Stone Age Redux Blog

3 posts

INTERSTICES

Are these energy articles worth our while? I’m not sure. Rather, it will be a case of the blind leading the blind because I don’t know “energy” any more than the next person. Or maybe I do. Because, in the years since moving from Rhode Island to New Hampshire to live off-grid at Darwin’s View, my perspective on energy has shifted.  As it did when Carl and I bought our EV Leaf in 2012. The cutting edge of electric vehicles at the time, the Leaf requires an off-grid mentality of limited resources, not abundance. Just as I have learned to turn off the lights when I leave a room and not to use a hair dryer, just so the Leaf requires a certain mind set.Planning, which is remarkably like budgeting, we must ask ourselves how far are we driving? Why? Is it necessary? And Carl drives slower in the Leaf because driving fast takes up more electric charge. He takes it as a challenge to keep track of how much less energy he uses on each trip. 

For my part, I drive slower because it’s incredibly satisfying to grow more of those trees that appear on the dashboard when I drive carefully.

Due to the lowering battery life, our Leaf can go eighty miles on a full charge. That means eighty is the number of miles we have to get to where we are going, and back again. On a seventy degree day. No hills. With the windows closed, and no heat or cooling. And the whole time, we feel like we’re in a Star Trek vehicle. The quiet whirr of the electric motor. Sh! You slide past the gas stations, feeling oh, so oil free. And the car has an adorable thing called “turtle mode”. A little turtle joins the trees on the dashboard when the car is on its last gasp of power. The turtle appears just after the red, blinking lights begin, and the sultry car voice announces that the car “will not reach its destination please head immediately to the nearest charging station,” which is usually farther away than one’s destination. And then the car slows waaaaaaay down. Just like a turtle.

And so, driving the Leaf is, at times, like a cross-country train ride: it’s about the adventure, not the arrival. So is living off-grid on top of a windy hill in times of climate disruption. Beautiful. Heartbreaking. Frightening. Sobering. Life at Darwin’s View: a study of change and transition because Carl and I might live off-grid but, still, on some days, our propane-powered generator charges into action. 

And so, maybe my experiences here will become the interstices between these energy articles, exhibiting some of the possible answers to the bedeviling issues we face. Or maybe the energy articles will be the interstices between those I write about what we are doing at Darwin’s View. Maybe, with time, the two will become one. We are all, after all, just energy.

Much as we love our Leaf, it’s rather a sad rendition compared to the cars coming out these days that can go two and three hundred miles on a charge. But here’s a secret: I prefer our Leaf for exactly that reason. It doesn’t fool us into thinking we can go farther, faster. Which is a lesson we, humans, must learn. Bigger is not better. More and more and more money is not life’s purpose. And being often makes more sense than doing as energy swirls around us, and our world rockets through the universe, and ever in the background, that aching question: will we save her?

Friday’s post will be ENERGY 102: Energy in the U.S. Of A. Definitions and Infrastructure.

 IN WHICH IT IS NO LONGER A CASE OF WHAT YOU WANT TO DO, BUT WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO.” PAUL GILDING, THE GREAT DISRUPTION

ENERGY 101: INTRODUCTION

Apparently, we are in trouble: Icebergs melting. Waters rising. Species dying. The last five years, the hottest ever recorded.⁠1  These are facts, not conspiracies, and I see the hand-wringing of people—myself included—who want to do something to stop our sprint to extinction. We know that this environmental devastation is due, at least in part, to human activity, and that we, Americans, have the potential to make an enormous difference in dealing with it. Our actions matter. We’re not acting. Why?

That question could take us in myriad directions. We could delve into the psychology of fear, a primal reaction to danger that causes adrenaline to course through the body. Extreme fear, called panic, can kill because it shuts down more rational reactions, like thinking, and action. 

Or we could consider the learned helplessness and disempowerment that has been encouraged by the demo-n-capitalist society in which we live: Bigger is better. You can’t be too rich. Profits prioritized over people, and corporations rule our politicians, so why bother to vote? Go shopping, instead, because there is (arguably) nothing one person can do to make a difference.

Or we can study energy. Energy is complicated. There are so many different kinds of it—kinetic, potential, thermal, electrical. Our labyrinthine lives in 21st century America depend on the convenience and reliability of energy, in the form of fossil fuels, the extraction and use of which is one of the causes of our heating world. What built this country is also its Achilles heel, and do we even know how it came to be? How it works? What will happen when it runs out? Which it is going to. Fact, not conspiracy.⁠2

Convenience rocks. Change is hard. We are complicit in our environmental free-fall because we all partake of the fossil-fueled system. If we want to make a difference, we have to change. But in order to change, we have to know the facts, and our options. So let’s educate ourselves on the thing that keeps us alive and connected: Energy. That simple, elegant and overwhelming aspect of life that is us, that connects us, that runs life as we know it in the United States of America. 

Or not. We can opt to do nothing and watch the droughts and floods, the fires and mass extinctions but the spectator seats aren’t comfortable because deep inside we know this: If we leave others to sink under the rising tides, we lose what we claim puts us above other animals: our humanity. Too, who will be left to help us, and why would they? 

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1 https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2019/02/06/undeniable-warming-planets-hottest-five-years-record-five-images/?utm_term=.2561f982839e

2 Fossil fuels are considered finite because they were formed of organic material over millions of years. Millions more years will be required to make more. Thus, for our intents and purposes, they are finite. In 2014, British Petroleum said that in fifty years, reserves will run out.

Ideas Popping Like Popcorn . . .

Bicycles. This is an interesting article on bicycles that might solve a number of problems in a small town like Jaffrey, or a bigger one like Providence. Maybe only in spring, summer and fall. But the infrastructure built to accommodate bicycles might adapt to winter, too. We would just have to think a bit deeper.

https://www.motherearthnews.com/green-transportation/bicycling/growing-importance-bicycle-infrastructure-ze0z1412zhur

What problems, you ask? Parking. Traffic. Obesity and other health issues. Pollution.

But, please, read the article and contemplate the issue yourself. I’d love to get a conversation going about things climate change and the options we have to deal with it, not least bicycles.

Going forward, on Fridays, I will post my Stone Age Redux articles, an alternative to the current path we are on, the one that’s so familiar, so convenient, so inevitably leading us over the climate cliff.

No doubt, I will expose my own version of cognitive dissonance, and starry-eyed willful blindness. Feel free to point them out. Please join in with your own. I’d love to hear from you.