Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Thursday, November 28, 2013
The Road is an Open One
I have to admit something to you all. It is something I have grown to detest, a strange feeling I harbor during discussions that I ought to bring more into the open. And it is the way we constantly find ways to pit Denmark against the US, the way we polarize their policies, lifestyles, and initiatives. Do I think Denmark is quite successful? Yes. Do I think that Denmark deals well with the poor, environmental policy, and providing careers? Yes.
I think Denmark does so many things well, from the gift of higher education to the well instituted biking infrastructure. My issue dwells not in what Denmark does well, in what the US does wrong, or how we compare, but rather in how we discuss these issues. We tend to stray toward polarities, but the polarities are exactly what keeps this discussion at separate ends of the spectrum.
Discussions, and my mind at least, tend to move towards solidity, finding some sort of firm ground. This often comes through taking sides. In taking sides there is a position to defend, a side to hold, and some sort of constancy. Taking sides is good, because it means that we have looked at the world, a discussion, or a worldview and decided what fits most in our paradigm or opinion. This desire for an opinion is natural. What can be more unnatural is openness and listening. Holding a side but then allowing others ones to be heard by others and ourselves. Since a major part of sustainability involves education, this act of listening will become extremely necessary because we are going to need to promote this style of living to others. This requires conversations, the interplay of people speaking and then listening. Polarization loses this conversational aspect because it pits ideas and people against one another. So when discussing differences it is hard for me when we rag on the negatives or compare two sides so strongly. I think a lot of this is my pride, which I’m learning a whole lot about this semester, but I think it is important to understand what sort of values carry over. Brynn asked a great conversation tonight when she asked us what can be applied to the states from Denmark. One I will think of over the next week.
I also was telling her how strange it is to enter this act of reflective thinking. It takes a lot of energy to recall and understand. So many differences will not be understood until I return home, but right now I will think of the carry over. How can I listen to those around me? How can I enter into these conversations as the last two weeks wind down.
One tangible fact from this semester is how much we need to be around environmental information in order to be thinking about it. Otherwise it slips away like sand.
This post is a little
I do love our conversations here, our community, and this city. How much thanks there is to give!
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
The holidays are quickly approaching, and while everybody is busy preparing for finals and checking airline confirmations to head home, it’s important to take some time to reflect on our past semester and to be grateful for all of the opportunities we’ve been given.
One evening, some of us got together to make holiday decorations and eat some yummy snacks. We’ve been saving toilet paper rolls to make a “green” Christmas tree, which is now proudly on display on the first floor of our house. There’s nothing better than welcoming the holidays with some quality time and fun arts and crafts.
The Green House had a delicious vegetarian Thanksgiving meal together, complete with homemade gravy and pumpkin brownies. While enjoying our amazing meal, we discussed the topic of free trade, which can sometimes harm the environment because you’re ultimately exploiting the country’s natural resources. That then brought up the topic of “paying” for services by returning the favor to somebody else. An interesting comment was the idea of “prosperity without growth,” and how it would be nice to switch to more service based goods and having a more social relationship with others.
After our dinner, we all said what we are thankful for, and after having a conversation about how the environment is greatly affected by our world’s materialistic values, it was very refreshing to hear how thankful we all are for the experiences we’ve had and the friends we’ve made while abroad in Copenhagen. It’s so important to remember everything that we are blessed to have rather than focusing on what we don’t have. The small things in life and the people we surround ourselves with are ultimately what will make us happy. We finished the night by creating a Green House rainstorm (video attached). I’m so thankful to be part of an amazing house!
How to Save the Planet?
Yes, I realize this question is unanswerable, even for us greenhousers and environmentalists. That was emphasized in our discussion tonight about environmental politics. Niels Fuglsang was our guest at dinner, my Environmental Policy in Practice professor at DIS who also works with the Social Democrats and used to work at Greenpeace. The entire discussion centered around whether the policies in place are good enough, or if they are even working at all. As one of the only scientists in the house, this is one of my favorite topics to discuss, because the facts and numbers heavily outweigh the policies we have in place right now. International panels like the COP are not making meaningful and constructive changes in order to combat climate change due to mistrust and disagreements. It’s a little scary, and I won’t get into detail, but we (meaning the world) need to get it together… and fast! There are some funny (but not funny) facts we discussed, including…
- The EU is reducing their emissions by 20-30%, meanwhile the US can’t even pass a 4% reduction.
