Will Green Be Sticky This Time?

by updated 2008/08/27

It is really something how everything “green” is so in style right now. I often think about the reasons for this current focus and wonder if it will hold up as time goes by. I remember how alternative energy was the big issue many years ago after the “oil crisis” with its mile long gas station lines. Some great thinking and innovation came out of that difficult situation, but as time went by, we seemed to forget. There were some who did their best to keep the issue on the front burner, but most of us slipped in one way or another. I know I stayed interested in the greening of technologies and lifestyles, but I did not always adhere as strictly as I should in my own life.

When energy and oil was reasonably priced, it was easy to forget and buy a bigger car or truck. It was easy to put off adding the extra layer of insulation to the attic. Once the winter heating bill became a huge monthly burden, I did the dirty job and what a difference it has made. The second floor of our house is much warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. I am sure we are saving a bunch on the heating costs.

This time we are being hit by a double whammy of both high energy costs and a changing world economy. It sometimes seems like the U.S. might never again be the economy the rest of the world looks to as the shining example of abundance and comfort. Even when the U.S. economy does recover, we will still face competition for resources that countries like China, India, and many others will also need.

Because of this, I think the green changes happening now have a better chance of becoming a permanent part of our lives than they did in the 1970’s. What do you think? Please take a look at the poll below and leave your opinion. Please expand on your answers in the comments. I hope we are able to make some of the lifestyle and technology changes that are being forced on us now a more comfortable and permanent part of the landscape.

Small changes can make a big difference in a huge country like the U.S. We do not need to make wholesale, difficult changes to save our way of life. We can be a successful and healthy country and still reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources. Many families and businesses will continue to need a big car or truck to make their lives work. But we can make those big vehicles more fuel efficient. And we can educate people to show how they can use less gas and save money by their choices of second cars. Very few families really need two big SUV’s or trucks.

I believe we can grow enough food for our needs and the needs of many others in the world. The current food shortages around the world are focusing attention on the food supply. With enough of a commitment I hope we can help grow the food the world needs sustainably, safely, and in a way that is healthy for the consumer, the farm workers, and the environment.

So what do you think? Will the coming, necessary changes be good ones? Will they be mostly “green”? And will they stick, or do we risk going back to our old ways if current crises are resolved? Leave a comment, answer the poll. Let us know what you think.

Will we stick with the green changes that are being made because of current conditions? You can choose between the first two answers, then tick the third if it applies.

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Will Sig
1 Jennifer Robin

Ditto what you said about the US economy and competing with other countries for resources. You might be interested in watching the documentary “The End of Suburbia”. Our current energy resources are not bottomless, and things are definitely going to have to change over the next several decades.

Jennifer Robins last blog post..Wordless Wednesday

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2 sky

Namaste’ dear Will, WOW… this is a great post, good job! unfortunately and alas sadly, I think humans tend to forget (not all but most) and even all of us have ben guilty of SOME kind of contribution to the mess on this planet, (not one single person can say they are exempt at contribution) no matter how much we personally try to do.

But most tend to be creatures of habit, and it takes somtimes BIG things in order for humans to change their broken records, meaning often FORCED to, cause theres no other choice. I see a slow change in the youth I work with mostly, less so in many set in ways.

To ME it comes down to this, what is supplied and made available people will use, and if it is not supplied and made available people won’t implement. If plastic bags are banned, peoples choice of such is taken away and those whom would choose plastic bags despite them being so dang bad, wont be able to, and that will force them to start a new habit of using reusable bags. Which once that strikes it’s groove into the persons life, it becomes a new record.

I am ever the optimist, my belief in the better good has me wake up each morning and smile to greet the day, no matter what. But at the same time I am not so sure there is enough starch to make what is needed to stick to do so.

With other animals on this planet, mother nature takes care of how things should be, when an animal gets sick enough it may die, there is no doctor keeing them alive as long as is possible, and hooked to machines, when it is their time it is. My mom taught me, when it’s our time it is. There is no warm heated house to protect them from the weather elements, or air conditioning or bug spray, if they get cancer, they are hunters but they are also hunted.

Humans fear death, and thus fight it every step of the way, to secure life, in their minds I think. they fight anything else mother nature brings about, to take us out, that is perhaps around in the first place to help control our own species, just like every other species has these rules.

We are the only species that manipulates life, via technology, sorry dont ever like to bring gloom into the picture.

But though I am young I am old in how I view such.

But still I will sit here and smile and greet each morning always the believer.

metta
sky

skys last blog post..A Place

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3 Anthony

As far as heating goes. There’s no doubt that prices are going up extremely quick. Yous said one thing that clicked in my head. “Small changes can make a big difference in a huge country like the U.S.” This is true. Because while working at NORA, I was able to research oil heat and greener alternatives. Turns out that if all oilheat users were to switch over to a B5 blend of biodegradable oil. We would help conserve 400 Millions gallons of regular household heating oil. Imagine that. Paying about the same price and using your same equipment, yet helping the environment. Producing no greenhouse gases, reducing emissions, resulting in a drastically smaller carbon footprint.

