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5257Re: Air Conditioning, Cars, and livable places

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  • Ken Kifer
    Jun 10, 2002
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      Ross wrote:
      I think wind, methane and tidal/wave powers are the way to go. Panels suck.
      Fossil fuels are worse, the burning of them should be banned.

      Ken Kifer replies:
      In the grand scheme of things, I would agree, but as a practical matter, I have
      no access to tidal wave power, I don't own any cows (to produce manure from
      which to make methane), and wind power is undependable in Alabama, plus I would
      have to build an ridiculously high tower. Solar power is not idea for me
      either, as I live in the woods, but my only other year-round alternatives are to
      1) use a gasoline-powered generator, 2) get the power company to cut a mile of
      right of way through the woods complete with power poles, 3) ride somewhere else
      to do all my writing. I have to do the last more than I like. I do have one
      other source of power, but it is seasonal only. During the winter, a huge
      amount of water flows down the hill, and it comes on days when the sky is
      overcast. I would be willing to set up a water-generator, but at present, it's
      pretty much a do-it-yourself project, and I am not mechanically minded.

      What's strange to me is that we use so much fossil fuel without getting any
      advantage from it. Most gasoline is burned on the daily trip back and forth to
      work, for instance, yet people got to work in less time before the auto was
      invented; we just drive farther now. Someone always points out that driving
      farther allows one to live in more pleasant surroundings, but downtowns are made
      much more unpleasant by all the auto traffic, pollution, and noise. It doesn't
      seem that great of a problem to move many jobs into the countryside if that's
      what people wish or (for paper shuffling jobs) to do the work at home and
      exchange it over the internet. A good bit, if not most, of the electricity we
      use is for heating and cooling, but some design changes could eliminate most of
      these costs without making the home much more expensive.

      The two things our society most wants us to do is to make a lot of money and
      spend a lot of money. I know one fellow who's working two jobs but can't keep
      up with his expenses. I guess he should find a weekend job as well. If we have
      to waste energy in order to spend more, that's great. Many people are working
      hard every day to pay for an air conditioner that's running all day long in an
      empty trailer sitting in the sun. We actually have old people dying during heat
      waves because they can't afford to spend $500 a month for air conditioning when
      some simple fans that would cost less than $20 a month to operate would solve
      most of the problem. As for your car, that should cost at least a year's salary
      and be replaced every couple of years, whether you happen to need it or not.
      When I was teaching in South Georgia, students asked me fairly frequently where
      my car was, indicating that seeing my car was important to their evaluation of
      me (I had an old van, which sat for three and four months at a time). It used
      to be said that it's time to buy a new car when the ash trays are full, but
      since people no longer use ash trays, we'll have to change it to when the
      vehicle needs a tune-up. The bower bird gathers colorful bits of trash, but the
      young man buys a sports car.

      Of course, this notion that we have to be good producers and consumers is part
      of our culture. Writing 150 years ago, Thoreau said, "I see young men, my
      townsmen, whose misfortune it is to have inherited farms,
      houses, barns, cattle, and farming tools; for these are more easily acquired
      than got rid of. Better if they had been born in the open pasture and suckled by
      a wolf, that they might have seen with clearer eyes what field they were called
      to labor in. Who made them serfs of the soil? Why should they eat their sixty
      acres, when man
      is condemned to eat only his peck of dirt? Why should they begin digging their
      graves as soon as they are born? They have got to live a man's life, pushing all
      these things before them, and get on as well as they can. How many a poor
      immortal soul have I met well-nigh crushed and smothered under its load,
      creeping down the road of life, pushing before it a barn seventy-five feet by
      forty, its Augean stables never cleansed, and one hundred acres of land,
      tillage, mowing, pasture, and woodlot! The portionless, who struggle with no
      such unnecessary inherited encumbrances, find it labor enough to subdue and
      cultivate a few cubic feet of flesh."

      Ken Kifer's Bike Pages: Over 130 web pages -- touring,
      commuting, health, lifestyle, health, advocacy, skills,
      humor, surveys, and hundreds of links:
      Analysis and Notes on Walden:
      What's New? http://www.kenkifer.com/whatznew.htm
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