[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: Some thoughts from the darker shadows of Earth Day, and a challenge to the P2 community

Scott,  I'll bet that if you put your ear to the sand that you'll be
able to hear my applause all the way to the Palouse.   Such a joy you
are to our humble community.

My two cents, without apology:      Climate

The problem will require more than we have, of course, but knowing what
we know, we have an obligation.   The statute allows us.  The pols and
public would support it.  How about mounting a P2 campaign around that?
I'll be a more content beetle knowing that I tried.

Carolyn Gangmark
U.S. EPA Region 10
1200 6th Ave. Suite 900 OEA-095
Seattle, WA  98101
Phone (206) 553-4072
FAX (206) 5530119

             "Butner, R                                                 
             <scott.butner@pn                                        To 
             l.gov>                   <p2tech@great-lakes.net>          
             Sent by:                                                cc 
             owner-p2tech@gre         "Butner, R Scott"                 
             at-lakes.net             <scott.butner@pnl.gov>            
                                      Some thoughts from the darker     
             05/01/2008 12:59         shadows of Earth Day, and a       
             AM                       challenge to the P2 community     
              Please respond                                            
                "Butner, R                                              

<tangent  ramble_mode="true" coherence="low" relevance="questionable"

P2TECH-ies (and a few selected other friends) --

I've come, once again, to drink from the well of your wisdom.

I even brought my own (non-disposable, stainless steel, bisphenol
A-free) cup.

The precipitating event for this e-mail is an invitation I received the
other day from our esteemed colleague Jeff Burke, Executive Director of
the National P2 Roundtable.   He wanted to know if I was willing to
spend a few minutes during the NPPR break-out session at the National
Environmental Summit on Wednesday May 21, to help kick off a discussion
session among the NPPR membership.

Rousing the rabble, as it were.

Well, I can rarely turn down a chance to stand in front of an audience
and hold forth, especially if not bound by any strict accountability to
things like "facts" or "data."

Besides, I've spent a long time attending NPPR meetings, sort of an
intellectual lint ball hanging from the rich tapestry that is the P2
community, so it was an excuse -- an opportunity! -- to come to
Baltimore and see some of my friends, old and new.

How could I refuse?

However, now I find myself facing the bleak consequences of accepting
his invitation -- specifically, having to select a discussion topic
which will provoke the audience to such stimulating conversation that
they go home saying, "I am SO glad I went to the Summit!"

This is where the challenge comes in:  I got nuthin'.  Nada.  Zip.  Less
than zero.


Now, left to my own devices, I will come up with something.  I always

But I'd like to invite this group to suggest topics for discussion that
YOU would like to see NPPR have, regarding the future of the
organization, and of the P2 community.

Got ideas?  Send them to me.  By now, you know where to find me.

Otherwise -- and consider this a warning, not  threat -- in two weeks
the audience at the Summit is likely to hear something along the lines
of my latest brainstorm:

"Going Softly into That Dark Night -- a P2 Strategy Whose Time has

Yeah.  You heard me.

In the words (word?) of the late, great Kurt Vonnegut:  "Listen."


So, last Saturday -- as fine a day as has yet to grace the 2008
calendar; a virtual poster child for springtime in the northwest! --  I
spent the morning, and well into the afternoon, working in my garden,
communing with the worms, soaking up the sun, and contemplating what
message I wanted to bring to the Summit.

Alas, pulling weeds, planting gladiolas, and deciding where in the
garden I should relocate the family totem pole ("Fred") took provided
more distractions than you'd think they could.  So while I accomplished
much in the garden, by 4 p.m. I had made little headway towards crafting
my Summit message.

But it's late April and days are getting longer up here at 47 degrees
north latitude; even at 4 p.m. we had hours of daylight left.  So I
decided to take a long-contemplated, oft-postponed trip across the
desert to visit the Juniper Dunes Wilderness, a 7,000 acre "island" of
juniper and 100-foot sand dunes surrounded by the soft green contours of
dryland wheat, the giant irrigated bullseyes of potato farms, and the
sage-filled shrub-steppe that fills all the spaces in between.  Though
it is only 45 miles from my home, I'd never visited it.  I figured the
drive would do me some good.  At the very least, I might find some good
light for taking photographs of the wild rhubarb that was reputed to
grow there.   I could sink my toes deep into the sand.   If I was lucky,
I'd find some deeper inspiration to sink my teeth into as well.

I packed up my camera and tripod, climbed into my Mazda -- which like
me, has more miles on it than I'd like to admit, and is overdue for some
preventative maintenance -- and backed out of the driveway onto Stevens
Drive.  I pointed the car in a generally eastern direction.

