lavendersparkle: (Tofu)
It may shock people to hear that despite being vegan for about a decade (my I'm old) I've not been much of a fan of green vegetables. I've eaten broccoli, but that was about it. However, over the last few months my omnivore husband has been winning me over to them. It started with bubble and squeak. Surely no one can object to a bit of cabbage or spinach if it's mixed with fried potato and onion. Gradually I got over my aversion to leafy veg to the point where I was willing to add a small serving of plain cabbage or kale to my plate. This is a Good Thing because we are entering the time when the main veg in season are 101 brassica variations on the theme of leaves.

This week on my trip to the local organic veg stall I was adventurous enough to buy a sprout top (the leaves at the top of the sprout stem). Inspiration for what to do with it struck when I decided that I'd also like to try the recipe for Ethiopian Spicy Tomato Lentil Stew on Post Punk Kitchen. I wanted some kind of vegetable side dish and a bit of googling turned up recipes for gomen wat, which is Ethiopian style greens. I amalgamated a bunch of recipes to make my own.

Serves 2-4 as a side dish

Ingredients
One spout top
One small red onion
One clove of garlic
One green pepper
Vegetable oil
Spices (I used a pinch each of turmeric, ginger and ground cardamon)

I boiled the sprout top leaves for about ten minutes until they were done and then chopped them into small pieces. I chopped the onion and fried in some oil in a small saucepan. I minced the garlic and added it and then chopped the pepper into 1-2cm chunks and added them. Once the onions are translucent add the greens and spices and stir until heated through.

I served both on this deeply inauthentic imitation of injera, which takes 15 minutes to make as opposed to three days for the real thing.
lavendersparkle: (Tofu)
Today I went to the organic farm stall, which is in Cambridge market every Sunday and I highly recommend. Lots of the things he sells still have their leaves attached. Rather than just add these leaves to the compost, I decided to investigate whether they could instead be added to my tummy and it turned out that they could. I bought two fennel bulbs. I'm aware that the leaves are edible and go well with fish. They have an aniseed taste and one of my friends like adding them to her drinking water. Next was beetroot, which also, it turns out, has edible leaves. They can be cooked and eaten like spinach, which is what I did this evening. Radish leaves are a bit trickier. They are edible, but I've seen mixed views of them on the internet. Apparently they're quite bitter and are somewhere between watercress and nettles. I might have a go at cooking some later this week. On the topic of eating all of the bits of the vegetable, broccoli stalks are edible, I like to put them in veggie chillis because they can sometimes be a little tough but they add a lovely flavour to the dish.

A more obvious way to avoid waste is to eat whatever bits of the food you've decided are edible before they go off. There seem to be two competing approaches to this. Under one approach, you make a careful meal plan and buy your week's food with an exact plan for how each item will be consumed. Another method is to buy your food each day and only buy what you'll eat that day. I don't follow either of those plans. Usually I go to the market/shops/supermarket website with no idea what meals the food I'm buying is going to turn into, just a vague knowledge of what sorts of things we typically get through. I waste surprisingly little food despite this shopping strategy because I keep an eye on what's in the fridge and am happy to base meals around what has to be eaten today, because if we leave it another few days it'll start growing new lifeforms. Here are some of my favourite 'it's still edible but it won't be tomorrow' meal ideas:
1) Mushroom risotto. This is what I cook when I find a bag of mushrooms in the fridge, which are past the stage when I'd eat them raw. The recipe I use calls for a pepper, so it can also use peppers which are starting to go a little wrinkly.
2) Bubble and squeak. I must confess, I like bubble and squeak so much that I cook potatoes and cabbage specifically to make it, but if you've got some left over cooked potatoes and green veg it can't be beaten.
3) Pasta sauces. These can be home to all manner of tomatoes and peppers which are on the turn. By the time they're cooked they'll be squishy anywhere, so it doesn't matter if they started off that way.
4) Veggie chilli. Almost any veg which is safe to eat but not appetising to eat can be turned into a delicious meal if chopped up and mixed with tinned tomatoes, beans and chilli.

