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Friday, September 03, 2004

Department of Selling Out the Environment... 

I've been meaning to write about some of the issue raised in this article by Bill McKibben for some time. The basic thesis of the piece being that while the Bush administration is making a royal mess of foreign policy (while it's corporate supporters benefit) at least it is doing it for ideological reasons. In the environmental realm, on the other hand, the administration is making a royal mess (while it's corporate supporters benefit) for no reason other than what seems naked political self preservation.

Which is all fine (and relatively uncontroversial amongst most who pay attention to this sort of thing), a small off hand comment by McKibben though made me start thinking in a broader way about conservation in general.

...my wife and I have solar panels on the roof of our house to supply some of our power, and they work well—but their biggest effect is to make us far more conscious of turning off lights. Similarly, my hybrid car saves energy in part because of its brilliantly designed engine but also because it comes with a display that tells me constantly how much gas I'm using and this, as a consequence, has cured me of a heavy foot on the pedal.

So what I'm wondering, then, is whether the behaviour described by McKibben might be more generally applicable. While we know regulations requiring conservation would be likely be brutally unpopular (unless, oh maybe, half the West Antarctic falls into the sea) perhaps regulations requiring companies to show the amount of energy cars, heating, air conditioning use in real time would be politically possible.

Perhaps, if we were really empowered with information which enable descisions to be made about the amount of energy we use in our daily lives we would all ( or mostly all) just start adapting practices which conserve.

I believe enough people would for it to matter, and matter alot.

I don't of course know if any of this is true, but I think it's the most optimisitic take on the possibilty of conservation in a long time.


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