Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Free Gas?

Ok, so everyone is talking about the price of gas right now...and I'm affraid we, as a nation, like to pull the wool over our eyes on the fact that it is not going to get better if things continue the way they are going. There is only less and less gas available to us. The world's economy is growing at a very fast rate of 5% per year. Did you know what the first thing to change is in developing countries as people begin to earn more money? The very first change in their purchasing is meat. They eat more meat, because they need protein, and because they see Americans eating more meat.
The result of this and of the increased pressure to produce ethanol from food crops like corn (which is ridiculously inefficient), is that there is an incredible demand for nitrogen fertilizer. Did you know that nitrogen fertilizer is made directly from Natural Gas?
So why am I ranting about this? Well, let me preface this by saying that I am not trying to support any politician with this blog. My problem is with the ridiculously poor amount of thought that is going into our governmental decision making. The column below is about the new McCain-Hillary proposal to suspend the gov't tax on gasoline for the summer. If this happens we are all just going to consume a whole crap ton of gasoline, and the cost of this is not just inefficient use of a very finite resource, but there is an opportunity cost that we will pay as well. It will only suspend any urge to develop GOOD ideas for energy supply.
Again, I don't want to get political with this. I just wanted to rant, really.
But, if you are upset at the price of gas, soy milk, beef, or t-shirts, it is all connected. And it is going to require some real thinking on our parts to make any of it change. And let's contact our representatives!

Here's the column...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

minimizing distractions!

Hey everybody,
I'm taking a hiatus from the blog for a little while...maybe until I finish my thesis. Hopefully soon.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Are we what we eat?

Being an ecologist in training, I have learned a lot about cycles. I think i wrote about this earlier in the month. The most basic, or maybe the most complex, of these cycles is the physical cycling of matter on earth. I think many people don't think about this, but let me try to explain.
Take an infant. Let's imagine that this infant is breast-fed, and receives all of its nutrition through his mother. All of this nutrition consists of fats, proteins (which are broken down to amino acids), and carbohydrates, which are broken down into sugars for energy. Well, the fats are normally stored, and in infants I am sure they are a very important part of physical development. The proteins, which are broken down into amino acids, are re-organized again as proteins and become part of the child's frame, whether hair, muscles, skin, organs, etc. This process is fueled by the use of sugars. Along in this process is metabolism. This is how the child uses the energy in his food. The products of metabolism are, well, everything in his diaper, along with carbon dioxide and water. These leave through his lungs, and become part of the atmosphere. Now let's take a look at where these products go.
The stuff that goes into his diaper inevitably goes into a landfill, unless, of course, his parents use cloth diapers. In this case it will find its way to a treatment facility. The majority of this material is some form of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus, although there are also many many more things present. these three are the main ones. Whether they end up in a treatment facility or a landfill, their fate is the same. The carbon that is present is metabolized by microbes and turned into carbon dioxide or methane (natural gas). The phosphorus becomes, in most cases, phosphate, and the nitrogen becomes ammonia, nitrate, nitrite, or nitrogen gas. Let's recap what we have so far...
Carbon dioxide and water leave the baby's lungs and become part of our atmosphere (in the air). Carbon dioxide also comes from the baby's diaper and is part of our atmosphere, as well as nitrogen gas. ammonia, nitrate, nitrite, and phosphate, for the most part, stay on the land or find their way into surface waters.
Now, let's think about a thai chicken salad. The peanuts in the thai sauce, like all legumes, fix nitrogen gas from the atmosphere. Not all plants can do this, but some very important ones do, like peanuts. They also fix carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and water from the soil. When I say "fix", I mean that the molecules become the actual plant or peanut. Carbon dioxide, through the energy of the sun, is turned into simple sugar, and that is turned into many many things inside the plant. Phosphate is also fixed in the peanut from the soil. We could say that, in a very simplified cycle, the carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus from the baby's diaper, and the carbon dioxide and water from the baby's lungs, can become a peanut. The case is very similar for the rest of the thai chicken salad. The chicken more than likely is fed grain that is grown from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, as well as water, nitrogen, and phosphorus that has gone through a cycle like this since the beginning of the world.
Now let's imagine that the mother eats this thai chicken salad. Part of the molecules become her, literally. She may turn them into muscle, bone, and other tissue. The rest has three places it can go...either out through her lungs (carbon dioxide and water), to the same place the baby's diaper stuff went to, or can be turned into breast-milk. In this case, quite a bit of it is turned into breast milk. Because baby's grow so quickly, they must turn a lot of this breast-milk into very important tissue (brain cells, muscles, his heart, bones, reproductive parts, etc.)
Why do I explain all of this? Well, whenever I think about cycles of material on earth, I can't help but be reminded of Ash Wednesday.
"Remember O man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shall return."
The Ash Wednesday service is very penitent at our church, and I really appreciate being reminded that we are God's creation, and that we are made of the same matter as the rest of the earth. This is very humbling. It is also important to understand, though, that this makes our existence so much more incredible. Though we are made of the same material that cycles through the rest of the earth's atmosphere and organisms, God sets us apart. Although God formed man of the dust of the ground, he then "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."
This is a miracle. Absolutely. We are of the same material as the things we are surrounded by, and eat, and breath, but we are also set apart. Although we are made of dust, and shall return to dust, there is another half of the story, which is very good and important.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Borrowing eggs

