Approving Richmond's comprehensive plan

Window on N. 14th StTonight's meeting of the City of Richmond Plan Commission was an interesting peek into the world of how urban planning in towns like Richmond takes place. It was apparently one of the only times for citizens to comment on the plan in its final form, though of course the whole process of developing the plan has involved public input all along.
Continue reading Approving Richmond's comprehensive plan

Thoughts on global imperatives

It's not really useful to me when someone tells me that they know what will and won't work for my life, the people around me, my community, and so on.

That tends to scale up pretty far: it's not really useful to me when someone tells me what will and won't work for the entire population of planet Earth. There's biology and educated guessing and mathematics, and then there's fortune telling and speculation. I think one of the great wonders of life on this planet is that none of us can know, none of us can grasp the seemingly infinite variables that contribute to what happens from this moment forward.

I don't think we should be blind to data and trends and evidence and probable outcomes, and that we should not incorporate our observations about the world into our decision making. But, I also don't think the human brain was designed to cogitate on the lives and futures of the other 6.5 billion people on the earth, or the other millions of square miles that we don't inhabit. It's a fun exercise and a worthwhile one, but it perplexes me when people insist that they can discern the right way for all of us to live based on what might or might not come out of the billions of interactions happening every second. The magic of the universe seems well beyond the grasp of any one person.

Turning points in environmental awareness?

IMG_0892.JPGI've talked about oil prices and peak oil here in the past (on several occasions, really). You may remember that we had a panel of experts here in November to provide an outlook on the economic health of the area, and one of them said that as long as the price of oil doesn't reach $70/barrel, we'll be okay. Hmm - at the end of the week the price went up to $75 a barrel, a record and people are paying US$4/gallon in some areas. And - oh my - they're actually noticing.

Perhaps its just an "Earth Day" thing, but it seems the impacts of human activities on the planet - and the resulting implications it has for our way of life - are making headlines more and more these days. Al Gore's movie about global warming is making waves around the country. Tim Flannery's disaster-is-nigh book The Weather Makers is really making the rounds in the media. President Bush is warning of a "tough summer," saying "The American people have got to understand what happens elsewhere in the world affects the price of gasoline you pay here." (Maybe a new official definition of "homeland security" is emerging?) Arnold the Terminator is weighing in, talking about the "self-inflicted wound that man has created through global warming." Even some local politicians are getting election heat for their role in narrow-minded and harmful decisions about the land in our community.

Is this a passing fad? A turning point in popular awareness of these serious issues, with unprecedented lifestyle changes and policy decisions to follow? An incremental corporate co-opting of the awareness that already exists for fun and profit? Or something else entirely? Regardless of the motives for any particular effort or project or headline, I hope that the end result is an increased appreciation for what seems to be some of the most significant (though largely self-imposed) challenges our species has faced. I hope that, as Rachel Carson put it so well, "the more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction."

Cope Environmental Center wind turbine video, related luncheon

Last year I made a short video about the raising of a 104-foot wind turbine at the Cope Environmental Center here in town. I've just gotten around to posting it, so you can take a look and let me know what you think. It's a little dramatic and rough around the edges, but it was great to be a part of that experience and get it on film. Thanks also to Evan Agee for his help in some production design, and Geoff Greenfield of Third Sun Solar & Wind Power for the great work and juicy sound bites. If you haven't already, head on out to the Cope Center and check out all the renewable energy education stuff they have - it's cutting edge! (And if you're interested in that sort of thing, The Richmond/Wayne County Environmental Awareness Council hosts its sixth Environmental Awareness Luncheon on April 28 from 11:30 - 1:00 at Hills Pet Nutrition. There is no fee for the program and lunch is sponsored by Hills. Contact Jackie Vanderpool for more info.)

Checklists do not an existence complete

006 3Today I felt especially like a mindless automaton checking items off a list. It's pretty rare that I have that experience in my "day job" at Summersault, but sometimes the combination of a burst in client project activity + a bunch of administrative things + an overflowing inbox + accumulated personal tasks from the weekend add up to a big long to-do list of calls and e-mails and paperwork that I just have to plow through. A lot of our organizing tools in the office environment seem to promote this: a numbered e-mail inbox, an ordered list of voicemail messages, a stack of papers. It's all so linear and narrow. Sometimes I'm tempted to scatter my paper inbox around the building and create a little scavenger hunt for myself - decipher a clue to figure out which bill to pay next! Or I want to delete, without response, every other odd-numbered e-mail message whose subject line contains the letters "s" and "a", and just be okay with that. Hmmm. It's all too easy to just get in that flow of "next...next...next" without really fully appreciating the people and ideas I'm encountering and the contribution I'm making to the overall work that Summersault is doing, let alone the incredible wider world that's going on around (and just fine without) me. And like today, sometimes it takes seeing how amazing the Sun is in the warmth and light of Spring it brings, or thinking about a far away friend who has had a loved one die just yesterday, or hearing the sounds of laughter from the kids playing in my neighborhood...all of these things help me remember the things I need to remember, and the checklists start to fall into place.

Interviewed on WKBV, anyone hear it?

I was interviewed yesterday morning (at 7:10, jeesh) by Chris Nolte on AM 1490 WKBV about the "dangers of unsecured wireless networks at home." I already posted some follow-up technical information on the Summersault Weblog, but I thought I'd see if anyone reading here heard the interview? I've not to date thought of that station or time slot as the place to go for the latest technology news and discussion, but perhaps there's a trend I've been missing out on.