Thanks for responding. I was hoping for a plan of action rather than an individual change of mindset. Conserving and being the lighthouse of change won’t cut the mustard. By the time a substantial enough group of like minded individuals vote for change, it will be too late to do anything about it. Besides, slimy politicians will figure out how to manipulate the voters to deliver themselves the power they crave.
I bought a used Prius in 2003. It wasn’t because I wanted to save the planet from global warming. It was because I had been reading about peak oil and wanted to be able to afford to drive when gasoline hit $arm&leg per gallon prices. The car had about 800 lbs of additional equipment (electric motor/generator, transmission, batteries, cables, etc.) that had to be mined and manufactured elsewhere. The savings in pollution that I received were just prepaid by others. I kept detailed records of my costs and mileage. In the summer, I’d average around 54 mpg. As soon as winter hit and 10% ethanol was added to the gasoline, my mileage average dropped to 46 mpg. It happened every year with the first fillup after November 15th until the last fillup before April 1st. Most people I talk with think that adding ethanol to gasoline helps reduce carbon emissions. My experience says otherwise.
There are other areas where conventional wisdom is just plain wrong. For instance, the concept of conserving a nonrenewable resource to make it last is just wrong. This can only work if the resource is renewable and usage levels drop to replenishment levels or below. For fossil fuels, the deposition time frame was measured in millions of years and our usage of this resource will be measured in hundreds of years. Unless conservation can effectively drop usage rates by 6+ orders of magnitude, it will eventually run out. The atmosphere, however, is a renewable resource. The carbon cycle is driven by differences in atmospheric loading and oceanic loading. If we stopped polluting, within a millenium or so, the cycle would be nearly balanced again. The majority would happen in a few centuries.
Conserving an essentially nonrenewable resource makes sense if you are doing it for personal economic reasons. If you are sacrificing your comfort to prolong the resource, you are making the problem worse. By yourself, there isn’t enough difference to be noticed. But if enough people followed your lead, there would be additional supply on the market. The additional supply and reduced demand would translate into lower prices. Others (without your mindset) will then make choices based on the lower prices – a bigger vehicle, more children, a bigger house further out in the country, etc. What exactly was accomplished? In my opinion, nothing.
The only "solution" I can see is the one that nature will force humanity to take. We won’t curb our gluttonous appetite for fossil fuels, so peak oil will do it for us. The amount of energy consumed will decrease, and therefore, the amount of carbon dioxide being emitted will also decrease. Life will get harder, the world will get bigger, and there will be more deaths than births. Eventually, humans will find a level that is in harmony with the environment (whatever shape or form it is in.)
PS – There is a highway widening project near my office scheduled to begin construction this summer. Last Friday evening, I dug up a dozen oak saplings 4′ to 7′ tall that would have been destroyed by construction activities. I then transplanted them in a weedy, bramble filled field behind a neighboring school. It was midnight gardening under a full moon. I did it because I like oak trees and I’d feel sick when the construction crews cleared the right of way. The oaks may not make it, but they’ve got a much better chance in their new home.