Here’s a site you can check out for confirmation on the facts.

http://oilheatamerica.com/index.mv?screen=bioheat

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4 JD Thomas

I think this trend will continue overall for the long term but you will need to step back a few degrees to see that. In reality, on the ground, it will go in fits and starts based on peoples’ attention spans, convenience factors, and product sourcing.

So many people are approaching this from the perspective that individuals really can make a difference. It sounds great in theory and we all want to feel like we can change the world – and we can – but the scale of change needed is huge and growing larger every single day.

Its all a matter of scale. You mentioned this before I think, or another commentator here did, in regards to water conservation. The amount of water that can be conserved by one large industrial farm switching to covered and sealed irrigation channels is more than we can all save with low-flow showers and hyper efficient washing machines.

This is true up and down the long and complex supply chains that make the modern American way of life possible. If we can get the people who grow our food, make our light bulbs, or produce and transport our clothing from cotton field to factory to retail store to take action to use “greener” processes we are going to do far more good than we ever could meticulously recycling our household waste stream.

This is not to say we should not make changes in our own lifestyles when possible, but we need to recognize that corporations that keep our store’s shelves stocked have a built in economy of scale that allow smaller changes to produce huge dividends.

The centrally planned economies of the former Soviet Union failed in many ways, but that kind of central planning would be immensely useful right now. Free market capitalism does some thing’s very well, but voluntarily creating more efficient and safer processes is not one of them.

Techfuns last blog post..Sour Green Insanity

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5 Will

Thanks for that comment and link, Anthony. I will take a close look at the site later on today or tomorrow.

And JD: Thanks to you also for another of your insightful comments. I have written many times about the need to water proof the bottom and cover the tops of all the miles of irrigation canals in the U.S. west. You are right that would save a tremendous amount of water.

I don’t want people to underestimate the results that can be had by millions of people making small changes. Small changes can not only often have surprisingly large effects, they can change the default thinking of masses of people. That can then lead to other more significant changes.

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6 Will

Hi Sky – Those are good points. All of us have some things we could do better. I prefer not to think of it as guilt. Everyone has different things they can do without discomfort or disruption to their lives. But those differ from person to person.

It may be naive, but rather than say we all need to do specifically this or that, I would rather have people think they just need to do something. Then they can choose what works best for them. Of course without requirement, there will be some that do nothing. But at risk of being “clicheish”, (is that even a word?), that is one of the costs of a free society.

That is a good analogy about the animals. The only thing is that there are a few heroes like you that devote their lives to lessening the cruel realities of what we as humans, and sometimes nature itself do to the animals.

Anyone that has not looked at Sky’s site, follow the link in her name, or the one below, to see some of the wonderful creatures she works with!
http://awolfadventure.blogspot.com/

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7 chaosgone

I am a creature of habit. Any changes I have made to help the environment, and save money and fuel, I will probably keep, rather than go back to bad habits.

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8 JD Thomas

As I said, people can and should take personal action and responsibility for their lives and the environmental footprint they create. However, I think people underestimate the effect a few hundred people can have on a business that affects hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people.

If you and all your neighbors make a fuss about how your city sources its materials you can influence how thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars are spent. Are your schools and township buildings using all post consumer recycled paper goods? Is your tax money being spend on the kinds of things you would purchase yourself?

If not, you and some friends and family members can probably shine enough light on the matter to make the city government take action and change its habits thereby creating a far bigger beneficial effect than you can as one family.

Techfuns last blog post..Sour Green Insanity

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9 Will

Hey chasgone – Welcome back! Creature of habit is good with good habits. ;-)

Thanks for the happy songs in your last post. That is quite the 1964 dress on Ms. Clark. She can sing, though.

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10 Swubird

Will:

For better, or for worse, I think that people will always seek the course of least resistance. As long as they can afford high gas prices they’ll pay them. As long as fast food exists, they’ll eat it. And as long as heating and air-conditioning bills are affordable, they’ll abuse them – hot in winter, and freezing in summer. It’s always been that way, and I think it will always be that way.

The only thing that seems to change people’s real behavior is the total lack of money. Take a guy who has recently been fired, or laid off, and you’ll see a true conservationist. But as soon as he finds another good job – bingo – he’s sittin’ at McD’s in his air conditioned Hummer ordering the biggest box of greasy fries, quarter pounder, and chocolate malt that he can get his hands on. It’s like nothing ever happened. And why does everyone from the less fortunate countries (no names, but Mexico!) come to America? It sure isn’t for our recycling programs. They want to indulge until they drop, or until every last natural resource is choked from the earth. That’s the real American dream. I don’t mean to sound so gloomy, but that’s my opinion.

Swubirds last blog post..IGNORANCE IS BLISS!

