The ABC’s Carbon Cops, an environmentally friendly version of the expert make-over genre, shows us that, not only is using less energy in the household fairly easy and inexpensive to achieve, it also has unexpected rewards.
For people that have always had an awareness of their own energy consumption, it is quite amazing to peer into the lives of ‘ordinary Australians’ and witness the thoughtlessness with which they squander energy. And even us self-righteous ‘aware’ types have learned a thing or two.
The remedies are many and varied, ranging from riding a pushbike to the shops, to installing an energy monitor to remind folks to turn off lights, to simple retrofit double glazing. Small to medium capital investment is sometimes required, making many changes more applicable to owners than renters, but every household can do something and, as last nights program illustrated, even a household of student renters could more than halve their carbon output while spending hardly a cent.
On the contrary, they will save money, as will those who invest in solar hot water, for example, once the device has paid for itself. If the ‘Plasma Bonus’ had become instead a ‘Solar Hot Water Bonus’, each Aussie birth would represent a slightly brighter future for all.
Australians seem to regard utility bills as a necessary evil, something to bemoan when the winter heating bill comes in, but not something that you can do anything about exactly. Turn off the odd light maybe, or quit wanking in the shower, but the slightest effort required and it’s all a bit too much. The fellow in last week’s show drove his big V8 to his distant work site instead of the smaller, more efficient other car because his work mates would laugh at him. Grow up.
Admittedly, Australian architecture and civic design is a disgrace as far as energy efficiency goes, and we are not exactly encouraged to think about it much, what with electricity at 4 cents a megathingy and the ‘steady as she goes’ environmental policies of our Federal Government.
But the point here is that being frugal with energy has its own rewards. To Scotsmen like myself, for whom any sort of waste is a sin, this idea has always seemed pure common sense. The positive effects of reduced consumption form a virtuous cycle, improving not just the environment you live in and your long term financials, but also the quality of your life.
What the? I hear you say. The quality of our lives may have somehow become confused with how up to date our audio-visual equipment is,” but the experts tell us (unfortunately they need to) that real quality of life, that enjoyed by people who live long, happy and fruitful lives, is composed largely of good human relationships in a strong local community.
It might go like this: buy those fluoro globes, save money on electricity, use it to buy a second-hand bike so you can ride down the shops with your kids. Notice the kids tyres are flat and spend some time showing them how to look after their bikes. On the way to the shops, shift that chunk of road base you’ve been dodging in the car for months. Wave to the neighbour you’ve ignored for years.
When you return, notice that, after a bit of activity, the house seems unusually warm. Turn down the heater a few degrees. Also note that you feel more energetic. Hop out to the shed and turn a pile of old floorboards into pelmets for above your windows. Turn down the heater another few degrees. Use the money saved to buy insulation in the roof. Turn the heater down a few degrees more.
Take turns using public transport and sell the other car. For your next holiday, instead of flying to a tropical isle for two weeks, go to a local bit of bush and do some land care, plant a few trees. Get down and dirty with your kids and enjoy their growing sense of the wonder that is the Earth. Enjoy, also, that you can now see your toes over your belly. Marvel as your sex life improves. Join the local swingers club and encourage them to be more energy wise, solar powered dildos for example.
And so on…
The wonders of the age of technology and cheap energy, while entertaining and occasionally a great aid to learning and communication, have spoilt Australians terribly, drawn us away from health and happiness into distraction, disconnection, slothfulness and isolation.
We seem to confront climate change as though it is a calamity that we could avert, but that the costs of doing so would be greater than we can possibly bear. Our lifestyle, our economy, our very civilisation is at risk from an over-reaction. We fear an authoritarian government forcing us to give up our many luxuries, the which we now take entirely for granted on an ever upward aspiration spiral.
It is time to see climate change as an opportunity: for us to rethink our lives, decide what is really important (family, health, community, the environment) and reduce the distractions. To invest in new technologies that will allow reasonable energy use well into the future, provide a growing source of export income and reduce our reliance on foreign energy sources (therefore reducing the otherwise inevitable conflicts over remaining fossil fuel supllies). To unite the world around a common problem that requires a more even distribution of the world’s wealth for its ultimate solution. Bring it on.