Saturday, September 12, 2020

Weekend Reading: The Trapped Indoors Edition

The heat pump installation fix last Saturday worked, and so we have AC. It was lucky that we got it when we did, because in addition to abnormally high heat, a fire broke out in East San Diego county last Saturday, and so our air quality was terrible most of the week. We've left the AC on all week even as the temperatures cooled because we didn't want to open the windows and let the outside air in.

Unfortunately, my HEPA air filter also stopped working this week. It could be just because it is old - I've had it for about 15 years. Or it could be because I forgot to turn it off when the heat pump installers were here and perhaps some of the insulation that got deposited all over our house got in it and clogged it. If I'm lucky, it is the latter and I can take it apart and unclog it this weekend. I hope so, because my eyes are burning and my nose is runny. I am not sure if that is from the fire or just my regular allergies but either way getting my HEPA filter back will help fix it!

It has sucked to need to stay indoors this week. As I mentioned in my last post, I miss sitting out in our backyard at dusk. However, I should be able to start that again soon, if our region's luck holds. The fire in the East county is mostly under control now and the air quality here is much better. I don't think I'll do any strenuous exercise outside this weekend, but I think I can sit outdoors this evening. I will be thinking of my friends in Northern California and Oregon who do not have that good fortune yet. 

So anyway, on to some links:

This Washington Post story about the people who are living in a decrepit motel near Disney World is heartbreaking. The lack of help available for them is a choice we make. It is a choice we make when we underfund social services, but it is also a choice we make when we won't allow enough housing to be built. Every area in the US has work to do in this regard, but the specific work is probably different in different places. It is easy to point at states like Florida that have gutted their social safety net and say they should shape up, but I guarantee you could find equally heartbreaking stories of people clinging to the edges of a desperate situation in every state. We should all own the problem and work to fix it.

I have been thinking about this a lot in regard to climate change. I came across a question from someone about what people can do to address climate change. I can't remember the context of the question, unfortunately, but I think the answer for almost all of us is to engage in the political system. Individual action isn't going to solve climate change (although we can all try to make choices that will help) and individual acts of charity aren't going to make it so that we don't have stories like the ones at the Star Motel. 

What we need to push for is probably different in different places. In the swing states, fighting to get Democrats elected may be the best first step. In deep red states, it might be engaging in issues activism to try to move the Republican officials you're sure to end up with to act on climate. Here in California, I am increasingly convinced the best thing I can do is speak up for allowing denser infill housing in urban areas. This issue is going to drive my vote in our upcoming mayoral election (between two Democrats) and I am starting to take other steps like leaving comments in support of housing and protected bike lanes during the public comment period of local planning decisions.

I am no expert on these issues so I won't pretend I know what the absolute best thing to do is any place, even San Diego. But I do think that if we want to make things better, we are going to have to push outside our comfort zone a bit and engage. 

Also, we absolutely have to get Biden elected. Four more years of Trump probably dooms us to a pretty bad climate outcome. We really need to change the Senate, too. There's a lot to work on right now, so I guess the good thing is we're spoiled for choice as to where we want to engage!

Moving on... 

I think Susan Matthews' essay about what she's learned in the last six months of pandemic-living is really good.

Anne Helen Peterson's essay about the habituation to horror and the need to fight it so that we can take advantage of this period of time in which real change might actually be possible is also really good.

The Politico story that broke last night about Trump political appointees trying to change what the CDC says in its scientific publications is just infuriating. This line, in particular, really struck me:

In one clash, an aide to Caputo berated CDC scientists for attempting to use the reports to "hurt the President" 

These people are so morally bankrupt that they can't recognize that the CDC scientists were attempting to use the reports to publish scientifically sound information and to help Americans avoid getting sick.

Here is an example of the sort of scientific report that the CDC publishes: An epidemiological study found that adults with positive COVID-19 tests were twice as likely to report having eaten in a restaurant than adults with a negative test. My first thought was maybe that is just indicative of higher risk-taking overall, but the report says:

In this investigation, participants with and without COVID-19 reported generally similar community exposures, with the exception of going to locations with on-site eating and drinking options.

So I think we'll continue to avoid indoor dining.

This observation from William Gibson is a good one:

And now for the things that made me happy this week:

I love this - both the fact that the city will install mosaics and the fact that so many people are making mosaic portraits of their cats:

A cool cloud in NZ:

A pretty bird:

This flower:

This art:

Here's your bunny of the week!

And some bonus bunnies, because this looks like an album cover. Tell me in the comments what type of music you think they play!

Happy weekend, everyone.


  1. Anonymous9:02 PM

    Thank you. You help.

    1. Thank YOU for saying that! It is nice to hear.

  2. I currently have a recurring donation to the Evergreen Action project, and also take the actions they ask in their emails. They're a group from Jay Inslee's very climate-focused primary campaign team that is advocating to get similar policy into the plans of democrats in power at the national level. Biden has now come out with a pretty aggressive climate plan, and I can't be sure if Evergreen Action helped, but it seems important to support this sort of initiative.

    I also second the fact that if we want to fight climate change, the single biggest thing we can do right now is get Biden elected. We cannot afford to wait another 4 years or more for the US to start taking serious action on climate. There isn't a guarantee that Biden will do enough and we will still need to work hard to advocate once he is in office, but with him in office at least there's a chance. The US needs to be a leader on combating climate change.

    If people want to make change at the personal level, following your lead at making structural changes in their life that move towards electrifying (their heat sources, cooking, cars, etc) and moving their source of electricity to rooftop solar where possible is probably the biggest impact, though I also advocate for eating less meat and especially red meat, because that helps the environment and as animal welfare at the sane time! But yes, we need policy-level change and focusing on that is still more necessary in order to truly move the needle.

    1. I will check out Evergreen Action. I agree that electing Biden is the start of the work, not the end of it.

      Now that we've replaced our gas furnace with an electric heat pump, the only gas-powered things we have left are our dryer and our water heater. Those will be replaced with electric when the time comes to replace them. Our next big personal action will be solar panels. What is frustrating about replacing things with electric options right now is that we don't have the financial incentives right. It was more expensive to get the electric heat pump than to get another gas furnace. If we can change the economic calculus, we won't have to convince so many people to make the decision that is best for the environment - they will just make the decision that is best for their pocketbook.

    2. Oh, I forgot about our second car. It is still gas-powered and is actually the most likely thing we'll need to replace next. We aren't sure if we'll go plug-in hybrid or all electric. Whatever we get needs to be able to transport my husband's kayak and so it will probably depend on what the options are at the time we need to replace (probably within a couple of years).

  3. The way that the bunnies flirt w/ the camera, they are "two cellos"

    I volunteered as the natural resources chair of League of Women Voters for LA County and spend most of my time fighting NIMBYs blocking housing near jobs and the bike/bus lanes needed to get people to work w/o cars. It's maddening to have a PhD in science and know that the science says we need to stop driving junk (avoidable) miles & electrify the rest, and the only part people hear is "we can keep driving in EVs!"

    1. I guess one silver lining on being stuck at home is that we're driving almost no miles. I feel bad that we're currently running the heat pump non-stop but it is very efficient and the filter on the intake vent is currently the only filter we have! Once the smoke clears, we're planning to only run it when it is actually hot.


Sorry for the CAPTCHA, folks. The spammers were stealing too much of my time.