The opinions expressed here are well-reasoned and insightful -- needless to say they are not the opinions of my employers

14 January 2008

Women For President Meme

To begin with, I'm a supporter of John Edwards for president. Barack Obama is my second choice. That said, I don't believe that there are serious objections to Hillary's candidacy based on sexism. I actually haven't heard anyone claim that this is true.

Those on the left of the party don't support her because she is the most conservative Democrat still in the race. I've no idea why the right dislikes her so vehemently. Ultimately her husband's greatest successes in office came from co-opting Republican ideas.

That said, I'm kind of amazed at the willingness of various commentators, male or female, to make blatantly sexist comments about Hillary. A female McCain supporter felt free to call her a Bitch on camera, and Mike Allen of the Politico commented "What voter in general hasn't thought that?" Chris Matthews has referred to her as "Nurse Ratched" and to her male supporters as eunuchs and castratos.

I don't expect that the folks in New Hampshire following her around with "Iron My Shirt" signs were supporters of any of the major Democratic candidates. Try to imagine signs with a roughly equivalent insult directed at Obama or Bill Richardson, and then imagine photos of the incident showing up on the front page of national newspapers, or TV commentators giggling and joking over a videotape of the incident.

OK, I got that off my chest. Women I would support for president if they were running:

1. Barbara Boxer
2. Christine Gregoire
3. Janet Napolitano
4. Hillary (as I said, not my first choice among present candidates but at least she hasn't suggested staying in Iraq for hundreds or thousands of years).

02 January 2008

Energy and environment in the new millenium

One of our newer geobloggers, Callan Bentley, posted recently about his new Toyota Prius. Energy use is a pretty hot topic in all of my classes, as it relates to discussions of fossil fuels and peak oil and to climate change. For what its worth, here’s my first 18 months worth of Prius ownership (I picked it up on the June solstice in 2006):

I used about 250 fewer gallons of gasoline in my first year of ownership, compared to the mileage I got in my Nissan pick-up (my average mpg over the last four years for the pick-up was 20.5). That said, on my Death Valley field trip last October we used more gas (34 students, two instructors, four Ford vans) in 3 days than my Prius used for the first year. Of course a geology field trip is infinitely more justifiable than my daily commute…

I’m personally convinced that the kind of changes we need to be making as a culture are going to require some fundamental changes in our attitudes about the energy we use. While we are encouraged to switch to more energy efficient light bulbs we are paying a couple dollars/liter to drink tap water that has been forced, at huge energy expense, through a reverse osmosis system before being recharged with the calcium and magnesium removed by the RO and then packed into PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) bottles that, per kilogram of plastic, consume about 6.5 kg of oil and release 4 kg of greenhouse gases. Or, if you prefer bottled spring water you can (usually) skip the RO process and spend the energy shipping the water from France or Fiji

One of my resolutions this year is to start commuting by bus a couple of days a week (I’ll keep you updated on how this works out…). It’s 45 minutes to an hour of additional inconvenience per day, but a partial acknowledgment that the use of the automobile for regular commuting is one of the conveniences we need to give up.

But I’ve never believed that the solutions to our problems lie in individual choices. The environment is the commons, after all. The more people use public transportation, or buy cars that get high mileage, the better. But decisions to expand public transportation, or to require that passenger cars get better gas mileage, are made collectively. The free market doesn’t respond to consumer needs, it attempts to manufacture consumer desires (see water, bottled).

I’m going to write more about this in the next few months. If we are indeed successful in lobbying for a presidential science debate this year I can’t imagine energy and environment not being the most important topics.

Contact Me

You can send me email at jrepka@saddleback.edu