Going Green, the American Way

Australians are picking up on a way of getting things done that we here in the U.S. know rather well. From Australia’s Business Day:

“Companies could face class actions from shareholders unless the companies adequately report the risks that climate change poses to their businesses.

While climate change-related litigation has been confined to planning in Australia, class actions against regulatory authorities have been taken up in the US.”

That’s right — sue. The Great Barrier Reef isn’t going to save itself, mates. (At least, not for a very long time.) Stockholders, your companies aren’t going to stop polluting just because you ask them to, or because of some expensive regulations, or because the CEO thought the Outback looked so beautiful in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert that he thought, hey, let’s protect it! (Choose your own Australian cliche and insert here.)

Litigation. It’s the American Way.

The redundancy of environmental Buddhism

What is the difference between an ecobuddhist and a regular ol’ Buddhist?

Yesterday I discovered ecobuddhism.org, which conveys environmental messages in slightly different packaging. Here’s a quote from an interview with Dudjom Rinpoche on the site:

“Well, then it seems renewable energy is possible, but the negative forces who seek to continue excessive use of fossil fuels are still too strong. It would be very difficult to change all these things at once.  If we want to climb upstairs, we have to go step by step. If we build a house, first we lay foundations, and that takes time.  Scientists and others should work together to progressively establish the benefit of new, harmonious energy sources.  We have to make real effort to achieve the benefits of renewable energy. It is probably not possible to change everybody’s attitude immediately. But I think, cooperative, progressive efforts can lead to better results in the future.”

When Dudjom Rinpoche says “negative forces,” I hear the NRDC saying “the oil industry.”

When I spotted this site, I thought, pshaw, aren’t all Buddhists environmentalists, anyway? Buddhism asks adherents to take responsibility for their minds, their worlds–it’s not a leap to environmentalism from there.

Well, I was wrong. According to a U.S. religious landscape survey at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, not all Buddhists are environmentalists. A mere 75 percent of U.S. Buddhists said “stricter environmental laws and regulations are worth the cost.”

I guess they’re worried about that other 25 percent.

Condensed scrutiny

This might seem smack-your-head obvious, but in all of the defenses I’ve read of the media elite‘s “attacks” on Sarah Palin, no one has came out and stated the obvious. Before the announcement that she would be McCain’s running mate, no one in the lower 48 (what they like to call “outside” in Alaska) had ever heard of her, therefore: She has to undergo the same scrutiny as everyone else all at once, rather than spread out over months of primaries or a decades-long career in national politics.

Is this really that hard to understand?

Journalists don’t get together and say, hey! Let’s pick on this VP candidate none of us know! That’s not how it works. Journalists ask questions. Lots of them. Who is she? What does she stand for? What is her record? Why is she on this ticket? Where is Wasilla? The public, our stakeholders, didn’t know the answers to these questions.  So journalists had to ask and answer.

Everyone else has been scrutinized already. No one really knew Obama before, either, but the press has had a year to analyze, dig, dig more, scrutinize, interview, dig — you get my point. Hillary Clinton even used this as a talking point during her campaign; everyone, and I mean everyone, knows the dirt on her.

When you enter the national stage with a flash and a bang, that’s how you’ll enter the fourth estate, too. The press isn’t picking on Sarah Palin. The press is doing its job as quickly as possible to bridge that knowledge gap. Now, stay tuned for part two: why choosing to run for elected government office in this country makes you 100 percent fair game to be scrutinized by the media. (Hint: It’s called democracy.)

One hour of pain, spread around

Yesterday morning, Mr. Fields and I arrived at the Boulder Rock Club at 8 a.m. for something dubbed Group Training. We didn’t know what it entailed; when I inquired, I was told to just show up, no sign up necessary.

It turns out that Group Training is a solid hour of spreading pain and exhaustion into every corner of your body, including — despite this being your body — corners you didn’t know existed. This experiment in masochism is hosted by the BRC’s head coach, Chris Wall, who somehow manages to seem perfectly nice even as he pushes you through plyometric leaps, plank poses, and violent overhead throws of a medicine ball.

Today, I can’t raise my right arm above my shoulder without being reminded of the smiling bald man who put us through a climbing-inspired wringer. Nor can I straighten my left arm. Or walk without my calves seizing up.

In short, it was the best hour of conditioning I’ve had in a long time. I can’t wait to go back.

Media Elite, noun

I’m often amazed by the buzzwords and phrases the PR people create. They lend heavy connotation to words that lacked weight before. As a writer, I have to respect their cunning use of language. But “media elite” has always baffled me, so the recent bashing of the media elite sent me to my friend Merriam-Webster for help.

