Thursday, July 13, 2006

Gore 2008: Save the Planet!

Last night Nan and I saw An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore's documentary film about global warming. It was an eye-opener. I had been lukewarm to the idea of global warming for some time, especially since reading Michael Crichton's book, State of Fear, in which he presents scientific evidence in a fictional context to show that global warming is part of a natural cycle perhaps somewhat enhanced by human activity.

Al Gore blows the top off that idea in the first few minutes with his graphs showing the cycles of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over the last fifty years. The growth is exponential. Then he goes on to show the potential future consequences of having this much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It is not a world we would want to live in: flooded coastlines, summer temperatures consistently over one hundred degrees, even more devastating hurricanes and cyclones, accelerated desertification, political unrest, and natural disasters claiming millions of lives.

The critics are saying that everyone should see this movie, and I agree. If you have an open mind, it will change the way you think about the earth and our future on it. The problem of global warming makes the war on terror seem inconsequential by comparison. Personally, I think Al Gore should run for president in 2008 on the platform of instituting the steps necessary to minimize the impacts of global warming. Anyone who has seen An Inconvenient Truth would have his vote.

Here is the text of a hand-out I picked up in the movie theater lobby:

Ten Things To Do

Want to do something to help stop global warming? Here are 10 simple things you can do and how much carbon dioxide you'll save doing them.

Change a light
Replacing one regular light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb will save 150 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.

Drive less
Walk, bike, carpool or take mass transit more often. You'll save one pound of carbon dioxide for every mile you don't drive!

Recycle more
You can save 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide per year by recycling just half of your household waste.

Check your tires
Keeping your tires inflated properly can improve gas mileage by more than 3%. Every gallon of gasoline saved keeps 20 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere!

Use less hot water
It takes a lot of energy to heat water. Use less hot water by installing a low flow showerhead (350 pounds of CO2 saved per year) and washing your clothes in cold or warm water (500 pounds saved per year).

Avoid products with a lot of packaging
You can save 1,200 pounds of carbon dioxide if you cut down your garbage by 10%.

Adjust your thermostat
Moving your thermostat down just 2 degrees in winter and up 2 degrees in summer could save about 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.

Plant a tree
A single tree will absorb one ton of carbon dioxide over its lifetime.

Be a part of the solution
Learn more and get active at

Spread the word! Encourage your friends to see An Inconvenient Truth

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

How much is enough?

I work at Aspen Valley Hospital, where Ken Lay was pronounced dead earlier today. The media, which were already in town to cover the Aspen Ideas Festival, descended on the hospital in force. Wolf Blitzer from CNN was seen in the lobby. TV-station vans and cameras surrounded the building.

At one point early in the day, my duties took me past the morgue. I stopped and stared at the door, wondering if he was still in there, but I didn't dare check to see if it was locked. Instead I thought of the man behind the door and what his life must have been like.

At the peak of his career, Ken Lay was a very wealthy man. It was common knowledge that he owned four multi-million dollar houses in Aspen. This boggles my mind. Any one of the houses was big enough to put up the extended Lay family and several guests. So what were the other three for? To house staff? If so, the man was living large, extremely large. And I think that is what got him into the financial mess he ended up in, the one which ultimately contributed to his early death. When you're living the way he did, the money has got to flow at a tremendous rate just to maintain equilibrium. If that balance is upset and the money suddenly stops, what do you do? If you're Ken Lay, you don't scale back; you figure out ways, many of them fraudulent and illegal, to keep it all going until the inevitable crash.

What may have started out as simple greed grew over the years into something that was well beyond Ken Lay's control. I believe this is a common occurrence in modern society, where the gulf between the wealthy and the poor is every-widening. If you reach a point in your life where you have so much stuff and such a complicated life that you need to hire full-time staff to maintain it and organize it for you, then you are living too large. It is time to step back, realize how lucky you are, and start simplifying your life before it consumes you. It's too late for Ken Lay. May his life and death be a lesson to others.