- GW Bush did not sign the Kyoto Protocol because (drum roll please) it is part of American culture to be energy intensive.
- We need to reach peak energy consumption in 2015 in order to stay below the 2 degree temperature change, which if we go above, the whole earth system balance will be thrown off.
Fun things like that. There is so much to say on this issue, but one of the take home messages from Niels was that we need to take the power away from money and give it back to the politicians. Big businesses and media have a huge influence over elections and issues such as climate change. As many island nations realize, climate change should be an issue on the forefront of everyone’s mind. And if you somehow don’t believe in it, shouldn’t we make a cleaner, safer, healthier world anyway?
So, sorry tonight’s topic was a bit depressing, but at least for me, these kinds of conversations are my motivation. It just emphasizes the importance of environmental science and sustainability, and assures me that what I study will help combat one of the most pressing issues of our time.
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Our Discussion on Water
At the last Green House dinner we had a discussion about water. The main question was whether water should be taxed in order for it to be more regulated. To me, this translated to whether water should be a human right and I truly believe it should be and no one should need to pay for it. From my perspective, it is ridiculous that companies own water and that it is privatized. I am strongly against bottled water and the fact that people pay ridiculous amounts to buy water from a company that just puts tap water into bottles that they have taken from towns that need it. Bottled water is less regulated than tap water, often costs more than gasoline per gallon, and creates water shortages in towns that need it.
We did talk about the possibility of taxing a certain amount of water usage in order to decrease the amount of water use. A certain amount of water would be free, but any amount after would be taxed. This could be effective, but it still worries me that big companies would likely be the ones managing this. We also discussed whether there would be other incentives to help reduce water use. Perhaps making weekly challenges to have quicker showers or only running the dishwasher when it is full. We talked a lot about not watering lawns and why lawns are considered so important. What are some things that you do that you could cut down on to reduce water?
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Hi world! Here to update you about the green house life! Last wednesday we discussed the general idea of community over a delicious, Halloween themed meal. We talked about how ‘community’ can be used to describe all sorts of groups of different sizes, interaction levels, and things in common. We are happy because we feel that the green house fosters a wonderful community of people with similar passions and interests. We all feel comfortable around one another and feel lucky to be living where we do and with the people that we do.
This weekend our community ventured out of our green house headquarters and went to Dyrehaven, the Deer Park, to see the Hubertusjagt (Hubertus Hunt), the annual horse race! There were tons of people there and it was cool to watch because the horses (and their riders) ride right past you. It was a unique danish event that we were all excited to see.
Ok that’s all for now!
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Is Climate Change Rocking Us Like A Hurricane?
The Green House LLC was thanking its lucky stars for it’s central location last night as hurricane warnings were announced inside DIS buildings. The metro, trains, and many roads were shut down as windows along Strøget shattered and fell to the street, along with scaffolding and other rooftop items. Many DIS students camped out in the student center, unable to get home. Luckily nobody got hurt.
As I sat inside the Green House enjoying some hggyeligt homework time, I recalled some of the other recent, “freak” weather occurrences that have come to my attention since I’ve been in Copenhagen. My family was personally affected in the devastating Colorado floods just a month ago. My aunt and the rest of Lyons, Colorado, were evacuated. While most of their home is destroyed, my aunt and her family are just happy to be alive; one of their friends was swept away by sudden water and was killed. I remember my friend’s concerns as Hurricane Sandy neared their homes while we were still at school last October. St. Jude, the storm that is currently sweeping across Europe, has already claimed 13 lives in Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, and the UK (see http://www.disaster-report.com/2013/10/st-jude-storm-kills-13-in-germany.html for the full report). I’m not a scientist, but it seems like unusual storms and weather patterns are becoming more common (I’m not complaining about the fantastically sunny summer that Seattle had, but it was a little…unusual).
