Five Percent: Conserve Energy

Climate Change Is Important: Energy Conservation is the First Step

July 2, 2006

How Can I Cause Change To Happen?

Category: Editorial,Organic & Local Food,Sustainability,Take Actions – Tom Harrison – 5:41 pm

My wife and I have been doing a lot of reading lately. Nothing we read is making us feel comfortable or secure. We’re feeling the kind of urgency that caused us to make personal changes, and then which caused me to start writing about them here. Yeah, we’re nuts, of course, but we seem to not have the capability to turn off the alarm bells.

Several years ago, after reading “End of Oil”, I felt as though we had the opportunity to solve the problems with energy that I have been writing about. The idea of the blog was to make incremental changes that would buy us time for real solutions to be developed. I am now less sanguine about what this means: words like “opportunity”, “evolution” and “transition” simply don’t seem realistic. The word “crisis” seems to be popping up a lot more. No one wants to be a downer, and ceaselessly beat the same drum. People stop listening and brand you as a nut case. I had hoped that being an example would cause changes to occur.

Yet we’re looking around our neighborhood and town and state and country and simply not seeing a lot of evidence that actual (positive) change is occurring. There’s clearly an effort by important groups and people to raise awareness; more time, words, paper and consciousness is devoted to global warming, energy, and consumption in general. But I think this is mostly because gas prices seem to be staying at around $3.00. This is kind of the “eat your vegetables” message we all heard as kids; unless it is repeated over and over, we would prefer to eat our chicken fingers and fries. People might be getting vaguely aware of the situation, but only the smallest changes are occurring through actions we choose. Yes, some people will buy slightly more fuel efficient vehicles if they think gas prices are going up. But that’s reactive change; we need to act positively and aggressively now.

But like the American diet, who wants to defer pleasure? Ice cream now, exercise tomorrow. In an odd way, the result of one individual’s action is easier to justify: if I get fat from eating ice cream, this is mostly my problem. But the result of our collective inaction is much, much worse. As we continue to fail to act to deal with energy, environmental, food, and climate issues, we are sealing our fate. Maybe our countries and world’s future will be bright, but if we keep following our current course, all the experts predict at best a long period of economic stagnation. Our geopolitical world history shows that major changes and instability typically change the balance of power in dramatic ways. Depending on whom you ask, this might mean the US becomes the next fading British Empire, or global famine, disease, war and all sorts of other lovely things we comfortable Americans would prefer just not to think about right now. Would you like a second helping of ice cream?

So it’s time for change to happen more broadly, and this is especially true in the US. I believe there are two ways this might happen: 1) we legislate and mandate changes, like President Carter did in the 70’s, and/or 2) we wait until some world even occurs that provides that momentum to make such legislated changes palatable for the gluttonous American consumer. One might have thought that the hurricane in New Orleans last year might have given us the excuse we needed. But there seems to be simply no will to make change through our government. Changes we have made in the last several decades are trivial or wrongheaded, and now our current administration is making it worse.

We need a government that will wake up and take decisive action. And for that to happen, we need a populace that understands the urgency of the situation.

So I think the effort I need to make is to find ways to join others who are working to help explain that the things we’re saying are not just from fringe leftist environmental nuts, but from real, thinking, aware people. And the effects of inaction (and frankly, even if we do act) are already happening, and will be more and more evident to the daily lives of people.

The goal of my new objective is to work with existing efforts to raise awareness and cause the voices of people to call on our government to act.

Will you help me?


  1. trying to affect change?

    I like your column Tom, I really do. I think we have similar mindsets and goals. I think that you may be suffering from the same problem I’ve run into; exposure. I think that anyone reading this is probably the proverbial ‘choir’ and I feel that all of the similar weblogs (Terrablog, Green Car Congress, etc) have the same issue.

    As with any problem there are two approaches: Top-down or Bottom-up (I prefer the bottoms up approach personally – ). I think in this case the Top-down strategy is to provide legislation. As it is well known, any sort of legislation (while well-intentioned) is easily corrupted by interested 3rd parties (corrupted idea-wise not money-wise). The Bottom-up approach is the grassroots effort – going door to door distributing CFLs, slapping “Save the Whales” bumper stickers on stop signs, providing free seminars or tutorials on Photovoltaic Solar Panels; whatever. The problem here is that it requires a lot of energy and devotion; not to mention people pass you off as nuts.

    My philosophy is to provide people with education and other tools that allow them to make intelligent choices. Too many daily decisions are based on status-qou/ path of least resistance type attitudes. If you can shift that than you can affect change. The best way I can think of that is to lower the resistance on the alternatives. Or you can conversely raise the resistance on the status-quos (kind of like what gasoline is doing).

    To me it’s all about how you feel when you go to sleep at night. If your happy that you’ve made good decisions then kudos. If not, there’s always tomorrow.

    So if you feel like you’re not affecting as much change as you want to maybe it’s time to take a step towards being a crazy leftist enviromental hippie. Start printing those bumper stickers.

    Comment by Reed Braman — July 6, 2006 @ 12:02 pm

  2. […] point is that food, especially meat, is a much larger contributor to climate change than packaging. True and very, very important; I have been writing about the energy cost of food for a […]

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