Figuratively speaking, of course, since our street runs north/south.

As I pulled away from the curb, I turned on my iPod, and heard the
opening refrains of an old Pointer Sister's song from the 70's:

      "Now's the time for all good men
      to get together with one another.
      We got to iron out our problems
      and iron out our quarrels
      and try to live as brothers.
      And try to find a piece of land
      without stepping on one another.
      And do respect the women of the world.
      Remember you all have mothers."

I turned the volume up a few notches -- turns out that my dad was right
-- I DID wreck my hearing, listening to that music so loud!  Now I have
little choice but to turn it up.

For what it's worth, I've long thought that this song -- "Yes We Can
Can," from their self-titled first album released in 1973 -- is, to my
mind, perhaps the last viable candidate for an anthem for my generation.
As far as I can tell, it remains untouched and unspoiled, not yet
co-opted into selling SUV's or laundry detergent or acting as a cliched
audio synopsis each time that Hollywood wants to pay lipservice to that
period of simultaneous political unrest and (for a brief while) enormous
optimism that was the late 60's.  As such songs go, it's too long, and
takes too much time to get to the point, and can't be easily fitted into
a 30 second format.

Though I suspect that even now, some cynical Madison Avenue types are
working on it.  They're sitting around a big table, probably made of
endangered tropical hardwoods, making plans to strip away the innocence
from yet one more song in hopes of convincing middle aged consumers that
they can replace their own lost innocence with a bit of cheap nostalgia
and a Prius in the driveway.

I know.  Cynical.  Though, some would respond that cynicism is the only
logical response to the world we live in.

Those would be the cynical ones, by the way.  At least we're consistent.

On this fine Saturday, however, I didn't entertain such thoughts for
even a moment.  My mood buoyed by good music, and admittedly feeling a
little TOO self-satisfied about spending the last hour meticulously
pulling dandelions by hand so that I didn't have to resort to
herbicides, I drove off towards the dunes and started to contemplate
discussion topics for my Summit presentation.


This may seem, on the surface, to be much ado about nothing.  After all,
I'd been asked to give a ten minute talk -- the primary purpose of which
is to get OTHER people to enter into the discussion.  No one was asking
me to be the authority about anything.  * (I feel compelled to add here
-- as a pre-emptive measure against those who know me well -- to say in
my defense that there ARE things I am an authority on.  Really.  It's
just that few people are very interested in them, which is precisely
what allows me to be the authority -- niche specialization being an
important adaptitve strategy in any ecosystem).  All I had to do was
relate a few ideas about current issues facing P2, and get the ball
rolling.  Plenty of people smarter than me would be in the audience, and
they could take it from there.

Simple, really.  Right?

The problem I faced was this:

I'm a P2 has-been.  Tasked with talking to a bunch of P2 up-and-comers.

See, even by my own admission, most of the truly interesting work in my
20+ year career in pollution prevention -- real fun stuff dealing with
mass transfer in supercritical CO2 parts cleaning, multi-objective
process optimization, project prioritization methodologies,
environmental lifecycle analysis, debunking ISO 14001, design for
environment, "green" accounting software….is more dated than a high
school prom queen.  Like a lot of us, though, I continue to chug along,
making contributions where I can, trying to stay reasonably current with
the latest and greatest.

But still painfully aware that I am increasingly out of touch.

I was wrapping my mind around this bitter reality when I turned off of
Highway 12 onto the Pasco-Kalhoutous Highway, a sun-baked two lane that
winds its way along the Snake River, where salmon once thrived, and
through some of the richest farm land in the US, which in many ways
sealed the salmon's fate.  And as the miles ticked by, though the sun
was still hanging bright in the sky, my mood began to darken a bit.  So
perhaps there was some psychic resonance at work that allowed the
plaintative voice of Neil Young to push its way into my consciousness. I
rolled up the window (in an earlier, ill-considered concession to my P2
roots, I had bought a car without air conditioning -- not a good choice
when you live in a climate where summer temperatures occasionally top
110 F) and turned up the volume just in time to hear him singing the
punchline from "My My, Hey Hey":

      "It's better to burn out/Than it is to rust…"

And with that lyric, juxtaposed as it was against the ongoing
contemplation of my own rustiness, my mood shifted out of the blue, and
into the black.


Bear in mind:  with 5,438 different songs on my iPod, the odds of this
particular song playing at this particular moment in time were
relatively small. It's a simple matter of statistics.  Lots of songs
means a small chance of any given song being played.

