After the August, 2003 large power outage in the midwest, eastern Canada, and the northeast, and now the one in Seattle that lasted weeks, it's amazing to me that we haven't learned a thing about reducing our dependency on electricity networks. Even transactions as basic as food purchases, fuel purchases and banking all depend on electricity. They cannot be done without power, (no matter how hard you try). Shouldn't all modern societies take a page from less advanced ones and figure out how to have power-free systems for gas, food, and other things so that our society doesn't come to a standstill in times when power goes out. How about mechanical gas pumps at every 5th gas station or battery powered cash registers for occasional use. Weather is one cause of a lack of electrical power. Power grid mismanagement is another cause. But the ones that worry me most are terrorism or military conflict. What an easy target we have made ourselves out to be.
Of lesser severity, there are few things one can do for necessity or entertainment that don't require electric power. For necessity, one would have to depend on canned foods and flame for cooking without electricity. Heating or cooling a house can't be done practically without electricity. On the entertainment front, many of the things we enjoy, like TV, video games, web surfing, and even sewing, (not for me), have become electrically powered activities. I think we should learn to again enjoy activities that don't require power. Drawing just takes pencil and paper, knitting takes needle and yarn, and playing catch only takes human power and some object. How refreshing it is to occasionally simplify our lives. Notice that none of these activities "break down". They are simple and independent of most outside influences.
As a possible partial solution, why don't we use all the power and energy wasted while we all work out to generate power to put back into the grid? One person can't contribute much, but over the course of a day, hundreds could probably provide half the power that a gym needs.
On an interesting and somewhat disturbing sidenote, a Miami businessman was purportedly developing a method to convert fat drawn from liposuction into biodiesel fuel. It turns out that it was a hoax. If true, that would have solved a lot of problems. Eat all you want, don't exercise, (or if you do create electric power), then get fat, get liposuction and create fuel for you car to drive everywhere and get fatter by not walking or bicycling anywhere.
But it's not about creating more power. It's about becoming less dependent on it. So to make us a more robust society, let's fight our need for power.
I've heard it over and over again, that Gen X and Gen Y'ers are selfish, and have an unjustified sense of entitlement. And I'm a bit tired of it. If you really think about it, the prior generations are more selfish. I don't mean to take anything away from all their efforts to put us where we are today, including hard work, and sacrificing their lives in major wars as well as raising us. But don't forget that they were fortunate enough to live in a world in which they could go to school, work hard, possibly go to college, get a good job, get married, buy a house and live the American dream. On the other hand, our generations have to go into deep debt to get a decent education, face bleak job markets with insecure, low paying part-time jobs having minimal benefits, cannot afford housing because the prices are outrageous. So why is it this way? I would say part of it is that the prior generations have accumulated wealth and power and are not willing to let go of it.
How many executives keep working beyond retirement age and subsequently put a stop on younger individuals from climbing the corporate ladder? Who is responsible for expecting us to work extra hours without getting paid overtime? Few in our generation will have pensions although many in the prior generation are all set. It didn't used to be this way. And who owns real estate that has ballooned in value since the affordable era and takes advantage of our inability to buy property by charging high amounts of rent? The prior generations are much wealthier and we are the first generations that will not be better off than their parents' generations. Sure kids these days are coddled as children, but when we are put out into the real world, it's a harsh one indeed. At least most of our own parents love us and would take us in to live with them if we needed to.
Politically speaking, politicians don't care about the needs of us younger people partially because not enough of us vote. Even then, which politician has a platform that favors Gen X'ers and Gen Y'ers?. Our government's spending deficit will surely haunt us long after these politicians have passed on. Environmentally speaking, we owe the current predicament to the refusal of prior generations to plan for sustainability and pollution controls until recently. I have a feeling that it has happened too late and now Gen X and Gen Y have to clean up the mess, (literally).
We are not perfect. We can be a bit self-absorbed and have a difficult time committing to anything. But companies aren't loyal to us, so we're not used to being loyally committed to them, let alone anything else. Also, I understand that we have a propensity to spend more than we can afford, but which generation's marketers decided to prey on young college students by offering them easy credit before they even have income? They could have at least educated us better so that we would know how much of a rip off the high interest rates are. To make matters worse, there are less of us than there are baby boomers and they'll be counting on us for Social Security funds as if we don't have enough of a burden of our own. The only saving grace is that they can't take it with them and they can't live forever. Or can they?...
Here are some links to commentary by those who share some of my viewpoints and some who are a bit more extreme.
The delightful Sereena has her turn at the internet microphone this week with a Roundtable post that references the Doomsday Clock. Her question for us to comment on is what would you do if our planet had only seven days left? Would you be a gluttonous fool, spend time with family, make peace with God...? Head on over to her blog and let everybody know. You can also see what I would do.
I had written a post a while back about why it makes sense to act on the environment now, even if we're not 100% sure how much impact mankind is having on it. Link to my prior post Now, there is a new book that has come out which looks at the changing environment from a business perspective. In his new book, "The Winds of Change" (Simon & Schuster), Eugene Linden talks about how the changes are real and how they could be drastic. He also criticizes the Bush administration. It's written about at this MSNBC article here...
I'm still PO'd, (but not surprised) by the report on "60 Minutes" which talks about how the annual environmental report was censored by the Bush administration so that we don't hear the things that they don't want us to hear, that global warming is accelerating. This is according to government scientist, James Hansen who is a leading researcher on global warming and co-author of the annual report.
The Autoblog showed this new vehicle a couple of days ago. It's the Loremo, which stands for LOw REsistance MObile, and the company is offering two versions, one of which gets 150 mpg. Now, it looks a bit different, as you can see, but it's cool in a funky kind of way. It definitely looks better than a Scion bB, that miniaturized Chevy Astro at least.
I would consider buying one, but it will initially only be available in Europe. It just goes to show that a hybrid isn't necessary. Diesels would be a good solution here once low sulfur fuel gets here next year, as they are in Europe. But, (and I have to insert my opinion here), what bothers me is that hybrids get tax deductions here even if they're less efficient than other normal gasoline-powered cars. It's the efficiency that should matter, not the technology! I get 30+ mpg on the highway, so how about I get a small tax deduction as well? Don't even get me started on the fact that Bush and the Republicans still allow a tax deduction on the extremely large SUV's for "business" purposes. That is unforgiveable with our current energy and political situation.