Relief Efforts Benefit from Donation of Surplus Furniture

Contact: Kelly Waldram Cramer

WARRENSBURG, MO (June 16, 2010) – University of Central Missouri Housing recently donated surplus furniture from Nattinger and Bradshaw residence halls to relief efforts in Spanish Town, Jamaica and San Pedro Sula, Honduras. The 1,932 pieces and included bed frames, ladders, desks, and chairs slated for Honduran and Jamaican orphanages or residential schools.

This July, the Ellis Complex, which includes North Ellis, East Ellis, and South Ellis residence halls, and the Hawkins Hall apartment building also will donate surplus furniture. Hawkins will contribute over 160 pieces of furniture, including couches, box chairs, love seats, mattresses. The shipment also will contain as many camp beds as space will allow. The Ellis Complex will contribute 2,778 pieces of furniture, including beds, chairs, and desks. Warrensburg Salvation Army received the furniture from Foster Hall, while mattresses are being recycled through the company University Sleep.

“We had a lot of property to replace, and were trying to figure out what to do with all of the furniture” said Brenda Moeder, associate director of University Housing. “This fits with the ‘reuse, recycle, and reduce’ attitude we foster at UCM. Not only were we able to do a good thing for others by donating furniture to them, but this is also an environmentally friendly decision,”

UCM Housing employed the Institution Recycling Network Surplus Reuse Program to undertake the project. IRN networks with dozens of charitable and relief organizations that use millions of pounds of surplus every year.

“The needs are endless, and everything we toss aside in the United States could be used by someplace in Jamaica,” said Mark Berry of IRN.

For more information about this or University Housing, contact the Kelly Waldram Cramer, marketing manager for housing and Greek life, at 660-543-8121.

We Have Found the Enemy, and It Is Us or Why Don’t They Teach Statistics in High School

Yes, the oil spill in the Gulf is a really bad thing, but I wish they taught statistics in high school.

Because statistics tell you that is was just a matter of time until we had a catastrophic spill in the Gulf.  There are thousands and thousands of oil and gas wells in the Gulf, each one with a very small probability of failing.  BP and Deepwater Horizon drew the short straw.

It’s particularly disheartening to hear the blame being piled on BP.  As if, yeah, BP would cut corners so it could drive its share price down by half.  And secretly plot months if not years of public relations nightmare.  And cunningly position itself to pile up tens of billions of dollars in liabilities that will stretch on for decades.  Check for the insider trading; I’m sure the top dogs at BP have been shorting their own stock.

Statistics said that if you keep drilling in the Gulf, eventually you’d have a catastrophic spill.  The problem is the drilling in the Gulf.

The problem is the succession of “leaders” in Washington and Concord and 49 other state capitals who have failed to devise sensible energy policy in nearly four decades since the first oil crisis.

The problem is nationwide fuel economy that hasn’t improved in 20 years.

The problem is policies that encourage and manufacturers who push and consumers who buy SUVs and pickup trucks that they don’t need.

The problem is policies that promote cars and trucks and airplanes over other ways to move people and products.  (For example, policies that say gas taxes can be used for roads and nothing else, or policies that say our most urgent transportation priority is to build 20 miles of eight-lane highway so more cars and trucks can travel easier.  Those would be New Hampshire policies.)

The problem is every state that decides not to use local resources to produce electricity, but to rely instead on oil and coal and gas that are produced far away, in places like the Gulf.

The problem is every family that buys, heats, and air conditions a 5,000 square-foot home.

The problem is every new house that’s built without solar panels on the roof.

The problem is every person who decides that the way to enjoy a lake or pond or ocean is to drive a motorboat, or the way to enjoy winter is to drive a snowmobile, or the way to enjoy the woods is to drive a four-wheeler.

The problem is every company that opens an office accessible only by car.

The problem is every local planning board that has allowed or continues to allow development of strip malls and big boxes and suburban corporate campuses, promoting sprawl over cluster.

The problem isn’t the driller.  It’s the well, because statistics said eventually a well was going to fail.  And there’s plenty of blame to spread around for the well.  Almost all of it is right in the mirror.

