Thursday, July 14, 2005

Blowin' In the Rain

Add this to my rapidly growing list of leaf-blower related frustrations:

There is a guy, outside my apartment, right now, in the rain, wielding a freaking gas-powered leaf blower (I guess the electric kind don't work well in the rain). He's blowing soggy grass clippings against the curb. It's not enough that they're already caught up in the little river of rainwater that's heading downhill toward the storm drain.

Did someone in DC declare a War Against Entropy? WTF? "We will strike at the evil grass clippings where they live, before they can attach themselves to our shoes and be brought across our thresholds to chip away at the order of our freedom-loving homes."

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

SoKno Riverfront Development

The next target for development in Knoxville is the South Knoxville riverfront. Mind you, this is not pristine land by any stretch of the imagination -- Holston Gases is there, and has been for quite some time, Marathon Ashland houses asphalt storage tanks on the riverfront, there's an abandoned glove factory, as well as some residential areas (most of which are populated by persons of modest income), Baptist Hospital, a small park or two, and an amazing blanket of kudzu holding erosion at bay. On the other side, of course, are Neyland Drive and UT, the small Maplehurst community, the Greenway, a few restaurants, and the inpouring of tasty effluent from biohazardous First, Second, and Third Creeks. There is little to no high-income housing on this urban portion of the river, but there soon will be -- high-class condos are already going up on the South side in the Scottish Pike community, and there are proposals for more to come, as well as a hotel and restaurant complex.

Personally, I've thought for a while that wealthy Knoxville folks sailing down the river on their yachts and boats for Vol Gamedays must be quite ticked off by the fact that there are working-class people quietly living on the river across from downtown Knoxville. Of course, this is now considered an "opportunity for development," and where there's opportunity, there will soon be fewer working-class folks and more persons of means with the prime river views. The working-class folks can spend time near the waterfront working, but not living. Modest means = inland living. But I digress.

I'm interested in hearing more about the environmental impact of increased Knoxville riverfront development and river traffic. The river is already quite harried as it makes its pass through downtown. It has to be, when all the streams that dump into it post signs warning folks that the water's too filthy for safe human contact. According to a recent Metro Pulse article, I'll learn more this Friday, when
proposals to work on specific plans for land use, environmental analysis, economic development, design, and engineering will be open and read aloud in the City County Building.
South Knox Bubba posted on the SoKno development yesterday. He points out that a set of plans was drawn up back in 2002. It's always of interest when our city "planners" attempt to reinvent the wheel -- apparently there weren't enough condos (read: high-income housing on the river) in the first plan.

Big, Red, Angry Tomatoes

In my last post, I briefly mentioned the Greening Earth Society. Brief recap: GES sez more CO2 = more green plants = good, bountiful harvest that's better for humanity! In a nutshell (pun intended), keep the greenhouse gases pumping, it's good for the earth. Not incidentally, the GES was founded by the Western Fuels Association, and it lobbies for the (fossil fuel) power industry. I don't think that mentioning that connection constitutes an ad hominem (namely, poisoning the well) as it's highly relevant to the choices they make with regard to their research, etc. So there.

Yesterday's Grist magazine featured an article on the effects of global warming on the nutritional content of our food. Is the GES right? Are fossil fuels good for continued survival and health of hairless monkeys?

Grist concedes that there is something to the science -- CO2 fertilization does yield growth in plants. However, as they say, "there's a catch." High levels of CO2 may yield faster-growing plants, but they also yield less nutritious plants, much to the detriment of the critters who feed on said greenery (including the aforementioned hairless monkey, i.e. us).

Monocultures decrease nutritional value of plants as well, as the nutrients in the soil are depleted and not replenished via crop rotations. Increased use of chemical fertilizers and engineered high-yield crops also decreases the nutritional value of plants. The World Bank has termed the resulting nutritional deficiencies (most frequently felt in "developing" nations) "hidden hunger." Wealthy nations like those in the G8 can compensate for these nutritional shortcomings by supplementing crops, animals, and people with missing nutrients. Less wealthy nations may not be able to keep up. There's more in the article. It's quite interesting.

It also mentions that higher levels of CO2 increase production of non-nutritious elements in plants -- compounds that serve as the plants' natural defenses. Tomatoes might be bigger, but they'll also be meaner. Who needs nuclear radiation when you have CO2?

Also, it seems that it will be increasingly difficult to be a healthy vegetarian in a world with higher levels of CO2. Even if you grow your own organic produce, there's no way to keep your plants from interacting with a CO2-laden environment. Granted, organic produce will still be healthier than non-organic, bioengineered, factory-farmed produce, but nevertheless, the "veg block" should be pissed. And so should we all if yet another way of life becomes closed to us.