August 1st, 2006

Amusing articles.

Bush Grants Self Permission to Grant More Power to Self. Ah, i love The Onion. (Thanks, metamouse!)

Execution in the Kingdom of Nouns, a story about how King Java banished all the verbs and made them suffer. "We eat nouns, and buy nouns from the store, and we sit on nouns, and sleep on them. Nouns can fall on your head, creating a big noun on your noun." Lots of fun to read if programming in Java has ever seemed arcanely verbose to you.

Finally, this: did you know that if you eat a typical American diet, walking generates more carbon emissions than driving? Yup, if you count the calories you expend by walking, and work out how much fossil fuel was burned to transport the food eaten to provide those calories, it works out to more than what you'd use by driving. (I think i came across this in rebbyribs's journal a while ago.) If you're vegetarian, then you use much less fossil fuel. And bicycling is more efficient than walking: it expends sufficiently fewer calories per unit distance travelled that it uses less fossil fuel than driving even if you eat a typical American diet.

(Incidentally, that page is on a site by Michael Bluejay, which i encountered before because he's also obsessed with Ben Folds Five. He even once played "Best Imitation of Myself" onstage together with the band!)

Well, there's a new twist: in an article entitled The Environmental Paradox of Cycling, a professor named Karl Ulrich argues that while bicycling may seem good because it consumes less energy, it also has health benefits that cause you to live longer. And if you live longer, you'll consume more energy! According to his calculations, bicycling improves your life expectancy just about enough to cancel out the energy savings. If, on the other hand, you used a scooter to get to work, you would save gas and not get life-extending exercise, which would be a true savings in consumption.

I think it's interesting to think about what one really wants to achieve when trying to be environmentally conscious. I think a lot of people generally assume that conservation is always good and at the same time also assume that health is always good. But what to make of the fundamental conflict between them? Is minimizing consumption always morally positive? And if not, what else do you balance against it, and how do you decide when the balance is right?