What are your favourite recipes for using up stuff that's about to go off?
lavendersparkle: (Lady Garden)
Lawns have always been political, in that since their beginning they've always been symbols of class, wealth and power. Having a bit of ground not put over to productive use, not to mention servants to keep it trimmed prior to the invention of mechanical mowers was a big status symbol. Even today, with the invention of motorised mowers, the ownership and maintenance of a trimmed uniform green lawn is a symbol of middle-class respectability. As with much conspicuous consumption, the definition of a 'good lawn' is very open manipulation by those with a profit motive. The exact species mix which is viewed as desirable is shaped by the makers of lawn herbicides. Species which were previously seen as welcome components of a lawn become unwelcome weeds at the hand of a marketing department. Such a fate befell clover when herbicides which killed it but not grass were developed in the 20th century. It is now making a welcome come back as a lawn species thanks to environmental concerns.

When we moved into our house, the landlord asked us whether we liked gardening and proceeded to extol the virtues of 'Weed and Feed'. Unhappy with the environmental impact of weed killer and fertiliser, I decided to apply science to the lawn, more specifically natural selection. I've allowed the lawn to go over to whatever species manage to do well, only intervening to mow it every week or two in the Spring and Summer. One of the species which has taken over our rear lawn is white clover. I would very much encourage others to include clover in their lawn for the following reasons.

1) Clover is more drought resistance than grass. Over the drought last month the clover held strong whilst the grass wilted.

2) Clover doesn't need feeding. Not only does it not require fertiliser, as a legume, it actually captures nitrogen from the air and puts it into the soil, where it can fertilise the grass.

3) Clover can out compete less desirable species. For all of my tolerant attitude to whatever wants to grow in the lawn, there are a few nasty looking things which have moved in. (There are some things which look like dandelions' vicious, heavy metal loving cousins.)

4) Bees love clover. When most of the clover was in flower a few weeks ago, I didn't see the lawn with fewer than four bees on it busy drinking the nectar from the flowers. Bees are declining and they are essential for food production, so making your lawn a bit more bee friendly seems a good thing.
lavendersparkle: (Tofu)
It's been quite a while since I last posted about carbon reduction, so I thought I'd post some more. This post I'm going to discuss a bit about reducing carbon emissions from the home.

I rent my home. This puts limits upon what I can do, for example I can't install cavity wall insulation (which if you own a house with suitable walls you really should) or micro-generation technology. In addition, as we live a somewhat nomadic existence, unlikely to stay here much longer than another year, it doesn't feel worth it to change things we can change, such as fitting thicker curtains. There are two things we can do, which I think have had a big impact upon our domestic carbon footprint.

Whenever you want to limit a particular behaviour, a good place to start is to keep an accurate record of how much you do that particular activity. If you want to reduce your domestic energy usage, a good place to start is to regularly check your meters and track how much electricity and gas you use. I've signed up with http://www.imeasure.org.uk/ It's free. Each week you enter your meter readings (or less frequently if you want) and it calculates how much CO2 equivalent your gas and electricity amounts to. It also estimates how much they cost you, but that feature doesn't work very well as it can't do 2-rate systems, which I think most people are on. It produces a nice chart of your energy usage from week to week and compares how you did with other members in a similar living situation to you, to add a bit of a competitive element. I keep trying to get us a B rating (40% below average emissions) but I only managed it once.

Meter readings can give you a general idea of how you're doing, but only track changes from week to week. At my first carbon conversations I borrowed an owl which was very useful for getting a better idea of how much energy the different appliances in my house used. I don't think I'd recommend buying one, not least because, as an electrical gadget its production is likely to have a pretty hefty carbon footprint and its most useful for the first week whilst you experiment to see how much energy each appliance uses. Some local authorities have schemes whereby you can borrow one from the local library.

One of the biggest things we've been able to do to reduce our domestic energy consumption was to get to know our heating and hot water controls and thinking a bit more carefully about how we used them. It can take a bit of experimentation to work out how much you can skim of waste heat. Here are some general tips:

1) Turn down your thermostat. Experiment with turning it down a degree and seeing if you actually feel less comfortable. Turn it up again if the temperature is uncomfortably cold.

