Quick Update

Hello Blogosphere.

Haven't been much for blogging lately, but that's due to several lame (and some not so lame) excuses...many of which I often dig up to explain to various friends and family why I haven't written them a letter/e-mail/postcard for two years.

But it hasn't been two years since I've written in my blog...so what's to complain about?

It's not that there's a shortage of news or worthy subjects to discuss. Not like I wouldn't love to go on and on about Orrin Hatch's priorities, Rocky's resignation, the Washington County Lands Bill, the Southern Nevada Water authority and questionable Senatorial practices by a certain Mormon Democrat, the Middle East crisis (aka WW3), or softer subjects like the Farmer's Market(which I haven't been to in three weeks!) and the beauty of the city in the summer.

It's more like a shortage of time. All I can think about lately is my two jobs, graduate school looming in the fall (Westminster College is about to suck more money out of me than I am currently worth), my house, my girlfriend and our upcoming wedding, money(the perennial issue), my lack of fitting clothes (due to a recently lost 25 pounds!), back pain due to non-fitting bras (I know you wanted to know), and trying to keep up with my most important friends (you know who you are). Particularly one who finally made out with the girl she's been dating for more than a year!

Anyway, it's been a busy summer. I started writing another book last night...I often start and stop on these things. We'll see if I ever get one finished...or published. The first seems somehow less likely than the second! Ha! In between all that I try to do a load of laundry and weed the yard. Being an adult is pretty lame sometimes. About as lame as my excuses.


Matheson Disappoints

The Federal Marriage Amendment failed in the House today, and thank God for the 60+ fair-minded representatives that voted it down.
I was shocked to find that Jim Matheson was not one of them. Below, the letter I wrote to him this evening:

Dear Representative Matheson:

I have long been your supporter and found you to be fair-minded. However, your recent vote in favor of the Federal Marriage Amendment has left me disappointed and wondering if my vote was misplaced.

To me, this entire argument is about religious beliefs in what constitutes a holy union. And each person has the right to believe what they will. However, the founding fathers called for separation of church and state when this country was created.

I do not ask that any church recognize marriage in any of it's forms, be it gay or straight. I ask only that our country offer to each and every one of it's citizens the right to choose who they will spend the rest of their lives with, who should make medical decisions for them, who should help raise their children, who they should purchase homes with, who should inherit their property, and who they should file taxes with.

Fair-minded people everywhere should recognize the fundamental rights that are being withheld from the GLBT minority simply because someone's individual beliefs tell them God would not bless such a union. But that isn't what this minority is asking for. They are simply asking that the country they love recognize their rights as consenting adults. This is beyond unfair. This is morally wrong.

Representative Matheson, I would love to hear your thoughts and justification for your vote before elections in November, so I may determine whether you truly deserve that support I have given for so long.

I only hope he has good reason...because I'm not sure who else I could, in good conscience, vote for. He has long been a source of pride for me, but this recent vote has shaken my convictions in him. I'll let you all know if and when he replies, and what he says.


Great Op-Ed

The following is an Editorial that appeared in the LA Times and addresses two of my most beloved topics: the environment and gay sex!

If only gay sex caused global warming

Why we're more scared of gay marriage and terrorism than a much deadlier threat.

By Daniel Gilbert,
Daniel Gilbert is a professor of psychology at Harvard University and the author of "Stumbling on Happiness," published in May by Knopf.

July 2, 2006

NO ONE seems to care about the upcoming attack on the World Trade Center site. Why? Because it won't involve villains with box cutters. Instead, it will involve melting ice sheets that swell the oceans and turn that particular block of lower Manhattan into an aquarium. The odds of this happening in the next few decades are better than the odds that a disgruntled Saudi will sneak onto an airplane and detonate a shoe bomb. And yet our government will spend billions of dollars this year to prevent global terrorism and … well, essentially nothing to prevent global warming.

Why are we less worried about the more likely disaster? Because the human brain evolved to respond to threats that have four features — features that terrorism has and that global warming lacks.

