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Young Athletes of the Year

Like it or not, professional athletes are role models for our children. Sometimes this is a good thing, and, well, sometimes it’s not. (Ahem, Lance.) Thankfully, inspiration is a two-way street: Young athletes can teach us what it means to try our hardest, practice true sportsmanship, and play for all the right reasons.

We’d all do well to take a cue from Connor and Cayden Long, whom Sports Illustrated named Sports Kids of the Year in 2012. The brothers, now nine and seven, have spent the last year and a half competing together in youth triathlons up and down the East Coast. Cool story, but here’s the hitch: Cayden, 7, who has hypertonic cerebral palsy, can’t walk or swim or ride a bike. His brother, Connor, helps him through the whole course: pulling him on a raft during the swimming leg, towing him on a bike trailer during the cycling leg, and pushing him in the trailer during the run.

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The Art of Snow

Craig_SUSCFood for thought, at La Montanita Co-op. All poems courtesy of Snow Poems Project, Santa Fe.

It didn’t exactly come as a shocker: 2012 was the hottest and driest year on record. But winter isn’t dead yet. Literally or metaphorically. There’s fresh stuff under the boards from the Sierras to Maine, and in Santa Fe, a cool new creative venture is turning snow into art.

The Snow Poems Project uses spray-on fake snow to stencil poetry on windows around Santa Fe. For the past two weeks, poems written by local residents have been popping up on schools, galleries, government buildings, restaurants, libraries, and yoga studios in town. The poems are short—one or two lines of blocky, uppercase type—and most of them aren't even about snow, but the feelings they convey are the feelings of winter itself: stark, pristine, and wild. Reading them is a little like watching your breath turn to steam on a frigid morning, or following a single pair of footprints across a high meadow blanketed in powder. Dazzling.

Craig_SUSCPoetry is beautiful at Body Santa Fe.

The idea came out of the Cut + Paste Society, a group of Santa Fe women artists and writers, as a way to illuminate public spaces in the darkest of seasons. It's a creative statement as much as an environmental one: "Winter is a time for reflection and the incubation of ideas," says Cut + Paste president Edie Tsong, who partnered with the Santa Fe Art Institute for this project, "and poetry reflects this." Many of Cut + Paste's members are mothers, so it’s also a parent’s effort to bring art into the everyday and to turn cities into “living books,” written from the perspective of the people who live there. Tsong and her team vetted 175 poems submitted by locals (nearly half of which were from students) and winnowed them down to 40, including this one by 12th-grader Pedro Tena:

Craig_SUSCDrive-by art at the Solana Center.

Putting a poem on glass is harder than it looks. Tsong hand cut letters from cardstock, used them to trace the stencils, and then held a stencil-cutting party at Whole Foods. To install, she and her team of volunteers lay lines down with dry erase marker, yardstick and level, and then tape letters and words backwards, so the poem can be read from the outside. Next, the faux frosting: The spray-on snow is squishy until it's dry (when it just becomes chalk). Finally, they remove and wash the letters to reuse again. "People may wonder if it's worth it, but think of the amount of hours of training athletes will do to compete," says Tsong, "and you never forget a race or some physical challenge."

Poems will grace the windows of Santa Fe for the rest of winter; by the first day of spring, they'll begin to fade out, like melting snow.

Craig_SUSCSoup poem, Sweetwater.

For more information and a complete list of poems and places, go to snowpoemsproject.com and www.facebook.com/snowpoems.

—Katie Arnold
@raisingrippers

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Falcon's Interactive Guides to Hiking, Climbing, and Cooking

FalconGuides just announced the first 12 titles in a new line of interactive outdoor guides the company developed in partnership with Inkling, a platform for interactive learning.

For the price of the download, readers get expert content optimized for iPhone, iPad, and Web, with features that bridge the gap between apps and ebooks: slideshows with high-res images not found in the print editions, guided visual tours, hyperlinks, and smart search that makes it quick and easy to get to the information you need, from a list of dog-friendly hikes to a river name. Hiking guide users can give tips to other readers and share trail notes on washed out bridges, best photo ops, bees nests to watch out for, or anything else. An animal tracks feature lets you click through a series of questions that narrows down which animal tracks you’ve spotted based on pattern, shape, and size. Rock climbing instructional guides have stop-motion animation illustrating specific techniques.

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Energy Literacy, Part II: Why Less Energy Is More

If we Americans still relied on human muscles to generate all the energy we happily consume, we'd each have 150 dedicated "energy slaves" working for us, all day, every day. Instead, we've been exploiting other forms of energy—mostly non-renewable and emissions-generating fossil fuels—for the past 150 years. But it takes increasingly more energy to make fossil-based energy, since the "easy" fossil fuels have largely been depleted and attention is now turning to sources such as oil sands. Compounding this problem is the growing sea of humanity that demands power.

