Monday, May 19, 2008

Conserving Energy The Hard Way May Be The Best Way

Alaska is not a place known for its energy conservation. Residents get paid by the government for the tremendous amount of oil that is pumped out of the state and people like it that way. No one wants to mess with the oil because everyone is invested in it. However, oil doesn't simply come out of the ground and turn on the lights. In the remote town of Juneau power is mostly supplied by hydroelectricity and this past winter it was cut off by an avalanche. What would these poor residents do?

From The Independent:

Everyone has been doing their bit, including the city authorities, which took steps that included closing the municipal sauna, mothballing one of the two lifts in the main library and turning off the airport's runway lights when planes are not landing or taking off. The hope is that some of the initiatives will endure after the avalanche damage is repaired, which may not be until early July.

Businesses have responded too. Televisions in display windows have gone dark. Department stores, hotels and offices have replaced some bulbs with energy-saving models and simply removed others.

At the convention centre, the thermostats have been notched down eight degrees to a not-so-toasty 60F. "Turn off, turn down, unplug," Sarah Lewis, chairwoman of the Juneau Commission on Sustainability, said recently. "That's what everyone is doing and being vigilant about and commenting when others are not."

In all, the city, unreachable by road and with a population of 30,000, has managed to cut consumption by 30 per cent in less than a month, a margin some experts had thought impossible.

It is impossible if you are not presented the situation where you have to cut your wasteful ways. When people are thrown extraordinary challenges, there is something inside of all of us to do what you gotta do. Survival is a basic human instinct, but living in our mass-consumption society makes us feel a level of comfort that lulls us into complacency. Perhaps Juneau can show us the way to be energy-conscious and 30,000 people can be an example for a nation of 300 million.