Going green — or gathering green?

August 14, 2010

Isn’t it interesting what you can see when you look at familiar facts with new eyes? Has anything really changed, or is it business as usual, with a few new gimmicks providing new ways for people to skim some money?

By Warren Crescenzo

Have you noticed how everyone is going green these days? I have supported green measures since the first Earth Day was held. Many ancient civilizations, lacking the conveniences we know today, found ways to make the sun, wind and water work for them. My uncle was using simple, conservation measures when he built houses back in the 1960s. He recognized the need for extra insulation, sealing off unheated areas, and other effective low-cost measures. That uncle, my cousins and I built a solar greenhouse, that ran without fuel. There are many examples of ancient and modern, simple technologies that work. So, why do we suddenly have this resurgence in the green way of life? This is not new stuff.

Going green has put a great deal of another kind of green in the pockets of some high profile individuals, who say one thing, do another, and walk away with multitudes of cash and awards. Is that the purpose of this sudden awakening?

History has shown that civilizations, facing extinction, suddenly put forth an 11th hour offensive to save themselves. The last minute measures are usually unsuccessful. Are we at that point now?

Or have we finally come to realize that our current “ungreen” measures are killing us? But then, will we be developing green committees to determine who and what should be allowed to continue? Remember the “brownouts” of several years ago, when grandma and grandpa were fearful of having their electricity turned off in the dead of winter, but it was totally OK to allow sporting and entertainment events to continue. Which consumed more energy and increased the size of the much discussed carbon footprint? We are constantly being told to conserve water, but there was no problem spraying the Belmont Stakes track with 12,000 gallons of water, to run a high ticket race.

Amenities once found in homes of the wealthy, are now available to larger sections of the population. This means more resource consumption, questionable green practices, and generally, the swallowing up of more of our ground surface and destruction of the natural ecology. Convenience now means less effort and a false conception of a never-ending supply. Have we considered the overall effect?

Looking at the clutter and waste caused by recent elections. Apparently the politicians speak green, but do not live it. I won’t even address noise pollution. Much fuel was consumed and the daily barrage of junk mail was very obvious. Some signs still “decorate” our roads. How green were those measures?

Take a look at most public buildings. There are room temperatures ranging from 55 to 95 degrees, doors flapping in the breeze. There are government vehicles, of all kinds, idling or left in operation, when they could by turned off. How green are the bills politicians create, that are thousands of pages long and the average citizen cannot even begin to understand its contents?

We hear a great deal about green buildings. Have we taken into consideration the number of “ungreen” vehicles driven to the work sites, the amount of land being consumed and the increases in services needed to operate those buildings? Whenever I ask someone in the trades about an improvement, it usually consumes more energy to accomplish or sustain the task.

Yes, we are now developing green cars. Costs for the average person can be prohibitive. We still have issues with battery waste/contamination and have we forgotten that the electricity for those cars has be generated somewhere from “dirty” utilities? Is this really a solution? Ethanol developed from corn produces less energy than oil and corn also consumes many soil nutrients. Why don’t we use weeds? There is an inexhaustible supply. Can there be some profit/control motive here?

There are more cars on the road everyday. Our governments, in their ultimate wisdoms, have not been able to alleviate traffic jams via engineering or scheduling. My family and I spent four hours on the George Washington Bridge, along with thousands of other idling vehicles, while the bridge web site said traffic conditions were normal. Traffic jams occur everyday all over the world. Imagine the gas consumption without any useful purpose. Our personal events scheduling has increased car usage. Many families have the same or even busier schedules. Many are driving farther to go to work.

Do we suddenly stay home or move next door to our jobs? It doesn’t sound very practical.

Another interesting government and corporate concept is the carbon certificate. One company is buying clean air or dirty air from a company miles away. Once again, this I very profitable for some companies and high profile politicians, but what is the overall effect to the planet?

Ah, those lovely, green appliances in our homes. I remember the days when appliances lasted 20 years or more. They may have consumed more energy, but they were reliable and pieces weren’t breaking off them everyday. There was more metal and less plastic. Now we seem to have appliances that last 5 to 8 years, with a few major service calls included. How many green appliances end up sooner in landfills? Have we forgotten that plastic comes from oil?

Converting knowledge into action is very difficult. My kids can get an A in Science and Conservation courses, but they can’t remember to turn off the lights. That means the grumpy, old energy warden (me), has to express displeasure over and over again and go around turning off lights and encouraging reduced energy consumption. Even threats of shorter vacations due to the money lost, are not effective.

There are things we can do to cut energy usage, but we live in an economy of “more, bigger and more again.” Our cutbacks will then create higher prices due to reduced consumption. Everyone can save one gallon of gas and a gallon of water per day. We can drive less, adjust our thermostats. But, how effective will this be when the large consumers refuse to change their ways? How will we deal with the possibility of products, services and resources becoming less available or convenient? When profits drop, we will pay more once again.

The new health initiatives involving increased hand washing and various chemicals and products for sanitation use more resources. These methods are necessary, but they also result in use of more resources and possible harsh contamination. We may be trading one problem for another.

Computers are certainly a green invention, or so we think. How much paper is saved when we push the print button numerous times each day? If you make an error on a high speed printer, you may have lost 100 sheets of paper, before you can stop the presses. Many businesses are adding to their bottom lines, by having customers print everything. Aren’t the the same or a greater number of pages being printed? How many pages have you printed that serve no practical purpose, but the page can not be used because there are six words on it?

A recent study said the increased use of computers will cause even more damage to the environment with increased use of harsh chemicals and improper disposal methods. Many computers and their accessories run 24 hour a day. The cumulative effect of electricity usage, must have some effect on the ecology.

Do we really want to solve this problem or just pay it political lip service? The government has to stop the doublespeak and lead the way. I don’t think another 2,000 page bill, that is duplicated thousands of times, and proves to be incomprehensible to the average citizen, will save the planet. Individuals and businesses need to do what they can to conserve and plan more efficient usage of resources. But they alone cannot do it. Everyone needs to take advantage of the learning programs that show how to use less. Extremism at both ends must cease, and effective discussion leading to practical solutions must begin. Every time there is a “Hands Across Whatever” event, fuel is consumed, pollution of various kinds is created and the message withers away. The public has to lose its “I don’t know, I don’t care or I can afford it so too bad for you” attitudes.

I truly feel that green measures can benefit the Earth and the time we have to spend on it.

It is time for true research and valid scientific methods provide us with the truth and effective ways to enable us to find practical and logical ways to keep us green and sane! We should go green because it is the right thing to do and because it can help to reduce the usage of resources that, ultimately, take life away. We need to hug a tree with one arm and use our head and the other arm, to put meaningful events into action. It won’t happen unless we all do it!


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