2) Turn off radiators in hallways and spare rooms.

3) Close the door between bits of the house you're heating and bits of the house you aren't.

4) Set the timer on your thermostat so that it turns the heating off for times when the house is empty and from an hour before bed.

5) Experiment with turning down the temperature of your boiler and hot water tank. It might take a few luke warm showers to get it right.

6) Experiment with reducing the amount of time the hot water is on for. Alec and I have reduced it to an hour in the morning and that provides enough hot water for two showers and some washing up.

7) Insulate your hot water tank. I got some pillows and a duvet off Freecycle and wedged them around the hot water tank. It means that there's still hot water in the evening even though it stops being heated at 8 am.

8) Turn the heating off when you go out. This was a source of disagreement Alec and me because he doesn't like coming home to a cold house and waiting for it to heat up and I don't like having the heating on for several hours when the house is empty and neither of us believes that we'd remember to reset the timer.

We actually did a few more specific things, based upon our situation. We realised that our dining room was less well insulated than the rest of the house and was lit by inefficient halogen spots, which were all the rage a decade ago, so we decided not to use it during the winter except when we had guests. This meant that we could turn the radiator in there off. I also turned the radiator off in the kitchen because if I'm in there I'm usually cooking, which provides adequate heat. On the other hand, we turned the radiator in Alec's office up because he feels the cold a bit more due to some health issues and he's sitting reading or typing in there, which doesn't help him to keep warm. All in all, we only use about half the radiators in the house now in the winter. As I'm happy being flexible about where I work, in the winter I worked more in our bedroom, because the upstairs of the house was warmer, and in the summer I'm working more downstairs in the cool.

Just by playing with our heating controls and a few other things renters can do, which will have to wait for another post, it looks likely that our emissions for this year (August to August) from household energy for both of us will only be a little above three tonnes. Not bad too shabby given that we only made improvements in February.
lavendersparkle: Tree hugger (Tree hugger)
Before you begin Carbon Conversations you are asked to fill out a survey to help to estimate your current carbon footprint. Don't worry the results aren't shared in a naming and shaming exercise, they're just to help you to understand your starting point.

What are we measuring exactly?

Obviously, you can never know exactly what your impact upon the environment is. There are so many factors, some of which there are no agreed estimates of their effects. However, from a reasonably small amount of information you can come up with a rough and ready estimate. Different estimators require different levels of detail and use different assumptions about the impacts of different activities, but I'm quite reassured that they tend to give me quite similar results to each other.

More confusingly, there are different units of measurement of your environmental impact. You could discuss it in terms of how much land you would need to sustain your current lifestyle. You could aggregate that to tell you how many planets would be needed if everyone lived like you, like WWF calculator. More frequently we talk in terms of tonnes of emissions. Here there is a common cause of confusion, between CO2 and CO2 equivalent. I was confused by this difference when I watched the first episode of Newsnight's ethical man. The expert estimates that Ethical family's initial carbon footprint is 10 tonnes and says that it is quite high. But hang on, I thought, that sounds like a rather small carbon footprint to me. Surely our average emissions hadn't increased that much in three years. Well no. The source of the confusion was that Ethical man talks in terms of CO2 emissions. CO2 is the most common climate change gas, but it isn't the only one. There are also greenhouse gases like methane and nitrous oxide, which have a greater effect upon climate per tonne emitted. That's why, like Carbon Conversations, I like to think in terms of tonnes of CO2 equivalent. That's a measure of the impact of all greenhouse gases in terms of how much CO2 would have an equivalent effect. So, methane has 23 times the warming effect of CO2, so 43.5 kg of methane is 1 CO2 equivalent tonne. I hope that makes sense. It doesn't make much difference to your efforts to reduce you carbon footprint, but it can explain why my figures may not match some you've heard before.

So, where was I beginning from?

