Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Letter to the Millbrook Times from Eva Hans


There are so many energy sources available at the moment: coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, wind, solar, biogas, landfill gas, ethanol …. Most of them not-so-green or not green at all.

Perhaps we should look at the other end – the energy use or rather energy waste and waste in general.

For those of my generation who lived in post-war Europe, it was normal to be very conscious of resources that were still available after a great devastation; energy, in general, was used very wisely, there was not unnecessary illumination of the dwellings and the lights were switched off when not needed. Interior temperatures were kept at a comfortable level between 19 and 21 degrees Celsius winter time and, of course, air conditioning was not invented or available yet but there was no need for it because houses were built differently. Public transportation, running very frequently, could take one anywhere in the city and in the country. There was very little packaging therefore very little waste. Recycling was a fact of life: paper, cardboard, cans, bottles, etc.

When I first arrived in North America in 1971, I was absolutely amazed by the wastefulness of the “throw away” society. These days, there is even more waste of virtually everything. It does not have to be like this. Starting from the 6 weeks event of outdoor Christmas lights – they use enough energy to supply 450,000 average houses for a year in North America. Overheated living spaces, shopping malls, stores – how many times, on a winter day, one can see store doors wide open just to get some cool air in. If every Canadian ( I am not even talking about the USA) turned down thermostat by 2 degrees Celsius in the winter, we’d save the 2.2 megatons of greenhouse emission which is equivalent to taking about 350,000 cars of the road for a year.

Same goes for air conditioning – we heat our houses winter time to the summer time temperatures and we cool them summertime to the winter time ones. Does it make sense?

And how about idling parked cars when shopping for an extended period of time in supermarkets and malls or idling when we stop to talk to a neighbour on a country road? It not only produces extra emission but also costs money in unnecessary gasoline consumption and it is very hard on the engine.

Houses do not need to be illuminated and energy use can be cut by having energy saving light bulbs, efficient appliances (those beer refrigerators are real bad!) and perhaps less small appliances, they are not always necessary. Use of warm water and water in general can be reduced as well. We just have to look, judge and make the right moves and decisions. This is our future we are gambling with. Anything adds up and will be multiplied by millions…

These days, our life entirely depends on electricity – the moment one gets up in the morning, throughout the day until bed time; and during the night, there are stand-bys, night lights, heating or cooling working… We cannot have a cup of coffee during the black-out, forget cooking meals or even opening a refrigerator. In the rural areas, there will be no water since well pumps would not run; unless one is lucky enough to own a stand-by generator, which runs on propane…

Using common sense (which seems to be an endangered species these days) will not only be financially beneficial but also might save us from having mushrooming industrial wind turbines in our backyards. Good for the wallet, good for the environment.

As they say: “One ounce of prevention is better than one pound of cure”.

Industrial and commercial waste is enormous as well; there is a lot of redoing needed there, starting from all the packaging, quite often in triplicate for just one item…and it goes on and on. All these consumes lots of energy to produce. Maybe the way consumer can deal with that is refuse to buy over packaged products.

So called “globalization” – shipping goods back and forth all over the globe contribute greatly to green house gasses emission and in terms of food we get it is far beyond the point of being still fresh.

Green pea and garlic can certainly be grown locally, does not need to come from China.

And the jobs could stay here, instead of being exported to some of those exotic places. There is quite a few people unemployed in Canada and the USA, mostly in manufacturing sector. So perhaps, again, we should not look to buy things cheap (most of the time they are of a very poor quality, have to be replaced and therefore become expensive) but rather opt for North American products. They might be a little more expensive (not necessarily though, those savings on foreign products are not passed on to the consumer) but will keep our neighbours employed.
There is an excerpt from Arthur Koestler book “Darkness at Noon”:

There is an excerpt from Arthur Koestler book “Darkness at Noon”:

On the Sixth Day of Creation, God showed Adam the Garden of Eden and told him how to protect it: “Be attentive not to ruin or destroy my world, for if you ruin it, nobody will come after you to fix it”

This planet might eventually fight back and it can unleash incredibly damaging powers – as it is already happening…

This Saturday, March the 26th, let’s join over a billion people around the world as we unite to support solutions on climate change. Switch off the lights and enjoy the Earth Hour with candle light from 8:30 to 9:30 – or maybe the Earth Evening?

Eva Hans

Cavan Ward