Here is a report about the recent increase of hurricanes from the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory/NOAA (GFDL).
The article concludes that while there is a correlation between increasing climate temperatures and hurricanes, it is “premature” to conclude that human activity has caused this increase in hurricanes. However, it continues to say that human activity may have already caused some changes to the climate that are not yet detectable.
Again, I am no scientist. Yet I feel that this earth and all who dwell within it are interconnected, and that as my generation grows older we will understand to a greater extent how important it is to Respect our Mother.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Consumerism in the U.S. – can it be changed?
Our dinner conversation in the green house last week was about consumerism in the U.S. and if we even think society can change to be less consumerist to achieve a higher degree of sustainability. My initial answer was no. Consumerism is part of American culture. Think about holidays, birthdays, big events, it’s all about buying stuff, giving stuff, getting stuff. A birthday is celebrated by presents, going out to a meal, throwing a party – all actions that require buying. People love buying and receiving things, even though it is proven to have no effect on long-term happiness. Actually I read an article for class the other day about people’s regrets when they’re dying, and needless to say, more new and nice things was not one of them.
Can a society deeply rooted in success, money and power (all things that promote consumerism) change to be less consumption orientated? I don’t want to say no, but if it can, it will require a change in American culture. That is something that will take a long time, and not fast enough to have a positive effect on climate change we’re facing right now. However, individuals can have an enormous impact, like choosing to live in the green house and leaning about and discussing these issues, and can be the driving point of changing our consumption obsessed society.
We also discussed how for some people their way of showing their love to friends and family is by buying them things, and I thought this picture captured the essence of that. With the holidays coming up, maybe we can all strive to buy less and instead express our love for family and friends in in different, less materialistic, way. Maybe Kendall can offer us some lessens in sweater making.
- Sumner + the Green House
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Where the Wild Things Are.
Related to trips and thoughts and city life and trees.
This past weekend I went on an Adventure Tour to Sweden (with BEA!!). The trip included a two hour canoe ride down a country-side river, a walk to the wooden sculptures of Nimis, apple gathering at our hostel, rappelling down coastal cliff sides and orienteering. It was an incredibly beautiful weekend. And just the sort that I needed. After living in the center of Copenhagen for two months, I have officially concluded that I am NOT a city gal. The crowds and bustle overwhelm and tire me, and the buildings feel imposing and tight. I didn’t realize these feelings at first, but after my long study tour to Switzerland and Austria, where we spent a majority of our time in the Alps, I was amazed at how relieved I was to be outside, surrounded by trees and grasses and lakes. Since then I have felt an intense longing to be in open outdoors and this recognition has made me think about our connection to the earth, how we have effected it and how it has effected us, particularly in the emotional and psychological sense.
The region we visited in Sweden was largely undeveloped. We were in the countryside where there were many orchards and woodland forests. Our tour destinations took us to the coast with sheer cliffs and dramatic views of the sea. Here I felt so alive and connected to reality and the big, beautiful power of raw nature. Living in the city, walking down street after street and passing building after man made building, I think I sometimes feel out of touch with this power. And I think that many people, especially in our time and generation do as well, perhaps not even realizing it. Technology and development can take us so far away from our natural grounds, from the soil and roots and creatures that we depend on. It is so easy to get caught up in the hustle and destination based lifestyle and way of thinking. Though some people may be more “outdoorsy” than others, or however one might label it, are we not all forms and beings of nature? I miss that connection.
Studying architecture, so much of my thinking now goes into structure and material and that jazz. And it’s fun! I am enjoying it and learning so much. But the overwhelming presence of BUILDING has really made me feel uncomfortable with design that doesn’t work with nature. Cities and buildings that impose on the earth rather than respect, utilize and exemplify the landscapes’ quality are hard for me to appreciate.
