Working on a Cool Documentary Project for Audi

Last week, I published several photos and social updates indicating that I had visited a landfill in the Salt Lake City metro area to help document Audi’s carbon offset program for the new A3 e-tron launch this fall. The hybrid car is a game changer for Audi, but perhaps what is most impressive is the company’s commitment to do more than just produce a sustainable car. The offset program addresses the carbon produced during the manufacturing process and the first 50,000 gas powered miles driven in an e-tron.

That brings me to the Trans-Jordan Landfill. It was an incredible experience seeing how a landfill that produces toxic methane gas – which is 25x worse for the environment than CO2 according to the EPA – turns that gas into a clean energy source.

Geoff Selfie in Landfill

I won’t lie, it smelled really bad. And the setting between two beautiful Rocky Mountain ridges was surreal, especially with seagulls flocking to peck away at the garbage. I wore a clear poncho to avoid getting pooped on by the thousands of birds. But it was in this bizarre setting that something special happens.


These orange cones mark wells, places where parts of the landfill are full with trash and the methane is pumped out of the land. They move the gas to a facility maintained by Granger Energy on site where massive turbines turn the gas into electricity for 4500 homes in nearby Murray, UT. While toxic, the methane can be turned into a profitable source of alternative energy and help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.


In addition to the methane program, the Trans-Jordan Landfill employs Esther Davis (pictured below). Esther was our guide during the trip, and she helped educate us about the landfill, how it recycles, and the methane to energy program.


Part of Esther’s job is to educate local school children. We attended a couple of the classes and watched the kids go crazy as a few larger items of trash were destroyed by bulldozers.


These kids were pretty amazed to learn how their trash is turned into energy, and also how little their community recycles. It’s good to see a general concern for the environment in today’s youth. The sentiment provides hope for the future, particularly with my daughter Soleil. At four years old she is already concerned about the environment and wants to protect pollinators. I look forward to explaining the Trans-Jordan Landfill methane-to-energy process to her when she gets a little older.

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All in all, it was really quite amazing to see this story unfold in person. Just starting out with the Utah sunrise coming through the gas pumps on top of the landfill was incredible. Then watching the seagulls fly into the landfill to pick at the refuse while children watched the bulldozers manage our waste was esoteric to say the least. Finally, the tremendous sound of the massive turbines working to turn toxic gas into alternative energy was powerful.

The Trans-Jordan Landfill trip was part of a larger documentary film being produced by VIVA Creative on behalf of Audi. This will also include a trip to Kenya, Africa later this month to document a second project in the carbon offset program. It’s definitely an honor to be part of the team, and producing the secondary content for the effort. More to come.

Worst DC Winter Ever?

I have lived in Washington, DC for 22 years. This winter has to be the worst one in my time here; worse than the winter of ’96, worse than 2010 with its dual Snowmageddon storms (the above image is from the second Snowmageddon storm).

The only winter I have see. that was worse than this one was the winter of 92 in Syracuse, NY. Syracuse experienced a whopping 162.5 inches of snow. I moved in the middle of it, thank God.

I am flying to Austin this morning to attend my sixth SxSW, normally an unofficial start to Spring. Usually when I go, the temperatures in DC are in the upper 40s and lower 50s. This year there is snow on the ground. Even Austin experienced a freeze earlier this week.

The unusually frigid air combined with a weekly snow storm (the below Soleil pic is from this Monday’s snow storm) made this winter particularly bad. Keep in mind, snow is something people south of the Mason Dixon line have a hard time dealing with on a monthly basis, much less weekly.

Soleil Playing in the Snow  1600

This year’s winter weather finds its basis in arctic air pushed south by a warm weather ridge that has invaded Alaska. In fact, the lack of snow is impacting the Iditarod race, creating a more dangerous event.

Certainly, the unusual winter has affected hundreds of millions of lives, and that’s what has made it newsworthy. At the same time, it highlights extreme weather conditions brought on by climate change.

Like the superstorms we have seen in the recent past, perhaps drastically differing weather patterns will continue to impact all seasons. Bad weather — both hot and cold, and more dire in circumstance — is the new norm.

Given that scary trend, I guess we can get used to saying it is the worst winter ever. Invariably, we will experience a worse winter in the near future.

In the short term, one can only hope that spring will be a mild one with as little dramatic variance as possible. Such a spring would be very welcome right about now. Oh, if we could only control the weather…

What do you think of this season’s icy anomoly?

Can We Handle Technology Responsibly?

