notice how small Mr. Farber looks next to me. Ha.

Picture #2

Yes. I'm called the Blair-o-nator.
Yes. It says "Crazy with education."
Yes. I have a Do First Cannon that shoots 50 sheets per second. That's a rate in case you were wondering.

Picture #3

So, now I'm a ninja. Or more accurately, a shogun blairator.
I think that's a kind of blender actually.

The motivational quote says "The speed of true power...the speed of education!!!!!" I think that our school district should adopt that as its slogan.

I also have a meter stick sword and a clipboard.

All of these pictures show me with a six-pack. I don't have that yet. But I am definitely that much bigger than Mr. Farber. And I do have a Shogun suit. And a Blairsuit (that's trademarked.).