Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Dartmouth Target's Bizarrely Gigantic Parking Lot

The Target in Dartmouth, MA may have the most unnecessarily huge parking lot I've ever seen. As my wife pointed out, it's so big that if it was ever actually filled with cars, there's no way you could fit that many people inside the store.

Here's a picture via Google Maps. This is a light day. On busy days, the left side of the parking lot will fill up, but the right side never comes anywhere close to capacity, even when the store itself is packed during the holidays. And the extra parking panhandle at the bottom right? I didn't even know that existed until I saw this satellite view:

So the question is, why would you ever build so much parking that will never ever get used? It's very likely that Dartmouth required Target to build it, because if they didn't, on the busiest days shoppers might have to park ... in the neighboring Dick's and Petco parking lots, which are also way too big and always half empty. The horror!

But I think there's also a psychological factor in play from Target's perspective. People around here get REALLY upset if they have to look for parking and if they have to circle around even once will go home like OH MY GAWD TAHHGET WAS A FACKIN' MADHOUSE. For those folks, having a bunch of spots that are always open may be a beacon of comfort.

The seas of parking also defeat the purpose of the plaza's good sidewalks - even though bus routes go right by, the Target is a quarter of a mile hike thanks to the set-back.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

NASA-Backed Study: Polluter Tyranny May Destroy Civilization

A new study backed by NASA warns that, much like the Romans and Mayans before us, our elite power brokers may be driving us towards a cliff as the 1% vacuums up wealth and natural resources:
The NASA-funded HANDY model offers a highly credible wake-up call to governments, corporations and business - and consumers - to recognise that 'business as usual' cannot be sustained, and that policy and structural changes are required immediately.

Although the study is largely theoretical, a number of other more empirically-focused studies - by KPMG and the UK Government Office of Science for instance - have warned that the convergence of food, water and energy crises could create a 'perfect storm' within about fifteen years. But these 'business as usual' forecasts could be very conservative.
Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed details how past empires kept driving towards the cliff, even when the edge was in sight. It happens in part because the people at the top & in charge are wealthy enough to insulate themselves from the crisis until collapse is almost complete.

This study warns we're repeating history as our leaders keep us burning our entire supply of fossil fuels that took hundreds of millions of years to accumulate - coal, oil and natural gas - in the span of just a few generations. Even as the cost becomes apparent and both the climate crisis and global inequality accelerate, for those polluting oligarchs, the answer isn't to change course, it's to double down - see the Koch brothers pouring their vast polluting fortune into the 2014 elections or Vladimir Putin seizing natural gas facilities in Ukraine.

But who'll call them on it? Democrats and environmental organizations are heavily dependent on the wealthy elite for funding, so Democrats rarely talk about inequality and environmental organizations talk about the effects - global warming, polluted water, disappearing wildlife - not the causes.

It's a reminder that climate science denial isn't at all about science - it's a cover story for the true campaign by wealthy polluters like the Koch brothers to scare the rest of us away from solar and wind energy, which build wealth not at the top but at the household and community levels.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

We Spend $280 Million Subsidizing the Sugar We Shouldn't Eat

The World Health Organization now says we should limit ourselves to 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day. Last year alone, U.S. taxpayers threw away $280 million on subsidies to sugar producers, and we're on pace to do it again this year.

The average American consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar each day - nearly four times the new recommended amount. You can exceed the daily recommendation with just one can of soda, one serving of margarita mix, one Starbucks sweetened latte with whipped cream, or one cup of yogurt. We'd be OK if we thought of those things as dessert to have once a day, but many Americans have blown through their daily allowance by the end of breakfast.

How did we get to a place where we're subsidizing an industry that's killing us? Now's a good time to flash back to the Mother Jones report on how sugar lobbyists convinced the government to hide the dangers of added sugar.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Why We Should Give Ukraine Free Wind Turbines (and Why We Won't)

Wind turbine, MA Military Reservation, Cape Cod
Russia holds much of its sway over Ukraine and other nations in Eastern Europe because it's a major supplier of natural gas for electricity and home heating.

We're spending $682 billion on fighter jets, bombs, and tanks that are virtually worthless in this situation and $75 billion more on spying that as The Rachel Maddow Show reports failed to warn us this crisis was coming.

What if instead we spent just $500 billion on that stuff that's not helping us and spent the other $250 billion on hiring Americans to build wind turbines, then giving them to Ukraine and other vulnerable nations in the region below cost or free? What if, instead of sending troops, we sent workers to install them? Ukraine already has a burgeoning wind energy industry and has the potential to get 100% of its electricity from wind, solar and biomass energy.

Our current enemy's muscle is reduced, our current allies' power grows. And unlike military aid, if those roles ever flip, Ukraine can't use those wind turbines to kill us.

I know it would never actually happen, because clean energy is silly and threatening to start World War III is serious. But it would be nice if Washington could look at the situation a little more strategically than Hacksaw Jim Duggan vs. The Iron Sheik. Do we punch 'em or hit 'em with the 2x4???

But just like Duggan and the Sheik would go to war in front of the fans then go off and get wasted together after the show, the US and Russia are motivated by the same polluting, climate-disrupting energy interests: Russia is #1 in the world in gas reserves, the US #6. The US is #1 in the world in coal reserves, Russia #2.

If we helped one nation break its addiction to polluting fuels, what's to stop all of them from doing it? What's to stop our own citizens from questioning our energy choices?

Better go back to talking about how Ukraine (and Iraq before that) are really about FREEEDOM and not at all about protecting the wealth and power of our dominant industries and the people who control them. The second one doesn't sound worth dying for.