Conservance

Social, Economic, Enviromental Responsibility

Category: motivation

On Equality


We think of equality in terms of good and bad, better and worse, weak and powerful. It is none of these. Equality is simply being equal. It cannot be anything other than that, and it can only apply to a single characteristic.

Some thing is either equal across the board for all, or it is not. That is the cruel beauty of equality. It will grind all down in a manner.

The field will be leveled. But it will be filled with all manner of organisms. Or the field will be filled with a single organism, that then grows to various heights and widths. The field will never be filled with one species mowed down to the same height.

That is not equality; that is oppression.

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Students, Universities And The Student Debt Crisis


The American Ideal involves a house, a dog, a wife and 2.5 children. Those children then spend 18 wonderful years growing up, and after high school attend a fine college or prestigious university to begin the first steps in their chosen career. After four years, the graduate with honors holding a piece of paper that unlocks opportunities that would not be available otherwise. Young men and women enter into the workforce, highly skilled, highly intelligent and go about making the world a better place.

Having now started my second journey through college to develop and refine the left side of the brain; I have been forced to see the truth of higher education in America. On the record of course collegiate institutions are upholding the ideals listed above. Off the record, behind closed doors, where no one but the initiated are allowed the driving principle seems to be this:

The Student Is a Revenue Stream.

This realization came, not through stumbling across an unshredded memo or a chance remark in passing; rather by piecing various experiences I have had thus far with certain university policies and several other conversations. Like Archimedes in the bathtub, my Eureka moment came hard and fast.

The ballooning cost of tuition combined with the increased length of time until graduation is the first marker. It’s one thing if a for-profit institution seeks to place students into the longest possible course schedules, they have to make a buck! But when state schools and private, non-profit universities behave in such a manner; something is wrong. If rising tuition costs are unavoidable, then a prudent university would work to ensure that students are able to graduate in as short an amount of time as is reasonable. The opposite is occurring and I know this from first hand experience. I am currently looking at five plus years of work at a minimum to graduate, and have met strong resistance when attempting to pursue paths that would shorten said time frame. Beyond that, the additional fees assessed by universities onto students in addition to tuition and room and board and the rising cost of text books (especially those special versions printed by a University that cannot be sold on the market, and are still priced at a premium) reveals the idea that students are to be squeezed for as much money as possible.

If one steps back and looks at the Board of Directors, their policies, budgets, and the day to day procedures; it most closely resembles that of banks and financial institutions. To begin with, Students have quietly lost their rights on campus. Of course legal counsel is still available, but there are no Ombudsmen or Arbitrators to decide issues between students and professors or students and the university. Student Advocacy Groups have become information/help desks, their teeth removed and only allowed to answer questions. Student government organizations have been distracted with frivolous things like homecoming court and determining the nutritional value of the food served on “Mexican Mondays.” Meanwhile, the students are so overloaded with coursework and debt that they have no time to think about how wrong this is, and if they could, they wouldn’t have the energy to do anything about it! So the students themselves are left with no course of action to take if they disagree strongly with an issue that directly affects them whatever it may be, from tuition and parking costs to course scheduling and requirements. It is an oppression and slavery of the worst kind.

Consider how universities have handled cutting costs. If they were truly public servants, who desired to serve the best interest of the public and their nation at large, the board would have begun with their own salaries. In fact, the board of directors would be an entirely volunteer position with the appropriate honor and respect given to it because these fine men and women have sacrificed financial gain in order to dedicate their lives to bettering the pursuit of knowledge.

Instead of that, they began with privatizing essential services. Outsourcing! Contracting out essential services to the private sector. It would be one thing if the least profitable portions of the college were outsourced, under-performing departments and bloated research projects for example. But it tends to be those services that break even or make money (provided of course that they are not wildly successful athletic programs). At Ohio State for example, the entirety of the parking services is being sub-contracted out for fifty years with the students having no say in the matter whatsoever. A short-term boon, and the ability to fire State Employees without fully paying retirements, has cost Ohio State long term financial stability and the respect of the students. It won’t come at first, but after a few years of being mistreated at the hands of over-worked, under-paid employees, students will realize how little they mean to the University. While the financial gluttons on the board of directors enjoy a cut of the take.

