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Thinking Outside the Grid

Thinking Outside the Grid

Gorelick comments: “About 10 years ago I wrote something for our local food coop’s newsletter, and it touches on our home energy use. Even though IBM is no longer running “smarter planet” ads and LED lights have superceded CFLs, everything else in it still feels current.” Yes, this subject is very current, especially to Californians, who are now facing a future of frequent electrical blackouts.

Twenty years ago, a friend of mine published a book called 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save The Earth. It described the huge environmental benefits that would result if everyone made some simple adjustments to their way of life. Six hundred thousand gallons of gas could be saved every day, for example, if every commuter car carried just one more passenger; over 500,000 trees could be saved weekly if we all recycled our Sunday newspaper; and so forth. The book was immensely popular at the time, at least partly because it was comforting to know we could “save the Earth” so easily.

Just recycle!

Unfortunately, the projected benefits of these simple steps were actually insignificant compared to the scale of the problems they addressed. Saving 600,000 gallons of gasoline sounds impressive, but it’s only about 1/1,000 of daily fuel consumption in this country. Half a million trees every week sounds like a lot too, but the sad fact is that about 1.5 acres of forest are being lost every second, despite all the Sunday papers that are now routinely recycled.

50 Simple Things is no longer in vogue (you can buy a copy online for 1 cent), but its core assumption – that our most urgent crises can be solved by tinkering around the edges of modern life – is as popular as ever.

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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