Carbon Conversations uses a calculator based upon the one used by the Centre for Alternative Technology, which you can play along with here. It's easy to divide your carbon footprint into five areas: fuelling your house, transport, food, other consumption, and infrastructure. You don't have any control over infrastructure, it's your share of the emissions from schools, hospitals, government departments etc. It works out at 1.7 tonnes per person.

Home fuelling came out the biggest after infrastructure at 1.62 tonnes per year. I live in a three bedroom terrace with my husband. It's gas heated. We have some energy saving lightbulbs and most of the appliances are reasonably efficient. We've got some insulation but it's not super insulated.

Transport was where I got to be smug. I cycle most of the time. I haven't flown since 2006, and I only tend to leave Cambridge once or twice a month and then by train. All of that added up to 0.27 tonnes from transport.

In terms of food I got a pretty big head start from being vegan. I've bee vegan for nearly 10 years. I became vegan because I thought that animal farming was cruel. However, according to the CAT's calculator if you eat meat and eggs or dairy every day, becoming vegan could cut the impact of your food by by more than two and half tonnes of CO2 equivalent. To put that into perspective, my vegan diet of almost entirely supermarket bought non-organic food at the start of Carbon Conversations came in at 0.9 tonnes.

Other consumption is difficult to estimate without keeping detailed records of your spending. The CAT calculator just estimates it based on your answers to the other questions. Carbon Conversations bases their estimate on your income. Without telling you how much I earn, I can out as 1.57 tonnes.

So what do these numbers mean?

Averages vary but at our current world population, we could probably sustainably manage with about 2.5 tonnes per person. I'm well above that, but my baseline is about half the UK average and about less than a third of the US average. Carbon Conversations encourages people to aim to get their footprint, excluding infrastructure share, down to four tonnes, possibly with a tonne from each of the four areas. I'm quite close to that already, so my long term plan is to improve upon it. Of course, as my circumstances change I might end up with higher emissions at some points in the next few years. However, if all goes to plan I think I might be able to get it down to 2.5 tonnes a year in the long run, excluding infrastructure share. That would give me a similar carbon footprint only slightly above the current global average.
lavendersparkle: Tree hugger (Tree hugger)
The general consensus seems to be that blogging about reducing my carbon footprint would be useful rather than annoying so this is the first post in a series I'll be posting every so often about my attempts to reduce my carbon footprint.

How it all began

How did I come to start making a serious attempt to reduce my carbon footprint? Until a few months ago I was in the position of a lot of people. I believed that man-made climate change was real and posed a serious threat to the world. I knew that the carbon emissions of countries like the UK were unsustainable. I heard on the radio that even if we did mange to keep emissions to targets which we were likely to miss polar bears were still likely to become extinct in the wild. However, I didn't feel that there was much I could do. I lived with the tension and just felt helpless. Occasionally I thought about how any good which I achieved in my life was unlikely to outweigh the harm caused by the emissions produced to support my lifestyle. Short of suicide I couldn't see how to rectify this. I was also faced by conflicting advise on how to reduce my carbon footprint. Walking causing higher emissions than driving. Biofuels do more harm than good. Imported lamb is lower carbon than domestic lamb. I was stuck. I didn't feel that there was anything I could do and I certainly didn't know what it was.

What changed?

As part of my PhD I went on a personal development course. One of the aims of the course was to help us to clarify what our values were and how we could take actions which were in line with our values. The idea was that people are happier when their lifestyle is aligned to their values. I realised that I cared about climate change but wasn't doing anything about it. I also met a woman on the course who was very concerned about climate change and seemed to know a lot about it. So a asked her for advise, hoping for some book recommendations, and she told me about Carbon Conversations. It's a course developed by Cambrige Carbon Footprint. You meet six times at a facilitators home to discuss different aspects of your carbon footprint and how they can be reduced. It's supposed to deal with the psychological aspects of transitioning to a lower carbon lifestyle, but I found it most useful for providing a lot of information and suggestions on what people could do. The aim is to come up with a long term plan for how t achieve significant reductions in one's carbon footprint. The general suggestion is to aim to get ones footprint to about a third of the national average in five years, but obviously different people will be able to achieve different reductions, and you're never expected to 'confess' to what our emissions actually are.

