Friday, January 09, 2004

Beyond the shadow

"Between the conception and the creation," T.S. Eliot wrote, "Between emotion and the response falls the shadow." Years ago, while still in college, I dreamed of living in a solar-powered geodesic dome somewhere in a northern California redwood forest. A creative writing instructor mocked that vision (which I had expressed through a character in one of my short stories) and mainstream America saw solar and wind power as a pipe dream from granola-munching, pot-smoking hippies, as eager to dismiss the possibilities as they were to jump into their heavy-metal 16 mpg American road machines and take their turn in a gas line. The nascent alternative energy movement was nonetheless taking root, suggesting another energy path that didn't have risky megalithic nuclear reactors at its heart. The Nuclear Power Initiative in California made it clear that not everyone thought it wise to depend on fuel that could destroy half a state in the case of an accident or that would generate wastes that would have to be guarded for tens of thousands of years--longer than the span of any known civilization.

Thirty years later, the technologies that make alternative energy the only realistic future possibility have come of age, but their adoption has been slowed by the massive worldwide infrastructure that refuses to abandon a future tied to dwindling supplies of petroleum-based fuel. Wars are already being fought over oil. How much worse will it get in 20 or 30 years when serious scarcities drive the developed nations into even more frantic quests to suck the last few dregs of oil from the earth?

We don't need more oil; we need a new direction. This blog offers steps and guideposts to other energy paths that any of us can follow. The "Think globally, act locally" credo of the environmental movement makes much sense. We can equip our homes with solar or wind power and charge utility companies for surplus energy (through Intertie connections) put back into the grid. We can choose efficient devices that save energy, change our transportation habits, critically examine our lives, and move away from gluttonous energy use and the indiscriminate wasting of resources, moving toward a more frugal, more mindful existence that recognizes and reverses the destructiveness of the prevailing path.

So, this is step one... As I take more steps in this direction, I invite you along for the journey and I hope maybe there is something useful in this vision that you can share, as well. The emphasis will be on practical, realistic, accessible approaches--either things that you can do tomorrow with tools and technologies already available, or examples that demonstrate how others have taken other energy paths, the road less travelled that Robert Frost talked about. Put on your hiking boots and join the journey.