Wendell Berry, my favorite author, says that "land cannot be properly cared for by people who do not know it." He is speaking about actual land, in this case, because he is a farmer and is interested in the longevity of farms and farming communities, and therefore communities in general. I think his comment reaches further than just farming communities. How can anything be properly cared for if it is not known by the ones caring for it.
One place I think this applies to is the church, or more importantly, those who the church is supposed to be caring for. How can we care for orphans and widows, captives, the blind, the burdened world if we do not know it? Far too often the church seems like it is trying hard to redeem itself to the rest of the world. But if the church is supposed to be caring for the world, who would trust it if it sold itself out to popular culture? Why would they trust it?
Going back to Wendell Berry's quote, we have to keep in mind that Christ was acquainted with grief, despised and rejected of men, they hid their faces from him, as it were. In other words, he was acquainted extremely well with the human condition. This is what the church should be, well acquainted with the world. How can the church love our neighbors if we do not know them? If we can do anything good for other people, it is to know them, and in turn, have something to offer them that might be relevant to their lives.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Takers

If you click on the title of this post, you'll get to The Takers' myspace page. This is Devon's band. I'm not sure if they have music up on it yet or not. They just recorded an EP in the studio but it still needs a couple tracks, so I'm not sure if they've put it up on their myspace yet. I have always thought Devon was the best song writer I had heard. I think with this band his lyrics are matched up perfectly with the music. Watch out for these guys.

New title

I recently realized that blogs are supposed to have some kind of creative name. I've decided on this one.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Setting the captives free...

Happy birthday dad!!!!!
I just wanted to let you all know how beautiful Valerie looks with her new haircut!!! Also, this is our sweet sweet turtle Howard. Over the past couple months he has eaten every single one of our fish except for the one with armor plating, so we decided to let him go in Lake Alice. Don't worry, he is a native turtle, Natalie found him on the sidewalk. I literally think a bird may have dropped him off at our door. Speaking of him, we realized yesterday that he is a her!

The release!

Oh, and by the way, my friend Zack saw this picture on a power point during his oceanography class. What a resemblance!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Meat, Grain, and Soil

