by Heather Rae
This past Friday, I put down the crowbar and power-downed the computer and drove to Portland to speak about home performance at a workshop, “Global Warming, Cool Solutions.” The workshop was part of a one-day conference called “Achieving Global Energy Security.”
Held in a LEED Gold-designated building, it was a provocative day sponsored by Physicians for Social Responsibility, Maine Council of Churches, Sierra Club, Peace Action Maine and others. Unlike “silo” meetings, conventions where the choir convenes to sing to itself, this conference painted the big picture that is often missed in silos — the connections among climate change, environment, economy, energy and foreign policy, peaking oil, nuclear proliferation, the health effects and hideousness of war, and morality. Somehow, the conference planners spun the negative messages positively into workshops around solutions. Those solutions are clean energy: renewables and energy efficiency. And conservation. The conference presentations are being posted on the website: www.peaceactionme.org/.
Thomas Friedman wrote in the New York Times magazine (The Power of Green): “I am not proposing that we radically alter our lifestyles. We are who we are – including a car culture. But if we want to continue to be who we are, enjoy the benefits and be able to pass them on to our children, we do need to fuel our future in a cleaner, greener way.”
A photograph of an Iraqi man holding a fainting or dead young girl in his arms, her leg blown to bits, flesh and bones dangling, was still with me at 2am the night of the conference. So was Dr. Mary-Wynne Ashford’s reference to Richard Heinberg’s, The Party’s Over. Dr. Ashford paused, breaking from her presentation as the audience chuckled at the image of a businessman holding a gun to his head to say, it was a fun party wasn’t it? But now the guests have gone home, and we’re left with our house in disarray. After the fossil fuel party, what will the response be of this industrialized nation addicted to oil: Will we go the way of Cuba that adapts by adopting distributed micro-solutions, or will we go the way of totalitarian North Korea and enter into dark stagnation?
The message I heard at the conference was that everyone can do his and her part, everyone can take action to find solutions to these pressing global energy-related issues. (I also heard from Efficiency Maine that it has established the first program in the country to reclaim used CFLs at the point of purchase.) This past week, seven contractors came to my house to take their field exams for the Building Performance Institute certification. In the vernacular of building science, all seven found that various parts of this old house “communicate” with one another. That is, air flows freely every which way in her balloon frame.
This old house, she’s a talker, and I’ll shut her up as best I can. Tightening up a house is not radical change. Nor is buying a hybrid car. Or screwing in an energy-efficient light bulb. But I doubt it’s enough. A while back, I sat down with an aide to Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO) and suggested that monies be taken from the war chest and allocated to solar R&D and market penetration. Apparently, that’s radical; the aide nodded at the suggestion, politely. It should be a lot harder to be polite in the face of the blown flesh of an innocent little girl.
Other Goings On This Week
Another party that’s over…
Pete McCloskey, a one time candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination, explained his reasons for leaving the Republican party and included this: “Earth Day, that bi-partisan concept of Gaylord Nelson in 1970, has become the focus of almost hatred by today’s Republican leadership. Many still argue that global warming is a hoax, and that Bush has been right to demean and suppress the arguments of scientists at the E.P.A., Fish & Wildlife and U.S.Geological Survey. I say a pox on them and their values.”
Heather Rae, a contributor to cleantechblog.com, manages a ‘whole house’ home performance program in Maine. In 2006, she built a biobus and drove it from Colorado to Maine. In 2007, she begins renovation of an 1880 farmhouse using building science and green building principles.