Energy: The Hand That Feeds Us Or The Ties That Bind
We all know of the importance that energy plays in our lives. Not only our livelihood but the lives of everything in our entire universe are not only dependent upon but are part and parcel to this thing which we call energy. Mankind, in its ingenuity, has developed ways in which to harness different forms of energy. Heat was most likely the first form of energy to be utilized. Our own bodies are a source of heat and I’m sure that we quickly learned how to save this heat by insulating ourselves with various forms of coverings, using animal skins over our bodies and caves, trees, rocks, etc. to further protect us from the elements. Our obvious need for this protection remains today only now we have much more advanced means and methods to maintain this protection. The most obvious source of heat, of course, is the sun which also gives us light. When the use of fire was discovered, man used it as a source of heat and light, especially when the sun disappeared at night. We used fire to cook our meals too but we had to be careful because fire could also destroy. We can get burnt by the sun as well, simply by staying out unprotected under its radiation for too long. I know because I burn easily as a result of having fair skin.
Today, we have come so far in our technology that we have developed nuclear capabilities. Like the sun we can use this for good or it can be very dangerous. In fact, so dangerous that life as we know it could be completely destroyed by the misuse of our nuclear capabilities. There was a time when we had no electricity or gasoline let alone nuclear power. We have grown to depend upon these things and we can hardly imagine a life without them; it would literally be like being thrown back into the Dark Ages. I’m not suggesting that things were better back then, I do suggest, however, that mankind with its greed and love for money has been showing a disregard for our Mother Earth as our resources are being depleted and our planet is becoming polluted. The time will come, if we keep on this same course, when our “spaceship Earth” (a phrase coined by Buckminster Fuller) will be due to go in for repairs and possibly a complete overhaul. Our Earth is just like an automobile in that without routine maintenance (preservation tactics) it will eventually break down and cease to function. The fact that world population figures have skyrocketed in the last one hundred years makes this problem an alarming one indeed. I learned from a book called Only One Earth, by Barbara Ward and René Dubos, that we have gone from 2000 million people in 1900 to 6,500 million people in the year 2000; all accompanying a quadrupling of energy consumption and depletion of resources. Ward and Dubos write, “In short, the two worlds of man-the biosphere of his inheritance, the techno sphere of his creation-are out of balance, indeed potentially in deep conflict” (12). Their book explores how we cannot even predict what the future may hold if this population trend with its ensuing problems continue, exponentially. In a documentary style video cassette tape called Peace Tapes, I learned from Richie Havens that the easiest way to change something is to just not do it; “it’s very simple”, he says:
Half of the things that we do on the planet are-in lieu of-maybe correct and the other half may be killing the planet. What we need to do in the next year or so is really try to chronicalize all of the things we’re doing that are killing the planet; at least get a book on it. We need an encyclopedia of that so that we can look at it and we can eventually have generations come into the world that have this information at hand.
I agree with Havens, that we as a people have to look at what our mistakes are and stop doing them because they are mistakes.
Most of us subscribe only to the sources of power that are readily available to us; gasoline and electricity. We know that there are other forms available, such as methane and solar power only we are not enough aware of the viability and necessity to use them. It is my belief that much more can be done in order to maximize natural sources of energy like the sun and renewable sources such as bio-fuels. When I went to the U.S. Department of Energy website, I found out some encouraging things; mainly, that we now have Solar American Cities. These are DOE’s partners in an effort to reduce market barriers to solar energy technologies at the local level. The DOE web site called, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, states: “Reducing barriers and increasing awareness will accelerate the growth of solar markets in these municipalities”. We have 25 cities currently participating in the partnerships.
Another thing which I found exciting is a system that homeowners can install themselves to save money on the cost of heating water, therefore saving energy as well. All you need is a staging area such as a carport or storage building that you can place some black hose upon. 300 feet of black, flexible tubing can heat 11 gallons of water to 120 degrees in 30 min if you live in a warm climate such as California or Florida. You merely coil the hose flat on the surface of a roof and the water can go right to your hot water heater; making it do less work and the sun does the rest! You can see this system installed if you go to Solar hot water 2 DIY using black water hose, at You Tube, on the internet.
We hear a lot about deforestation taking place at an alarming rate. I am always in shock and disbelief when I hear the figures about how much and at such a rate our forests are being plundered, simply for the wealth to be gained from it. This practice seems shortsighted to me. I was pleasantly surprised to hear, however, that old forest growth still survives at unlikely places such as Manhattan in New York. Inwood Hill Park, in Manhattan, has 25 acres. Linda Underhill writes in UTNE Reader, an alternative press magazine; “It’s true that 80% or more of the Northeast’s forests were cut down, and most of what we see today is second growth but approximately 400,000 acres of old growth remain in the region (57). It is my hope that public awareness about the environment and its preservation continues to grow, not only for our sake and our children but for the entire planet and generations of all life, yet to come.