April 2010 Archives

Beauty: Sustainable or Not?

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Green Mormon Architect has an interesting post on the idea that "only beauty is sustainable," which I cannot link to because he has made his blog private. (GMA: wtf? I doubt being "green" or an "architect" is much reason to take a blog private. Must have something to do with the "Mormon" part....) He writes, "If the community doesn't embrace a building, the building will not be saved or preserved when the time comes. Unaesthetic buildings will not last and are unsustainable even if they have a LEED rating." He then provides a photo of the Mark Miller Toyota building in Salt Lake City, and it is indeed pretty damn hideously ugly despite its LEED gold rating. He adds, "I will be the first in line to tear this building down when the time comes." He notes that the SLC Library has no LEED rating, but is a beautiful, functional, inviting building, and adds, "I will be the first in line to preserve this building when the time comes."

Sustainability in relation to buildings generally refers to the amount of resources they use in their building and maintenance. You know: are renewable materials used responsibly in the construction of the structure? Are the environmental considerations of the building site reasonably attended to? Are energy-saving features incorporated into the design? Of course it's possible to attend to questions like that and still produce an ugly building. GMA's example of Mark Miller Toyota illustrates that perfectly well for me. I also have a feeling I might not be such a fan of the LDS church's new stake center in Farmington, despite the fact that it "is insulated with polyurethane foam, uses highly efficient windows, carpet made from recycled materials, tankless water heaters and European-style toilets that offer the choice of little or lots of water with each flush"-it still probably looks like an uninspired, unimaginative LDS building. Plus I'm guessing that those "highly efficient windows" don't provide for much light or ventilation, making the building as dark and stinky as most LDS buildings from the past 30 years generally are.*

I'm not entirely sure that ugliness is unsustainable--there's plenty of very old ugliness in the world--but I like to think that we might someday achieve a world where that's true. And while I believe in and support the goal of sustaining beauty, I want to discuss the challenges it involves.

Sustainable Death


I have been thinking a lot about sustainability lately, mostly because I have been confronted with a few situations that were absolutely unsustainable. The most dramatic was my mother's illness. Terminal illness is by its very nature unsustainable: the "terminal" part means that it's going to kill you, sooner or later, more or less painfully. Mom's illness required a lot of arrangements and accommodations that we could not sustain indefinitely, but we figured we could keep them going long enough. Turns out we didn't have to sustain a lot of them....

I confess to being freaked out at the massive resources devoted to end-of-life care. I don't know what to do about it, but I think something has to be done. When my mom died, the cupboard was full of different medications, some of them still in sealed packages that had never been opened. What do you do with such things? We hoped we'd be able to return them to the pharmacy, not even for a refund (even though some of them cost thousands of dollars a month), but just so they wouldn't get dumped down the toilet and end up in our water supply.

And then there are all the resources devoted to conventional burial.... You embalm someone, and then you put them in a casket, and then you put the casket in a vault, so that the embalming fluid won't leak and so that the the ground over the grave won't settle and make the cemetery lawn hard to mow. What? Really? I have long said that I don't want to be embalmed, but I don't especially want to be cremated, either. I want to be tree food. I want to be wrapped in an old cotton sheet and buried in a deep hole so I can be recycled. Turns out that I am not the only person who feels this way and that there is a natural burial movement. But it's definitely not the norm.

My friend G used to have a completely huge, hideous, disgusting wart on his wrist. Actually it wasn't so much a wart as a cluster of warts, and it was in a place where you couldn't help but notice it. He used Compound-W to get rid of it; it came back, worse than before. He had it frozen off; it came back, worse than before.

Then he quit his job, which he had hated devoutly for about two years. Within ten days, the wart had gone away of its own accord.

My friend M developed a horrible case of eczema. It was ugly, and it hurt. Then he came out of the closet. Within six months, the eczema was gone, never to return.

My friend D wet the bed every single night from early childhood into adulthood. Then he came out of the closet, and the bedwetting stopped forever.

Me, I had horrible digestive problems, respiratory infections and very unsettling bouts of vertigo while I was a missionary. Then I finished my mission and came home. Right away, the respiratory infections cleared up and the vertigo ceased, and though the intestinal problems didn't go away entirely, they at least lessened.

An Order of Green Mayo, Please


a letter I sent to Mayo Clinic this morning, about its environmental practices, which quite frankly stink.

Mayo Clinic
13400 East Shea Boulevard
Scottsdale AZ 85259

Dear Mayo Clinic Administrators:

On Friday, March 19, 2010, I visited the Mayo Clinic Hospital and Specialty Building on the Phoenix Campus with my mother, who was a patient of your clinic. [a bunch of redacted stuff about my mom's doctor, who was great, and the fact that the lab lost my mom's blood work, which her doctor said happened all too often.]

I would also like to bring to your attention a few matter unrelated to my mother but still of great concern to me. When I went to the Hospital with my mother for some tests, we used the elevator to get to the second floor. I left her while some procedure was performed, and went to get a cup of coffee. I tried to use the stairs, but couldn't find them, largely because there were no signs leading to the stairs. (This could be very bad in the case of an emergency.) Eventually I simply took the elevator down to the first floor, which required me to wait for an elevator and also needlessly used electricity, two things that really irritate me. When I wanted to return to the second floor, I asked the volunteers at the help desk where the stairs were. "Why do you need to know where the stairs are?" one of them asked me.

"I like taking stairs," I said. "It's one way I get exercise. Plus I hate waiting for elevators."

"Our elevators are very fast," the volunteer replied.

"Not if a lot of people are getting on and off at every floor," I said. "And anyway, what does it matter to you if I want to take the stairs?" Still nonplussed that an able-bodied person would voluntarily climb one flight of stairs rather than take an elevator, they gave me directions, which proved inadequate. I gave up and took the elevator again.

Loss, Just Loss


Remember back in December when I wrote about loss anticipated vs. loss experienced? Well, the loss I was anticipating back then has been experienced: my mom died.

Her death was slow, ugly and cruel, in ways that offered both profound suffering and some really remarkable blessings for all of us. Because it was so slow, we had time to prepare, and to say and do what we needed to. Because it was so ugly, we were able to let her go--we didn't want her to stick around for more of what she was enduring. Because it was so cruel, we got to learn something about compassion and work hard to comfort her and each other.

The funeral was really nice, and very well attended--I saw so many old friends. We buried her near her parents in the truly beautiful Binghampton Cemetery in Tucson, two days before Easter. Some of my siblings were lamenting the fact that the proximity to Easter would taint the holiday henceforth, but I, the godless heathen, said, "What are you talking about? She's being buried on Good Friday. Can you think of a better, more meaningful day for her to be buried on?" And that did seem to offer comfort to people.

I really miss her.


go read this

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Yeah, I haven't posted in forever. I have some really good excuses, though, which I'll get around to explaining eventually. In the meantime, read this post on Career Women vs. SAHMs: Cage Match Round I from Letters from a Broad.


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This page is an archive of entries from April 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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