unPLUg- off and…well just off

No unnecessary appliances running here!  Devices are turned off and even unplugged, lights switched and clothes airdrying, all in attempts to reduce the energy consumption int he residence halls of PLU.  Eight halls are pitted against each other in a fight to curb the electricity that contributes to global climate change, local ecosystem destruction and extremely inflated costs that prevent money form going to more useful programs.

This bracket goes from September 28th to October 28th, and the winners will each receive a smartstrip in their room to guarantee future Lutes will not be using so much wasted energy.  Smartstrips cut phantom load, or the energy used even when an appliance is switched “off”.  The halls are Harstad vs. Tinglestad, Foss vs. Hong, Hinderlie vs. Pflueger, and Ordal vs. Stuen.  These winners will then advance to compete in bracket two in February.

What are halls doing to win?  Stuen has held entire floor meetings on the subject and Ordal is walking around in dim hallways.  Girls in Pflueger have pledged to give up a hairdryer for the month.  Energy efficient light bulbs are appearing in rooms.  But what else!?!  Energy is going down.  Only five buildings on campus have real time metering capabilities, but those five  are showing drops.  Why?  What is going on out there?  Please comment with what you are doing in your hall.  Maybe you can inspire someone else.

Best path to less pollution? Fewer polluters, study finds

Climate: Birth control cheaper than windmills, solar plants, group says
DAVID A. FAHRENTHOLD; The Washington Post

Published: 09/15/09  12:05 am

To heck with carbon dioxide. A new study performed by the London School of Economics suggests that, to fight climate change, governments should focus on another pollutant: us.

Every new life, the report says, is a guarantee of new greenhouse gases, spewed out over decades of driving and electricity use. Seen in that light, we might be our own worst emissions.

The activist group that sponsored the report says that birth control could be one of the world’s best tools for fighting climate change. By preventing the creation of new polluters, the group says, contraceptives are a far cheaper solution than windmills and solar plants.

It is an unorthodox – and for now, unpopular – way to approach the problem, which can seem so vast and close that it is driving many thinkers toward gizmos and oddball ideas.

“There is no possibility of drastically reducing total carbon emissions, while at the same time paying no attention whatever to the drastic increase in the number of carbon emitters,” said Roger Martin, chairman of the Optimum Population Trust, a British nonprofit that sponsored the report and whose goal is to rein in population growth in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. “For reasons of an irrational taboo on the subject, (family planning) has never made it onto the agenda, and this is extremely damaging to the planet.”

It is nothing unusual, of course, to think that the Earth could really use fewer of us.

In the 1700s, Thomas Malthus worried that population growth would outstrip the food supply. And a decade ago, writer Bill McKibben connected environmental concerns to his decision to have one child in a book called “Maybe One.”

What is new, in the British study and a separate report from Oregon State University, are statistics that show exactly how much each life — and especially each American life — adds to the world’s emissions.

In the United States, each baby results in 1,644 tons of carbon dioxide, five times more than a baby in China, and 91 times more than an infant in Bangladesh, according to the Oregon State study. That is because Americans live relatively long, and live in a country whose long car commutes, coal-burning power plants and cathedral ceilings give it some of the highest per-capita emissions in the world.

Seen from that angle, the Oregon State researchers concluded that child-bearing was one of the most fateful environmental decisions in anyone’s life.

Recycle, shorten your commute, drive a hybrid vehicle, and buy energy-efficient light bulbs, appliances and windows — all of that would cut out about one-fortieth of the emissions caused by bringing two children, and their children’s children, into the world.

“People always consider the financial costs, and they consider the time cost,” said Paul Murtaugh, one of the Oregon State researchers, who said that he does not have children but that he is open to the idea despite his research. “We’re just attempting to put on the table the ballpark estimate of the environmental cost.”

So what, exactly, is the world supposed to do with this information?

The researchers behind both studies are emphatic that they do not want people to be forced not to have children. But Martin, whose group sponsored the British study, said governments could help stop unwanted pregnancies by offering contraception and, in some rare cases, abortion.

Hello world!

Sustainability is a concept that has always been taught to us by the natural world.  A sustainable system lives without waste, all needs of the users are met, and life can thrive without limiting future generation’s abilities.  It is only in our separation from that natural world that we lost the message.

I believe that the world is on the cusp of an Idea Revolution, much like the Industrial Revolution.  However, because the Industrial Revolution came first, we as humans were able to unleash our creativity in a multitude of ways before we were able to fully discover their complete impact.  What we have learned after the fact is that there is an interconnectedness that binds us all not only to each other, but our environment.  Our rapid success in technologies gave way to a collapse in ecological systems, which is expanding to this day.

Thus, Johann Dréo has developed this tweak to the original Venn diagram that is now (hopefully) famous.

In this simple concept, it is clearly visible that a sustainable society is the most productive, socially responsible, profitable, and ecologically healthy society.  Great!  But what is a sustainable society?  Glimpses of sustainability can already be found in fleeting examples.  Small eco-villages where all residents share decision-making and food growth results in everyone’s happiness, or cooperative businesses where the organization is owned and operated by a group of individuals for their mutual benefit.

If it can be agreed that these are real examples of sustainable societies, what are their common denominators?  What rules, or cultural frame, did they use to reach this state?  Now that they are here, are they simply sustainable for life?  What will it take to sustain sustainability?

These are all questions that need contemplation.  I challenge the Pacific Lutheran community to think of sustainability as a journey, not an end state.  Please submit any related material, evidence of sustainability, a charge to push its growth, or tools we may be able to use.  My hope is that this blog will help to guide the discussions, ideas and even conflicts that arise as we all take this journey together.

After all,

“There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We’re all crew.”
– Marshall McLuhan