Saturday, April 14, 2007

More Clotheslines; Poverty, and Compact Fluorescents

Another look today at the same NYT article by Kathleen Hughes generated the same reactions- "oh, I gotta talk about this..." I hope Ms. Hughes understands that I consider that a sign of good writing, and interesting topics, not that she didn't do her job!

Chapter 5 - "Meanwhile, my daughter lost interest after the first load, dashing my hope of recreating the happy times I spent hanging clothes with my own mother." I confess, I think a 13 year old girl is a little old to hope for quick conversion on a point like this. If you can't start subverting them at a younger age, you need to go into the project with the understanding that the interest is going to wane- and you will have to have something in mind as a way to re-ignite it. It CAN be done. In my case, I used a long discussion, and a commitment to the family's well-being. Then I was able to keep the learning going past the point where it was all "too hard", to the point where there was well-earned pride in new skills, and pride in a real contribution. It also didn't hurt that the parents were publicly pretty dang proud of the kids. (No, we weren't doing laundry.)

I think that all kids start out wanting one thing more than any other: to please their parents. If parents teach their children that there's no way to please them- the children will quit trying.

Chapter 6 - "For those in colder climates, going without a dryer can be a challenge. " This is mostly another example of lost knowledge. Clothes dry just fine at 10 below zero- but it does take them a little bit longer. You just factor that in, once you know. Actually, drying in good cold weather has a built in advantage- when the clothes are dry- you can SEE it. All of a sudden they'll start to move like cloth, instead of frozen boards. No need to keep going out to check on whether they're ready to come in or not! Modern convenience!

Chapter 7 - "In Hollywood movies, however, clotheslines often appear in scenes depicting dire poverty. ... That image could limit the comeback of the clothesline."

Not only the clothesline- MANY of the practices associated with green/sustainable lives seem to be heading "backwards", to the mainstream. That generally does mean towards lifestyles associated with the poor- those people who just can't afford the new technologies; a refrigerator; airconditioner, washer/dryer... And if you have an outhouse, and a big garden; well, there you are.

This is not trivial. It makes acceptance more difficult, and it can be hard on the kids, who have to keep explaining why they're not really poor.

Particularly when we ARE "poor", by standard cultural standards. Not a lot of money floating around when you don't work for a salary somewhere, and spend a lot of time on long term projects that might pay off- someday.

Shifting to green does mean taking more time to do simple chores. I frequently have difficulty getting some of my customers to understand - no, I really don't have time to wait on them right now- I've got to get firewood in. NOW. Before this rain system moves in. For most of the 1st world, heat comes out of a pipe- which you pay for by "work", for someone else. (Someone else, who is, of course, making an excellent profit from your labor for them... boy, are there ever chapters and chapters there!) Customers used to the "normal" arrangement can't comprehend what's going on when I turn them away- some get wildly offended. I've had more than one business "expert" assure me that "you can't do business that way!" I'm still here though. Not monetarily rich - but I've had many people, very successful in the normal world - look at my life and blurt out their envy for it. They wish they had the time to do things this way. There's a logical contradiction floating around in all this somewhere. :-)

Just be aware that there are concerns here; go into it with your eyes open. And be aware that the kids' understanding and awareness is subject to change with maturity. I know both my boys had times growing up when they felt "poor", and it wasn't particularly fun for them.

Now that they're grown, though, and out on their own; they tell me they DO understand that in fact they grew up really really rich. They had food, shelter, challenges, meaning, fun, family, and time. And they left the Little House feeling like citizens of the World, not our county, or state; because we did spend some time and money on travel; which I personally think is crucial. They were probably more widely traveled than any of their high school classmates.

We need to see how big, and beautiful, the world is; in order to grasp how important it is to keep it from wasting away

Chapter 8 - which actually came earlier in the article - "In the meantime, our electric bill has dropped to $576 in March from its high last summer, reflecting a series of efforts to cut energy. (That’s still too high, so we’re about to try fluorescent bulbs.)"

Ok - brace yourselves. I'm about to say something seriously NEGATIVE about Compact Fluorescent light bulbs. Sacrilege, in the current climate, I know- but I've got some serious POSSIBLE side effects to report. The good news is- it's not ALL CF bulbs; they don't have to be a disaster.

Have you ever heard the theory that one of the reasons for the collapse of the Roman Empire was - lead poisoning? From all the lovely "plumbing" (latin for lead is "plumbum"), and cooking pots made of lead? Quite a few scholars take it very seriously, and personally I'm inclined to think there may well be a lot to it. It was the wealthy who could afford it- all the elite, decision makers. And they sure made a lot of bad decisions. You can find a good summary here:
Roman oops

Here's the thing- a friend pointed out this conversation to me recently; suggesting that SOME fluorescent lights, compact and regular, have a very strong peak in the blue light wavelengths. In particular; specifically those blue wavelengths that are KNOWN (hard science) to STOP internal melatonin production. Melatonin is the brain hormone that lets you sleep. If you're using a lot of the wrong kind of fluorescent lights- you may have no melatonin left, right when you want it.

Modern oops?

Read all the way down the comments.