Be the change you want to see in the world

I know that nothing I can do will stop climate change. I can't save the world. However, I can reduce carbon emissions by a certain amount. I can also be living proof that a sustainable lifestyle can be pleasant. Hopefully the more people reduce their carbon footprints, the more people will think that the cost of reducing our carbon emissions are better than the cost of letting climate change happen and that will lead to political will to take national and international action against climate change.
lavendersparkle: Tree hugger (Tree hugger)
Do you have any recommendations for carbon reduction blogs? I'm really looking for something which concentrates on individual lifestyle choices rather than big politics because I'm still at a stage where I find putting my own house in order is more manageable than dealing with the big national and international politics.

On a related note, if I began blogging regularly about my efforts to reduce my own carbon footprint, would that be helpful and interesting or smug and annoying?
lavendersparkle: Tree hugger (Tree hugger)
When the feed-in tariff policy was announced I thought that it was a bad idea. My problem was that solar and wind electricity micro-generation are terribly inefficient expensive ways to reduce carbon emissions. Wind generation works terribly on a small scale because the amount of energy you generate is related to the square of both the wind speed and the blade length. So a turbine with blades ten times the length in twice as windy a place will produce 400 times as much electricity. Photo-voltic generation just isn't very efficient with the amounts of sunshine we get in Britain, so it's only a good option for situations where you need a small amount of power without being connected to the grid, such as pocket calculators or houseboats. A better way to increase carbon efficiency in domestic settings would be to increase insulation in domestic properties. Offering to install cavity wall insulation to all homes with suitable walls for free would be much cheaper per tonne of carbon saved and would benefit more people on lower incomes than a scheme which only benefits those with £13,000 to spare. I was glad to see that others agreed with my instincts. George Monbiot agrees.

Of course there is the argument that if the policy feeds demand for solar panels they'll become a lot cheaper to produce and therefore a more viable option. My problem with this is that Germany have had a feed in tariff for ages so, if subsidising domestic solar generation was going to lead to cheaper solar panels, wouldn't we be able to by cheap German panels by now?

Anyway, whilst there are disagreements over the merits of the policy, everybody seems to be agreed that, if you did have a spare £13,000 burning a hole in your pocket, PV solar panels would be a really good investment right now. Here is where I'm finding that I'm more of a voice of descent. The calculation goes that if you install PV cells you'll get the money from the feed-in-tariff, plus the savings on your electricity bill, plus selling any excess you generate. This supposed to give a return of 6% tax free, index linked, low risk. Sounds pretty good, particularly given that you'll be struggling to find much more than 4% interest on the high street and you'll probably be taxed on it. However, I don't think that the deal is as good as everyone's making out.

Firstly there's the issue of liquidity. Solar panels aren't readily converted into cash in the same way that a bond is. Once you've bought them you have to stick with your choice for the next 25 years, unless perhaps you tried flogging them to someone else, and given that you'd probably not have much left by the time you'd paid for the professionals to take them down for you, it's a very illiquid asset. Not only that, but you'll only definitely get the return if you stay in the same house for the next 25 years. You might get a higher price if you sell during that time, but it's not guaranteed. If, on the other hand, I'd be willing to take just 4.6% (not tax free) I'd only need to give up access to the cash for three years.

However, the thing which is really making me question the value of buying PV cells is that we're used to thinking about interest the way it works in bank accounts. There you get the interest added to your initial capital and the capital sits there for you to collect along wit the interest when you're done. With PV cells that 6% interest rate doesn't take into account that each year the value of the cells themselves depreciate until they eventually break and have little value. If I put £13,000 in a bank, I'd get x% each year and the £13,000 would still be sitting waiting for me at the end on 25 years. If I bought PV cells I'll get 6% interest and at the end of 25 years have the value of the cells. Now, PV cells are supposed to last quite well, but if the feed-in-tariff does spur improvements in the technology, how valuable are today's solar panels going to be in 25 years time?

