Thursday, February 26, 2015

Wood Stoves Safe in Virginia

Sitting by my wood stove and typing this, I'm actually delighted with Conservatives I usually find rather insane. We know the sort, who tend to block any environmental laws, deny climate change, and take behind-the-back payola, I mean campaign contributions, from corporate polluters.

Usually, I want to pour that sort a toxic-waste Martini. But today, I will reluctantly raise a glass to them. I actually believe they led a worthwhile effort, by protecting citizens' right to heat their homes with wood. I have been using this source of heat since December 2012, and in the coldest weather it saves me $200-$300 per month.

That's not big money for me, and I do have to cut, transport, and season my wood. For poor citizens in my part of the state, however, wood is the only source they can afford. In a cold winter, my neighbors and I each need about four full cords: a stack 32 feet long by four high by four deep.

Wood stoves may well contribute to local air pollution, especially in areas subject to temperature inversions that trap smoke. We've a newer stove that is efficient and burns hot with good seasoned oak. I burn other stuff in a pinch or as kindling, of course.

If Virginia lawmakers had not acted, we might have EPA regulations that would affect new stove installations, not a ban but regulations about the types of stoves that could be used. In theory, I do not oppose that. The poor with older stoves would be grandfathered in, including my current stove that cost us about $3000 for the stove and installing a stainless steel chimney liner. It has paid for itself now, even with an annual chimney and stove cleaning that runs me $250.

My fear is, however, rather like those of some gun owners. Over time, initial regulations would tighten and threaten my right to burn wood.

Government has a role in protecting public health and insuring the natural world is not damaged. I'd like stronger and faster action on climate change, but burning coal is a far worse threat to our planet than tens of millions of wood stoves in colder parts of the nation. Coal ash spills into rivers when containment fails, and mountain-top removal is a great evil of our age. Unlike coal fields, commercial forests can be managed in a way that is sustainable for fuel and the environment; my stove consumes about two matures oaks per year.

We have made progress with new cars that are more fuel efficient, thanks to CAFE standards recently adopted, and that initiative too reduces pollutants. For wood stoves, EPA might work with industry and provide tax incentives for innovations that reduce emissions.  If the car makers manage to do it, so can Dutch West, who built my stove.

Just don't come for my stove, ever, let alone those of my less affluent neighbors. For now, my state officials have "got our backs" on this issue.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Time Enough? Time for February

I have heard people despair out loud about the "wasted month" of February. I guess they want time to run faster so they can get on with whatever business awaits in March. I am not so sure. First, the second month of the year is perfect for trimming woody plants back, perfect for outdoor projects too dangerous when the snakes begin to crawl in the thickets.

Second, the light creeps back into the day, to encourage us all. But I like the dark half of the year enough to use a good bit of February for reading by the wood stove. One of my pursuits involves writing down what writers a lot smarter than I am say about time.

Here are a few favorites from my book of quotations. Naguib Mahfouz called the course of the years "careening, unstoppable Time" and that is my favorite metaphor. These other meditations about time are also quite fine. I end with Annie Dillard's, perhaps my second favorite.

Find some time, take some time, borrow some time, steal some time, save some time to read this month. Just do not waste time.

"And what are two thousand years? What, indeed, if you look down from a mountain top down the long wastes of the ages? The very stone one kicks with one's boot with outlast Shakespeare"

     Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

"We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once."

     Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra

"Time slides past, slides past beyond recall, while, spellbound, we drift off among details"

    Virgil, The Georgics I: 284-85

"When the waves receded, the shores of Time would spread out there clean, empty, shining with infinite grains of memory and little else."

     Frank Herbert, Dune Messiah

"Pass through this moment in time in harmony with nature, and end your journey content, as an olive falls when it is ripe, blessing nature who produced it, and thanking the tree on which it grew."

     Marcus Aurelius, Meditations IV, 48

"Time itself is nothing; the experiencing of it is everything."

"Time itself, that weightless thing, could only go in one direction, no matter how you defined it or tried to step on its tail--that much at least seemed certain. Nobody knew what time was, but even if you placed all the clocks in the world in a circle, time would still run straight on, and should there be a finite end to time it was not one that could be imagined by human beings with a sense of vertigo. But what then were memories? Time that had been left behind and had now caught up with you, or that you yourself, by moving against the tide of time--doing the impossible in fact--could retrieve."

     Cees Nooteboom, Nomad's Hotel

"He would explore the lateral byways now, the side doors, as it were, in the corridors of time. There months could be an eternity."

     J.G. Ballard, "The Voices of Time"

"Hold to the now, the here, through which the future plunges to the past."

     James Joyce, Ulysses

"We sleep to time's hurdy-gurdy; we wake, if we ever wake, to the silence of God. And then, when we wake to the deep shores of time uncreated, then when the dazzling dark breaks over the far slopes of time, then it's time to toss things, like our reason, and our will; then it's time to break our necks from home."

     Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm