Friday, April 15, 2011

Phoenix, Day two

In Halifax, when you book an airport limo, it usually means a car without a yellow cab sign on top. This is what it means here.

We never expected to be in any kind of a stretch vehicle unless it is a hearse. But we were.

I am low balling the day today. I have managed to do some good re-writing of my manuscript and catch up the blog. There is a good lunch with an even better speaker on the list of things to attend today. Afterwards, the pool and a nap and a return to the computer for a few hours of writing. Then there is something significant this evening, at which my stomach will be gratified. I am not thinking local food because it is impossible. The most sustainable act this entire state could preform would be to leave. Every last one of us. It's a bloody desert and at best can support only minor numbers of people and animals. This became apparent to us at last night's dinner. Steve ordered a spinach salad with poached 'fresh' salmon last night and he said, “I hope I don't turn into an old man when I say “Things always seem to taste better at home.”” I just looked at him. “What?” he asked. “Salmon in the desert? How fresh do you think it is?” said I.

We sat there and stared at both our salads. Mine was organic greens with chicken. We figured the only thing local on the table was the dust. Time to let it go.

The conference theme is History and Sustainability and most of the attendees are connected to Environmental History in its very many guises. The lunch speaker talked about introduced species of animals in new worlds, America and Australia. We learned about camels in Arizona and in the outbacks of Australia. The Civil War in the US wrecked the camel population whereas the Aussies are now culling 25,000 wild animals to keep them in check.

The key note speaker, William Cronon, spoke about the history of the word “Sustainability”. Yikes. The middle of the lecture started to sound interesting but the local political issuses washed over me. The ending was interesting but seemed unrelated to his minute dissection of the word sustainability. Luckily, my shawl needed it's fringe tied into knots.

Cronon had several interesting points, most of which he assumed his learn-ed audience already appreciated. Apparently, I am un-learn-ed since I hadn't read the 30 or so books that were so central to his points. What caught my attention was the thesisii (as in many thesis and only six people know how to spell the multiple) is/are that a) with the fall of the Berlin Wall, Capitalism now doesn't have a boogey man to keep it in check. If the workers were previously well cared for in a semi-socialist kind of way, then they won't go agitating for communist kinds of ideals, government will stay out of it. B) capitalism will ultimately fail because it will careen on unchecked until there is revolt and C) sustainability will likely fail if it doesn't take into account humankind's historical predilection for power struggles. The current models excluded notions of power. And finally D) the power of individual acts of change need to be confirmed by figuring a way to measure their aggregate impact so people know what will be meaningful when measured against single large acts of change (meaning, reducing your cell phone's charging time is useless vs. giving up your car is nominally useful vs. a city going to wind power which is significant) I thought the model of the Carbon Footprint addressed this last point but it seems there are "issues". I needed a beer.

But the personal act of needing a beer vs the personal act of drinking a beer failed. The bloody table was broken and the beer slid off the table, leaving my only pair of pants drenched. I needed to go to bed.

ps. all images continue to be from Google Images.

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