The most brazen example of this is the recent spate of collegiate advertising. When a state school believes it needs to advertise in order to attract students, something is very wrong. Advertising is, rightly or wrongly, believed to be lies; They might tell the truth in some way, but they are still lies. If a University uses advertisements to trumpet its accomplishments, then those accomplishments are false. They are presented as lies, in a medium specialized for lying. Companies advertise out of desperation, either a competitor is gaining market share, a product has performed poorly, or they are losing money and are trying to reverse the trend. The best companies don’t need to advertise. Starbucks, prior to its fall from grace, had almost no advertising budget. They didn’t need one, they were too busy delivering great coffee to people, and those people were telling everyone about it.

State Universities at one point, were too busy turning out some of the best students ever seen in the world. Students who went on to found ground breaking companies, spearhead research, develop new technology, write the next American Classic, push the boundaries of art, foster thought and philosophy, and generally better the world around us. That was their advertising. Or when a university won a prestigious award, or had an alumni win a prestigious award. That was their advertising. Sometime in the not so distant past, that stopped happening. The students weren’t graduating as bright eyed and (most importantly) well equipped to tackle the new round of challenges. Universities had begun to get caught up in themselves, had become a ground for personal gain, advancement and vendettas. The focus, was no longer on the student. Look at how many “professors” never teach a class at Ohio State, and President Gee has DEFENDED them for it.

This. Is. Wrong.

Any and all colleges and universities should be focused on graduating the best students possible in the shortest amount of time. The “profit” comes in the form of a highly skilled, highly intelligent, highly motivated workforce that goes out and creates the “next big thing.” Pushes society forward, strengthens the economy, and solves the problems facing us today. That means much more money over a much longer period of time, and an alumni association that encourages students to attend their alma maters.

Of course, this means that students must once again be the focus and end product of higher education. They must be taught the skills necessary, and equipped to handle the challenges of the contemporary world. They cannot be burdened with too much debt, and they must be taught how to use their degrees. Gone should be the art major who doesn’t know what to do with their degree, in its place should be the Art Major. An individual who has developed their creative drive in such a way that they can produce amazing works of art and solve solutions in elegant ways. As comfortable with a paintbrush as they are with a hammer or laptop, or Excel spreadsheet.

This requires that Students become investors in the university. They are shareholders with a vested interest in the university. Students attend a university, and enter into a contract that states:

I believe this university is the best choice I can make to succeed. I will work hard, I will learn, I will grow, I will mature. I believe that this is the best course of action. In exchange for investing myself, my money and my time, the University will agree to prepare me to be an economic force. To solve ideas, to serve others, to achieve. They will not overload me with debt, and will not keep me a day longer than is needed to achieve the goals set out.

Instead of being released from the need to learn, the student must work harder at it. Instead of languishing in immaturity, the student will be forced to grow and become better in all aspects of their lives. If they don’t succeed in the larger world, then they have failed themselves, and the university has failed them and itself.

Plans For Today


Today I have 2-3 goals depending on my level of energy and dedication.

Goal 1:

Replace the flex-plate on the BMW.

Goal 2:

Clean the shed.

Goal 3:

Finish the speedometer/gauge assembly for the Death Machine, Black Lightning.

Why are these goals being posted on my (semi)professional blog?

Simply because I can. Seriously though, the BMW is a 528e. One of the most economical vehicles still on the road today. Once I replace the flex-plate, I can start getting 30-35 mpg driving all over town again.

The shed is becoming home to my next venture: taking the Conservance philosophy and style, and applying them to motorcycles and whatever else I damn well feel like. A good cleaning and reorganizing will make my life so much easier. It also will be nice to have a place out of the elements to work on the motorcycle.

Once I finish the gauges, the bike is effectively done. The last major hurdle will be the BMV inspection.

