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Choose Your Poison September 16, 2010

Posted by Peter Varhol in Uncategorized.

I usually write about technology in general, and computing in particular.  But I was motivated by recent debates to say something about our practices and choices surrounding our interactions with the environment.

Recently, Scott Adams of Dilbert fame wrote about the trials and compromises he faced in building a green house.  In particular, he notes that much of the technology needed to build a green home is in flux; few builders are willing to take chances with much of it, and fewer municipalities are willing to issue building permits based on it (read the article; it’s funny and informative).

I work at home, and put perhaps 4000 miles a year on my 12 year-old car, so I’m not using a lot of carbon fuels or creating pollution.  However, because I fly occasionally on business, I have a higher than average carbon footprint, even though the planes would fly with or without me.  And while driving an old car makes economic sense, it isn’t as fuel-efficient as newer cars, and helps our sickly auto industry not one bit.  I’ve been called selfish and unpatriotic for not buying a new car that I can easily afford.

It gets worse.  You may be interested in buying energy-efficient appliances for your home, but that’s not an unalloyed good either.  EnergyStar ratings are based on manufacturer-reported data and accepted as submitted.  In fact, tests have demonstrated that EnergyStar ratings have been given to products that don’t in fact exist at all.

Here in my part of the country, Cape Wind has the potential to use clean wind power to provide electricity for hundreds of thousands of homes.  But it’s not cheap (the costs may or may not be competitive with existing power sources), and residents have been fighting it for years because they fear an impact on the tourism industry, or simply don’t want the view of a wind farm.  Local Indian groups claim that the waters designated for Cape Wind are sacred and shouldn’t be disturbed.

What’s my point?  It’s that we can’t live normal and reasonable lives and be truly green.  We have a lifestyle that includes home, family, career, and income, and we are constantly weighing the needs of each in making our choices.  Doing good for the environment gives us another consideration, and we have to balance out all of these considerations to lead contented and fulfilling lives.

It’s not hopeless, however.  We as individuals aren’t going to save the environment ourselves.  In fact, change is an integral part of the environment, with or without human participation, but that’s a topic for another day.  We can be cognizant of our choices, and take actions that our in accordance with our other considerations.  Those actions will vary by the individual, but that doesn’t make any of us better or worse people.



1. John Seddon - September 16, 2010

What is the best way to identify whole house electricity usage?

2. World Wide News Flash - September 16, 2010

Choose Your Poison…

I found your entry interesting do I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

3. SAM - October 14, 2011

Tweet Button | Twitter Developers http://t.co/RULrt9AI

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