First, global warming lacks a mustache. No, really. We are social mammals whose brains are highly specialized for thinking about others. Understanding what others are up to — what they know and want, what they are doing and planning — has been so crucial to the survival of our species that our brains have developed an obsession with all things human. We think about people and their intentions; talk about them; look for and remember them. That's why we worry more about anthrax (with an annual death toll of roughly zero) than influenza (with an annual death toll of a quarter-million to a half-million people). Influenza is a natural accident, anthrax is an intentional action, and the smallest action captures our attention in a way that the largest accident doesn't. If two airplanes had been hit by lightning and crashed into a New York skyscraper, few of us would be able to name the date on which it happened.Global warming isn't trying to kill us, and that's a shame. If climate change had been visited on us by a brutal dictator or an evil empire, the war on warming would be this nation's top priority.

The second reason why global warming doesn't put our brains on orange alert is that it doesn't violate our moral sensibilities. It doesn't cause our blood to boil (at least not figuratively) because it doesn't force us to entertain thoughts that we find indecent, impious or repulsive. When people feel insulted or disgusted, they generally do something about it, such as whacking each other over the head, or voting. Moral emotions are the brain's call to action. Although all human societies have moral rules about food and sex, none has a moral rule about atmospheric chemistry. And so we are outraged about every breach of protocol except Kyoto. Yes, global warming is bad, but it doesn't make us feel nauseated or angry or disgraced, and thus we don't feel compelled to rail against it as we do against other momentous threats to our species, such as flag burning. The fact is that if climate change were caused by gay sex, or by the practice of eating kittens, millions of protesters would be massing in the streets.

The third reason why global warming doesn't trigger our concern is that we see it as a threat to our futures — not our afternoons. Like all animals, people are quick to respond to clear and present danger, which is why it takes us just a few milliseconds to duck when a wayward baseball comes speeding toward our eyes. The brain is a beautifully engineered get-out-of-the-way machine that constantly scans the environment for things out of whose way it should right now get. That's what brains did for several hundred million years — and then, just a few million years ago, the mammalian brain learned a new trick: to predict the timing and location of dangers before they actually happened. Our ability to duck that which is not yet coming is one of the brain's most stunning innovations, and we wouldn't have dental floss or 401(k) plans without it. But this innovation is in the early stages of development. The application that allows us to respond to visible baseballs is ancient and reliable, but the add-on utility that allows us to respond to threats that loom in an unseen future is still in beta testing. We haven't quite gotten the knack of treating the future like the present it will soon become because we've only been practicing for a few million years. If global warming took out an eye every now and then, OSHA would regulate it into nonexistence.

There is a fourth reason why we just can't seem to get worked up about global warming. The human brain is exquisitely sensitive to changes in light, sound, temperature, pressure, size, weight and just about everything else. But if the rate of change is slow enough, the change will go undetected. If the low hum of a refrigerator were to increase in pitch over the course of several weeks, the appliance could be singing soprano by the end of the month and no one would be the wiser. Because we barely notice changes that happen gradually, we accept gradual changes that we would reject if they happened abruptly. The density of Los Angeles traffic has increased dramatically in the last few decades, and citizens have tolerated it with only the obligatory grumbling. Had that change happened on a single day last summer, Angelenos would have shut down the city, called in the National Guard and lynched every politician they could get their hands on.

Environmentalists despair that global warming is happening so fast. In fact, it isn't happening fast enough. If President Bush could jump in a time machine and experience a single day in 2056, he'd return to the present shocked and awed, prepared to do anything it took to solve the problem.. The human brain is a remarkable device that was designed to rise to special occasions. We are the progeny of people who hunted and gathered, whose lives were brief and whose greatest threat was a man with a stick. When terrorists attack, we respond with crushing force and firm resolve, just as our ancestors would have. Global warming is a deadly threat precisely because it fails to trip the brain's alarm, leaving us soundly asleep in a burning bed.

It remains to be seen whether we can learn to rise to new occasions.


The Las Vegas Water Grab

There has been some buzz about Las Vegas and some possible underhanded dealings that have pushed a nice relaxed timeline into a WTF. (That would be "what the fu**?" for you folks who don't know).

