Your Voices is an opportunity for readers of the Principal Voices site to explain their views on one of the key subjects at greater length.
The second of these is by 36-year-old Marc Plante, who works in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry and lives with his wife and four-year-old daughter in Middleton, in the U.S. state of Massachusetts.
Here, Plante explains how he and his family try to keep their energy usage as clean as possible:
"I grew up in Massachusetts, and noticed that the amount of snow we had during the winters in the 1980s diminished over the years. Twenty-five years later, we are having temperatures of 12-18 Celsius in January. Our carbon pollution is the cause, and less fossil fuel burning is the solution.
My personal philosophy is to live as close to natural as one can: the human body was designed for work. Use the stairs instead of the elevator; if your yard is not too big, push a manual reel mower around (and it will always start!); rake your lawn instead of wasting petrol with a blower; etc. This saves money, saves petrol, and it is generally better for you.
In our family, we recycle our trash and compost our garbage, producing good soil and carbon dioxide rather than methane, which is a more severe greenhouse gas. We have replaced all of the regular light bulbs in our home with compact fluorescent bulbs, which use only 20-25% of the energy.
Our home is heated with wood, currently. We are upgrading to wood pellet stoves this spring. Wood pellet stoves burn compressed lumber mill waste, and they are also more efficient, cleaner, and convenient than a wood burning stove. I have attempted to find biodiesel fuel (20% modified vegetable oil, 80% heating oil), but none of it is available in my area, yet.
We also try to reduce our carbon pollution by using a Toyota Prius hybrid car -- which runs on both gasoline and electricity -- for most of our traveling.
Outside of my home, I have joined an organization focusing on renewable energy sources, called CARE, "Citizens Advocating Renewable Energy." We are in discussions with our town administrator for the building of a small wind farm on a hill in Middleton, to provide clean electricity.
CARE is also meeting with our local school committee to discuss the use of a helical water turbine nearby for both electricity and education. This is important so students can gain an understanding of where energy comes from, how it can be used better, and what the consequences of its waste are.
Renewable energy technology is available today, and it should be implemented as quickly as possible. Ten years from now there may be a point of irreversible change in our climate, and after that point, the world will be a very different place.
Start making changes today, get involved with your local government and start a CARE group of your own. Demand renewable energy policies from your government. Take action today to prevent a disaster tomorrow."
What do you think?
There is a new company, Citizenre Corporation, that will install their photovoltaic panels on your home at no cost (until Jan 2007, $500 afterwards). You only pay them for the electricity that the panels produce. The benefits: no CO2 pollution, and you can lock our electric rate in for up to 25 years! See http://renu.citizenre.com/mplante to register and read more!
I would like to see a group of like-minded individuals start up a community of self-sufficient housing with a lean towards a more agricultural lifestyle.
I think that working together to provide food and shelter would not only help the environment but also bring back a sense of community living that we are missing these days.
In Castlemaine we have formed a group to monitor each others' energy uses. We aim to cut the town's energy use by 15%.. www.castlemaine500.org.au/
Comment: In response to Bobby from NC (comment below): Please refer to this (http://t8web.lanl.gov/people/rajan/energy_RG_06.pdf) for a detailed breakdown of the most current data on our energy crisis.
This is data gathered by Los Almos National laboratory. As you will see if you flip through the slides, China indeed ranks #12 on the pollution list with the US still #1.
We are afraid of China because currently, for example, only about 8% of its population drives. As this "modern" lifestyle gains popularity and more people have access to it, China's gigantic population could devastate current world energy resources.
Indeed when they burn coal (and they still burn less than us, believe it or not), it is far less "clean" than then the we do it, and this fact is another worry for us.
So, in conclusion, the U.S. is the world's leader in emitting greenhouse gases. This is a clear fact I see from the data and not just a personal belief or political stance. In fact, sometimes I find it silly that in the U.S. people have turned this very real phenomenon into a political debate that argues its existence.
With the latest finding of CO2 levels at their greatest amount (380 ppm) in 800,000 years (180 - 300 ppm CO2), and increasing 60 times its natural maximum rate, we are truly creating a problem that must be dealt with now, with today's technology.
We have the technology, we just have to use it, and we have 10-15 years before an important climate threshold is reached.