Given all this, I'm not sure that they're that good an investment.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
If I had to name the two things which I think are the issues I think of as most important they would be abortion and climate change. That might seem like a slightly odd combination but I think that they are two biggest issues facing our species. Abortion kills more than 46 million unborn humans every year and thousands of women. That's about one in four known pregnancies worldwide. Climate change is already killing people and, depending upon how we act to counter it and how it pans out it is likely to kill a lot more people and cause major irreversible changes to our way of lives.

The case for pro-lifers to be concerned about climate change is clear. Climate change kills people; it will kill more people. I think the kind of people who are concerned about the unborn are likely to also be concerned about the life chances of those people when they grow up.

Being pro-life might seem more antithetical to environmentalism but this doesn't have to be the case. Organisations such as the Optimal Population Trust make out that the best way to combat all environmental problems would be to reduce the human population but as George Monbiot points out that this isn't necessarily so. For the linkphobic the gist of his argument goes as follows. Population growth isn't what's driving increases in emissions of climate change gases. World economic growth far outstrips world population growth indicating that the thing leading to greater exploitation of the Earth's resources is higher per capita consumption, not more capitas. Even food shortages aren't caused by increases in human population, as the supply of food has outstripped the increase in population. Food shortages have been caused by higher per capita demand for meat, which is a much more resource hungry food stuff.

On top of that, global population growth is likely to end in the next century all by itself. As countries get richer they tend to go though an upside down U in terms of population growth. Initially the extra resources contribute towards such terrible things as reduced infant mortality, extermination of contagious diseases etc. which means that many more people survive to have children of their own. Then as the economic need to have children are replaced by financial instruments such as pensions and insurance, as the need to educate children makes a smaller family a better bet, as cultural norms about appropriate family size change, people tend to have fewer children. Already almost all more developed countries, plus a lot of poorer countries, have below replacement levels of fertility. Even the US is only at about replacement level. The UN estimates that the world population isn't going to make it much above 10 billion before it starts falling.

Here, however, is the kicker: where people have access to contraception, abortion doesn't lower fertility rates. This can seem counter-intuitive as surely more babies aborted means fewer babies born but that fails to take into account that pregnancy decisions effect future conception decisions. In developed countries the typical woman having an abortion is in her late teens or early twenties, before she's started family. A baby at this stage may well be compensated for by fewer children later.

Another thing which most people don't pay enough attention to is that the things which reduce average fertility rates tend to also reduce the rate of abortion. Access to contraception reduces both average fertility rates and the abortion rate. So does improving women's autonomy to decide when and how to be sexually active. Decreasing infant mortality eventually reduces fertility rates. By contrast, the draconian Chinese one child policy may have had a relative small effect upon fertility for the huge cost of death, misery and human rights abuse, because fertility rates were already falling b themselves before it was implemented.

On a more personal level, I think that one of the things which put me off engaging with climate change is a general disapproval among environmentalists toward breeding, as I would like to have a above replacement levels of fertility. There seem to be a lot of people about who think that no-one should have more than two children, but I don't think that we need to all have the same number of children. I know quite a lot of people who never want to have children, if we want to keep our average fertility rate below replacement levels, we can do that with childfree people and people with one and two child families and the increasingly rare three, four or more child families.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
A week or so ago I heard a scientist on the radio talking about scepticism about climate change. I'm not sure what the correct term is to use to describe people who don't think that man-made emissions are causing changes in the climate. "Climate change deniers" has connotations to to holocaust deniers and is therefore seen as incendiary and generally I'm not in favour with comparing things to the Shoah willy nilly. "Climate change sceptic" doesn't necessarily fit the bill either. 'Sceptic' is coming to have the meaning of a polite term for 'denier'. Sceptics don't take people's word for it but then put the effort into investigating the issue and trying to come to their own conclusion based upon the available evidence. I think that possibly part of the issue is that all of the people who get lumped together because they claim that there isn't man-made climate change are actually quite different creatures. There are genuine climate change deniers, the David Irvings of climatology. They think that man-made climate change is happening but have a financial/political/social interest in convincing everyone else that it isn't. There are also the genuine sceptics, people who having carefully examined all of the evidence truly believe that a different hypothesis fits the data better. You'd expect this to be the case, no science is an exact science after all. However, most people who say that they do not think that man-made emissions are causing climate change are neither Machiavellian fiends nor maverick scientists, but ordinary Joes who aren't really convinced by what they've heard about climate change but are unwilling to investigate further.

