Environment & the World

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Intro for a new blogger

Filed under: Uncategorized — kwolfgan @ 1:52 pm

Helllllo, blogosphere! Karen Wolfgang reporting for duty. I have to admit that I harbor a bit of resentment toward blogging: I was told several years ago that I should avoid this activity at all costs, because I would probably put too much time into it, and while I would end up with reams and reams of e-paper to my credit, the impact might not be worth the hassle. For that reason among others (including sloth and writer’s block) I have avoided posting here since I was invited to do so some number of months past. But now, against some odds, here I am.

Despite the aforementioned “issues,” I am eager to share my experiences with a host of anonymous readers (and hopefully some not-so-anonymous ones). I’ll start, then, with an introduction: my name is Karen. I live in Portland, Oregon, where my mom and dad raised me and my younger brother, Kurt, who is 21 and a junior at the University of Utah. I graduated from Princeton University in June with a degree in anthropology, and shortly after moving home to PDX joined the Leadership in Ecology, Culture, and Learning (LECL) program at Portland State University (http://www.piiecl.pdx.edu/); if all goes well, I will receive a Masters degree in sustainability education in about two years. I have a graduate assistant-ship administering a Metro (regional government agency) Nature in Neighborhoods watershed restoration grant at a local elementary school, and I work/volunteer at least one day a week at the Learning Gardens Laboratory, my program’s signature project, letting middle-schoolers teach me. I live with my partner, Isabel, in the basement apartment of her grandmother’s house. Although I bike and ride the bus to most of the places I need to go, I stubbornly hang on to my ailing 1989 Isuzu Trooper; she’s in the shop right now. I will be writing these entries on my new Dell laptop, whose name is Bubba (don’t ask).

Now that you know a little bit about me, you should know something about what I intend to post here. So… I love to read. I love it love it love it. I have too many books, and I like it that way. It makes me happy to think that I can pull a book off the shelf and address any question I might have. I don’t expect answers, mind you—just different perspectives on what I personally have seen and done and felt. School, which I was highly anxious to leave in the dust after graduation (something that turned out to be harder to do than I thought it would), frequently manages to inspire me to buy more books, and occasionally read them. So, I suspect that most of what I write here will be philosophical-theoretical (and hopefully practical, based on my experiences in the actual world), rather than newsy; I might even take a turn toward the spiritual if I get the urge.

In any case, I want to make sure that my entries are not perceived to be too far off the mark: this blog is called Environment and the World, not Life of Karen. But if there’s anything I learned at Princeton (you’ll see that phrase again!), I learned that a person’s background informs the way (s)he sees the world. I don’t want to give readers a single chance to think that I see the world objectively. No one does. And I do not want you to believe I am writing about the environment as some thing out there that desperately needs monitoring or saving. Each of us has an environment, and we are in relationship to it and each other. Each of us—including the non-human peoples of the world—deserves a healthy environment, and (do not forget this!) plays a crucial part in bringing it into being. I will be sharing here my encounters with my environment, for what it’s worth. Thank you for reading. Here ends the first Environment and the World (as seen through the eyes of Karen) blog entry.

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Sunday, September 10, 2006

British Environmental Awareness

Filed under: Transportation, Uncategorized — amirj @ 1:05 pm

Even though it’s common knowledge that most European countries are more conscious and proactive about solving environmental problems, I was quite impressed to learn first-hand what this actually means during my trip to England. The first thing that struck me was the sheer amount of environmental media coverage. Almost every night  I inevitably ran into some sort of TV program related to environmental issues as I casually flipped channels at the end of the day. In my first few days there alone, I came across shows and news segments about gardening, climate change, energy sources, and waste management.

Public transportation in Britain is quite fantastic, and would be even better if it were more affordable. Comfortable and aesthetic trains connect the major cities and even many small towns. Within cities and small towns buses run quite frequently and provide comprehensive coverage. Thanks to its wonderful grid of public transportation, I could travel around Britain quite easily without a car. Moreover, because the public transportation was so good, taking a taxi even seemed like something of a luxury.

 Despite its frequency and great coverage, getting around Britain isn’t cheap. Car-drivers suffer from high gas prices and a daily tax of 5 pounds to drive within the center of London. Public transportation isn’t always too affordable either. Single fare trips on the London Underground can cost 3 pounds (almost $6)–compare that to a single fare of $2 on the NYC subway–and inter-city train tickets that can cost up to nearly 71 pounds (nearly $140). Regular riders can get cheaper deals in bulk, membership, or buying long-term passes, but this is not practical or possible for everyone.  

Returning to the positive aspects, strolling through the cities and smaller towns, I was also very impressed with their gardening/landscaping ethic. While few people there own as much land attached to their house as an average U.S. suburban family does, many make the most of what they do have by planting beautiful flower patches and shrubs. Parks and green corners within cities also don’t seem uncommon. Despite its urban intensity, London for example boasts many large open spaces: Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Hampstead Heath, Regents Park, in addition to many green squares in the city.

 London also boasts a new, “environmentally friendly” sky-scraper built to maximize natural light, reduce its energy demand, and is powered mostly by cleaner natural gas.

 Despite the crummy weather, in Britain people walk to get places. They discuss the environment and even though they’re doing much better than us in the USA, they still seem to beat themselves up over how much more they could do. Cheers, mates.

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