If all goes well: two stylish and efficient vehicles will be ready for the open road. Huzzah!

Outside


I am again helping at Camp Willson, and thoroughly enjoying myself! But I realized something today: when I mention the “outdoors” there’s an assumption that I mean the current perception of “outdoors.” The one that involves $1500 mountain bikes, $200 hiking shoes, and the latest in high tech outdoor gear.

No. I simply mean outside.

This week, my footwear consist of canvas boat shoes, sport sandals, and flip flops. If I wasn’t forced to wear sport sandals; I’d be wearing the flip flops.

My best memories of camping, involve my parents camper and cheap pup tents. Nothing crazy.

When I say go outside, just go outside.

It will do you a world of good. But let me put it this way: Being outside gives you an excuse to be tan. And not that lame, slightly effeminate “laying out” crap either.

Ride With Style


Vespa Sprint Veloce from Motor Modif

.: Motor-Modif ~ Ride With Style :..

Right there, that ridiculously cool style should be illegal. Like a Sean Connery James Bond it’s so elegant and so stylish.

And it gets like 80 mpg.

So let’s add this up shall we:

Style:: Check

Fun:: Check

Environmentally Responsible:: Check

Guys, that formula is how you get women today. Go out and buy a cool scooter!

RIGHT NOW!!!!

Most Efficient Building In America!


Nuns have built the most environmentally responsible building in the United States! Nuns!

Spotlight: Sustainable South Bronx


It’s good to point out successes. Both one’s own, and those of others who seek the same goals as you. It helps to know that someone somewhere is making a difference, gaining ground.

In an earlier article, I posted a video of Majora Carter speaking at TED. Carter was an active participant and catalyst in the “greening the ghetto” movement. Working within the South Bronx to bring about environmental justice, to reform communities and integrate environmentally friendly and sustainable practices into community development. At its heart, SSBX (Sustainable South BronX) is an organization centered on cleaning up the South Bronx neighborhood and foster economic development and growth.

Quality

What’s even better than their mission, is the level of quality they bring to it. Their awards, recognition and successes read like a novel. And their commitment to quality is the reason they’ve been so successful.

The Stance

Social, economic, and environmental responsibility is basically embodied in the plans, programs, and people of SSBX. Beyond that, their motto “green the ghetto” is hilarious!

Check it yourself

SSBX – Webpage for Sustainable South Bronx

Majora Carter – Speech given by Majora Carter at TED.

Global Warming, More Complex Than You Realize


Let’s get one thing straight: I hate the term “global warming.” Because as written on Writechic Press some individual in B.F.E West Virginia will walk outside on the coldest day of the year and wonder “where’s the warming at?” (side note, you can tell I’m from Ohio, because I ended that question with a participle. Completely unnecessary.)

Unfortunately “global climate change” carries baggage with it as well. But it is a much more correct term. However “warming” carries with it a sense of urgency, and there was much more action when it was referred to as “global warming” as opposed to now. Semantics.

More Than CO2 Levels

Let’s state one big factor: Man made global warming is more than just CO2 levels.  There are other factors involved beyond gases and emissions.

The biggest ones that don’t get mentioned are:

Deforestation

Extinction

Loss of biodiversity

Pollution, in its fullest definition

It is a complex problem with many facets. CO2 and other greenhouse gases are a part of it, and more than that, aggravate other issues. Like an infection aggravating an illness.

To distill it to its essence: There is a natural process through which the Earth regulates itself. However we have reduced or damaged the systems through which the earth work.

One snowflake

Any one of those issues, and others not listed, on their own are serious but not catastrophic. But as they come together it becomes more and more dire. One snowflake on its own won’t cause any damage, but when it combines with others under the right circumstances (or wrong for that matter) an avalanche ensues.

Forests depend on a healthy ecosystem to work properly. Healthy ecosystems depend on biologic diversity. Biologic diversity is threatened by extinction and pollution.

So it breaks down like this: As we pollute, we damage ecosystems, causing extinction and the loss of species. This in turn weakens the ecosystem, which inhibits the processes by which the earth would correct and balance itself. This then causes extinction to increase more rapidly.

