Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Cost of Responsible Living

I have read a number of times lately that the cost of changing to energy careful technologies is exorbitant. Apparently this has become a conservative sacred cow. From what I have been able to tell from my research, mostly into the European experience, where countries like Germany, the Netherlands and England are far ahead of us in the transition to renewable energy sources, this is pure myth and a deliberate misrepresentation. Just for a single example, capturing and reburning the carbon and sulfur emissions from coal is an inexpensive change and increases efficiency in the long run. We just don’t want to do it. I am not qualified to argue this at a national or planet level, but I can definitely see the effects of changing to green technology at our home, the savings of living in an energy responsible manner have far outweighed the transition costs.

Maria has been the driving force behind our pursuit of responsible living. She has done the research and much of the work. There has been a pronounced positive effect on our finances. Simple changes, like driving less, planning our trips, controlling our shopping, combining errands, not going unless we absolutely have to, and using the more fuel efficient of our vehicles, have added up to a big savings. The biggest single savings has been in electric use. We are still not off the grid, but we have cut electric use drastically. Our most recent electric bill was $26. We have gone from an annual expenditure for electricity of $2700 to about $690 this past year. That $2000 difference alone paid for a lot of what we have invested in the transition.

It is not a matter of being cheap, it is a matter of thinking about what we are doing and the impact. For example, we resist buying anything new if there is an alternative. Yes, this is cheaper, but there is an energy impact for every new item manufactured that we avoid by buying used. There are also issues of toxicity. There are hazardous chemicals present in all textiles. Used garments have at least some of these washed out.

Granted, what we are doing, the opportunities available to us living in rural Kentucky, are not available to everyone. But then, there are more resources available in a more cosmopolitan area than we have here in some ways, better libraries, closer shopping, a community that is interested in networking and cooperation toward sustainable goals. Every building can be improved. We can start to think about our expenditures in resources, not just currency. It is the planning that is saving us the money.


We citizens of these United States have developed an extremely effective way of destroying ourselves. We have decided to stay in our golden past. We have refused to be brought into the modern world. Then, we accuse anyone that points out our problems of lack of patriotism. This guarantees that nothing will ever improve. We will simply slide loudly and with a large splash into oblivion.

We used to think that the Oriental history of walling out change that kept China and Japan from modernizing for centuries was ridiculous. If you look at the present state of our country, you will see that this is exactly what we have done. We don’t learn from the past, we glorify it. We try, very unrealistically to live in it.

We developed a political system that was extremely responsive to the needs of a rapidly industrializing nation. Our government supported industry, commerce and the stockholders that managed our leap into world prominence. Now we are held hostage by these same forces that built us, and we cannot let go.

We failed to automate our industry; to protect the workers‘ jobs, of course. We hamstrung our agriculture by permitting a monopoly to pick the direction it would go, without thought to any consequence but profit. Oil built us. American oil won World War II, and even though the handwriting has been on the wall for fifty years, we refuse to let go of it. The oil companies are diversifying, buying into renewable energy, but we, as a people, are not. Climate change is going to redesign the world’s economy for us. Our leaders stick their heads in the sand. Prudence would dictate that if there were even a chance that this would be barreling down the slope toward us that we should take concrete measures to save ourselves. But we are not prudent people. Fourteen percent of our workforce is unemployed as of this writing. About the same percentage are underemployed. We did this to ourselves. We allowed businesses to move these people’s jobs overseas and bring the products back to this country without any tariff whatsoever. That is freedom.

We are not a democracy. This country was designed as a vehicle for corporate profits. It is business that pays for the campaigns that put people in political office. Therefore, we get leaders and legislators who put the interests of sponsors first. Look at the decisions they have made over the past years. Republican or Democrat, neither party will vote against the interests of big business. The Constitution is simply a panacea. This country is run by an unwritten constitution that exists to insure corporate profits and the welfare of the economic elite. The rest of us are manipulated. We are given bread and games. The term for this form of government is plutocracy.