There is an article in the NY Times today , about a program that the USDA started years ago in order to keep farmers from cultivating all of there farm land. The purpose of the program was to conserve top-soil for future generations as well as protect critical habitat for a lot of wildlife. The land in the program was selected specifically because it is the most vulnerable to environmental degradation by farming.
Well, the article tells the story of how this land is rather quickly being taken out of the program and put back into agricultural production, specifically for the production of soybeans, corn, and wheat.
Why do we need more soybeans, corn, and wheat? Is it because we are feeding the hungry with it? Well, we aren't feeding hungry people with it, anyway. In fact, with the amount of grain that we grow and feed just to livestock in the United States, you could instead feed it to 800 million people. That is, we consume so much meat in this country, and export quite a surplus, that we have to use MOST of our agricultural land to grow feed for animals.
The reason farmers want to break their contracts with the conservation program is because the demand for grain has increased incredibly. This is not only due to an increase in meat consumption in the U.S., but also because of a greater population of middle class people worldwide, and they all want the diet of an American. Not only that, but because ethanol production has skyrocketed (off the very false assumption that it is good), the demand for grain is even greater.
One question I think people need to ask themselves is, are we happier? We are all somewhat stuck in the lifestyle we have grown up in to. Did you know that if you eat chicken instead of beef, you are indirectly consuming 4 times LESS grain and 10 times less water! If you choose to eat aquacultured fish instead of the chicken, you are consuming HALF the resources!

I suggest reading the article I posted a link to. Whether you are on side A or side B of a political world, environmental problems seriously interact with economic, social, and public health issues. Eventually we are all going to have to change our lifestyles somewhat. I think it is a good idea to start changing it now, to ease the burden later.

You got no future, kid...

Last night I had a dream that me and my friends were all surrounded by a bunch of Auburn fans at a football game. It was horrible and they were beating us. I guess I had the dream because of the up and coming Orange and Blue game this Saturday. I wonder if I am absurd. Did you know that last year after we lost to Auburn, there was a little kid, maybe 7 years old standing next to me with Auburn clothes on, clapping to their fight song, and I told him he had no future. That is quite possibly the saddest thing you could do, tell a little kid he's got no future. My only comfort, retrospectively, is that he was 7 and probably didn't have a clue what I was talking about.
I think that my goal for this next football season should be to control myself, tongue and all.
Last week at Jai Alai I stood up and yelled at a player that Jai Alai was his occupation, and that he should get a clue. Although Jai Alai is more than likely rigged, and I did lose one whole dollar because of his mistake, I was acting quite absurd. I always think it is such a good idea right before I open my mouth, or I at least think I have the right to say whatever it is that just popped into my mind. But man, the feeling afterward is just terrible.
So, if any of you are with me at a sporting event, and I start to get mouthy, please nudge me in the kidney. I am giving you permission.
Oh, and if anyone wants to go to Jai Alai tonight, it starts at 7:00.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


I have decided over the past few years that life really goes in cycles, whether they be physical, emotional, spiritual, etc. I think over the course of many many cycles we grow, or I guess we can un-grow for that matter, but generally I think we grow. Let me try to explain what I mean by cycles...
There will be a time that I am so pumped about whatever it is that I'm doing, and those times are always really great, and sometimes blissful. Then, usually because of circumstances, I let myself become discontented with some part of my lot. If I have learned something in the past few years it is that I should try my hardest not to let myself get discontented with a circumstance, they are passing things, or cycles, really.
Anyway, the point of the idea is that on Sunday I continued realizing something that some of my current discontent has blinded me from. That is, the value of knowing Christ, about Christ. Father Ron, our faithful priest, reminded me that certain translations of the word "good" used to describe Christ, mean winsome and beautiful. That is a pretty major thing to forget, I thought to myself.
Then Ron told us that in Psalm 23, the better translation of one verse is "Surely goodness and mercy shall pursue me all the days of my life." It will pursue me? Like, something is causing goodness and mercy to pursue me?
Here is the thought that I had. Sometimes I run really hard from God, even if I tell myself that it is not what I'm doing. The reason I do it is because I, at the time, do not know enough about him, and therefore do not trust him like I should. The image I had was me running from a huge lion, in fear. But eventually, if I let the lion catch me, he doesn't eat me, but we roll around, and he tosses us around with huge velvety paws, and it is such a romp as no one has ever had except in Narnia, because Christ is, in fact, pursuing us, and He is goodness and mercy. And when we let him catch us, we aren't sure if it is more like playing with a kitten or with a giant thunderstorm; but it is always good.