Elite, noun, 1a: the choice part 1b: the best of a class 1c: the socially superior part of society 1d: a group of persons who by virtue of position or education exercise much power or influence 1e: a member of such an elite — usually used in plural.

The choice part? Hey, that’s not so bad. Who wouldn’t want to get their news from the choicest of journalists? The best of a class? Well, that might depend on which class we’re talking about. The socially superior part of a society? A group that exercises much power or influence? Now we’re getting into dangerous territory.

We can appreciate the choice part. When you order fillet mignon, you want to eat the choice part of the cow. We can appreciate the best of a class — the brainiac who aces every test in school. But the rest is too much. It’s undemocratic. Besides, we independently minded Americans don’t like to think anyone could really influence us that much anyway, right?

If you don’t like the media elite, dissent all you want — they can take it, it’s what they signed on for. Choose not to be influenced by them, and use the democracy of the web to choose a non-elite media for yourself.

Here’s the rub: In your search for non-elite media, did you find the choice part, or the best?

Chamonix Diary: Waiting to Climb

When we arrived in Chamonix in June, I peered up from under my umbrella in search of the mountains. I knew they were there. I sought out breaks in the clouds up the valley, or a window up above, where the Aiguilles (needles) should have been poking at blue sky. But there were only clouds and drizzle.

This daily search in the sky became our waiting game.

On our first morning there, we hiked despite the weather, just to walk out the jet lag. We returned to the hotel soggy but feeling human again, rather than like cattle packed for export to France via three airplanes and two trains.

On day two, after a morning of futzing around between hopeful gazes at the gray skies, we met Michael, our mountain guide. Michael is calm and quiet, and he bears a resemblance to Pierce Brosnan — if Pierce Brosnan were a thin, strong, guide-type who couldn’t be bothered with a perfectly sculpted hairdo and therefore sported a shorter cut. We wanted a one-day mixed (snow or ice and rock) route — preferably high above the low-hanging drip of the valley clouds, something we couldn’t do on our own. Michael said the Arete des Cosmiques would be fun. We caught him at a rare break in his schedule, so agreed to guide us on the route as soon as the weather allowed.

As we sat peering out a window of one of Chamonix’s less savory bistros that night, I spotted a familiar face squinting against the drizzle as he moved quickly down Rue Joseph Vallot. He recognized me, too, and did a quick about-face to come inside and find us.

“Tim! What are you doing in Cham?” I asked as I wrapped my arms around his wet jacket.

Tim and I had worked together in an outdoor store in St. Louis years ago.

“I work for Patagonia now, and we have meetings here every year.”

Before he headed back out into the rain, he invited us to an American climber’s slide show at the Patagonia store the next evening.

“Well,” I said to my husband, “At least we have something to do besides waiting out the rain tomorrow.”

Although it threatened rain the next morning, no drops fell, so we geared up and walked to the Aiguille du Midi cable car. Our goal: Go up the mountain to find snow and practice our self-arrest technique.

The cable car climbed straight up out of Chamonix into the clouds. Water beaded on the car’s windows as the jade forest gave way to scrub and rock, and finally, patches of filthy old snow. We stopped at the Plan de l’Aiguille, which at 2354 meters is about halfway to the cable’s final destination (and our eventual climbing destination), the Aiguille du Midi.

The snow line was about 500 meters above us, so it was raining. Again. Across the valley, the Aiguilles Rouge were invisible under the gray blanket.

We exchanged c’est la vie looks as we pulled our hoods overhead and wandered away from the cable car station. Within minutes, clouds obscured the station. This is how people get lost mere minutes from safety in the mountains, I thought.

Not far from the station, we found a perfect snow slope with a safe run-out. We repeatedly climbed up and flung ourselves down, shouldering our ice axes into the crusty snow to stop. The rain continued, but laughter crept into the dreary day, because practicing self-arrest is as much fun as sledding, and like a kid sledding on a snow day, I didn’t care that my gloves were wet, or that I was out of breath from climbing up to do it again, head first now, on my back next, pretending to slip, each time wielding my axe with glee.

We eventually grew tired and cold and shuffled back to the cable car and our return to Chamonix. After a hot lunch and even hotter showers, we called Michael and learned that the forecast called for a break in the rain overnight. Our climb was on for tomorrow. The wait was almost over.

Excited and nervous about our climb the next day, we made our way through the rain to the Patagonia store. A professional climber and fellow Boulderite — climbing is a small world — greeted us at the door with beer and we settled in for a stunning slideshow while the rain continued outside.

Climbers wait out the weather perched on high ledges and in tiny tents on snowfields. While tentbound, they dig out of snowstorms, boil water, read and play cards. We ended our wait indoors with beer and the perfect pre-climb entertainment. Waiting to climb is trying, but in Chamonix, it’s as easy as waiting for your morning cafe au lait.