It’s like underfeeding a racehorse, loading it with an overweight jockey, limiting its stride, and then wondering why it doesn’t win races.

Complex Problem, Simple(ish) solutions

We understand that pollution causes global climate change. We also understand that plants regulate the atmosphere taking in CO2 and releasing oxygen. Furthermore, if we want healthy plants we need a healthy ecosystem Healthy ecosystems are marked by biodiversity.

Understanding that, the simple way to stop global warming is to restore habitats. I.E plant trees and protect and restore habitats.

This combined with capping emissions would allow us to restore the environment to healthy levels. Furthermore, those who manage land responsible stand to make money selling carbon offsets. As  I stated before individuals, corporations, and even some government organizations could make profit simply by doing what they already do.

The Stance

I’m not advocating some sort of “green anarchy.” But I am advocating smarter decisions at every level of society. Our cities should be planned and laid out better, to both lessen their impact on the environment, and make them better for citizens. Buildings codes need to be addressed to make buildings more efficient and better built. And the list goes on, every facet of our society needs to be more responsibly planned and implemented.

Right now our modus operandi is “we can do it, so why don’t we?” when it needs to be “we can do it, but should we?”

Kinks


I ended yesterday’s post talking about the kinks within environmentally clean and sustainable technologies. And this is the continuation of that thought.

*warning, this is more my own thought, and less hard facts

The Critics

There are quite a few critics mounting arguments against the clean and sustainable revolution. But the one I hear most often, with it various derivatives is this:

“It’s not effective right now.”

And the biggest subset of this argument is leveled against renewable energy production.

“Currently, renewable sources of energy make up 6-7% of the total energy production in the US. Therefore the needs of the people can’t be met.”

Bad Logic

This is just bad logic.

It’s a circular argument. We can’t use renewable energy because it doesn’t work right now. And it doesn’t work right now because we don’t use it. Looking at the power production argument: Coal, natural gas, or oil on their own couldn’t provide enough power for the United States. They only make up roughly a quarter of power generation.So by the logic above, we shouldn’t be using them either.

Furthermore, renewable energy doesn’t work right now, because we don’t use it? If something isn’t in use, then of course it doesn’t work. When your lights are turned off, they aren’t working. That doesn’t mean they won’t or can’t work, it just means they aren’t. When your car isn’t running, it isn’t working. However when you turn the key, it starts right up and away you go.

Kinks

Let’s get one thing straight: there are kinks in every system. When cars first came out, FIRST came out, they were steam powered and could only be bought by a select few (namely monarchs). And furthermore, the roads and infrastructure necessary, didn’t exist. We didn’t have freeways until after WWII! early automobile. Note the lack of heat, roof, doors, windshield, seat belts, rubber tires, etc.

Electricity, Ben Franklin knew about it, but it didn’t really mean much until Edison. That’s a separation of some years, and it wasn’t until after Edison that we looked into power generation.

Locomotives and steam power. Steam powered locomotives conquered the West. But when they were first invented, the steam engine was a toy, it was underpowered and almost useless. Furthermore, they needed rails to run on. Steel rails, aren’t a naturally occurring phenomena. And now, we use steam power to generate our electricity, but the heights of development are astounding!

George Stephenson’s engine Rocket

What’s Holding Us Back?

Nothing.

Ultimately, nothing.

As a system is implemented on a large scale the kinks are worked out, the shortcomings addressed, and the efficiency of the system is improved. That’s the short answer.

For the long answer I need to reference the book Beyond Trend my Matt Mattus. Mattus is the designer for Hasbro, and soon after starting with Hasbro, took a trip around the world to study design. He came to a startling conclusion: Global companies, and the speed of connectivity in the world, had effectively smothered design. There are no new trends in design, as soon as something catches on, it’s mass marketed and killed.

