Sunday, January 4, 2009

Biomimicry: Elegant simplicity

If there's one idea that Salem needs a lot more of, it's this: imitating nature in how we design our habitations and communities, not to mention our industrial processes. More great stuff from the Salem Public Library and the Friends of the Straub Environmental Learning Center.
Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature

An Introduction to the Concepts, Tools, and Power of Biomimicry
7 p.m. Thursday, January 29 Loucks Auditorium

Biomimicry is a method for studying and then emulating nature’s best materials, forms, processes, and strategies to develop sustainable design solutions. Emulating
photosynthesis in a leaf to design a better solar cell is an example of this “innovation inspired by nature.” The core idea is that animals, plants, and microbes have already
solved many of the design challenges that engineers and architects grapple with today.

This presentation will explore the whats, whys and hows of biomimicry: what biomimicry is; why we look at nature as model, mentor, and measure; examples of innovations inspired by nature; and how you can begin to integrate nature’s strategies into your own design process to create sustainable structures.

Presenter Denise K. DeLuca is outreach director for The Biomimicry Institute. In
this position, Denise is working to advance the tools of biomimicry and facilitate the integration of biomimicry into university-level education.

The presentation is free and open to the public through the support of the Charla Richards-Kreitzberg Charitable Foundation, Salem Public Library, City of Salem, and Marion Soil and Water Conservation District. More information is available from the Friends of Straub Environmental Learning Center at 503-391-4145 or at

The Friends of Straub Environmental Learning Center is a Salem-based non-profit organization dedicated to environmental education.

Also --- two weeks earlier, at Straub:

2008-09 FSELC Amateur Naturalist Series: Urban Tree Care
Thursday, January 15th, 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Straub Environmental Learning Center, 1320 A Street, Salem
$5 per person, RSVP required


Lisa Olivares, Environmental Education Specialist
Friends of Straub Environmental Learning Center
p: (503) 391-4145
Mailing Address: 765 14th Street NE, Salem, OR 97301

Calendar: More great stuff at Salem Public Library

Want to save money and have fun? Use your library more--we have a good one:

Like music?

The Midnight Serenaders look great. All of $5.

Feb. 6, 2009

$5 in advance/$7 at the door
On sale NOW at all Library Circulation Desks
The Midnight Serenaders perform an infectious blend of old-time jazz and early swing, offering up a sweet collection of songs and tunes from the early 20th century.

Fronted by guitar slinger/crooner Doug Sammons and ukuleleplinking chanteuse Dee Settlemier, this Portland, Oregon-based sextet transports audiences on a melodic, swing-crazy trip to the dance-happy era known as the Jazz Age.

Got kids? Help them discover the world beyond the video screen:

The Library’s “No TV in Salem Week” and the Great Library Camp-In have moved to January! Children who make and keep a pledge to turn off their TVs will be eligible to come with a favorite adult for a fun evening followed by a sleep over in the library.

The “Let Your Imagination Soar” Great Library Camp-In will begin Friday, January 30, with campers returning home after an early breakfast on Saturday, January 31. Youth Services staff and volunteers will entertain campers and their families with crafts and activities, including helicopter spinning, paper plane folding, spaceship soaring from 6:30-8 p.m. At 8 p.m., everyone will gather in the Loucks Auditorium for a special performance by Will Hornyak, storyteller extraordinaire.

To get in on the action, interested children and their families should pick up their “No TV” pledges at the Youth Services Reference Desk or at the West Salem Branch. Pledges must be returned to the Library by Sunday, January 25 for children to be eligible to come to the Camp-In.

Then, children who are keeping their “No TV” Pledge may make their reservations for the big event beginning Tuesday, January 27 at the Youth Services Reference Desk in person or by phone at 503-588-6088.

Another Great Resolution for 2009: Don't be a 'consumer'

Some people have been beating this drum for years. Nice to see someone in a major paper get on the bandwagon for refusing to define ourselves as "consumers:"

It's Time to Drop The Consumer Label

One of my New Year's resolutions is to stop referring to myself as a consumer.

The idea for the resolution actually came from reader Tom Krohn, who suggested that it's not just the country's spending habits that need to change for the better, but the language we use to describe who we are.

"We Americans are so used to being referred to as 'consumers' that we comfortably fall into that role and do so conspicuously," Krohn, a retired Navy submariner living in Arkansas, wrote to me. "Imagine an epitaph that read, 'Michelle Singletary -- A Wonderful Consumer.' Not very satisfying, is it?"

No, Tom, it's not how I want to live, or die.

We use the word consumer when referring to ourselves even when the topic isn't about consuming. But look at the word consume. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, consume means "to do away with completely; destroy, to spend wastefully; squander."

And yet we are no longer citizens but consumers. This recession has proved that things have to change, and still the message from many of our leaders continues to be that consumerism -- consumers -- will save the day. To be a consumer is equivalent to being a good American.

Consumerism has become a basic component of our American citizenship, contends Lizabeth Cohen in "A Consumers' Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America."

"By the end of the Depression decade, invoking 'the consumer' would become an acceptable way of promoting the public good, of defending the economic rights and needs of ordinary citizens," writes Cohen, a Harvard University professor.

We track closely the results of the Consumer Confidence Survey. Ever wonder why it isn't billed as the survey of confidence among the American people -- moms, dads, engineers, teachers, social workers, bus drivers, doctors, church-goers, etc.? It's not billed that way because we've come to gauge where we stand -- for good or bad -- by people's purchasing intentions.

Why is our confidence driven down by how much less we can spend?

Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of the nation's gross domestic product. That's bad because much of that spending was made possible by the overuse of credit -- other people's money. Our economy is a mess today because too many people -- individuals and corporate executives -- believed it was financially savvy to use other people's money. In many ways, the country has participated in a colossal Ponzi scheme. A scam we obviously couldn't sustain. We ran out of other people's money. That's what makes a Ponzi scheme fail. You can't get any more cash.

Since the Great Depression, we've embraced and celebrated our consumerism. We have mantras such as "I shop, therefore I am."

I once was part of this madness. In my early newspaper career I had a column called "Born to Shop." I defended my passion and the reason for the column by arguing I was bargain shopping and therefore saving myself and others money.

But you never save when you spend.


When you buy things on sale you are still spending money.

National holidays are celebrated by shopping. We have Veterans Day sales. That's how we honor our servicemen and women -- by shopping, by consuming more stuff.

And we are passing this legacy of consumerism on to our children. More children go shopping every week than read, go to church, participate in youth groups, play outdoors or spend time in household conversation, according to consumerism expert and Boston College professor Juliet B. Schor, author of "Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture."

"Although children have long participated in the consumer marketplace, until recently they were bit players, purchasers of cheap goods," Schor writes in her book. "That has changed. . . . Children's social worlds are increasingly constructed around consuming." Schor adds: "Contemporary American tweens and teens have emerged as the most brand-oriented, consumer-involved, and materialistic generation in history."

Our children are courted as consumers even before they have full-time employment.

"The kind of consuming people have been encouraged to do is undermining, not enhancing, our economic situation," Schor said in an interview. "And all this consumption has become financially and ecologically unsustainable. Doing more of the same makes those long-term problems worse, even if it props up some failing enterprises in the moment."

Rather than keeping things the same, why don't we again become producers?

"Households and the country need investment, not consumption," Schor said. "We need to invest in energy conservation, degraded ecosystems, a sustainable food system, education, community building, human connection and skills for everyday living."

Aren't you weary of being a consumer with all the accompanying debt it requires to keep up this occupation? If so, make 2009 the year you stop defining yourself as a consumer.