For instance, I once calculated that I could drive from Seattle to
Fresno, California -- and BACK again -- listening ONLY to my collection
of Elvis Costello songs, and never hear the same song twice.

I should note that I've never actually tried to verify this
experimentally.  For one -- who wants to go to Fresno?  But mostly, I
fear that if I ever tried it, my wife would probably get out of the car
somewhere around Portland, and hitchike back home.  It would be a long,
lonely ride home for Elvis and I.

At any rate, I'd recently finished reading "This is Your Brain on Music:
The Science of a Human Obsession," a great book by record-producer
turned congitive psychologist Daniel Levitin, which discusses how the
human brain processes music (and which, incidentally, closes with an
air-tight scientific explanation, based on sound evolutionary
principles, of why the bass players always get all the girls).

Perhaps because I'd been reading this book, I started paying more
attention than usual to the lyrics of the songs that were playing.
Egged on by the coincidence of Neil Young's great tribute to Johnny
Rotten, his warning against musical obsolesence, and the contemplation
of my own technical obsolesence, I started noting (or was it,
constructing?) a certain theme in the songs that played.

The pattern was set, I think, when the next song in the queue was Pink
Floyd's "Time" from the "Dark Side of the Moon" CD:

      "Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
      Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
      Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
      The time has gone, the song is over, thought I'd something more to

Or this -- from "Thousand Year Prayer" by the Cowboy Junkies:

      "Here we all are at the end of "the century of beauty lost".
      We greedily ate what you gave us, the rest we tossed.
      We've trapped all your rivers, paved every pass,
      Pulled at your sky till we caused it to rip.
      But you've got Jimi Hendrix so lets call it an even split. "

Eddie Vedder's voice rang true on Pearl Jam's "All Those Yesterdays"

      "Don't you think you've done enough?
      Oh, don't you think you've got enough, well maybe..
      You don't think there's time to stop
      There's time enough for you to lay your head down, tonight,

Followed back to back by an oldie from Counting Crows:

      "I got bones beneath my skin, mister...
      There's a skeleton in every man's house
      Beneath the dust and love and sweat that hangs on everybody
      There's a dead man trying to get out "

and by a recent favorite of mine from Death Cab for Cutie:

      "Love of mine
      some day you will die
      But I'll be close behind
      I'll follow you into the dark
      No blinding light or tunnels to gates of white
      Just our hands clasped so tight
      Waiting for the hint of a spark

      If Heaven and Hell decide that they both are satisfied
      Illuminate the NOs on their vacancy signs
      If there's no one there beside you when your soul embarks
      Then I will follow you into the dark "

Now, lest you think that my musical collection consists entirely of
dark, self-possessed songs by Emo kids in black sweatshirts, I'll have
you know that I have my fair share of upbeat songs as well.

But in any string of random events, there exists a finite possibility
that a sequence will emerge which gives the appearance of being by
design.  And if I were a spiritual person, I might even have been
tempted to think that the heavens were sending me a message.

On such matters, though, I tend to subscribe to the world according to
Iris Dement:

      "Everybody's wonderin' what and where they all came from.
      Everybody's worryin' 'bout where they're gonna go when the whole
      thing's done.
      But no one knows for certain and so it's all the same to me.
      I think I'll just let the mystery be."

In any event, whether by design or by chance, the great epiphany came as
I turned left off the Snake River Road, skidding across the crushed
gravel of East Blackman Ridge Road in a cloud of dust.  From a distance,
my dust cloud would have been the only moving thing visible for miles in
any direction.  As I crested a ridgeline, the road bent to the west,
pointing me into the setting sun and momentarily blinding  me to the
presence of spring calves standing idly in the road.  I veered around
them, leaving tire tracks at the edge of a wheat field, and regained my
purchase on the road.

In that moment of brilliant light, I was illuminated -- and I swear I am
not making this up -- by the opening verse of Poi Dog Pondering's "Bury
Me Deep"

      "A lifetime of accomplishments of which the dirt knows none,
      only in death can one truly return
      Return the carrots, the apples and potatoes,
      The chickens, the cows, the fish and tomatoes.
      In one glorious swoop, let the deed be done
      and bury me deep so that I can be one...
      And all around my muscle and all around my bone,
      don't incinerate me or seal me from
      the dirt which bore me, the bed that which from
      the rain falls upon and the fruit comes from"

And there it was in front of me, as plain and as bright as the setting
sun:  "Going quietly" as the final frontier in pollution prevention.


See, like many of a certain age, I've begun to come to terms with my own
eventual mortality.  I'm not quite 50 yet, but my parents both died
fairly young so I figure I'd best get an early start on thinking about
such things.