To address Bobby (comment below), it is not a matter of being left or right (I am centrist/libertarian), but actually doing what needs to be done. China is pumping CO2 into the atmosphere because of the likes of Wal-Mart, etc. The U.S. is still the number one producer of CO2 in the world (absolute and per capita). Any percent-reduction we make in this country is significant.
Electricity production is a big contributor to the problem. The only current-day, renewable technologies are the photovoltaic cell, hydro and wind.
PV cells are expensive, but they can last 20-30+ years, with a payback of 2-4 years. There are federal and some state incentives for residential/commercial installation of solar PV, hot water, and other improvements. See State: http://www.dsireusa.org/ and Federal: http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=products.pr_tax_credits#4
Wind turbines are efficient. Hull, Massachusetts liked their first one so much that they are building a second one.
Water: a form of turbine, a helical turbine, requires only moving water -- no dams! This would be an efficient source of electricity when there is no sun/wind. See http://www.commondreams.org/headlines01/0517-05.htm
I agree wholeheartedly.The problem is, it's so overwhelming, it's hard to figure out where/how to take it to the next level.
I recycle, drive a fuel efficient car, try to compost as much organic material as possible, but I see tremendous amounts of waste in the workplace and in the public in general. What should be my top priority?
I would like to say that what you are talking about is the equivalent of baby steps. The future is going to be harsh on us. I predict that within 40 years, global warming and ecological devastation will force the world's population into not only a bleaker but also less consumption-oriented society.
However, the wealthy will have whatever, whenever they want it. You see the poor need the rich as they own the means of production. Very bleak. I say capitalism will be looked at with suspect eyes, just as many South American countries have moved to the left.
Let me say I ride my bicycle to work five miles each way all year long, I enjoy not having to sit my ass in a boring car. I also like not buying gasoline.
I Think Marc Plante is doing a great job by adopting a green lifestyle, hats off to this man.
I sincerely belive that if everyone of us develops a sense of living a lifestyle that is more compatible with nature, we stand a greater chance of surviving longer on this planet.
After all, our next generation will only be living a life of what we leave for them.
It amazes me that the hard left in the USA get so carried away with the solar warming issue and miss the fact that China is now, and more so in the future, putting more pollutants in the air than we can ever counteract.
I must admit that I fully agree with Patrick. I went for a holiday to the U.S. -- New York was great but in Richmond, Virginia, public transport was simply tragic.
It's not even just a public transport problem which surprised me the most, but places where you weren't able to safely walk because there were no sidewalks at all. The only people who were walking were illegal immigrants and international students like me.
After that trip I changed my mind about the American style of life. I think there are things which could be done and they are not.
People are adapting very fast but currently they simply don't have a choice. And this is real tragic because it's an old problem -- even poor countries are able to provide reliable, cheap public transport for their citizens.
Good article. Here in Chile there are some projects in some universities to work with bio-diesel, in order to produce clean energy and other things.
I think every country has to begin producing clean energies and caring for the environment.
I fully agree. Here in Cape Town I also drive a Toyota Prius, but there are precious few of them around.
A few years ago I developed a panel walling system to enable the quick erection of cavity wall houses that meet the specification of our South African National Home Builders Registration Council.
My role now is to develop an affordable house that is independent of external services. You can imagine the technology -- alternative cooking methods, solar water heating, internal composting toilets, rainwater tanks, photo voltaic/wind powered refrigerator, microwave, lights & TV.
I welcome all advice as how best to achieve it.
For Michael Hill -- I just read your energy-independent house. Great idea!
Electricity is the easiest to provide an answer to: depending on light/wind availability, a combination of the two, connected to a lead-acid battery system should provide ample electricity.
Make sure that you use "deep-cycle" batteries. An inverter will also be necessary for DC-AC conversion. The use of compact fluorescent lights will save on electricity.
For cooking, there are "solar ovens" available (ttp://www.sunoven.com/global.asp). Wood or peat could also be used when there is little sunlight.
Depending on the house, there are a few alternatives to hot water heating: a simple black, rainwater tank on the roof (this would have a large funnel on the top of the tank, which would lead into the tank through a small opening), to active collectors that circulate the water through solar panels (requires electricity, though).
As far as an internal, composting toilet: try http://envirolet.com/scienbehen.html Perhaps some of the technology can be of assistance.
People in the developed world should change their behavior. People should use less energy. They should use more public transport. But this all is easier said than done.