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Last week a friend who is a carpenter was tearing down my old, leaky front porch and putting in a new one, as well as replacing the boards on the eaves of the house that are overly weathered.  He found a wasps’ nest, which meant he and his laborer were now in danger of being stung if they went further, removed the nest and the rotten wood.  “Do you have any wasp spray?” he asked.  I thought that I would, but I couldn’t find any type of bug spray.  I used to use it when I’d occasionally have ant trails in the house, but using it around my kids bothered me, and I discovered that the problem was more permanently taken care of by finding where the ants were coming in and covering it over with painters’ caulking.  

I don’t know of any non-lethal ways to handle wasps’ nests – but I figure that wasps are probably good pollinators.  I needed a quick solution, so that the guys could get on with the work I was paying them to do.  They had dealt with this problem in the past, and wasp spray was how they would handle it.  So we got the wasp spray.  My friend recognized the can as the one they usually use – so I had fulfilled their request, which felt good.  

Here it is a week later and the can of spray poison is on a high shelf – next to the fish tank, of all things.  One of my sons in a fit of frustration threatened to spray it at his brother earlier this morning.  I’d leave it outside in a shed, but the aerosol can should not be stored in the heat created by the Arizona sun as summer approaches.  I begin thinking about how I do not like poisoning things – not even wasps.  I do not like spreading poison in and around my home.  But what other solution was there?  I am 38 years old, and in my experience, the simplest way to deal with an insect infestation is with poison!  I may have modified that idea with the insects that periodically invade my home, but outside my home I have no clue.  

And this is one of the biggest challenges we face in creating a society upon sustainable principles.  We don’t know how to do it.  I find it similar to learning a foreign language.  When you are learning a foreign language you go to speak and then realize that you can’t use your native tongue, and must instead search for the words in a foreign tongue.  It can be very frustrating to not be able to communicate quickly!  

The same goes for sustainability.  We stumble upon a problem – or it may be a simple occurrence, such as removing something new from packaging and then needing to do something with the packaging – and the old way of dealing with it is so simple, it is habit, it is known, it is familiar.  But living sustainably requires us to stop, think about the results of the familiar solution, and then devise a new solution based on principles of sustainability, test it out, and then revise it if it didn’t work well.  

It is doubly difficult to do this when so many of us are operating under limited budgets and a strained economy.  However, there is a silver lining.  

I have a cat – she is nine years old.  I’ve used clumping cat litter with her for most of those 9 years.  Recently it occurred to me that it might be useful to compost “her business”.  So I looked into that kitty litter.  It clumps because it has bentonite in it.  Bentonite has dust which isn’t very healthy for kitty (or for me) to breathe, and it apparently cannot be composted.  What can?  Wood based kitty litters can be composted.  I still haven’t found a local store for “wood stove pellets”, but I looked up the price online and discovered not only is it compostable, for the volume, it is about a quarter of the cost of my usual kitty litter.  And there is the silver lining – many of the ways to live more sustainably are actually simpler and less costly ways of living.  

At Target the other day I found pine pellet kitty litter that was about half the price per volume of the usual kitty litter I purchase so I decided to try it out and see if kitty liked it.  I mixed it in with the usual litter, and kitty has done her business as usual.  But my kitty litter scoop catches the new pine litter pellets, rather than letting them fall through.  Back to the design board.  I need to find a scoop that allows the pellets to fall through.  

This is why although I feel urgency when I read about or contemplate environmental concerns I temper it with knowing that huge change must be accomplished in small steps, otherwise it becomes overwhelming.  It took about a year of working at it twice a week to be able to push back into plank pose from chattaranga in yoga.  Sustainability is no different.  But it is not something that we face alone.  Everything I learn I can share with others; everything others learn they can share with me.  Together we can face these challenges and make the needed changes.    

Originally posted to phoenixvoice on Sat May 04, 2013 at 04:18 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  "...many of the ways to live more sustainably ... (11+ / 0-)

    ..are actually simpler and less costly ways of living."

    Simpler, cheaper and, as your example illustrates so well, safer.

    Nicely written.

    Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Sat May 04, 2013 at 05:42:14 PM PDT

    •  Wasps are actually beneficial as they eat (0+ / 0-)

      other insects that damage garden plants.