Like many of my cohorts, I have made certain wishes known to my loved
ones -- how heroic I expect them to be in extending my life, what to do
with any "stuff" I have left over when the game ends.  What to do with
ME when the game is over.  The usual details.

But it occurred to me that perhaps in death there was an opportunity I'd
been overlooking --  a way to take make sure that I truly reduced my
footprint on this earth.  What if, I thought, I simply decided not to
fight the inevitable?  What if I allowed myself to go quietly into the
dark when my body finally decided it was time to let go?

No heroic measures.  Not even any mildly strenuous measures.  My
med-alert bracelet would read "No, really -- don't bother on my

No life support, no blood pressure medications, no defibrillators or
emergency heart surgery should I one day find myself clutching my chest.
None of it.  Roll the dice and accept the consequences without regret.
Walk into and beyond the white light, and don't look back.

Not willing myself to an early death -- certainly not! -- but instead,
making a decision in relative health, to spare myself those last years
when medical science can only preserve life, but not the quality of it.

Think about it:  what better way to reduce your footprint on this earth,
than simply ceasing to be?

No more worrying about the environmental impact of that beef you had for
dinner.  No fussing over the awful taste of soy milk and longing for the
stuff that comes from cows.  No more being haunted by the faint hum of
the air conditioner on a sleepless summer night.  No "paper or plastic?"
conundrums, or wondering if that ethanol-spiked 89 octane you put in the
Prius was REALLY taking food off the table of a family in China.

No more hauling around your stainless steel coffee cup, or sidestepping
the issue of whether the coffee beans you put in your grinder couldn't
really be replaced with something grown closer to home.

Organically grown?  Doesn't mean a thing to a corpse.

Ashes to ashes, and all that.

As I trudged up the side of a 100 foot sand dune, sinking back one step
for every two I took, I began to get excited by all this.  I mean, this
was a breakthrough!   One person, by himself, wasn't going to change the
world this way -- but thousands -- no, millions! -- well, we could ALL
take the pledge to go away without a whimper when our times came.  Each
of us might shave 5, maybe 10 years off of our time on the planet, and
with it, effect a proportional reduction in our environmental impact.

This was frickin' brilliant, I panted, as I crested the tallest dune and
stared into the sun.

I sat down in the sand and watched five different varieties of beetle
trace tracks across the sand -- anyone who expired here would certainly
release his inner skeleton!  While the beetles kept careful notes in the
sand, I began to ponder out loud all  the things that needed to be done.
We'd need to have plastic wrist bands -- black, of course.  Public
service announcements -- I'm thinking Christopher Walken or Anthony
Hopkins as our spokesperson.  Hire a writer -- a ghost writer, if you
will -- to create a best-selling self-improvement book:  "How to save
the Earth by not even trying!"   Guest appearances on Oprah AND the
Daily Show.  Product placement in Starbucks.  And viral marketing over

Bumper stickers, of course.  But we'd be very selective about who could
buy them, and we wouldn't sell them to ANYONE whose car didn’t get at
least 30 mpg, or carry at least two passengers.

I mean, you wouldn't want to risk selling out, right?

Oh, there would be detractors.  The pharmaceutical companies would be
the loudest.  They'd lobby for publicly subsidized medications for all
those who hadn't joined our crusade, in a vain attempt to make up for
lost revenues.  Network news shows would run negative stories about the
cult-like nature of the movement -- after all, us old people are the
only ones that still watch their drivel, and they know it.  They can't
afford to lose a single one of us!

The religious right wouldn't know what to do about us -- I mean, they
don't like assisted suicide, but leaving it in God's hands?  What could
be wrong about that, other than the fact it was a bunch of tree huggers
who were embracing the idea?

There would be some who tried to stop us.  They'd lobby and cajole and
preach against this noble gesture of ours.

But we would prevail -- or die trying.

Yes, this would be my crowning accomplishment as a P2 professional --
the final frontier.

The sun perched on the horizon.   The dunes shifted imperceptibly with
the wind.  Lone blades of grass etched compass circles in the sand,
marking the direction of the wind.  Though the warmth of the spring day
began to drain from the sky, I felt good.    The gloom that had followed
me into the wilderness had wandered away, leaving not even a trace of
footprints in the sand.   So I lifted myself up, bid adieu to the
beetles, who nodded quietly in acknowledgement, and returned to their
note taking.  I began walking back to the car through the sage.  I
watched for rattlesnakes and listened for coyotes, who, in these parts,
typically greet the coming night in a raucous fashion -- but aside from
the wind, all was quiet.