It’s not just design, look at music. According to Billboard.com of the top 200 albums sold in 2009, 35 (including 2 from Michael Buble and 1 from Madonna) were from bands or music who’s heydey was pre 1990. Roughly 17% of the top 200 albums sold last year, were albums or bands from one to two generations prior. *I’m all for great music, don’t get me wrong

These two trends, the loss of design and classic albums still being sold and released (coincidentally, Led Zeppelin, CCR, and Pink Floyd were all included in those 35 albums), highlight a growing concern.

Stoppage in Innovation

I’ll say it. We’ve stopped innovating.

That sentence is partially for shock value, and even as I say it I know that individuals are coming up with innovative solutions everyday. But no longer are they being implemented. More often then not, they’re squashed and silenced. Technology rights are bought up, patents secured, or in worse cases individuals suffer accidents (Search Stan Meyer and water powered car).

The issue is simple. The organizations and individuals who stand to lose most from an economy centered around clean and sustainable initiatives are strong enough now to stop innovative ideas from catching on.

Read through the funding sources of global warming deniers, track down who funded the hacking of climatologists emails, and just look at who is making a killing off of the current economic setup.

I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but this does lend itself in that direction. Especially given that solar and wind technology have been around since the 70s, hydro power has been around since the 1800s, and cars have been able to achieve ultra-efficient MPGs for years, but nothing has really changed.

This is the greatest crime of all: We keep being told that in the near future clean energy and sustainable economies will be viable, that’s the same statement posed again and again from the 1960s on. We’ve waited enough, and enough “near futures” have come and gone it’s time we demand change.

NASA Should Consult


I received an email from my dad today with the note “[s]hows how little we know.”

The article (click here) from USA Today, deals with Voyager 2’s most recent transmission back to Earth. It’s roughly 8.3 Billion miles from Earth, and it’s still moving further into space, and transmitting data back to Earth. It’s astounding.

This is the most recent success for NASA that highlights something amazing: NASA’s projects seem to consistently perform above and beyond the expectations and timelines set forth by them.

Don’t get me wrong, when NASA has a failure, it’s a tremendous failure, but there successes are so overwhelmingly… successful.

The Mars Pathfinder Missions: Sojourner worked according to the NASA website “12 times” past its expected lifespan, and the Pathfinder module, worked 3 times past it’s lifespan.

Mars Rover Project: Both have worked for six years, despite the challenges of the harsh Martian landscape.

The Hubble Telescope: Hubble has recently seen a cluster of new, young galaxies. It’s also seen to the edge of the universe, discovered new stars, galaxies, and even more.

Deep Impact: NASA sent a probe into space with the goal of hitting and analyzing a comet. It needs to be noted that the comet was traveling at 23,000 mph, the comet was only 9 miles by 2 miles large. This is like hitting a fly with a push pin. Although Buffy the vampire slayer was able to do this, for the rest of the world, it’s fairly difficult.

Partner this with the success of the International Space Station, the shuttle missions, and other space missions, and the fact that NASA has one of the smallest budgets in our government, and NASA’s track record becomes nothing short of legendary.

The reason I’ve decided to write about NASA on a decidedly environmental blog, is to point out how well NASA tackles hard concepts. Forty years ago, man had never been in space, never been to the moon, had never seen any planet up close beyond Earth. And now, we’ve probed the edges of our solar system, seen the farthest reaches of our universe, and we’re learning more about our own planet’s history everyday.

We’re facing difficult tasks right now. Between where we are and where we need to be environmentally, there is a large gulf technologically. Yet prior to the Mercury and Apollo programs, the best theory on space travel involved a large gun, thanks to Jules Verne. And now we’ve got a permanent space station, satellites, the space shuttle, and more. Look at how far we’ve come in so short a time.

Beyond that, if we want to deliver solutions to the global community of nay-sayers and deniers, our solutions need to be so overwhelmingly high quality, that they consistently outperform and out pace expectations.

The question at NASA when faced with a difficult task is this:

What do we need to do?

For us, the passionate few not caught in politics, who feel that a clean economy and environmental sustainability is the right way for the world to go:

The question now is simply

what do we need to do?

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