I can't look down on these people for not looking into it in too much detail. There is a lot of stuff in the world to know about and only a horrifically small number of years before all of that knowledge you've accumulated rots away. It makes a lot of sense to defer to experts because otherwise life would be unworkable. Every morning one would be frozen with indecision about whether the water was safe to drink or the building about to collapse. It makes much more sense to for groups of people to find out whether water is safe to drink or buildings are structurally sound and then tell the rest of us. These experts certainly aren't infallible and do have their own agendas, but if you're going to disregard something that they've said you should probably have a good reason to.

I don't think that most people have a good reason to disbelieve climate change scientists, at least not a good epistemic reason. I think a lot of people don't believe in man-made climate change because they don't want it to be true. Humans aren't very good with probability and weighing up evidence and I think that something which comes crashing into people's estimates of what's going to happen in uncertain situations is what they want to be true. I think most of us are natural optimists and when faced with the possibility that we may have to radically alter our lifestyles and economies and the polar bears are still going to become extinct, we naturally think that other possibility is probably true and it's all going to be OK.

This is where the parallel with victim blaming comes in. Statistically, if the CPS bothers to prosecute you for rape or domestic violence, you're probably guilty. Even if you're acquitted, you probably still did it and a lot more besides, but they just couldn't pin it onto you beyond reasonable doubt. Why then, when a woman goes to the police about her violent husband, do so many of their mutual "friends" not believe her? I think a lot of it has to do with the optimism bias. A world in which a few women lie about their husbands' treatment of them would be a lot nicer than the one we currently have where a startlingly high proportion of normal looking men are horrifically violent toward their 'loved ones'. Similarly, a world in which a few changes in one's dress and behaviour could make you immune from sexual violence would be a lot nicer than the one we have, where sexual violence in endemic regardless of how long your skirt is. So otherwise nice rational people decide that she must be lying or it was her fault because they don't want to live in a world where they might be next.

The problem is that, outside of Never Never Land, believing in something doesn't make it true. Climate change won't go away if we all ignore it, it will only come faster and more extremely. Not believing victims just makes them more isolated and harmed and leads to more victims as the perpetrators are able to carry on with impunity.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
As a general rule of thumb, if it was ever alive, you can compost it. This includes yourself. I thought I'd share a few ways to do this.

The most obvious first: hair and nails. Your hair and nails will compost. They'd be quite slow to compost, but it's good to have some slower composting substances in your heap to keep it going. Anyway, the hair in your hairbrush and your nail clippings can get chucked into the compost.

Less widely known is that a large proportion of the contents of your vacuum cleaner are in fact you. A lot of it is your hair and your dead skin. The rest is likely to be pet hair and skin, crumbs and the odd bit of inorganic dirt which won't do your heap any harm. Unless you know there's something a bit nasty in the vacuum cleaner (for example if you've recently shampooed the carpets) you can out that on the heap.

Used tissues are a bit controversial. The issue is that unless you are a super accomplished hot composter the heap won't get the temperature required to sterilise the tissues. Now, this is a problem if you've had a bout of Ebola, on the other hand, if you're sniffling due to allergies, your tissues aren't more of a biohazard than other stuff that can go on the heap.

