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An opportunity to reduce your carbon footprint

Title: An opportunity to reduce your carbon footprint

My Dear P2TECH-ies --

When I was a kid, growing up in the moss-covered outskirts of a mill town a bit north of Seattle, we lived in the last house on a dead-end street.

Metaphorically, this turned out to be good preparation for a career as an environmental researcher under the current administration.   But I digress.

At any rate, Immediately adjacent to our house was a large forest, made up of second growth timber.  The forest probably only covered 600 acres or so, but to us, it was nearly endless. And if we followed the right trails, bushwhacked along the streambeds, we would emerge on the gravel shores of Puget Sound, muddy and thistle-stung, scratched and bruised, about 3 miles from home.  It was an all day journey, and the walk home along the roads was steep and uphill most of the way, but we could make the journey through the woods without crossing a road or seeing another person.

It was an enchanted, and enchanting, place to grow up. 

We made good use of those woods, harvesting blackberries and huckleberries, riding our Stingray bikes on the trails, chasing coyotes and keeping an eye out for bears (alas, the only one we ever saw wasn't in the woods, it was raiding the neighbor's garbage cans). 

And yes, there were forts.  Lots of forts.

Such was my refuge for most of my pre-teen years.  To this day, my favorite place in the world to be is under a large cedar tree, sitting on a rotted stump, listening to the rain fall around me.

Then one day, I came home from school, and as my friends and I crested our little hill we looked down the street and saw our beloved woods being torn down to make room for "development."

I hadn't yet read any Edward Abbey at that time, but I can tell you that our attempts at Monkeywrenching were not nearly as successful as his.  Maybe it's because we didn't have Ted Danson along?

Anyway, despite our nightly attempts to relocate all of the surveying stakes, the bulldozers were done with their work in about 2 weeks, and when they were done, our woods had been turned into a few small islands of trees floating in a sea of naked earth, pockmarked with slashpile volcanoes 30 feet high.  The slash fires burned most of the summer, it seemed, leaving big pools of gray sooty ash where they had burned.

And then: nothing. 

I have no idea why the developer didn't build houses -- maybe they ran out of money?

Whatever the reason, the land went into remission for the next ten years, before finally succombing to an infestation of double-wide mobile homes.  Today, from the top of that hill, I can still see the remaining shards of forest, but can also see the sillhouette of the Boeing 747 plant against the Olympic Mountains, and a plethora of high-tech office buildings in the foreground.

But in the years between the bulldozers and the mobile homes, we had the chance to spend a decade watching the forest regenerate itself.  It was  great chance to witness ecological succession in action, the fireweed and alder rushing in to cover the bare dirt, eventually overtaken by the salal and Oregon grapes and western hemlock seedlings……..and the return of the blackberries.

And not the big, common, Himalya blackberries that take over every foot of empty space in the Northwest, if given half a chance -- the kind that laugh in the face of machetes and Roundup -- no, we're talking the tiny mountain blackberries, about the size of a blueberry, with hardly any seeds, and growing so close to the ground that the city folks would pay us $5 a gallon for them just to avoid the squatting and searching and scratches that were part and parcel of picking them. 

The blackberries often grew up in the areas that had been, briefly, slash fires. 

And so it came to pass, sometime in my late teens, that I would find myself out in the "woods" again -- a lesser forest than before but still a better place to hang out than the mall -- picking blackberries from among the burned out remains of my childhood.  And it must have been on one of those blackberry picking expeditions that my size 13, black and white Converse high tops accumulated a coating of black, sooty grime. 

And it was those size 13 (D width) sooty footprints, tracked across the living room carpet (shag, of course!), that prompted my mom -- a cop by vocation, a horticulturist by training, and an opera singer at heart -- to yell at me: "will you PLEASE stop tracking those GIAN CARBON FOOTPRINTS across the g*d d*mned carpet!?!"

And thus began my lifelong quest to reduce MY carbon footprint. 

Funny how we get to where we are, ain't it?

ANYWAY….."what does this have to do with me?"  you might ask (and well you should).

Here's what:

You too, can reduce your carbon footprint, by choosing to complete the ChemAlliance annual user survey ONLINE, instead of flying out here to the dusty, barren desert of eastern Washington State, to tell me first hand what you think we can do to improve the web site. 

It's all about choices, people. 

In this case, the wise choice, the carbon-efficient choice, is to visit our newly updated web site (www.chemalliance.org), and follow the link from the top of the home page to our survey -- or just go to the survey directly:


It will take you about 5 minutes.  And if you so choose, you can register at the end of the survey for a chance to win a $150 gift certificate to Amazon.com.

Hope everyone has a good summer.  May at least a small moment of it be spent beneath a cedar tree, out of the rain.

And stay away from the bulldozers.
Scott Butner
Director, ChemAlliance
c/o Pacific NW National Laboratory
PO Box 999
Richland, WA  99352
Voice: (509)-372-4946/Fax: (509) 375-2443
Website: http://www.chemalliance.org/
E-mail: scott.butner@pnl.gov