      Since they are territorial there is a non toxic way to avoid having them build a nest in the first place. You can buy a fake wasp nest and hang it where they would see it in a fly over. They won't build where they see an existing nest.

      Secondly, a biologist from the city told me I could avoid getting stung by walking carefully around the nest. I had one in the shed for two years and was never stung. They didn't even buzz around me. A sign on the door warned others to be careful.

      We are so conditioned to buying insecticide. It's not selective, it will kill honey bees as well as wasps, no matter what is says on the can.

      To thine ownself be true

      by Agathena on Sat May 11, 2013 at 06:42:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Adding to what MB said ... (8+ / 0-)

    ... and as you found out ...

    Even when all you are doing is exploring cheaper ways to solve everyday issues, it leads you in unexpected directions.

    Finding new solutions to old problems can be fun, and often end up being the way the problem was solved before we became "modern".

    I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
    but I fear we will remain Democrats.

    Who is twigg?

    by twigg on Sat May 04, 2013 at 06:15:07 PM PDT

  •  Better living through chemistry. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    citylights, GreyHawk, rat racer

    They swear it's true.

    The singularity we are witnessing is the passing of the last wave of people who had the luxury to behave as if the past 30 years did not happen.

    by Words In Action on Sat May 04, 2013 at 06:45:47 PM PDT

  •  be careful composting the cat litter (4+ / 0-)

    we switched to the pine litter years ago but
    to set upa composter it's going to be a while because it has
    to be a fair bit away from any food crops

    •  don't compost cat litter!!! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      out of left field

      there is a very high ammonia content in cat urine, and it accumulates in compost, causing ammonium toxicity in plants.
      dog, cat or human waste are not appropriate for composting; dog waste is laden with heavy metals
      (probably from the food we give them), and human waste is similarly contaminated, and also often replete with pharmaceuticals...
      Regarding the wasps; I wouldn't ask  a contractor to do this, but my preferred method over my years of house painting was to wait until dusk, then don a ski suit, complete with face mask so no skin is exposed, tuck in my cuffs, and remove the nest manually. Occasionally, the hive would survive if i could keep it intact and place it somewhere acceptable for the bees.

      A great read; I have been on a similar journey for several years now; the trial and error part of it is both educational and frustrating, but every smal victory, every time the challenge of change is successfully met, i get the best feeling <(^_^)>

      Last full month in which the average daily temperature did not exceed twentieth-century norms: 2/1985 - Harper's Index, 2/2013

      by kamarvt on Sun May 05, 2013 at 06:33:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  you can compost animal waste (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        memiller, out of left field

        in essence that's what a septic tank system is
        but at least in cat waste because of the risk of
        worms (nemotodes) you need to make sure it's at least 20 feet away from food crops.  Our lot is very small, so,
        we send it out with the trash, and let the city landfill it.  

  •  I found this website on natural wasp control. (5+ / 0-)

    Not sure of their effectiveness, but the techniques seem to align well with your desire to find sustainable approaches: http://eartheasy.com/...

  •  Your diary is a perfect example of why I kept (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GDbot, DRo, memiller

    coming back here after my first click on dkos, and why I'm now a subscriber (and feel I get my money's worth).

    You didn't just see a problem; you shared your thoughts and explorations with us. You found a solution, but shared your concerns.

    I watch some DIY stuff, and so learned that some exterminators will actually come and remove the nest and relocate it.  Which is a great option if, a) you can delay the finish of your project and, b) have such an exterminator in your town, and c) can afford to pay an exterminator. The program I watched had bees, so a local beekeeper came and got them for free, which wouldn't apply to your wasp infestation.

    Would a home improvement store recycle the wasp spray for you so you don't have to worry about keeping it in your house?

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about change and sustainability. I agree with you about small steps and learning from each other as we go along.  

    "In politics stupidity is not a handicap." Napoleon Bonaparte

    by citylights on Sun May 05, 2013 at 03:47:10 AM PDT

  •  I've done quite a bit.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    out of left field, akmk

    * insulated and sealed my old house

    * put in efficient windows

    * installed solar panels that make ~2/3s of my electricity

    * bought a Prius and drive less

    * don't fly anymore

    * stopped buying most cleaning chemicals in favor of soap

    ...but when I look at how far away I am from true sustainability, it is quite daunting. It seems we as a society will only get there when we are forced to by non-renewable resource costs.