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11 Bob

Hey Will, very timely post as I was in a line at a Tim Hortons coffee drive through this morning, I felt small in my little Cavalier, sandwiched between two large SUVs, in fact almost all SUVs and a couple large vans. I’m a big believer in every little bit helps, but unfortunately people have short memories due in part to other false alarms and seriously conflicting points of views from supposed experts,

I remember back in the seventies when we were going to run out of oil and then as fast as the threat came it was gone, or so it seemed. People are weary of all the threats, like the little boy who cried wolf, we won’t take action when a real one comes along cause it’s just another false alarm.

Bobs last blog post..Aquarid Meteor Shower

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12 Will

Yikes, Swubird! Do you really think that is most people? If so, then the only fix will be to give people what they want, but in a much more healthy and sustainable way. I don’t know if that is possible. I have to be more optimistic than that. Everyone won’t make the effort, but hopefully enough will.

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13 Will

Hi Bob – You know, all the used car lots around here are full of nothing but big SUV’s and trucks. They can’t sell them. And the roads are definitely populated with many, many more small cars than a few months ago. It is really noticeable. If lots of people are actually trading in their big vehicles for small, I think they feel this gas thing is for the long term. I don’t know if it is a country wide phenomena, but is is very apparent here in Southern Oregon.

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14 Gern

Reducing complex ideas to buzzwords is a symptom of the problem, IMO. I’m already getting sick of people using “green” as a blanket term for ecologically sound, especially since it seems a lot of companies are scrambling to “stick” the term on whatever piece of ephemeral consumer crap they can muster.

We need less buzzword jockeys and more real insights. Hip, trendy culture doesn’t have the attention span to make a significant contribution to the planet so let’s not cater to them. Let’s keep real thinking out of the trend machine, and maybe “green” won’t get chewed up, spit out and forgotten like last year’s fashion.

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15 chaosgone

Will:

I’m glad you liked the happy songs. I had fun with it.

I thought a little more about this topic. In the United States, during World War I and World War II, there was rationing. Also, in the 70’s, there was rationing of gasoline. (Odd, even days.) The people responded to it, since the government was running the show. What choice did they have?

If the government does not tell us that being “green” is important, people will stick to their bad habits, unless they have to change. But, the government is working on it, to a degree. For example, where I live they would like us to recycle more. To that end, they are giving us roll carts and allow us to mix all recyclable materials (except glass and motor oil) together. With less work for us, there is a better chance that we will recycle more. I know that I will.

While gasoline is so high, people will probably buy cars that are more fuel efficient. But, if they get used to the price of gas, or the price of gas goes down again, they will probably go back to buying “fun” cars, like SUV’s or other cars that don’t get good gas mileage. However, the government could step in, and require the car companies to make better cars. 11 states are working to pass higher gas-mileage standards than the federal government has.

Maybe we are having a better chance of “green” sticking this time. I hope so.

chaosgones last blog post..Happy Songs

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16 Will

You are absolutely right about recycling having to be easy for it to be widely accepted. That is why for the odd items, it will be difficult to ever get a high rate of recycling. But whatever we can throw into the co-mingled bin will get recycled.

I think technology has to do two things. One, come up with more and more ways for recycling companies to profitably separate items out of the co-mingled recycling containers they collect. And two, make new products as recycling friendly right from the start.

Boy, people are sure trading in and buying smaller cars around here. I heard yesterday that some used car dealers will no longer take big SUV’s and Trucks in trade, even to make a sale on a smaller car. They are saying the smaller cars are selling without a trade in and that their lots are full of trucks and SUV’s they can’t sell at any price!

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17 Nigel

I think it is clear that the real SOLUTION to our current conundrum is to reduce consumption, not to consume more environmentally friendly products. Unfortunately, this in unrealistic in the short term, so lets focus on baby steps.
On the bright side, with oil hitting $125/barrel, I think we are going to see some real changes is consumption. I am in the UK right now, and gas is 1.4 pounds per litre (for the Canadians in the house, thats almost $3/liter, and for the americans, it is over $12/gallon). That is three times what we are paying in North America. Europe started paying these prices five years ago because of the high gas prices, and now everyone drives a sub-compact that you cant even buy in North America.
To touch on Bob’s point, he feels small driving a cavalier, but in Europe that is a HUGE car. I think (and hope) that the rising gas prices will change people consumption habits, and drive down the demand for SUVs. Will, you seem to be finding that small cars are becoming the norm in Southern Oregon, but I don’t thing that is the case, at least not in Vancouver. I also hope that the big car companies, especially VW and BMW, will start bringing their super-efficient tiny diesels into Canada and the US so that we dont have to buy a Yaris or a Prius to be fuel efficient.
Anyway, I think that we are on the wrong track, but there is hope.

Nigels last blog post..Goodbye undoGE forum

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18 Live Bingo

When energy and oil was reasonably priced, it was easy to forget and buy a bigger car or truck. It was easy to put off adding the extra layer of insulation to the attic. Once the winter heating bill became a huge monthly burden, I did the dirty job and what a difference it has made.

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