Friday, May 16, 2008

Biking in the Mist

One of my moments of environmental awakening came as I found myself driving my car four blocks to a town meeting on sustainability. The irony of the situation struck two blocks into the drive. Why was I using a car to transport myself four blocks to a meeting whose main purpose is to figure out how we can become less dependent on fossil fuels? As it happened, I was running late, and there was a light mist that could turn into rain--two factors that make me instinctively grab the car keys. I immediately parked the car and walked the rest of the way. To my surprise, the precipitation did not penetrate my clothes.

Since then, I have gradually expanded my tolerance for biking in mist, or drizzle, or even sometimes rain. This morning, for instance, a misty moisty morning, I taxied my daughter to school on the trailer bike, and found the mist to be even enjoyable. Another time, when the mist turned to rain while heading home, we experienced an unexpected euphoria. There can be a certain laboriousness to riding a bike, but it can also bring a sense of awakening, of being more alive.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Global Warming and the Silent Scream

I'm always amazed at those who study climate change. How congenial and patient they are as they tell us of the catastrophic direction we are taking the earth. They are messengers who, like most messengers through history, are being roundly ignored by most of humanity. They must go home at night, after yet another long day of throwing compelling data at the global wall of indifference, and scream into the dark.

The Scream is a famous painting by Edvard Munch. I think of it now, and learn from Wikipedia ( that its inspiration came one evening when the sky suddenly turned blood red, and he "sensed an infinite scream passing through nature." "The person in the foreground may be the artist himself, not screaming but protecting himself or itself from the scream of Nature."

That is the scream that some of us hear right now, as humanity goes about its business of slurping and shoveling fossil carbon out of the ground and spewing it from tailpipes and chimneys. How fitting that, as industrialization gained speed in the late 1800s, the source of Munch's scream was the sky, whose disturbing color may have been caused by the eruption of Krakatoa a half a world away.

Munch wrote that he was walking with two friends at the time, and that they "walked on", apparently unaffected by the scene whose visual power left Munch physically stricken. And so today we are left to ask, why do so few see and react to the emergency we face? Why do so few of us hear the scream?

Free Leaf Compost and Wood Chip Mulch

If you're looking to improve your soil or put attractive, dark mulch around your flowers and shrubs, you can get composted leaves and/or twice-ground, composted woodchips for free about 5 miles out of town at the Ecological Center in Lawrence Township. Most of Princeton's leaves go there in the fall, and if you can borrow a friend's pickup or figure out some other way of carting it back, you're in luck.

For $9/yard during weekday hours, they'll load it on your truck with their front-end loader. No cash accepted. Take a checkbook. If you want it for free, take a pitch fork or shovel along.

Location is 3701 Princeton Pike (called Mercer in Princeton), and hours this time of year are 7:30 to 2:30 M-Sat. More info are at

According to the man on duty, the Center gets maxed out from all the leaves coming in in the fall, and does not accept the mixture of leaves and brush the town crews collect from Princeton streets this time of year. All of that goes to a private business a mile or two further down the road.