Number ones are a hushedly spoken of composting secret sometimes referred to as "homemade compost activator" or "liquid gold". Human urine is high in nitrogen making it a really effective compost activator. Putting urine on the compost can also reduce your water use because peeing on the compost heap means that you don't need to flush the toilet as much. In fact, the National Trust have encouraged their male gardeners to urinate on "pee bails" to save water. A lot of people claim that men's urine is better than women's urine, but as far as I can tell that's just an old wives' tale. The reason men's urine finds its way onto compost heaps more than women's urine is more due to relative difficulties with the logistics of application. I got around this by cutting an empty tonic water bottle in half. The top half will be a cloche and the bottom half can be used to transport homemade (in my kidneys that is) compost activator from the downstairs lavatory to the compost heap. Urine can also be used diluted as a liquid fertiliser. A Finnish study found that fertilising tomatoes with urine and wood ash could quadruple their output.

After that we move onto the substances which you need a bit more commitment to do.

I don't know much about composting number twos I don't think I'm going to be able to win Alec around to the idea. Humanure is the term used by people in the know, and with the right system, which composts at a high enough heat, it can produce safe compost which can be used on food crops.

Sadly at the moment, once your soul has gone to the world to come, in the UK it's not legal for your body to go on the heap. I think that this is a pity. Burying bodies means that they anaerobically decompose, producing more harmful methane than composting would. I think you could sell a system whereby each body was composted in it's own composter (possibly along with the flowers from the funeral) and a year or so later the relatives were presented with a sack of compost and possibly some bonemeal to use as they see fit. It wouldn't be for everyone, but I think that some deep greenies would love it.
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
I have a pair of black stockings which are laddered beyond respectable wearability. Are there any cunning uses for laddered stockings about the home they can be reincarnated into?
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
As part of my attempts to lower my carbon footprint I've been trying to buy and eat more locally produced, seasonal, unprocessed food. It's hard to work out the exact carbon footprint of a particular item of food and some things can catch you out, for example New Zealand lamb can have a lower carbon footprint than British lamb, because the lower carbon intensity of production in New Zealand makes up for the transport emissions.

My approach at the moment is to go to the market on Sundays and buy a big load of veg from the local organic farmer who has a stall there and then base my meals around what he has. I'm also trying to be a bit more aware of what's in the fridge so that I can think "x, y and z aren't going to last more than a week, so if I don't eat x today, I definitely need to use it by Friday and I can put y and z and a thing tomorrow". Luckily veg gets to the 'it will probably be OK in a casserole' stage before it becomes inedible and we're in casserole season. Of course, to make things more interesting than boil veg every day you have to include some more processed/imported ingredients such as cooking oil and spices.

Here are some of the things I've been eating lately, which mainly involve seasonal fruit and veg.

Ginger Roasted Winter Veg You can use carrots, parsnips and potatoes rather than the veg suggested.

Orange-glazed beetroot. Basically just boil the sliced beetroot in orange juice with a little bit of salt and maple syrup until cooked, then reduce the liquid into a glaze.

Braised Red Cabbage

Apple crumble

Do you have any good recipes for vegan foods which are in season at the moment?
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
As a stated in my previous post, I'm trying to reduce my carbon footprint. I'm already not doing too badly for the impact of my food as I'm vegan and I don't like to waste food. The big things it seems that I could do to lower my impact further would be to more food locally and more organic food.

I've always been a bit unconvinced by organic food. A few years ago I used to get an organic veg box, mainly because it meant that I didn't have to carry heavy veg home from the shops and it inspired me to try new things. I stopped getting a veg box for three main reasons: quite a bit of the food was imported which seemed to defeat the point to me; I wasted too much food, either because I got things I didn't like or because the imported food wasn't fresh enough so it went off before I got around to using it; bugs. Bugs are the big reason why there are certain veg (broccoli, cauliflower) I wouldn't buy if not pesticide sprayed. Bugs both squeak me out and raise major kosher issues.

In the past I've never been so convinced that organic food was that good for the environment. My main issue was that organic food has lower yields so requires more land to produce the some amount of food. That land may be taken from ecosystems. I'm also concerned about the effect upon food prices if we move to more organic production. Bio fuels have gone out of favour for these reasons and I'm not sure whether the same problems apply to organic food.

So, wisdom of t'internets, other things being equal, is it worth buying non-insect harbouring organic fruit and veg?