One has to wonder whether humanity is capable of making a better world with technology. This is a central theme in many arenas, from government policy and online conversations to Hollywood movies (even kids movies like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 take this on) and science fiction books.

Some voices are very optimistic, beliveing we can change everything for the better with technology. Others feel it’s the devil’s work, arming bad people with tools for destruction. And others argue it’s not the tools, rather what people do with them.

I tend to lean more towards the middle with a slightly negative view.

Kim Stanley Robinson makes a powerful argument in his ecothriller/space opera 2312 that we generally build tools that we are incapable of handling, make a mess of it, then respond appropriately. This makes sense to me, as generally I think human beings don’t consider consequence until after the fact.

Just consider the mounting climate crisis and our unwillingness to address the matter. In the United States, we are simply unwilling to address this issue on a national policy level. We are gridlocked with partisan politics and a generally unempathizing public. This apathy exists is in spite of technological developments that can dramatically transform energy creation and carbon emissions.

Frankly, I don’t think we will do anything about the increasing environmental crisis until we experience a man-made ecothreat to humanity that causes significant death counts in the hundreds of thousands or worse.

But once humanity sees the true danger, I am sure we will use technology to help amend the situation. This seems to be our approach to the world.

The Social Media Example

Social media provides another example. Many of us hoped conversations would elevate society. Though we have seen great societal good happen through conversational media, we have also witnessed a marked drop in civility, polarization of views, and the rise of a Grumpy Cat culture where pet pics rule supreme.

The truth? Social has just provided a very public mirror of where we are as a species. We hate, we posture, we seek attention, we love, we heal, we grow.

I believe that when the ugly side of social gets to be too much, society as a whole will evolve. Social norms will change, and what is commonly accepted will change for the better. Progress will occur.

You Can’t Run from Technology

What doesn’t work is running from technology.

This is actually a story ark in The Fundamentalists. Exodus (Book One) shows the absence of technology, a direct result of fear resulting from the ecological disaster that created this world. The absence of technology creates a societal power vaccuum. In the next book, the people of Harpers Ferry will have to embrace technology if they hope to have any chance to survive.

My intended point in this story arc is that even if you choose to avoid technology, others will use it to your disadvantage. Like it or not, avoidance creates consequence, usually for the negative. The impact is usually a deterioration of economic, personal and/or societal freedoms.

Those consequences can be subtle for those who fail to adapt, such as computer literacy’s impact on the graphic design and writing professionas. Graphic design has become an increasingly important skill as data visualization takes hold and people seek easier ways to understand information. Meanwhile, the newspaper industry is still evolving and diminishing as result of computing and Internet technologies. Could any talented writer or designer survive in the current environment without understanding how to use modern computing tools?

Good or bad, using technology is necessary for economic survival.

What do you think? Is humanity capable of using technology successfully?

Featured image by Scott McLeod.

Will We Care About the Earth in May?

This Bactrian camel lives in the Miami zoo. Only 800 live in the wild still.

This Bactrian camel lives in the Miami zoo. Only 800 live in the wild still.

Every spring we go through a litany of environmental cause days. Last Friday was World Water Day, Saturday marked Earth Hour, Monday, April 22 will be the Grand Daddy, Earth Day, and finally Arbor Day is April 26.

All of these days and others are important, educating youth and adults alike about the need to become more environmentally conscious. But one has to wonder, will we care about the Earth in May?
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12 Books to Read

Writers read, right? At least they are supposed to… Since spring break is here, and many of us have begun traveling for the annual conference season, here are some books I hope to read.


John Scalzi’s Redshirts: When I read fiction, I lean towards scifi with a focus on cyberpunk or hard science fiction in the Asimovian vein.

Redshirts is a hilarious play off of Star Trek, the original TV show. Junior away team members try to avoid getting killed! I’m halfway through and have caught myself laughing out loud several times. I highly recommend this book if you need a something light.

Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin: A National Book Award winner, this book takes us back to New York City of the World Trade Center towers in the 1970s. Hailed as a literary masterpiece, Great World Spin looks tense and captivating. Plus I’m always up for a good Bronx Tale.
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Vegetarian 5 Days a Week

Any real vegetarian would laugh at the concept of no meat only five days a week. Still, it’s a practice I have lived by since last April. Consider it a healthier lifestyle to reduce my carbon footprint.

Why do such a funny thing? Well, I have three primary reasons.

First, the impact meat raised for human consumption makes on the environment is substantial. Lamb, beef and pork all have a tremendous carbon tax on the environment, not only for the amount of grain necessary to feed these animals, but also the methane they produce.
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