All these thoughts bring me to the core idea that our societies ought to work towards fitting in and being a part of the natural systems and environments surrounding and supporting us. The term bio-mimicry and the theory of cradle-to-cradle come to mind. I am not sure how we might get to a point where we might live with a mindset which generates a more naturally connected system and lifestyle, but I think there is increasing interest and thought about it, and that’s really cool.
Here are some pictures of places where I felt the wild things were.
Canoeing in Sweden.
Molle, Sweden. A coastal national park that I don’t know the name of.
These are some happy, furry cows.
Trees in the Austrian Alps.
Morning stroll in the Swiss Alps.
Driving out of the mountains.
Thursday, September 19, 2013
Svanholm is Denmark’s largest and oldest organic farm/commune, currently having 80 adults and 60 children living there. The Green House visited on September 14th. We started our day with a 2 hour commute to Svanholm, which is near the village of Skibby, 60 km (about 40 mi) from Copenhagen on the island of Zealand. Once we got there, we got a tour of the living areas of Svanholm by one of the members.
The members of this community share common thoughts on ecology, income-sharing, communal living, and self-government. All of the members subscribe to an investment in organic farming, as they produce the majority of the food that they consume, including milk from the cows they raise and meat from those same cows. Svanholm also uses a system of shared economics, where 80% of their income goes into a sort of “pot” to be used by the entire community for maintaining their community or paying for extra foods that cannot be grown on the farm. However, everyone has a say in what happens with the collective economy since they use a decision making policy by consensus rather than a majority, meaning that everyone must agree on a proposal before it is approved.
On our tour of Svanholm, we got to try some of their tomatoes, which were the best tomatoes I’ve ever had in my life. We also got to see their cows and calves, which everyone really enjoyed. We had a great lunch of soup and bread made from ingredients that they grew as well as this amazing crème fraîche that went on top of the soup, made from the milk of their cows.
We spent the afternoon helping out by painting a house with linseed oil. We learned that linseed oil protects the wood while letting it breathe. It is also easy to reapply ever couple of years instead of adding new coats of paint.
Our reward at the end of the day was amazing ice cream made from the milk of the Svanholm cows. There were some unique flavors like tomato and pine syrup as well as some classics like chocolate and vanilla.
Outdoors of Svanholm. (PC Emily)
Our guide showing us the group that started Svanholm. (PC Maggie)
And more baby cows!
Lindsey petting a calf. (PC Maggie)
A calf licking Kendall. (PC Maggie)
Lunch- vegetable soup with crème fraîche and bread. (PC Maggie)
Brushing off any spider webs before painting with linseed oil. (PC Emily)
Painting the building with linseed oil. (PC Maggie)
Wiping off any excess oil. (PC Emily)
Ice cream reward! (PC Emily)
Svanholm logo (PC Maggie)
Green House Meeting 2!
On Wednesday we met for our second Greenhouse LLC meeting over a delicious dinner of whole-wheat pasta, vegetable sauce, kale chips and salad. In the wake of the house trip to the oldest farm/commune in Denmark that I unfortunately had to miss last weekend, we discussed the benefits and drawbacks of living in a sharing society. While it is great to build a community with people of different skill sets in order to learn from them and best utilize them, sharing objects and resources limits your access to them and require you to give up some freedoms. We all pretty much agreed that getting past individualism and selfishness can help create a society that works better and we might not even be given the choice in the future of whether or not we want a sharing society.
We all also had a lot of exciting ideas about what we are going to do for the semester. Here are a few of the ideas we threw around:
- Working with kids to teach them about the environment and do crafts
- Volunteering at Rub and Stub, the reclaimed kitchen
- Using art to express a green message- maybe a mural!
- Making a video about who we are and what we do
- Putting an herb garden on the ground floor under the stairs
- Putting some sort of green sticker on the green bike traffic lights
We’re all really into the idea of having a dumpster diver come and give us some tips, as well as doing a pickling workshop and participating in Park(ing) day. It was a successful and productive meeting, filled with brainstorming and potential. I think we are all bubbling over with eagerness for the opportunities this semester will bring!
Wind turbines off the coast of Denmark.
Green sign, green city!