What are we talking about today?

Some days have themes. I don't necessarily post something in each of these topic areas every week.

Sunday: Church-related or spiritual things.
Monday: Running.
Tuesday: Books.
Wednesday: Transportation.
Friday: Green living.

12 August 2011

I Read a Depressing-Ish Book

I picked up Hot, Flat, and Crowded on the recommendation of someone on the internet, as is my wont. And I gotta tell ya-- it was worth it.

Yeah, it was depressing. Books about the environment, international relations, and energy sources tend to do that all by themselves. When you mix the three in varying levels within one book, it gets heavy in a hurry.

Mainly, this is a book about energy efficiency, and how our current system isn't getting us there. Thomas Friedman's vision for a future energy system, which includes a smart grid that sells kilowatt hours in the same way that phone companies sell peak and off-peak minutes, was really fascinating. I'd love for my house to run my washing machine when electricity was cheapest, thus rewarding me for having a bit of patience and foresight, instead of just running it when I'm about to be smothered by laundry. I'd probably be a lot better at planning ahead if that were the case. One point that he repeats a few times is that as a society, changing our system will be hard. The changes that one can make on a personal or family level may be easy, or at least on the tolerable end of the easy-to-hard scale. But across our nation as a whole, the changes that he proposes will be hard and will meet with plenty of resistance. And that's what was depressing.

But on to the stuff that I really agreed with. He writes, "In 2008, if the money and mobilization effort spent on Live Earth had gone into lobbying the U.S. Congress for... tax credits for renewable energy, and other green legislation, the impact would have been vastly more meaningful." And that's exactly my problem with awareness-raising campaigns-- yes, people need to know stuff, but at some point you need to say, "Okay, everyone gets it now, we can do something." I watched the Live Earth concerts in 2007, all the while wondering how much electricity they were using and whether there would be a field full of litter left behind afterwards, just like at every other concert. Not to mention the repeated PSAs about flying less and cutting back on driving that were scattered throughout the program-- never mind that the rock stars in the concerts had to get to their destinations by flying. Goodness knows I approached the program with my usual level of cynicism, but it was pretty well hardened into hostility when a reporter asked the question burning on my mind: I don't remember his exact wording, it was basically that they were using a lot of resources to ask people to use fewer resources, and how did they reconcile that? The performer he asked answered (and this I do remember), "Yeah, I've been hearing that. I hate those people who hate." What? First of all, it's a reasonable question, and secondly, the only person "hating" in this sentence is you. So after that you might say I've had an aversion to "raising awareness". (Also, I bet Live Earth found a better spokesperson.)

Anyway, I recommend the book if you're at all interested in environmental issues. Stick it out through the political stuff so that you can get to the good stuff later on.

Have you read this book? What do you think about awareness campaigns? Would you use electricity differently if it cost different amounts at different times?


Anonymous said...

Parts of Canada (including mine) are now on "smart meters" which charge differently for peak hour usage and off peak hour usage. Residential usage is encouraged in off peak which is between 7:30pm and 7:30am...so basically you run your dishwasher/laundry/vacuum cleaner/air conditioner during those hours and try hard to cut back during peak times on everything else. Not so bad for folks who are at work all day but for those of us at home all day..just bit tricky. We'll get used to it though.

GigglesandGuns said...

I really like the idea of peak rates. I do most everything at night and walk or use public transportation.
I find it offensive when those telling me how to do it are breaking more environmental rules than I did in my worst uneducated days.
Kind of like the doctor who puts you on a diet for your health and his belly is hanging between his legs.

Su said...

@Delores: See, that's just another reason for me to move to Canada.

@Giggles: I hear ya. So frustrating!

Charlie's Church of Christ said...

loved the section about Live Earth. I'm impressed someone had the guts to ask a performer about this idea they're preaching about yet obviously failing to live by because they justify through, well, money.

Su said...

Me, too. Talk about a reporter really doing their job! Too bad the performer didn't have an answer ready except to denounce the question. Even a "Well, letting people know is important...", while lame, would have been a better answer. I wish they could have gotten a head honcho type on camera to ask the same question.

Stephanie said...

I haven't read that one yet. I have to be careful though...I get so worked up by books about how the world is bound to end. They make me feel helpless and frustrated and depressed.

Su said...

I have the same problem. :/