Friday, July 18, 2008

We Can Solve It

We Can Solve It

What I should be doing is writing to my friend Kayiwa Fred in Uganda. Kayiwa saw that I had mentioned that I was having a hard time locating his blog One Reaching Another and messaged me with the link in Google Chat. At the time the blog I was looking for was about a youth football league he's instrumental in called Kampala Junior Team. Actually both blogs are in my blog reader. I also had subscribed to an earlier experiment and never removed it from the list. Somehow when went to that outdated URL from my blogreader it blinded me to the presence of his current blogs. A friend of mine calls the tendency for men not to see what is right in front of their eyes, Male Pattern Blindness.

I should be writing him because he asked some specific geek-like questions. I'm no geek, and have told him as much. But his questions are such that I will learn a bit as I try to form some answers. Earlier in the evening I did a bit of research, and it's going to take a bit of work. Maybe I'll write him tomorrow. Ha, but at least I linked to his blogs which is something I've been meaning to do for a while. Hey, maybe I'll even update my blogroll one of these days.

I was looking for a specific post the other day at The African Uptimist and was shocked and embarrassed to see this blog on his blogroll. It's much easier for me to operate under the assumption that nobody reads this blog. The fact is that hardly anyone does, and that hardly makes a big difference. African blogs are of great interest to me and I value the bloggers who take the time to write them. It's about time that I contribute too. The wonderful thing about blogging is it's about connecting and community building.

My friend Pingting has quite gently told me I would do well to edit: less is more. Mercy, I'm afraid I've never gotten beyond the free writing style. As a result, only after a mountain of words do I get around to explaining the link at the top of the post. The link is to a video of highlights of a speech that Al Gore made in Washington on Thursday about energy. I like the determined optimism of We Can Solve It referring to the energy crisis and global warming, but it's hard for me to muster feeling really optimistic. Geez, when I went to YouTube less than 800 people had watched the video. Everybody knows that global climate change is a really big deal, but most of us seem confused that there's much we can do about it. An out of town friend called me up this evening. He likes to talk politics and the first thing out of his mouth was about Gore's speech. Then he asked about T. Boone Pickens. I've developed an aversion to Texas oilmen lately. My stomach also churns thinking of billionaires who think that water is the new oil. So I was happy the conversation turned from politics to the big news that my friends have rescued an unwanted pet.

My avoidance of the issue of carbon-based energy really is pathological. The word is out: "We're addicted to oil." So avoidance fits the pattern all addicts play in denial. When it comes to addictions, I suppose a good dose of resolve and some optimism are necessary. The first step is to admit there's a problem and we'd probably never get on the road to the first step without them. Ah, but right the first step in AA is not only admitting that our lives are in a mess, it's also admitting powerlessness over alcohol. Using AA as a metaphor, the road to recovery from addiction involves re-contextualizing the system of us and oil. And there's some higher power involved there too. Hum, not sure where this leads, except to say I strongly suspect that solving the addiction to oil will require much more than optimism and resolve.

Elizabeth Kolbert
seems mighty clear-eyed from this oil junkie's perspective. At least she's well on the way to understanding the how dire the consequences of carbon-based energy really is. Her writing at The New Yorker on the subject is the best I've read in the press. It can be depressing reading nonetheless, but her recent piece The Island in the Wind was encouraging. Gore proposes that within a decade all electricity in the USA should be produced from energy sources other than carbon-based ones. That seems wildly optimistic, and yet Kolbert's report about the Danish island of Samso shows that's more possible than I imagine.

One of the bits in her piece was about the 2,000-Watt Society. It's a vision that stated at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology ten years ago, but I'd never heard of it before. Kolbert writes:
One way to think about the 2,000-Watt Society is in terms of light bulbs. Let’s say you turn on twenty lamps, each with a hundred-watt bulb. Together, the lamps will draw two thousand watts of power. Left on for a day, they will consume forty-eight kilowatt-hours of energy; left on for a year, they will consume seventeen thousand five hundred and twenty kilowatt-hours. A person living a two-thousand-watt life would consume in all his activities—working, eating, travelling—the same amount of energy as those twenty bulbs, or seventeen thousand five hundred and twenty kilowatt-hours annually.
People in the "developed" world have got to get on this diet in short order, and for carbon-based energy addicts like me that means big changes.

I opened this post citing my laziness about not writing to a friend in Uganda. I am lazy. The more important part to me is my friends. Over the years via the Internet I've developed friendships with a few people in Uganda. These friendships mean a lot to me. The negative effects of global warming will impact everyone. But the cruel injustice is that already poor people will be very disproportionately affected. Having friends means I cannot slough that off. Most of my friends in Uganda consume much less than the 2000 Watts. As we in the West move to reduce our energy consumption for a sustainable future, the many in the rest of the world need more energy. We all need to invent ways of living within limits, and these inventions maybe implemented locally but must have a global focus.

I've got some things to say about injustice and responsibility, but I'll spare you until another day.

1 comment:

Daisy said...

I saw a poster, the quote attributed to Kurt Vonnegut. It looked like a scribbled hand-written note--

To future generations:

We're sorry, we were drunk on petroleum.