Oil soaked pelican. One of too many.

A New England Enviro in California

I spent a couple of weeks in the Bay Area last month, mostly in Silicon Valley.  For someone who’s lived in New England for many years, and particularly for someone who tries to notice the different ways that different people interact with their environment, it’s a different kind of place.

There are no people.  A space alien looking in on Silicon Valley would say to himself (or herself, or itself, whatever  a space alien is), “What are these strange metal creatures that live on this planet?”  There are, to all appearances, nothing but cars in Silicon Valley.  You can go entire days without seeing a human being, except, if you’re lucky, a rare sighting of a person rushing from car to office or car to store, or vice versa.  There are tens of thousands of office buildings; no people.  Hundreds of thousands of houses; no people.  I suppose if the space alien had a sensitive protoplasm-meter, he/she/it might pick up the bits of protoplasm in the strange metal creatures, or occasionally a flash of protoplasm scooting from the metal creature to the larger fixed enclosures we call buildings.  They’d probably think it was some kind of contaminant.  The absence of people is really bizarre.

No people, lots and lots of cars.  There are a LOT of cars driving around the Bay Area, all the time, on parallel interstates just a couple of miles apart, and on all the roads in between, going every which way.  There is a LOT of pavement, and a LOT of cars.

But not so many SUVs and pickup trucks.  Way different than New England.  Maybe because we have winters and people think they need four-wheel drive.  Maybe because people in our suburbs hang on to the rugged settler thing and buy pickup trucks.  I don’t know, but there re a lot less SUVs and pickups in the Bay Area.  There are more Priuses, but still not a whole lot of Priuses.  And outside of that, there’s not much evidence that people are paying much attention to mileage.

When you do see people, it’s a monoculture.  I stayed in a hotel next to a place called the Great Mall.  I went looking in the Great Mall for a book.  Outside the Great Mall it looked just like every other place in California:  lots of cars, no people.  Inside the Great Mall, there were lots of people, and I was the only Anglo.  Like, the only Anglo.  Thousands of faces:  85% Latino, 14% Asian, 1% other, including me, and I might have been all of the 1%.  A couple nights later I went to dinner fifteen miles away in Los Gatos, where it was 95% white, 4% Asian, 1% other.  (Except in the restaurants, where the Latinos worked.)  On a macro scale California may be culturally diverse; on a micro scale it’s as diverse as a cornfield.

Houses too.  My God, how do people live here?  Thousands and tens of thousands of acres of identical houses on plots of land barely as big as the house.  No front yard (just driveway); no back yard.  No side yards – hell, you have to keep your windows shuttered because your neighbor’s window is five feet away (unless you build a fence, which most people seem to do).  This is bizarre and incomprehensible.  If you’re not going to have any space anyway, why not just join the houses together like old-fashioned row houses.  Saves a lot of energy.  Saves a lot of building materials.  Doesn’t make a whit of difference for privacy, if anything gives you more privacy, and if you added up the smidges in between you’d have enough land for some open space and parks.  How do people live here?  I don’t have a clue.

But San Francisco has hope.  Unexpected, especially for a person who lives in the middle of New Hampshire, but San Francisco is the one place that, environmentally and socially, offers the least glimmer of hope for a future.  So much easier and more efficient to provide services.  So much easier to provide transportation.  Practical without automobiles.  High housing densities that leave room for open space.  Multiple-story structures joined side to side, saving lots of energy.  Micro-scale polyculture rather than the color-coded monocultures in the suburbs.  As a city, San Francisco conserves the countryside and its environmental services.  Unlike the rest of the Bay Area, it’s a place and a model that might just survive.  Who would have thought it?

And it will all go away.  Maybe you get used to this if you live there, but looking at pictures at the earthquake in 1906 it’s hard to imagine that 2016 or 2026, or whenever it comes, will be much different.  Hopefully, when it does come, it will be in a series of survivable quakes and not one cataclysmic El Destructo.  One way or another it will be really, really bad.  Mother Earth will remind us, loud and clear, that “Sustainable” is at her whim.  That, I think, is the lesson we should live with every day.