A mile or two later, I reached the car, happy in the knowledge that I
still had a good idea or two left in me.  After all, I might very well
be over the hill, but there are still more hills ahead to climb, and new
views waiting at the top of each of them.


Fast forward a couple of days.  Far from the sand dunes, immersed in a
different sort of inner wilderness, and viewing things in a different
sort of light --  I'm starting to realize that maybe the whole "early
death as the ultimate P2 strategy" idea still has a few obstacles to

Like, living, for one.  It's sort of become a habit of mine, and we all
know how hard habits are to break.

And my wife wasn't nearly as enthusiastic about this idea as I was.  Go

The Oprah people told me they weren't interested, either.  I wonder if
Ozzie Osbourne has a book club?

These are not insurmountable obstacles to be sure.  Nothing that a few
really good graphics and a celebrity endorsement or two couldn't help.

I mean, it worked for Al Gore, right?

Maybe I could talk Michael Moore into making a documentary about the
topic -- after all, we met once, 30 years ago, and I'm only one
connection away from him in my LinkedIn network.

The idea -- that was the main thing.  I mean, everything made by man
starts in the same place -- as an idea.  Peter Gabriel even tells us so:

      "Looking down on empty streets, all she can see
      Are the dreams all made solid
      Are the dreams all made real

      All of the buildings, all of those cars
      Were once just a dream
      In somebody's head"

As ideas go, maybe this one still needs some work.  But it's a start.

Looking back 15 years or so to the Engineering Foundation conferences on
P2, I can recall walking and talking with dear friends along the beach
in Santa Barbara (and later, San Diego) or sitting in a hotel lobby,
engrossed in late-night conversations about how technology alone was not
going to do the trick.  This seemed a great revelation to a technologist
like myself; it was self-evident, I am sure, to those who considered
technology as a foreign language.

We talked of the need to change consumer behavior.   To get
manufacturers interested in pursuing "green" markets.  To get
celebrities "on the bandwagon" for our cause.  To think beyond the
confines of the plant gate to how our communities were built.

We talked about the need to make "green" the world's favorite color.

And looking around me today, I feel like a modern Rip Van Winkle --
awaking after a long sleep in a world that is somehow both strange and
familiar at the same time. So much of what we hoped for has come to pass
-- I've seen more ads touting the "green" attributes of various
companies and products in the past year, than in all the years leading
up to this time.   Gas prices are high, people are conserving fuel --
for now.

It's like we've rubbed the lantern, set free the genie, and have been
granted our first wish.

We've got two left.  What shall we do with them?

And yet….

And yet, all the while, the glaciers vanish, the ice caps crumble.  The
precautionary principle asserts itself in a world that repeatedly throws
caution to the wind.

The second law is enforced vigorously and without mercy.  Things are
running down.  Time is running out.

Still, I am an optimist at heart, evidence to the contrary

Remember the Pointer Sisters?

      "I know we can make it.
      I know darn well we can work it out.
      Oh yes we can, I know we can can
      Yes we can can, why can't we?
      If we wanna get together we can work it out. "

Thirty five years later, I actually still believe that sh*t.  It touches
a still-clean part of me that hides deep down, and when it does, I know
that they were telling the truth then.  And it's still the truth now.

So.  Tell me something good.  Shine a ray of light through this dark
cloud and tell me where P2 is going.  Where YOU want it to go.  Venture
a guess about where our new frontiers are.  What do you see from your
sand dune, when you look towards the horizon?

As Elvis once sang:  "Let's talk about the future, now we've put the
past away"

You've seen one of my ideas.  I've set the bar low -- certainly you can
do better than THAT!

I mean, old and worn out though I may be, I've got some fight left in
me.  Cynical as I've become, I'd still love to change the world.
Wouldn't you?

great gosh a-mighty!


P.s. -- for those patient souls who have made it all the way to the end,
I've chosen some photographs to go along with the text…


Pictures may be worth a thousand words -- but they're a lot faster.

Scott Butner
Director, ChemAlliance
c/o Pacific NW National Laboratory
MS K7-28
3350 Q Ave
Richland, WA 99354
Voice: (509)-372-4946/Fax: (509) 375-2443
Website: http://www.chemalliance.org/
E-mail: scott.butner@pnl.gov

+m+yejGS칻&~&+-ݙݢj 歕w+aiۧrzyb^nr�Ơx*^칸rbz*tm 歕wXלv!wfL@rzjv޾'y֭i0ڦܢoל8bX+&jvy-ڔ%bsz*'Fv֛m i४axvږwŠނ*'jSwfz{^m)ڼh