    Mark E. Miller // Kalamazoo Township Trustee // MI 6th District Democratic Chair

    by memiller on Sun May 05, 2013 at 11:09:32 AM PDT

  •  Excellent diary. (0+ / 0-)

    I agree that trying to move in a more sustainable direction, whether in our own personal living habits or society as a whole requires much thought and evaluation.  I also think that, as laudable as individual efforts are--using more efficient lightbulbs, avoiding toxic chemicals, etc.--there is no substitute for action by our larger society, especially including government.  

    Our dependence on fossil fuels for energy production and transportation is something that can only be addressed effectively on a society-wide scale.  And that means that it is, most of all, a political problem.  Until we address corporate ownership of energy resources, we will encounter resistance to doing anything serious about the burning of oil and gas for energy production.  

    At this time, the most powerful actors on the energy production scene are named Exxon-Mobil, BP, etc.  Obtaining a government that will tame these behemoths (whether by effective regulation, nationalization, whatever...) will be a major political challenge.  Clearly, neither of the two major parties is up to the task at this time, so an independent political movement must be built for that purpose.

  •  You can try a high powered hose on the wasps nest. (0+ / 0-)

    Best be well-covered and do it when cool and inactive if possible.

  •  Hire a pro (0+ / 0-)

    After yellowjacket wasps nesting in my apartment's wall sent me to the ER with anaphylaxis, my landlord sent a professional bee & wasp removal service.  All he had to do (but I wouldn't advise trying to do it yourself) was gear up in a beekeeper's suit and use a high-powered vacuum to suck out all the wasps.  Then he was able to pull out the nest.  No poisons were necessary on site.  (I don't actually know how he disposed of a vacuum receptacle full of angry wasps.)

    Online sites suggest that if you keep a sharp eye out for new wasp nests just starting to be built, you can pull them down, and the nesting female will just go elsewhere and start again.  But don't do that with an established nest!  If a bunch of them sting you it'll hurt like hell, and you never know if you'll end up in the hospital.  (If your vision starts to go black you've got the plummeting blood pressure of anaphylactic shock and do not delay getting to the hospital!  Mine was just a few minutes away and my BP was 70/30 by the time I got there.)

  •  One of the severe long term challenges (0+ / 0-)

    of sustainability for our society is the sheer scale of consumption in the developed nations, the US in particular. By comparison with global resources versus population, the amount of dislocation would be wrenching. Americans would have to make do with roughly 75% less everything. So, HELL YES, there's a learning curve.

    This goes hand in hand with climate change issues.  Conspiring the strong but flawed in places response of NYC, and the surrounding region to Superstorm Sandy, and the continuing struggle for recovery in many places. It's pretty obvious...

    We're still learning how to DO this.

    What th' heck do I know, I work for a living...

    by SamuraiArtGuy on Mon May 06, 2013 at 07:01:25 PM PDT

  •  Lou and Peter Berryman said it best (0+ / 0-)

    Regarding the wasps, at least:

    Ann McKensey is troubled
    'cause Roy McKensey's been hunting deer
    She says "I'll bet you my tofu,
    We won't be dining on Bambi here.

    Y'better go to the grocery,
    We'll have tomatoes and whole wheat bread,
    And while you're there could you get me
    An aerosol that'll kill bugs dead?"

    Snake is swallowing the swallow's egg
    Wolf got the deer by the left rear leg
    Spider is sucking on dragonfly
    But I draw the line at mincemeat pie.

    Metropolitan scruples,
    Contradictory rules of thumb.
    So they're a little perplexing...
    At least we think that there should be some.

    But there's a mouse in the kitchen
    And it's been eating our pasta too
    The little trap is a nightmare
    But what the heck are we supposed to do?

    Snake is swallowing the swallow's egg
    Wolf got the deer by the left rear leg
    Spider is sucking on dragonfly
    But I draw the line at mincemeat pie.

    Howdy do-it-yourselfers,
    You know your life is a prefab kit
    And though the picture looks easy
    It's kinda hard to get the hang of it.

    They give you all of the pieces,
    You get a package of nails and glue
    But then instead of instructions
    You get a little note that goes 'doodly-do,
     it's up to you...'

    Snake is swallowing the swallow's egg
    Wolf got the deer by the left rear leg
    Spider is sucking on dragonfly
    But I draw the line at mincemeat pie.

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