Are you aware we (the USA) have an epidemic of insomnia on our hands? How many ads have you seen, TODAY, for drugs to help you sleep?

I was formally diagnosed as having a "sleep disorder". For years. And years. But you know what? I got rid of the fluorescents, after dark- and - I'm sleeping again. After checking this out.

My impression is that Hank Roberts is the guy who's actually put two and two together here- but his links are to academic researchers with full credentials, and as far as I can tell, the facts are straight. The academics are mostly talking about this realization as a possible way to reset internal clocks in "jet lag" situations- but the ramifications may be much broader.

What if all the greenies in the world are slowly going nuts from a lack of sleep? Wouldn't that be hilarious? :-)

He's got lots of details there. It's not that hard to find lights that don't have the blue spike problem; including Compact Fluorescents with a "warmer" spectrum profile.

If you're interested in trying this out, it's not hard - just turn your fluorescents off for a week, and use candles instead. It'll be fun. And document your sleep patterns.

You have to pay attention, though. For the first two days, Spice and I were looking at each other, saying - "so- did you sleep better, or not?" And the answer was... "well, I'm not sure. I was, um, asleep."


Anonymous said...

Caught up on all the back articles---and great comments on CF and frigs but wanted to comment on chopping wood when the chain saw broke. I hate chain saws. Little kids are great at helping saw or sitting on the wood and gathering it in the woods. Chain saws are smelly, noisy, and dangerous. I once got my pants nicked at thigh level by a friend turning too quick with a chainsaw. But I remember my grandparents on either end of a "two man" saw cutting up a big basswood tree in their 70's-- a normal thing for them. It is more time consuming and the spice and I have backslid into use of the propane tank but before our house was built I came home every day after work in northern minnesota one winter and bucksawed and sledded in a load of firewood or my family would have frozen to death in an uninsulated farmhouse. The spice is still mad at me for dragging in a load of punk wood with no heat value ("But it was just sitting there!"). People do need weekly exercise and aerobics and this is a great way to get it daily or several times a week. I usually use a heavy bucksaw that slides like a knife through butter. If it ever gets tough going through a big or green log several feet in diameter I switch to a thinner blade and work it around the log. As a backslider all i can only say is this is where my aesthetics all lie. But, I can tell you it would actually take quite kick in the butt in some way before i would be willing to go back to a chainsaw...John

Sara said...

There is a lot of interesting stuff here...I'm really enjoying your blog. Just found it a couple of days ago linked from a friend's site. I'm looking forward to reading more.

Greenpa said...

John- I see chainsaws as the quintessential example of all technology. It has no conscience, no morals. Those have to be provided by the user. All tools, all technologies, have exactly the same "power" to do evil as they have to do good.

It's one of the ways to sift what some salesman is saying- if they talk about X being a "good" technology- they're either idiots, or lying in their teeth.

I did try using hand tools. Even learned to sharpen and set (critical!) the teeth on a 2-man crosscut. But- you're in northern Minnesota, which means mostly aspen and pine, yes? Where I am, it's mostly oak and elm. Much harder, and dulls the saw much faster.

So, I backslid. I agree- they're smelly, noisy, and dangerous. And very powerful.

Anonymous said...

sorry- but I gotta disagree about CFL's. I have used them for many years- I also live off-grid. I definitely don't have sleep problems and neither have any of my family. I think that the most likey reason that Americans have so many sleep disorders is way more complex than this; start with TV/videos til late, bright lighting at night, lots of electronic stuff, lack of exercise,stress, unhappiness, etc. Don't blame the bulbs- they save lots of energy and we should use them.

Anonymous said...

O I am not talking morals, just aesthetics which i am rich enough to afford but which is a moral issue but not one i want to address for the moment.

Actually in the current forest cycle here we have a maple-basswood predominance with balsam,aspen,ironwood,and several oaks, and black ash in the swamp. I only cut balsam for christmas trees and aspen for fence poles. I only cut dry hard and soft maple for firewood..and now with my wetlands drying up and killing my black ash i am forced to cut them which are several feet thick.

Yeah, i but some old sharpening technology in local flea markets..maybe when the next great depression hits one of us will have the time to work that.

Anonymous said...

YMMV. Do your own experiment; make a fair trial, if you're curious. The biology is fairly new and quite clearly real.

This article got me started; author Janet Raloff deserves the credit for putting this together:

The search engine results are different every time I look, lately, for these terms. See what you get, it'll be different; new news frequently:

Good site generally, noticing this area recently:

I added my collection of links and notes in the comments on this page, a recent one by a good science writer; I'd recommend following it there:

There's a lot coming out; any of the science citation search tools will find more every week.

Regret the digression, I'd rather talk about why we don't need a refrigerator.

WolfMamma said...

I am glad to read John's comment because I am currently having this conversation with my husband. I hate them due to the stink and noise, danger is a matter of how careful people are, but mostly because my son is obsessed with all motors. I want him to learn about his own strength and about hard work. It is something my husband is considering but obviously is a little less enthusiastic as the one actually doing the sawing but then again he did talk me into kneading all my bread by hand...

Laura said...

Not sure if this link will work here, but this is a great video on CF bulbs and why they are not a good idea.