Actually, there are many compounding factors, as author and Post Carbon Institute fellow Richard Heinberg lays out in the introduction, below, to Energy: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth, a new book from PCI and the Foundation for Deep Ecology. We can't just keep feeding the machine, he argues. When it comes to energy, less is more—but becoming more efficient with our energy is not enough to turn this boat all the way around.

The book also includes essays from a long list of leading thinkers and writers on energy, emissions, consumption, efficiency, and the energy economy, including Wes Jackson, Wendell Berry, James Hansen, and Amory Lovins. In Part I of this series we spoke with the book's editor, Tom Butler, about green power's dark side, the power (and possible pitfalls) of energy ruin porn, and the population problem.

—Mary Catherine O'Connor
@mcoc

Derelict_coal_plantA derelict coal-burning power plant in Romania. Photo: Douglas Tompkins

INTRODUCTION: Energy: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth

Energy is at the core of the human predicament in the 21st century. Extracting fossil fuels poisons landscapes, fragments habitat, and destroys beauty. Burning those fuels is changing the chemical composition of the global atmosphere and accelerating climate change. At the same time, spiraling fossil fuel prices—resulting from depletion of the highest-grade and most easily accessed hydrocarbon resources—have contributed to a worldwide financial crisis that threatens global stability. Not only are transport costs rising, threatening globalized supply chains, but soaring energy prices also drive up food prices, leading to increasing social unrest around the world.

As conventional oil and gas deplete, energy companies are forced to spend more and more to search for and produce resources that are farther afield, that are more technically challenging to access, and that pose serious risks to ecosystems. In their increasingly desperate search for “extreme energy,” oil and gas companies must operate at the margin of their technical capabilities. Under these circumstances, accidents are not only more likely to happen, but are often far more disastrous when they do: Recall the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, and imagine a similar or larger accident happening hundreds of miles off the coast of Alaska in rough arctic seas. Indeed, the entire project of globalized industrial civilization—which took root and dramatically expanded during the 20th century as cheap energy drove production, trade, and population growth—now seems imperiled as energy and ecological limits come into view.

It’s tempting to take the micro-view and look for ways to target each of our energy problems with a technical fix. Can’t we improve the energy efficiency of vehicles, insulate our buildings, and develop renewable energy sources? Yes, of course. Can’t we regulate the fossil fuel industry better, and allow the vast, recently unlocked North American reserves of shale gas and shale oil to be produced responsibly? Possibly. We could do all of those things, and many more besides, to lessen the current energy economy’s impacts on natural and human communities—and still there would remain serious obstacles ahead.

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Energy Literacy, Part I: Green Power's Dark Side and Eco Ruin Porn

GW_windfarmDown on the wind farm. Photo: George Wuerthner

Every therm and watt of energy we consume comes from somewhere, and those sources are finite, even if they're generally well removed from our daily lives. Energy: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth is a new coffee table book by the Post Carbon Institute and the Foundation for Deep Ecology that shows and tells us, in graphic detail, the backstories that make up our current energy economy.

Adventure Ethics spoke with the book's co-editor, Tom Butler, about the value of beauty, the potential of energy ruin porn, the population problem, and the importance of energy literacy. In Part II of this series, we'll offer an excerpt from the book.

ENERGY_cover

How did this large format art book come about?
The germination was in an earlier project that the Foundation for Deep Ecology's publishing group had produced and that was about mountaintop removal coal mining, called Plundering Appalachia, which George [Wuerthner] and I co-edited. We had immersed ourselves in that particular and specific part of energy economy, this horrific act of blowing up mountaintops to get at coal in the most ancient mountains and biologically rich forest type in North America. So that book we produced with a coalition of environmental groups that are fighting that practice. After that, we started talking about a similar project about tar sands.

George was up there in the tar sands, taking aerial photos and researching that problem, and when we started talking about it we realized it's just another very small part of an energy economy that is fundamentally toxic to nature and to people. It diminishes biological diversity, it diminishes beauty. Pulling out a single narrow slice of the bigger subject, by just talking about tar sands, didn't make sense to us. So we decided to open it up and try to do a project that makes the invisible visible to people—and that is, the systemic impacts of the current energy economy. Let's explore what is behind the light switch when you flip it on, what's behind the gas pump when you fuel up, and make it visible to people in an art book—a large photo format book.

If people are going to be engaged in reorienting our currently toxic energy economy and transferring to an energy economy that is more friendly to nature, to people, to beauty, to human health, biodiversity and all these things we care about ... [that] is only going to be possible if people are thinking about it and understand these key principals of energy. So energy literacy is really the focus of the project. The introductory section on energy literacy we spent quite a bit of time on. We want it to be very accessible and very easily understood because we think it's so important for people to understand net energy, and embodied energy, and how energy props up the entire scaffolding of civilization and in the converse how the entire scaffolding of civilization is required to produce the energy that supports it, so it's sort of a feedback loop.

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