Read, for instance here from a candidate who wishes he could do more. Read also articles here, here, and here that lay out rumors involving Harry Reid and ties to the Washington County bill Senator Bennett is working on.

What I'm wondering is why there isn't more buzz? This is potentially an underhanded deal with political pressure from both sides pushing something that is obviously going to affect the people, places, and species in the area far beyond what they're letting on. Citizens on both sides of the border, and even in California, should be questioning their leaders on this.

Is it because the Snake Valley, and many of the other affected valleys, is home to only a few people that don't hold enough political clout? Is it because these valleys are dusty and sparse anyway? Or is it because a few populated areas just cannot find other ways to quench their thirst?

I'm tired of living in a world where conservation is never the first solution, but the last resort.

Why haven't desert cities like Las Vegas and St. George introduced some common-sense measures like xeriscaping, low-flow faucets, restrictions on daytime watering, and other conservation initiatives that simply make sense given their location? Do these people honestly believe they can keep living like they do with no consequences? Why should good people in Utah and Nevada have to lose their livelihoods so a housing development in Vegas can sustain expansive green lawns and pools?

I read a work of fiction titled "The Tamarisk Hunter" by Paolo Bacigalupi in the last issue of High Country News about a west that doesn't seem so far off: A place where no one can tap into the water because the bigger, better, richer people downstream hold all the rights and have no sign of conscience. Where the states surrounding the Colorado Plateau have been abandoned and turned to ghost towns in a huge drought, while the Colorado flows on to places like Vegas and California.

It's already happening, albeit on a much smaller scale. These folks in the toughest and roughest terrains in Utah and Nevada will be left out to dry, their livelihoods, and indeed the livelihoods of many generations before them, will be nothing but dust, while the folks with the money and the right political connections forge ahead without even a glance in their directions.

I love the Basin, as I have written before. It holds a very special place in my heart, and I hope beyond hope that something can be done. But I am just one. It will take more than myself, Kim Christison, and a few speculating newspaper articles to catch the attention of the powers-that-be. I am calling on all fair-minded people to write letters-to-the-editors of papers in Utah and Nevada, letters to Harry Reid, Bob Bennett, and Jim Matheson. Letters to the Southern Nevada Water Authority, particularly to Harry Reid's son that sits on the board. Posts on blogs. Links to posts. Whatever you can do to draw attention and let them know that this will not go down quietly.


An Inconvenient Truth

I saw An Inconvenient Truth today. I just left the theater, wishing I hadn't drove my car the six or so blocks from my house. This movie had me sitting there with tears streaming down my face, or laughing, or nodding profusely, or shaking my head back and forth in disbelief all in the course of about two hours.


But specifically, the haters should see it. And by that I mean the disbelievers like our Republican Congressional delegates in Utah and the vast majority of their constituents. My neighbors. My family. My long time friends. They should see it most of all people, but you should see it too. Even if you already know global warming is a fact. You should see it to reinforce your good habits, or help you create new ones, or to discover a new angle for convincing your mom, your neighbor, or your boss to implement some environmentally friendly policies into their lives.

You should see it to know where you shouldn't live if things don't change. Utah seems to be pretty safe from the rising seas...but what other horrors await us if we don't make a change?

Check it out at www.climatecrisis.net, calculate your carbon imprint, and read through the list of simple things you can do to reduce your impact now. Tonight, when I got home, I unpacked three boxes from our move and labeled them "Paper/Cardboard," "Plastic," and "Aluminum." Recycling is just one thing I can do. And next, I'm going out to the shed to pump up the tires on the new bike my partner bought me about a month ago that I have yet to ride.

My goal is to stop preaching something I don't live. Sure, I work for an environmental organization, and in my capacity I can order post-consumer recycled paper and plastic products, and be sure that most of our aluminum and plastic gets recycled. But I don't lead the exemplary life I know is necessary. Not only necessary, but rewarding. In many ways.

Also, check out:

http://www.utahpower.net/Article/Article22009.html to purchase renewable energy for $1.95 a month

and let me know what other great websites you stumble on!