I Am the Problem

Submitted by Charles Frost on Mon, 08/20/2007 - 10:10.

I copied this from the July/August issue of SOLAR TODAY  the magazine of the American Solar Energy Society - http://www.solartoday.org

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By Joseph McCabe

We need to be driven by needing less, not- by constantly working to produce more and more. That is what Martin Ogle wrote in a recent "Readers' Forum" column in SOLAR TODAY ("The Answer is Negawatts," March/April Z007 issue). This statement has been nagging at me, because it expresses my frustration in my own behavior.

Even though I try to live a solar life, I still travel all. around the world in-an airplane; I bought a Prius, but drove 20,000 miles each year; I use gasoline, lots of electricity, lots of water; I buy produce with embodied energy I am a consumer in the United States.

I need to be happy where I am, instead of traveling; accumulating frequent flyer miles, So that I can travel more; use my credit card to get mileage so I can travel more, and have the attitude that it is only two hours away by plane, I need to travel less and use less if there is going to be a positive change in the quality of our environment. So I moved to Colorado, instead of traveling" here every year. I bought an electric-only car, so I use no oil In that mode, and I will try to teleconference as much as possible. Still, I am the problem. My environmental footprint doesn't get significantly smaller, and that is what is needed.

Funny thing - environmental decisions are turning out to be more economical than originally thought. My Prius was an excellent buy with the high resale value, and my California photovoltaic (PV) system added value to the resale of my house. People Who originally chose to use Colorado's wind source program from Xcel Energy - while originally paying more - are now paying less for electricity than those customers who didn't choose wind.

Last year my family was subscribed to a community-supported agriculture program  In California. We received a box of food every week from local growers, typically organic. This helped us to eat in season, and it felt good to support local farmers and eat healthier. Can't seem to find this in out new, happier location, now I sometimes eat at fast food places.

Our latest solution is an electric neighborhood vehicle, charged by Xcel Windsource. This has to be the best environmental transportation – totally fossil-fuel free. This vehicle will soon have a lightweight, flexible thin-film PV module right on the roof, and will get maybe 4 miles per day direct from the PV. I live 1 mile away from work, so that commute is covered.

Every buying decision needs to be scrutinized for the material origins, distance traveled for my consumption, chemical appropriateness of the ingredients, human rights of those who labored in the production. This is exhausting in a society that prides itself on where you went for your vacation, bigger cars with greater horsepower and how big is your house. The culture now needs to change to simplicity, With satisfaction.

So why don't I have a clothes line? Because I'm still the problem - but recognizing this is perhaps a step in the right direction.

Joseph McCabe is a life member ofASES and CRES, a member of
the NorCal Solar board and the SOLAR TODAY Magazine Advisory
Council, a past board member ofASES and former co-chair ofPRSEA. He

is vice president ofbusiness development at Ascent Solar Technologies.

move to where life can be sustainable

This brings up a very interesting idea -- moving to where you vacation, so you don't travel there to vacation.

When Cleveland offers little in the way of outdoor waterfront ammenities and the lake is so polluted that one can't swim or safely boat in it (on it?), then maybe I should be looking at moving right back down to the coast where I came from -- near the beach, where it is warm. I could invest in a solar cracker house and drive a Prius to get there... Now that's starting to look more enjoyable than fighting city hall in a city, county, state that refuses to move toward sustainability despite conventional wisdom.

Can't be bothered

  Come on Susan.  Don't be a quitter.  Is Jeff in jail over the medical mart tax?  Once the monsoons are over, anyone is welcome to dry their clothes on my line.  What's the carbon dioxide level today? 350 parts per million?  If I stay where I am at--I may have beachfront before you know it!

Can't quit

It's all about baby steps Susan, and remember that this does not have to be a top-down process - at least not yet.  The power is with the people, the masses - and as they continue to become enlightened and catch on to the way we need to do things to achieve significant sustainability - the topmost top dogs will have to listen and learn or leave.  Simple.

The masses will learn and adopt, once they realize truly holistic and sustainable community development and proper placemaking will create better quality of life for all system stakeholders - all of us!

Have heart.  Stay strong. Viva la revolucion!